Saturday, November 8, 2008

Catching Up

Hello All! Well, I'm very sorry I haven't updated the blog sooner - lots going on really. After getting back from New York, we didn't do too many things worth reporting on the blog - most of our energy was spent trying to find a way out of living in the house we rented - for one thing, I broke out in hives (daily and they still continue!) which made us think there is something in the house I am allergic to, although the docs don't think that is the case. The other issue we have is an animal living in the bottom level of the house. I hear it rustling around under the floor and crawling in the walls. We've tried to trap it but it stays up in the ceiling and doesn't seem to fall for our trap. We have no idea what it is but suspect either a possum, ground hog or racoon. Needless to say, we are still living in the house - we signed a lease and so far that has legal precedent.

Moving on, fall was gorgeous and I have pictures I will share but my old laptop died and so I am without the pics for the time being. As soon as I have access, I'll share them. We've done a few things this month, attended a few Pitt football games, went on a Fall Foliage Cruise and as usual, braved some new Pittsburgh dining establishments - to be honest, we still haven't found a place worth going back to - do the people here not have tastebuds?!!!!

Okay, well, I'll write more later when I can post some pics for everyone! I miss California but luckily I am getting to travel back and forth for work for the time being - it has been my saving grace - warm weather, good friends and good food!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New York - the end

This should be my last post on the NYC trip. The next day we actually got up a little bit earlier and went out for NY bagels at Ess-a-Bagel. The place was packed but we managed to be patients and make it through the crowd. The bagels were freshly made and they had all these wonderful flavored cream cheeses. I got a pumperknickel bagel with raisin walnut cream cheese and Heidi has a whole grain bagel with apple cinnamon cream cheese. Yummy! After that we went shoe shopping (I bought a new dress to wear to the theater and had to find some shoes to wear with it), then we went to the nail salon, I got a pedi and Heidi got a mani.

That night we planned our "big night out". We had reservations at Lupa, Mario Battali's restaurant in New York (one of many) and then tickets to see Avenue Q on broadway. Lupa was amazing - the food, wine and atmosphere lived up to my expectations - thanks to Heidi who did the research on where we should go. Here's us at dinner:

Paul & Heidi - don't they made a cute couple?!

After dinner we went to the show, Avenue Q. I really didn't know much about it before going except that there were puppets involved and they had one a Tony award or two since opening. This show was amazing! We were all cracking up - I highly recommend it to anyone planning to visit New York and the less I tell you about it the better. If you have an issue with bad language or sexual references, you shouldn't go and see this but remember - there are puppets - how offensive could it really be?!

My last day in New York, Heidi had to work so I decided I would go to St. Patrick's cathedral for Sunday mass. This cathedral is absolutely beautiful although the tourists continue to come in and out during the service which was a little distracting but overall I enjoyed the service.

After church, I stopped in Grand Central station for lunch - they have a large food court and some nicer restaurants. I opted for Indian food - not bad. I met Heidi at her work later in the afternoon and we went through a street fair that was going on along with a little bit of store shopping. They had a Lululemon that was having it's opening weekend - unfortunately we don't have one in Pittsburgh but I got a new pair of "fancy" pants as Miguel refers to them as - basically expensive exercise pants but so worth the price. After our shopping excursion we met up with Paul and another one of Heidi's friends as Serendipity. One of my favorite movies is Serendipity and they feature the restaurant in the movie. They are most famous for their Frozen Hot Chocolate which has been featured on Oprah but they have other very enormous and delicious desserts. We all ordered something and here they are - quite a finish to my NY trip!

At the top was Paul's choice, I know there was chocolate cake at the bottom with I believe, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. The middle selection was shared by Heidi and her friend - it was a special of the day and I can't remember the exact ingredients - some kind of pie on the bottom with ice cream and fresh fruit. Mine is at the bottom, a piece of pecan pie topped with butter pecan ice cream and drizzled with caramel - absolutely decadent and worth the full belly ache I got after consuming most (not all) of it!

Well, that was my trip - filled with shopping, dining and entertainment! Thanks to my good friend, Heidi, for hosting my trip! There will be more to come I'm sure - I hope to get to New York around Christmas time - gotta see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular!

New York (continued)

Okay, so on we go! I left off in Central Park but I wasn't done yet. We spent most of the afternoon there and after watching THOTH perform we kept walking up through Strawberry Fields. A tribute to John Lennon:

There was a guy in the park that had decorated the "Imagine" mural with rose petals - apparently he had a little too much time on his hands!

Further into the park we came accross some beautiful views:

Overall, a beautiful afternoon in Central Park - I'd love to have spent more time there but there will be future trips. We did an enormous amount of walking that day so of course, we were ready for a BIG dinner! Come on, you didn't think I'd go this long on my blog without talking about food, did you????

