Thoughts on a Friday (There’s a trend here, let’s see if you can spot it…)

1.  I worked from home two days this week. My usual M.O. for working at home is that I set up 2 laptops at the dining room table. I work on one and stream movies on the other. It may sound ridiculous, but I can be incredibly efficient when I’ve got a movie on and no one interrupting me. I caught up on some of last year’s Oscar nominees, and have to say, that Birdman and The Judge were both exceptional.


Ed Norton steals the show in Birdman. Then again, I'd probably watch Ed Norton read a phone book to a brick wall.

Ed Norton steals the show in Birdman. Then again, I’d probably watch Ed Norton read a phone book to a brick wall.


I often do not watch movies about the law, because I spend all day living the law, and I don’t want it creeping into the minimal recreational time I have. Also, law movies also sexy-up the law beyond recognition and it is just silly. Law isn’t all that exciting, unless you are a super-nerd. (Admittedly, I am sometimes a super-nerd and get SUPER EXCITED when I think up some killer line of reasoning to argue in a brief.)  The Judge isn’t all about the courtroom. It’s about family and drama and some of those very stressful and overwhelming ways all those things connect. Also, Robert Downey, Jr. Pretty much anything with Robert Downey, Jr. in it is worth a watch.

2. Speaking of delicious gentlemen, Ewan McGregor is in Pittsburgh filming a movie right now.


Come what may, Ewan McGregor, I will love you until my dyyyyyying day.

3. Also, Southpaw. Omg.


I think I had other things to say in this blog post, but I can’t even remember them anymore.


Celebrating Summer with @NickyDCooks String Bean Salad

Celebrating Summer with @NickyDCooks String Bean Salad

Thanks to Nicky D for sharing her summertime memories and recipes with us today!

String Bean Salad1

Nicky D here from www.nickydcooks.com . I’m happy to be doing a summer guest blog for BeezusKiddo today. I am sharing with you today summertime memories of growing up in Rhode Island and a recipe for a delicious salad that reminds me of this special time.

The Summer String Bean Salad

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Rhode Island was going to the beach with my family. It was always a fun time, playing in the sun and surf while my family was gathered around.

It looked like a Norman Rockwell scene, typical Americana- that is until meal time.

My family brought a bevy of tasty treats with them, they didn’t travel lightly when it came to food. My female relatives suffered from an irrational fear that someone in the family will go hungry and heaven forbid this should happen.

The rationale for the copious amounts of food brought for the day was my Grandmother’s notion that “you never know who’s hungry”. And who is going to argue with an Italian Grandmother’s logic?

Truth be told, if you were running and playing on the beach all day you, really did work up an appetite.

Here was our strategy for going to the beach. First, a liaison was sent out in advance to stake out a prime spot for picnicking and beaching all day. The person in charge of this was usually my dad, who with help from some of the other men in the family, scoured the beach for the perfect spot.

My father was like a war time general, marking out strategic positions and locations. We needed to be near the bathroom facilities and picnic tables but far away from the snack bar. Once the perfect spot was located (this was only signaled with the nod from the patriarch of the family), the unloading of the supplies could begin.

Hibachi’s and coolers and blankets, oh my! Tent spikes were hammered into the sand to hold the canopies in place. The men unloaded the food and supplies and the women set up what looked like a mini-camp.

I’m sure we were quite the sight but we were there for the day, at least 2 meals and multiple snacks. In fact, this is how the day was measured, by the number of meals that were prepared for that day. This task was done and then the day of fun in the sun could begin.

I remember meals at the beach starting by someone in the family asking “is anyone hungry”? The adults would all shake their heads in agreement, and the preparations began: A well-oiled machine, all of the pieces working in unison.

My dad would start the coals on the Hibachi’s, and each male relative had their own tried and true method as to how to get the charcoal briquettes to light. There was intense discussions and debates as the fires were being lit.

As children we were never allowed to go near this area, there was always a fear that someone would catch on fire. Italians always live in the dark place, there was always “someone that so and so knew that had an accident when lighting a fire”. So as kids we stayed closer to the deli meats, no one ever died or lost a limb while near these things.

My mother and the others had the task of setting up the rest of the food, all under the careful direction of my grandmother. Children were discouraged from being around because we brought in the extra sand, so we were given snacks and sent off to play until the meal was ready.

This truly was a thing of beauty. Multi generations of a single family all gathered together for a meal at the beach. The coals burned brightly and the smell of the hamburgers and hotdogs cooking filled the air. Colorful salads and side dishes displayed on red checkered table clothes. Italian cold cuts laid out for sandwiches and bowls filled with various potato chips spread out on the picnic tables. Ocean waves would break in the background and pesky seagulls flew overhead.

