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Essential Pittsburgh Outings and @PageDairyMart

Essential Pittsburgh Outings and @PageDairyMart

My recent hankering for a hot fudge sundae reached an apex yesterday, and I could no longer stand to go without. An after-dinner ice cream outing was essential. Baby Beez, having not fallen far from the tree, was equally excited for ice cream. So excited that she complied with my order to eat all her green beans at dinner, with little complaint.

I have long preferred hard-scooped ice cream over soft serve, but this may be due to a lack of exposure to proper soft serve. Up until a few years ago, the only soft serve I knew was from McDonalds or Costco, each worth every penny of their paltry $1.49 price. I suppose anyone would be ambivalent about soft serve given that limited exposure.

While pregnant with Baby Beez, I had my first taste of real soft serve, with a late afternoon sprinkle-rolled cone from Wiener World. Now that was some good ice cream, and I realized that I may have been misled.

So last night we ventured to the local mainstay of all things soft serve, Page Dairy Mart.  Page has cultlike devotees, and quite frankly, I felt shame for never having visited before, because it’s one of those quintessentially Pittsburgh places. I intended to get a simple hot fudge sundae, but when I saw the Hot Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae (featuring Nancy B’s cookies!) I could not help myself. Gluttony it must be.

Page Dairy mart Chocolate Chip Sundae

The sundae was enormous. Usually I am one to finish every last bite, even if it makes me sick, but this sundae simply defeated me. I got about 2/3 of the way through and declared “Uncle!” But every bite on the way to that sugar coma was decadent. The members of the Page Dairy Mart cult certainly know good ice cream.

Page Dairy Mart

Baby Beez was thrilled with her simple chocolate soft serve. It’s nice that they offer a wide range of sizes, and I was able to get her an “Xtra Small” which was just perfect for her 3 year old appetite.

Given the ridiculous prices I’m used to paying at other ice cream outlets, it was a thrill that our entire bill came to $6. ONLY SIX DOLLARS, and this isn’t for pathetic icy-milk, this is for delicious frozen confections. What a treat.

Today I’m continuing on the theme of Pittsburgh Mainstays with lunch at Fiori’s Pizza. It, too, has a firmly entrenched following that rivals the Mineo’s aficionados (personally I’m a Jioio’s girl).

My colleague, Tania, recently moved to Pittsburgh. She asked me yesterday about essential Pittsburgh experiences (for new residents, not just for a quick visit), and I sort of surprised myself that I didn’t have a list at the ready. These are the things I’ve thought of so far.

  • Shopping & snacks in the Strip District
  • Burgers at Tessaro’s
  • Dessert at Oakmont Bakery
  • Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte
  • Primanti’s
  • Movies on Flagstaff Hill
  • Pirates game on Skyblast night
  • Dave & Andy’s ice cream
  • Three Rivers Arts Festival
  • Kennywood visit! Complete with Potato Patch Fries
  • Riding the Incline
  • Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning
  • A hike through Homewood Cemetery
  • The Warhol Museum
  • (not Pgh but close enough) Fallingwater
  • St Anthony’s Church in Troy Hill
  • Lunch at a Pittsburgh Fish Fry
  • Get yourself invited to a wedding and chow down at the cookie table
  • Thumbprint cookies from the Arcade Bakery at the-Macys-formerly-known-as-Kaufmanns
  • Visiting the Christmas Windows at the-Macys-formerly-known-as-Kaufmanns
  • Sunday brunch and breadmaking at Enrico’s in the Strip (h/t Randy)
  • A visit to the Point State Park fountain (h/t Sonia)
  • Indulging at Fat Heads (h/t Sonia)
  • A Vinnie Pie from Vincent’s Pizza Park (h/t Peter)

What else should we add?

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A tune-up for my headspace

I’ll start this post off by admitting that posting has seemingly slowed down a bit on my blog. The short answer is, I’ve been a grump. There is never enough time for all the things I want to do, and am told to do, and need to do. I’m sorting out the priorities, balancing the wants against the musts, and, to be truthful, sometimes being a brat about it. I do not like complainers. They drag me down and bum me out. But I’ve been full of complaints lately. Not so much on this online space, but plenty in person. As I climbed into my car to head home from work, I realized “I’m being one of those people I can’t stand.” And I can’t stand that any further. I’m determined to adjust my attitude.