Our evening meal was decided to be BBQ! Let me just tell you, Pittsburgh does NOT know barbecue! I have looked online at various places in town here and none of them has what I consider personally, to be true barbecue and that is BEEF RIBS! Don't give me those puny baby back or spare ribs - I want something I can sink my teeth into! So, New York did me justice! We went to Blue Smoke BBQ which was AWESOME! Also, I had the GREAT pleasure of meeting Heidi's boyfriend, Paul, who I must thank immensely as he treated us to dinner that evening - what a gentleman! We started off with a cocktail at the bar while waiting for our table - the restaurant was packed! Once we got to our table we perused the menu. Here's what we got:

The coveted beef ribs take the forefront with a mixture of BBQ meats in the rear (pork ribs, chicken and something else - can't remember cause all I wanted was my beef!)

The sweet potato fries were amazing and served with a maple dipping sauce - scrumptious!

Some baked beans and collards to finish off the meal and get our veggies in!And a not-so-flattering picture of me diggin in!!!

That finished off our evening. We returned to Heidi's house after that for some wine and conversation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New York - continued

Okay so where did we leave off???? I think it was at ice cream right?
Well, after a rest and a little time to build up an appetite, we ventured out for some sushi and finished off our night with dessert at - you guessed it - The Dessert Truck!

We shared this extremely delicious Milk Chocolate Mousse with a peanut butter cream center topped with caramel popcorn! If you are interested in The Dessert Truck, you can visit their website at

After our dessert experience we walked the city to burn off all those kcals and hit the sack! Heidi's kitties kept me company during the night - here they are:

Oscar is on top and Felix is on the bottom - aren't they too cute?!

The next day we were up to our old tricks again - sleeping in and lounging around in the morning and finally getting out of the house around 2 or 3 o'clock which was just fine because the weather was so extremely hot and humid, it was almost unbearable outside. We started off the day with lunch - it was finally time to have a New York Hot Dog. We went to Papaya King which is supposed to be one of the best places in NY. They specialize in dogs with all kinds of toppings but also in fresh fruit shakes.

After lunch, we ventured over to Central Park as this is one of the places I have never gotten to see on any of my previous trips to New York and it was a beautiful day for it. We walked quite a bit and stopped and shopped at some of the street vendors outside the park. I got a pretty cool pair of sunglasses and a purse - what's better than some good deals in NY?!

This was our first stop in the park - I think it was called the boat pond or something like that - there were some people with remote control boats in the water. It was beautiful - we sat and rested for a while there.

We continued to walk through the park - this is a little tunnel that was a great kodak moment.

This is the Bethesda Fountain.

Near the Fountain we came accross this performer - at first we thought this must be a joke but he ended up being really good. He performed his own "opera" playing what appeared to be 3 different parts. He had an amazing voice but we couldn't understand what language he was speaking - apparently after doing a little research on him, I found out it is a language that he "made up himself". Interesting.... You can see video clips of him if you go to and search for THOTH - that's his name.

More to come later - I still have 2 more days left of material!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York Trip September 2008

Well, it took me a while but I am finally getting around to posting all the wonderful details of my trip to New York. I'll try to keep the dialogue brief cause I've got LOTS of pics - mostly of food of course! I went to New York to visit my dear friend, Heidi! Here she is:

We had a list of plans and things I wanted to do while I was in New York so when I arrived on Wednesday night, we made our plans for the following days. My flight was delayed almost 2 hours into JFK so what was going to be a night out to dinner and maybe a little walking became a very tired, couple of girls looking for some food in the city at 10 o'clock at night. We managed to find a saloon open close by Heidi's place and satisfied our hunger and did a lot of catching up. I saw an issue of New York Magazine on Heidi's coffee table later that night, the cover story: Cheap Eats in New York. And there you have it: our first day of plans in New York! The plan was to get up and walk the city while trying the best, delectable foods in New York - little bits for small prices while walking off all the calories - what could be better?!

Well, the best laid plans as they say. We ended up not even getting out of our pj's until noon the next day and didn't hit the streets until about 2:30 but we stuck to our guns. Our first stop in Chinatown for some dumplings:


We split all this for just about $5.00 and we weren't the only ones craving one of the city's best dumplings:

Next stop - a great fish taco - I needed by Mexican fix since we have NO GOOD MEXICAN food in Pittsburgh. These fish tacos were amazing! We each had one and a nice, cold beer - it was smoldering hot and humid outside that day and by the time we got to the tacos it was almost 4 o'clock!

Heidi eating her taco:

Me enjoying mine!

Almost on overload after this, we settled for the next course of dessert! There is this phenomenon in New York of "gourmet" food trucks parked in various spaces throughout the city. We found one that sold artisan, gourmet ice cream and it was worth the trip!