I always remember hearing the older family members talking about how much better the food tasted when it was eaten by the salt water.

There was the thermoses filled with Kool-Aid that left a distinctive red mustache on our faces and the directive from my grandmother to go and “clean your face in the water…the salt water, it’s good for you”!

I ingested my fair share of beach sand, but in my family I think that they considered a few grains of this stuff a digestion aid. If you complained about it, you would hear an audible sigh and a collective “it’s good for you” from several family members.

Dessert was always watermelon. Before you think that we brought down beautiful storage containers of precut cubes and slices, I need to relieve you from this notion.

These Italians were hard core and brought a few big watermelons right from the farm because my grandfather knew the farmer. My father brought out his butchers knife and sliced gigantic pieces for everyone.

There we sat munching on our watermelon slices, juices dripping down our arms and we were happy. Inevitably there was a seed spitting fight, this was usually started by my brother and I was his intended target.

My father would bellow loudly “stop spitting seeds on your sister”! I smiled because as my brother was getting in trouble, I could usually get a good shot in at him. I was the baby of the family and it was just what you did with your older siblings.

We played some more and tanned ourselves under the scorching heat. When the food ran out it was then time to leave.

We were tired with sand trapped in our hair and had managed to escape the wrath of the seagulls. We all knew that it could only mean one thing, it was another successful day at the beach.

For me, this is what summer was all about to me as a kid. It was family, fun and of course the food.

I wanted to share my recipe for Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad. This is salad that we frequently brought with us to the beach. It was also a staple at picnics and other family gatherings during the summer months when string beans were readily available from the gardens and local farm stands.

Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad is an Italian American Peasant style salad. I define this to mean that it contains simple ingredients, tastes delicious and is easy to prepare. This classic salad has many variations in Italian American homes. I am sharing with you my family recipe for it.

The combination of string beans, olive oil and mint is truly a delicious one. It is refreshing and the perfect side dish for the summer grilling season. I hope that you enjoy this dish.

Buon Appetito,


Nicky D Cooks: Neapolitan String Bean Salad

copyright 2011 Nicole DaCosta Shadel

This is a great dish to make if you are having a picnic or going to the beach. The measurements for the spices are estimates, so go according to your palate. This dish can easily be doubled to serve a large crowd. Enjoy!


String Bean Salad (Fagiolino Insalata)


1 pound fresh string beans, cooked and drained

2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)

1 garlic clove, minced

2-3 mint leaves, minced

Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Cut the cooked string beans in half and place in a deep bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and mint. Season the string beans with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss until the string beans, making sure they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Serve at room temperature.


Yakkin with @YaJagoff about Pgh Summer Favorites!!

Yakkin with @YaJagoff about Pgh Summer Favorites!!

Welcome to John of Ya Jagoff!! as he shares his Pittsburgh Summer Favorites!

Some people mark the start of summer with the opening of local pools, Kennywood Park, the rain on the 3 Rivers Arts Festival or when they start to become overwhelmed with high school graduation invitations. I mark the season opening by when Gus pulls the Gus and Yiayia’s cart out over there on the North Side in the West Park area. The cart has been there for almost 80 years. “Since your dad was a lad,” as it says on the cart.

If ya haven’t been there. The treats are only half of the experience. The cart seems to have a “bubble of happiness” around it. People playing tennis in the park, squirrels running around looking for errant peanuts, bicycles, runners, walkers, kids, adults all catching the bug from Gus’ infectious calm demeanor and gentle smile. Nobody cuts the line. People say “excuse me” and car horns only beep when they’re giving a shout-out to Gus who doesn’t even look up.. he just raises his hand in between ice-shaving strokes to acknowledge.


So, it is a snow cone, is it an ice ball, is it shaved ice? It’s a topic of family picnic debates. I have no idea but it IS delicious. HINT: it says ice balls on the cart.

My favorite flavor? It’s a tie between banana and root beer. But, without empirical evidence (because empirical evidence is only necessary in Pittsburgh for discussions of Penguins, Pirates, Pitt or Steelers stats) I am pretty sure that the overwhelming #1 seller is the rainbow or multi-flavored ice. I can’t do the mixed flavors.. I don’t even like when my food mixes on my plate.


The peanuts and popcorn? For all I know, Gus might purchase the peanuts and the popcorn at Costco in 6-ton bags but, when he scoops them into the little bags that feel nice and warm in your hand, ya get this vision that Yiayia just handed them out of her kitchen window to you, the kid next door.


OK…I’ve just made myself hungry so, gotta head over to the North Side now. If you know about Gus and Yiayia’s, comment below about your favorite ice flavor.

