• Shop Amazon

Fall Colors, Salted Caramel, and Quiche

Howdy folks,

It’s been a lively weekend around here. We’re making the most of the beautiful weather (high 60s / low 70s, nice breeze and low humidity). This is why I love Fall. It’s short-lived but absolutely refreshing after a hot and sticky summer.

I spent yesterday in Wausau visiting my buddy Jeff. We had planned to stop at the same restaurant we went to last time but they were closed for the day and we had to come up with an alternate plan. Instead we went to the Great Dane Pub for some breakfast-for-lunch.

046

They make their own root beer here and I’m a sucker for tap root beer so I ordered a glass even though I wasn’t expecting it to go along with my breakfast entree. Sacrifices must be made for deliciousness.

048

As it turned out, my breakfast was less “breakfast” and more brunch anyway. I ordered a slice of their broccoli, pepper, and tomato quiche and it was served with a side of fruit and a salad. Quiche and salad? Seemed like an odd pairing to me.

049

No one can say I didn’t get a lot of fruits and veggies yesterday. I was rocking the servings!🙂

After lunch we walked around a small trail and watched folks putting their kayaks into the water. It was quite the afternoon for kayaking with a slight breeze and zero clouds. We decided we wanted more walking and drove down to one of the main parks in the city. Some of the trees are already turning colors.

051

Isn’t that just gorgeous? I want to plant one in our yard but I don’t think Ben wants another tree to mow around.

050

We sauntered about 4 miles while catching up on news. Jeff lives almost 4 hours away so we try and meet in the middle a few times each year. It usually involves lunch, a random shopping excursion and then some type of exercise to counter the long stretches in the car. Oh yeah, and we always end up at Starbucks even though Jeff hates coffee. I don’t know why (why we go there OR why he hates coffee).

I tried their salted caramel mocha frappucino. It was so-so. I think I’m getting less and less excited about new Starbucks flavors lately. Most of the new things I try I just don’t like as well.

052

I’m still dealing with the random dizziness and low BP and I’ve been talking to a co-worker a bit about trying a little food cleanse to amp up the healthy foods and see if that helps at all. It’s worth a try because the Dr bills keep piling up and there’s no real suggestions other than to drown me in medications and “see if that helps”. No thanks. I’d rather treat the cause and not try and guess based on symptoms.

So more to come! It’s time to get back to some Football watching. My fantasy football team isn’t looking so hot but I’m hoping for a surprise comeback win anyway!🙂

 

Two Years <3

It’s been two years already! Sometimes you get amazed by how fast the time flies. This past week Ben and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. It feels like we’ve been together both forever and for just a tiny period of time. It’s been a fabulous two years.

I was working feverishly on another intense project at work when the front desk called to notify me of a “delivery”. I was expecting a nice dinner out somewhere but figured he’d pick up a small bouquet on the way home. Instead I got the craziest, most beautiful roses I’ve ever seen:

013

When they first arrived it was overcast and gloomy outside so the roses actually looked red. I got home gushing to Ben over my dozen red roses and he looked so confused because he had specifically requested a deep pink! Sure enough, the next morning I went into work and yes, they are pink. Ha! I’ve had lots of visitors stop by to sniff them and offer marital congratulations. I don’t think I received this many well-wishes when we got married!!🙂

Ben did take me out for a quiet dinner. We like to eat out but try and avoid the pricey restaurants and splurge on birthdays and anniversaries. This particular place we haven’t been to since before we were married. Oddly enough, there was only one other couple dining the entire time we were there. There’s a lot of road construction going on downtown so I wonder if that’s keeping people out of the area?

019

That just means a night of quiet and peaceful dining with my love. Not a bad way to spend a Monday night.

We started off with a variety of restaurant-made breads. Ben opted for the asiago while I tried a piece of the olive and a piece of the cranberry walnut. They were served with finely grated parmesan cheese surrounded by olive oil and balsamic.