It was pistachio for me and a mix of strawberry and vanilla for Heidi. After that we threw in the towel and went home for a rest before setting out on the town for the evening.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wine Tasting in Pennsylvania

Sunday we felt the need to get out of the city and adventure a little bit more. There are suprisingly a number of wineries in Pennsylvania although they are spread out - not clustered in one area. We chose one that wasn't too far way - about 10 miles outside of the city. It was called La Casa Narcisi. It is run by and Italian family that makes wine in the Italian style - no preservatives. They have family members in Italy that also make wine. They make a number of reds, including cabernet sauvignon and syrah - both of which were good but their Sangiovese and Chancellor were awesome! We bought bottles of both of those along with a sweet white wine called Vignoles - which is just a little less sweet than ice wine but they don't get the prolonged freeze on the grapes here so they can't call it ice wine. They had a beautiful patio and large open space where you can picnic and play bacchi ball. We brought a picnic and enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery. Here are our pics:

This is the entrance to the winery. That's Miguel walking up to the entrance.

These are some pictures of the grapevines lining the front of the winery - not their only vineyard obviously but I think just a little taste for visitors to see and get that Kodak moment.

This was our last minute picnic that I put together before we left - sandwiches with salami, provolone and turkey breast on french baguette with aioli. Some mediterranean style hummus with carrots and pita chips. A sundried tomato and pesto cheese torte with crackers and finally some medjool dates stuffed with blue cheese. It doesn't look like much in the tupperware containers but it was yummy! Oh and I forgot one other thing - mango slices wrapped in prosciutto.

This is a shot of the grounds at the winery - it is a large open space outlined by some beautiful trees. They have an amphitheater and have concerts on Saturdays. We were told that was the day to come back. Also, they told us they have a Port they will be bottling that should be ready in about 3-4 weeks - we already have it on our calendar to go back and try it.

Hope you all enjoyed your long Labor Day Weekend! I'm going to New York this week to visit a friend so I'll take lots of pics to share with you!

Weekend Outings in Pennsylvania

Friday, I was on my own to adventure. I had some errands to run so I went over to the Waterfront shopping center. I discovered that they had a little bridge that goes down to the shore of the Monongaheela River with a trail that follows alongside the river.

This is a view from the bridge to the Waterfront Shopping center.

This is a view from the bridge walking toward the river trail.

This is part of the trail - it's lovely and shaded - lined with trees.

Here is a view of The Mon (that's what they call it in Pittsburgh) through the trees.

On Saturday, Miguel had a scrimmage to go to so I was alone for the afternoon and decided to go and see Mamma Mia - the sing along version! It was great - the only thing that would have made it better was if I was in California seeing it with some of my best girlfriends (you know who you are!) Saturday night we ventured out in Southside looking for yet another restaurant to be disappointed by. Luckily we found a restaurant that wasn't terribly disappointing but our waitress was on another planet so that made it a little iffy. Unfortunately I forgot to take pics of the food but next time. I seem to only be inspired to take pictures when the food is really good - this one wasn't worthy. It was Italian food - which is supposed to be great here but again, not impressed. Here is pic of Miguel sitting at the table.

My exercise bike - YEAH!

Well, it came down to buying a piece of exercise equipment for myself so that I could keep up with my regular routine (and not be totally depressed that I have to spend an entire year in Pittsburgh)! As some of you know, I LOVE spinning and had actually hoped to get a spinning certification when I came out here so I could teach but unfortunately, there just aren't enough places to teach spinning around here. Anyhow, Miguel and I discussed the exercise issue and he agreed that I might benefit from having something in the house to use for exercise. So, I got on ebay and started searching for a spinning bike. I was determined to get a Johnny G spinning bike - the gold standard, new bikes retail from $500 to $1500 depending on which model you get. Okay - I got off track again. So I go on ebay and search for a Johnny G Spinning bike and low and behold I find one - an Elite Spinner which retails for $1000 + 250 for shipping. It was closeby - in Bethesda, MD about a 2+ hour drive. So I start bidding. I was sitting by my computer for the last 60 minutes of the bidding just to make sure I got it - Miguel thought I was going to have a heart attack I was so excited - needless to say - I WON!!! Yippee! I drove to Bethesda that same week to pick it up and have been using it regularly ever since. The story gets even better because I used to go to YAS in Venice Beach for spinning classes - they have their own method of teaching and my favorite teacher, Tom, used the BEST music for his classes. I was able to get his email address and he emailed me a few of his playlists for the classes - it's awesome! I ride my spinning bike look out the window at the Pittsburgh skyline and envision myself riding back to CA - it's totally therapeutic! Here is a picture of my bike:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Head Over Heels

We were invited to attend a Gala event called Head Over Heels to benefit concussion research and the UPMC Department of Orthopedic Surgery. It was black tie event but we went a little more casual than that - not many of the fellows can afford tuxes and formal gowns for their dates so it seemed okay. I wanted to take more pictures but it didn't seem like the most appropriate thing to do. I did get a couple though. Freddy Fu, the head of Miguel's program, was one of the honored guests.

This is us at the table, a little later in the night, after dinner. They gave out these feather boas with flashing lights in them and black sunglasses to all the men. The other picture is just what the inside of the ballroom looked like.

Just a couple more shots of us sitting at the table. They gave out these great chocolate high heel shoes with candy flowers in them for party favors - yummy! Overall it was a really fun night and I finally had the opportunity to meet some girls to hang out with - working from home makes it difficult to make new friends.