My attitude is tied in with stress. Not long ago, I participated in a short seminar with Emily Bennington on the topic of mindfulness. (If you aren’t familiar with Bennington, check her out. She is brilliant.) She emphasized that when you are in a stressful situation, you should step back and separate the task at hand from the extraneous noise your mind is creating. She wisely taught, “The facts of the situation are the same, regardless of how stressed you are.”

Stress is pointless. Being stressed does not make you more efficient. If anything, stress clutters your mind, and leaves you more likely to make mistakes. Mindfulness involves letting go of that stress. Simply dropping it.

I get so wrapped up in the noise of all the things that are going on. I get frantic and stressed, and those emotions build on themselves. Settling in for my drive home from work, I realized that it’s not the facts I am facing that have soured my attitude. I’ve got plenty on my plate right now, especially with work. But I’ve had plenty on my plate before and I will have plenty on my plate in the future. At this stage in my career, this is a familiar to-do list. I know how to break the big tasks down into manageable pieces. I know how to prioritize the tasks. I know how to seek feedback. The facts aren’t the problem. It’s my attitude, and here is no good reason for me to have a bad one.

I got home from work, tossed together a quick dinner of soup and grilled cheese. I walked on the treadmill. I spent some time with my family. Instead of worrying about all the things I have to deal with tomorrow, I will accept that I accomplished some big things on my to-do list today and have a very brief breather. I will enjoy today, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

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A Square Meal with @TheSquareCafe

A Square Meal with @TheSquareCafe

Square Cafe has long been a favorite of mine in the East End, but on weekends has an inescapably long line. This is not such a problem when you’re with a group of grown ups (plus- you can order your coffee drinks a la carte at the coffee bar while you wait), but it’s a dealbreaker when you have small ones in tow. The only thing worse than waiting in line is waiting in line with a small kid. I, as per usual, saw Square Cafe’s deal on Groupon and decided OMG I MUST HAVE THIS. But when it came down to using the Groupon, I realized that weekends were just not workable.

Luckily, I have a lot of flexibility in my job, and was able to work out a weekday where I could venture out for breakfast and show up in the office a little late (which is a nice trade-off considering how many nights my work keeps me tied to my laptop late at night). Since Sandy of OrangeChairBlog and I share a love for all things brunch, and our daughters are good buddies, we were naturally a perfect match for this breakfast date.

Square Cafe in Regent Square

Square Cafe is a go-to spot for the GLBTQ community, and during our visit, their walls were adorned with simply gorgeous GLBTQ family portraits. The artwork itself was worth the visit, the portraits were just lovely. Square Cafe is truly a neighborhood restaurant. The owners foster a sense of community, and more than anything, they want their visitors to have a lovely visit.

The breakfast menu is ample, but every time I’ve been there my attention immediately gravitates to the 2 hash dishes offered: a brussels sprouts hash and a butternut squash hash. I picked the brussels sprouts hash for this visit, and it was so salty and filling and all things amazing. Underneath that egg is a bed of cheesy grits. Basically it is everything I love in a breakfast, on one plate. So good. Square also has an ample coffee bar menu, with all kinds of flavored lattes and other caffeinated treats. The gingerbread latte is my usual go-to. It is exactly as it sounds and simply delightful.

The Brilliant Brussels Sprouts Hash at The Square CafeSandy went for the special of the day, which was a ricotta-filled blood orange crepe. I generally do not order crepes of any sort, because I am a HUNGRY LASS, and crepes are a surefire recipe for me to be hungry about 20 minutes after breakfast is over. Sandy reported that the crepe was delicious and filling, and she was extremely happy with it.