018

My salad had a nice variety of colored tomatoes and good blue cheese dressing.

024

Our fancy steaks, called the “Black and Tan” (namesake of the restaurant).

025

I was disappointed with my steak. We both were. When you pay a lot for a tiny piece of meat you want it to be tender and really flavorful. My tenderloin was disappointingly chewy. I don’t think we’ll be back to this place again. It’s so peaceful and pretty to go to – with fun views of the town – but for the quality we’ve found better options. No biggie. That’s how you learn where to dine.

The lovebirds❤

020

023

I swear he gets cuter every day.❤❤

I was so excited ALL DAY for one thing though: my surprise anniversary cake! I called the baker who made our wedding cake and asked if she could whip up a little anniversary cake for us. They are a really nice size and only $15. I selected the buttermilk white with white chocolate filling and an Italian meringue frosting. (One of the flavors we had at our wedding).

When I opened the box up, I saw she had decorated the sides to mimic our actual wedding cake! What a special extra step.

027

This was such an amazing deal. I bought a single layer basic white cake from a bakery a few months ago and it was $20 with probably half as much cake and no decoration. Last year we went to a local bakery and picked a chocolate cake out together for our anniversary. That cake was good, had some layers, but also over $20. This one was cheaper, tastier, and had FOUR whopping layers. We’ll be eating anniversary cake all week… not that eating good cake is a bad thing. I’ll probably be sad when this is gone and want some more.🙂

028

I’m happy to tell you that this year I remembered an actual anniversary card. Yes, I’m the girl who had her first anniversary written everywhere and was counting down until the day-of when she FORGOT all about it. I walked through the door, saw a big bouquet and a card sitting on the table and cringed. Not this year. Not only did Ben get a sweet card but I bought him a new hairbrush too.

Because nothing says “I love you” like a hairbrush, right?

Happy anniversary Ben. I love you.

The History of Pittsburgh

061

Good morning – here’s a tasty treat picture for those of you who feel like zombies this morning due to lack of sleep… Like me. Normally I can sleep through storms but last night’s was particularly loud and we were both in and out for most of the night. Anyway the above treats were from that little Italian pastry shop in Pittsburgh. We had cannoli that they fill on the spot (half a lemon ricotta and half a chocolate mousse) and then the lightest and airiest cheesecake. Ummm delicious!

Pittsburgh is called the City of Bridges and although I will debate that title with City of Hills, there were a lot of bridges. We decided to venture downtown for a “brief” outing to get another one of the banner missions in the GPS game Ingress that we play. It was supposed to take 1-2 hours max but nothing in that game ever seems to go as planned… That’s how some of the best memories are made folks – through unexpected chaos!

We had to start out by one of the local parks. It’s a very odd phenomenon compared to flat and somewhat sprawling Green Bay. We exited one of the huge bridges and immediately were at the park. Boom. We had to pay to park in the lot and then it was somewhat of a hike to get to the actual spot – which included walking under bridges.

I sort of think we look like zombies heading towards the light…

 

037

We spent the next FIVE hours (not the 1-2 as planned) walking all over downtown Pittsburgh. There is quite a lot of interesting history in this city.

044

The park was built over the area of Fort Duquesne. I’m not sure if you can read the seal below but it says “This marks the exact site of Fort Duquesne, built by the French in 1754. The fort was destroyed by the French on the approach of the English army in 1758″.  After the site was destroyed, it was replaced by Fort Pitt in 1758. Now we just have a random park commemorating the area…

048

 

Amid a curious background of bridges and skyscrapers. It feels like a quiet piece of calm while the city blurs all around it.

047

Another hefty bridge separated the sides of the park. When you walk under the bridge is so thick and insulated that you really don’t hear the road noise above.

054

On the other side was the Fort Pitt museum. We didn’t go inside but did grab a quick shot of the menfolk by the cannon. Because boys love toys right?

053a

The only historical building still standing is preserved and run by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since I just so happen to be one, I thought I should be in this picture.