Blood Orange Crepes at The Square Cafe

Breakfast is reliably a good meal to take Baby Beez to a restaurant, because she sure as heck likes eggs, pancakes, cottage cheese, pretty much every breakfast food. Square Cafe is very skilled in serving kids– their meals are served on plastic plates with favorite cartoon characters and their meals always come out quickly. Rachel had plenty of scrambled eggs, bacon and cottage cheese and she was quite a happy girl.
Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

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My top secret recipe for crock pot BBQ ribs

My top secret recipe for crock pot BBQ ribs

I went shopping at the Iggle while hungry again. Which means I bought a slab of meat on impulse again. This time it was pork ribs, and I didn’t even realize until I got home that they were boneless ribs, which means that they don’t really seem like ribs but they are ribs. I’ve been all about comfort food lately (am I ever not about comfort food?) and crock pot BBQ ribs sounded awesome.

And it turns out, they were awesome.

Crock Pot BBQ ribs

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but here is my TOP SECRET crock pot BBQ ribs recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Ribs
  • BBQ Sauce

Directions:

  1. Put ribs and BBQ Sauce in crock pot.
  2. Cook on low all day.

Fantastic.

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DC fun with @TortillaCoast @CUCB @PERRYSdc and @TammysSalonDC

DC fun with @TortillaCoast @CUCB @PERRYSdc and @TammysSalonDC

Sandy and I are having a girl’s weekend in DC. What do two crazy women do when they leave their children home and hit the town? Crazy things like watch TV and go to bed at 9:20 at night. And LOVE it.

We arrived in DC on Saturday to do race packet pickup as I was running the 10 mile Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run and Sandy was doing the 5k version. Driving in DC, even with the light traffic of a Saturday afternoon, always inspires a flurry of curse words and anger, and this visit was no different. WE eventually did make it to packet pickup. This race is extremely well organized, and the whole process took like 10 minutes. Kudos to the race team for a very easy packet experience.

We settled into our hotel and went on to some essential DC activities, namely eating frozen yogurt and shopping at Zara.

zara

Next up was carbo-loading. Well, not really carbo-loading. Just filling our faces with food. A visit to Tortilla Coast for enchiladas and a Shiner Bock would do just nicely.

Tortilla Coast

Afterward, we lived the wild life, and were in bed by 9pm. CRAZY. But it was a good idea, because this morning I was up bright and early to pound the pavement for 10 miles.

morning run

The race start was close to the metro, and like the race expo, the race itself was very well organized. This is an especially impressive feat, because there were some 15,000 runners for the 10 mile race. Little things like grouping porta-potties into sets such that lines organized easily and efficiently, and strictly adhering to the start times, and lots of extremely helpful volunteers made this an extremely pleasant running experience.

The course itself is very pretty. In theory, nature would cooperate, and the whole run would be through blooming cherry trees, but only a few trees were in bloom today. Still, running along and across the river was very pleasant. This is a very crowded race, but it led to a very enthusiastic atmosphere. The course is very flat and fast, but because it’s so heavily trafficked, it might be hard to get a PR just because you’re dodging so many other runners. For all the dodging about I did, it added an extra half mile on to my run! The official race time said I came in at 2:01, but my running app put me at 1:59 for 10.5 miles, so I’m going with my own time and claiming a sub-2-hour time!

medal picture

I claimed my medal and cheerfully made my way back to the hotel. I’m glad to say that I’m stiff and a little blistered, but generally in good shape. I absolutely would run this course again, and remain convinced that 10 miles is a great distance for me. I don’t regularly run far enough for it to be an easy run, but I can work hard and confidently complete the route.

After our race we departed for drag brunch at Perrys in Adams Morgan.

Perrys Drag Brunch

Perry’s brunch buffet is great, but the entertainment is beyond compare.

Because this was a girls weekend, and because my feet were a mess from all the running, a mani-pedi was in order. I strolled on over to Tammy’s Salon and treated myself to gettin’ my nails done. The nail salon wasn’t anything fancy, and the mani-pedi was fairly no-frills, but it feels so nice to have my nails all cleaned up.

This evening we had a nice dinner at the nearby Sonoma Restaurant Wine Bar. The charcuterie plate, in particular, was generous and tasty. I did take a couple pictures, but now I’m writing this from the bed and my camera (with its photos ) are all the way across the room, so nevermind. It’s the fine late hour of 8:42 pm, and that means bedtime is quickly approaching! Back to Pgh in the morn!