050

The rest of the day was a hazy blur of finding locations and winding our way through town. It was a pretty warm day and when you’re in the heart of downtown there’s a real food desert. All the gas stations and fast food stores close down over the weekend so trying to find a bathroom or a place to buy bottled water was impossible. About 3 hours into our adventure (and 12,000 steps on the pedometer), we located a dirty 7-11 that didn’t have a rest room but did have water. Hallelujah!

At the end of our misery fun trek all over town, we fell into the hot car and drove over to Heinz field for the weekend Rib Festival. The place was LOADED with festival goers and we had eyes on the freshly squeezed lemonades and BBQ eats. Luckily there were a zillion lemonade stands and armed with deliciously cold beverages, we then stood in line for 40 minutes to get our BBQ plates!

057

The line-up of all the BBQ joints:

056

I was really interested in good Texas BBQ so we lined up for a place that had a ton of ribbons for “Best BBQ”, etc… We didn’t notice until we got closer that those ribbons were all from 5-10 years ago. Hmmm

After collecting our plates, the tired troops slugged back to the parking lot to set up a little table and chairs and enjoy our food.

058

It smelled delicious, it looked delicious, it tasted atrocious. I’ve never really had “bad” BBQ but this was it. The meat felt like it hadn’t cooked long enough to tenderize and there were huge pieces of chewy fat that you couldn’t separate from the meat. We were pretty defeated and had aching feet so we picked around on our plates before tossing 90% in the trash and went back home for cold showers, homemade sangria, frozen pizza, and Mexican dominos.

063

 

062

It was a peculiar but memorable day, that’s for sure. I’m sure that’s what we’ll remember and joke about years from now when we look back on this visit together.🙂 Plus the 16,500 steps probably helped burn off some of the calories from all that cheesecake!

Our last day together was pretty relaxed. Nicole made us some delicious lasagna. She even made the sauce herself. I’m such a terrible hostess. Ha ha. I think I had build-your-own deli sandwiches when they came to visit.

064

The day was a little sad because we didn’t want to leave. It’s hard knowing it will be a while until we see each other again…

Final smiles!

029

Our last minutes in Steel Town were spent watching the Cardinals slaughter the Pirates in the TGIFridays restaurant in the airport terminal.

068

My team was winning and Ben was enjoying a pre-flight beer – not a bad way to end a vacation!

Until next time Pittsburgh!

Not so Laborious Weekend in Pittsburgh

Happy Football Season! It’s way too early for football season but here we are and the days march along. Ben’s settled in on the couch to watch the game and I thought it would be good to catch you up on our fun weekend away from home.

I’ve blogged about it before but we met an amazing couple on our honeymoon a few years ago and feel like we’ve been best friends forever. It’s hard to be away so we’ve tried to get together when we can. They invited us to come to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend and we’ve been excited all Summer waiting for the weekend to arrive.

Before I even start tackling the trip, I have this weird/amusing thing to share. Ben and I have been lightly toying with the idea of doing some extensive remodeling in our house (i.e. kitchen, all three bathrooms, the basement, all the flooring up and down stairs, the windows, and the roof). All of these projects come with a giant price tag so we’ve been just window shopping more than anything else. But a couple months ago I found this beautiful kitchen counter top that I loved. It’s terribly pricey so probably not what we’d end up with… but I’m wondering if it’s a good or bad sign that it was used as the decor in the Minneapolis airport bathrooms?

016

It was EVERYWHERE. They actually had quartz lining the entire back wall of the bathroom stall. CRAZY! I don’t know whether be amused or appalled that my counter tops are in a nasty airport bathroom.

Anyway, we were picked up at the airport on Friday night and after lots of hugs and laughter I made them take me to a sandwich restaurant that one of my co-workers had been raving about to me. He swore up and down these were the BEST sandwiches I would ever have and a true taste of Pittsburgh. Sold!

018

Primanti Brothers is a sandwich chain known for a classic sandwich with meat, french fries and coleslaw all together. It was a whopper!

020

It was also horrifically dry…

019

I’m not sure but I think the combo of the huge dry pieces of Texas toast and the french fries along with not-so-saucy coleslaw made it hard to eat. I ate half my sandwich and even that was rough going. It was a pretty big disappointment after so much hype. Boo

We stayed up way too late that first night (OK every night) but it was wonderful sharing stories and falling into an easy rhythm as if we hadn’t been apart. Ben and I are pretty silly and you don’t often find people who surprise you with equal amounts of silly and crazy – like the random monster interrupting me trying to enjoy my morning cup of coffee.

027

Matt surprised us with his cooking abilities and made us bacon, egg, and cheese bagels for breakfast. They were delicious. I could probably eat one of these every morning and be a happy camper.

022

Mostly we spent the first day vegging about. We made a special trip to Moio’s pastry shop where we loaded up on decadent weekend desserts. It’s a good thing we don’t have one of those around here or I’d be in serious trouble.

031

I was really surprised at how hilly Pittsburgh is. I guess I just assumed I’d see a lot of industrial areas and old abandoned steel manufacturing buildings but nothing especially noteworthy about the terrain. It was crazy! All the new construction is built up on hills. Have you ever seen pictures of Greece with those cute little houses all on top of each other? Imagine that with larger and newer homes and you have the Pittsburgh suburbs. I don’t know how they get up the roads in Winter (that would make me crazy) and my ears popped each time we went out for errands because of all the elevation changes.

030

I have no idea how you’d bike or go for a leisurely walk around here. the picture doesn’t do justice to how steep some of these neighborhood roads were. They had an Italian ice truck with loud Caribbean music come through and I was wondering how that car dealt with the hills. You can see how low the street behind this picture is, as well as the steps in front of this house in relation to the angle of the truck. And this wasn’t even a really steep section of the road…032

I think the steep hills and roads would negate me from ever moving to that area. Sorry my friends! This gal is used to the flat lands of Wisconsin. I like seeing 3 miles down the highway when I’m driving. lol

We sent the boys out for lunch food and they returned with herb and garlic rotisserie chicken and salad fixings. I made myself a delicious chicken salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

023

After spending most of the day bumming around the house, playing games, and drinking recreations of Mexican cocktails we drank together during past trips, we weren’t in the mood for a large dinner. They took us to a local restaurant with an extensive beer list for Ben. I got a pesto chicken flatbread and swear I took a picture of it… but it’s no where to be found on my phone. I did get this one of my favorite people (sorry for the bad background lighting).

035

We did take a little meander to downtown Pittsburgh so I’ll try and get those pictures up this weekend. It’s getting late for this lady so time to wrap things up here in blog land.

Tomorrow is Friday! Hurray!

September Already!?

The start of the area school year began today and it was a chilly 58 on the morning drive into the office. Feast or famine when it comes to the weather around here lately. Meanwhile, I’m spending too much time fascinated by TV shows “Beachfront Bargain Hunters” and “Lakefront Bargain Hunt”. I’m completely convinced that we need to find telecommuting jobs, pack up, and move someplace where the winters aren’t so long and terrible. This summer was sticky and humid and didn’t offer many decent days to be outside. So that leaves me with just Spring and Fall for decent weather and as pretty as those seasons are in NE Wisconsin, it’s making for some pretty dark and depressing months/years.

Now if only I could convince Ben to move…

I promised a picture of my delicious birthday meal. Here she is in all her delectable glory:

072

It was dynamite. My mom makes the most amazing caprese using raw mozzarella from a local farmer and homegrown tomatoes and peppers. Delicious! She also roasted two pans of root veggies and tried a “quick bag” bread recipe where you toss a few ingredients in a bag, shake it up, let it rest, pour into the pan and cook. It turned out pretty well. It was crusty on the outside and not too dense on the inside. I can’t remember the last time I had a full t-bone steak and it was quite the sight seeing 6 mammoth steaks marinating on the counter. MMMmeat

We were invited to an event party with local people that play our GPS game. It was a potluck filled with grilled corn on homemade herb butter, shredded pork and chicken, cheesy potatoes, tons of chips, cookies, bars and fruit, veggie and taco dip trays. Lots of food. Our host has a small dog named Oliver and when everyone gathered in the living room and sat down, Oliver literally made a mad dash to Ben and leaped up onto his lap. Dogs (ok animals in general) love Ben.

013

I think I mentioned I was finishing up some baby blankets. We’ve had three friends have babies this year and they all had boys. That meant way too much blue yarn. lol I never used to take pictures of the blankets I made for people and I really wish that I did because some of them were really gorgeous.

Anyway here are the two latest and greatest. This blue and grey one went to little baby Everett:

013

Up close (I love the ripple texture on this):

012

And this one went to baby B who is due to arrive on Labor Day (and if so, will share a bday with my brother Alex!):

005

I have a half-finished purple girls blanket thinking that of the three SOMEONE would have a girl but it got abandoned when I figured out what everyone was having and had to crack down to get them completed in time.

And last but certainly not least, here’s a picture I love of me, my mom, and Matt when we were out playing the GPS game together. It was a BRIGHT and sunny day, can’t you tell? Ha Ha!019a

We have a fun weekend planned. There’s nothing like getting that Monday off of work. It feels absolutely decadent and when you do go back into the office, it feels like Monday instead of Tuesday which helps the week FLY by.

Make it a great day!

~A

Low-Key Celebrating

Good morning and happy humid Tuesday.

I celebrated my birthday a little over a week ago and when I woke up this morning it dawned on me that I’m now closer to 40 than I am to 30. Sheesh, well that explains a lot I think!

I took my birthday off of work (a rare occurrence for me) but the day beforehand I was walking back to my desk after a meeting and spotted colorful balloons from my cube mate.🙂

035

Nothing like a fun surprise to make it a great day!

But don’t worry, I spent the actual day in style – meaning I slept in for a good two hours. Ha! That’s MY idea of a good day (or maybe I’m just getting old😉 ).

Ben came home a little early with beautiful flowers…

064

And then he took me out to the fancy-schmancy steak house in town. It’s probably been three or four years since we’ve been there and despite being a Friday, we arrived early and it was wonderfully quiet. When there’s less noise and chatter you feel so leisurely and relaxed and can just sit and listen to the piped in music. It’s wonderful.

050

049

Hot date with a silly smile❤

051

We started with assorted homemade breads and delicious salads filled with spinach, pea shoots, cracked black pepper, and creamy blue cheese

052

Then I had a tenderloin that melted in my mouth. It was absolutely perfect. This is the kind of place where you don’t get a side unless you order one ala carte but you get a serving of kettle chips which I think actually make it look like a cheaper dish. I think they should have left these off.

053

Ben and I split a side order of cheesy garlic mashed potatoes. Delicious and definitely too much for one person!

054

We had belated birthday feasting with my family the next day. Mom whipped up full T-bone steaks for each of us (I think people know I like steak – lol). I need to find the picture and put it on here. It was quite a delicious spread of food. Of course no birthday is complete without cake and Mom made me a raspberry cream angel food cake with raspberries straight out of their garden. How fun is that?!

076

The family bought me some garden trinkets for next year’s season. I’ve been discouraged with how many bugs are out devouring everything in sight and I am excited to try some new gadgets and see if I can tackle the pesky vermin next year. In the meantime, Ben had the fun (and sweaty) job of putting together my new composter! It was more work than planned to put it together (bad instructions).

011

But he got it all assembled and now I need to read up on how to get it started. I feel terrible when I buy pricey organic produce only to throw it away and having a place to put it so it can be reused makes so much sense to me. Plus I’m hoping some rich soil will lead to better overall garden quality next year.

012

I’ve never composted and the only people I know who do it just chuck all their leftover produce in a heap somewhere in their backyard and dump leaves and grass on it as well. We treat our grass so I don’t want that dumped into the composter. We’ll have to be careful about how best to mix the “greens” and “browns”. I’ll keep you posted of my progress. it will be fun to see how it goes.

Well it’s time to scurry off to work. I hope you have a wonderful day planned!

After the Olympics

Good morning everyone. I hope your week is off to a tremendous start! I have been engrossed in the Olympics and now that they are over I feel like I am catching up on all the things I neglected so that I could literally come home, make dinner, prep next-day lunch, and then sit on the couch and veg all evening. Not bad, at all, but highly unproductive!

The Olympic coverage was terrible. I don’t know if it’s always been that way and I just noticed it this time around? It seemed like half of gymnastics was always on so late that I couldn’t stay up to watch it. I wanted to see Mo Farah in the 10,000m and was glued to the screen waiting for the excitement of the moves only have them cut to commercial. Once the coverage resumed, Mo was at the front of the pack. They missed the entire breakaway! Same thing happened watching the marathon. One minute Galen Rupp was tight with the other two lead runners – commercial break – he’s 8 seconds behind. What happened!!?? Argh, so frustrating. I heard a lot of people say NBC was trying to appeal to women and their desire to learn more about the athlete’s stories then see the actual events. Huh? That confuses me.

But I got in a really decent amount of viewing time. Maybe too much.🙂 I watched Usain Bolt get his three gold medals, I watched way too much swimming (it seemed like it never ended and I actually was yearning for track and field towards the end of those events), I hit the women’s relay, 100m, 400m and 1500m. I watched hurdles, diving, rowing, shot-put, high jump, and the teensy bit of the decathlon that they aired. I saw a meager amount of rhythmic gymnastics, 5 minutes of volleyball, and overall did a good job finding the sports I was interested in and avoiding the ones that weren’t my cup o tea.

We finally found some relief from the heat and humidity and the weekend weather brought much needed rain to our brown and crispy lawn. We’re the only people on the block actively watering our lawn and we also have the most brown lawn of anyone on the block. I am not sure how that happened.

I have been taking Fridays off this month because I need the mental break from work and also because I have way too much PTO and need to burn some. I went down to Wausau to meet my friend Jeff and catch up. It was rainy in the morning but cleared up and was a pretty day.

052

We found a really amazing new restaurant that used local food ingredients. It was eclectic and had a fun industrial vibe too it. It’s fun to find restaurants that aren’t the typical chains because you get such a different dining experience.

053

 

Jeff selected fish tacos with crispy fried avocado on top. Unless I’m starving on an island with nothing but a fishing rod, I don’t see myself becoming a fish eater but I did snag a piece of his avocado. It was absolutely amazing! I’m laughing a little as I write this because it wasn’t so long ago that I wouldn’t be caught dead eating nasty avocado and now I love it. Then again, avocado doesn’t smell like fish. Ha Ha

055

I chose a crispy “clucker” salad with local chicken with some baby kale and homemade wonton pieces. The chicken was a bit drier than I would have liked but overall the salad was really good.

054

No Wausau get-together would be complete without a trip to Starbucks. I tried their new iced coconut milk mocha macchiato. It wasn’t my favorite thing. I probably wouldn’t get it again. Starbucks doesn’t like to mix their drinks so you spend a lot of time stirring it around and still end up with a super sweet first sip and a barely sweet final sip.

056

 

I’ve been pretty nervous this week because I have a really important all-day meeting today at work. I’m not sleeping the greatest because I’m nervous about how it will go. Fingers crossed! I also had another round of tests with the Dr. It’s such a long and expensive process to figure out what’s wrong. In the meantime I’ve been upping certain vitamins and looking into some other possible remedies.

Time to get going. Did any of you watch the Olympics? What did you think of the coverage and what was your favorite event of the Games?

~Ali