If you haven’t been to Gus and Yiayia’ cart yet, go take a selfie of yourself in the bathroom mirror with a sad face… (Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Don’t be a #SelfieFail) After that, head directly to Gus and Yiayias and come back here and tell me about it. Then you can delete your sad face selfie.

How to find the Gus and Yiayia’s cart:

If you’re a GPS user, the cart is located right around these coordinates:

40.452003 by -80.008682

If you need directions from a traditional Pittsburgh-direction-giver, you can get to the Gus and Yiayia by goin’ up ‘air between CCAC, where my cousin used to go to school before he got a job with the steam fitters union, and where the old plumbing place used to be at the corner of Brighton and North over dair by AGH and the aviary an’nat.

Thanks much to Liz for allowing me to post here!


The Best Part of Summer for @AlexanderFIV is when @Kenny_Kangaroo is open! #PotatoPatch

The Best Part of Summer for @AlexanderFIV is when @Kenny_Kangaroo is open! #PotatoPatch

This post is from my pal, Alex of Everybody Loves You, and world-famous cookie exchange organizer and Miss America Party Emcee! Send me a message at beezuskiddo [at] gmail [dot] com if you’d like to share your Pittsburgh Summer Favorites on BeezusKiddo!

I grew up in Pittsburgh. I also grew up relatively poor*. That means that there were no Disneyland trips or vacation cruises on the agenda whenever school let out and summer rolled around. Thankfully there was one activity that my family could afford which was a guaranteed rollercoaster of a good time – Kennywood!

On Kennywood day, we’d wake up early to load a Styrofoam cooler with snacks (grapes, cheese sticks) and drinks (Faygo for the kids, Coors Light for the adults). We would then make our way down PA 837 and follow the Kennywood arrow signs through the dilapidated steel towns that dotted the banks of the Monongahela River. The voyage was actually quite depressing, but our excitement would skyrocket as soon as the peak of the Laser Loop came into view.

I have many vivid memories of my trips to Kennywood growing up, and I’ve shared a few below. Enjoy!

I remember the first time that I saw the Dippin’ Dots stand. I could not have been more eager to try the “Ice Cream of the Future” and I begged my parents to buy me some. After much pleading and promising to be nicer to my sister, they acquiesced to my demands. Unfortunately after a few scoopfuls of the tiny frozen spheres, I soon realized that the future must suck because Dippin’ Dots sure did. That experience tied with seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze as the biggest disappointments of my childhood.

 I’m not sure if it was all the ups-and-downs of the rollercoasters or what but romance was always in the air at Kennywood. My friends and I would spend half the day riding the Racer and the other half trying to meet girls. On the rare occasion that we succeeded, Kennywood offered plenty of picturesque romantic activities such as holding hands on the Rotor, kissing behind the mushroom fountain and the ultimate – touching a boob during a Gold Rusher gondola ride.

 Imagine wearing jean shorts, a Yancy Thigpen Steelers jersey and high-top sneakers. Now imagine getting that outfit soaking wet with pond water, and then just continuing to walk around in it all day. Sounds horribly uncomfortable and unsanitary, right? That may be true, but a joyous trip on the Log Jammer made it all worth it. I think what I loved most about the Log Jammer was that my whole family of four could pile into one boat. On all the other rides you either sat with strangers or with a partner, but the Log Jammer was a family affair. And just like my family, the Log Jammer had its ups and downs and twists and turns and got messy at times, but we navigated it all together.


Post-Log Jammer funnel cakes were and still are the bestest thing ever.

* I recently looked up my childhood home in the Allegheny County Real Estate website and found that it last sold for $16,000 in 2012. That’s basically what I spent on Frappuccino’s last year.

Thanks to Alex of Everybody Loves You for sharing his Pittsburgh summertime favorites!!


A night of carbs, meat and more carbs at Kavsar Uzbek restaurant

A night of carbs, meat and more carbs at Kavsar Uzbek restaurant

When we moved to Mt Washington nearly a year ago, visiting Kavsar was at the top of our “to try” list. What can I say, there’s a lot of stuff on that list, so it took us a long time to get there. Before visiting this restaurant, here’s a list of all the things I knew about Uzbek food:

Ok, so I had heard it has a lot of Russian influence. But the only thing I know about Russian food is borscht, and I’ve never even eaten that. So it’s fair to say this was totally new territory for me.

BTW, if you don’t know where Uzbekistan is, here is a map. It’s the pink country. It’s far away from Pittsburgh.


One thing I learned is that Uzbekistan is a Muslim country. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, so they do not serve alcohol there, nor are they BYOB. No drinking at all. Which was actually a nice change of things. Sometimes we spend too much attention on the wine or beer, which dulls our senses to the food, so it wasn’t so bad opting for green tea alongside my meal.


Kavsar is well aware that Pittsburgh isn’t familiar with Uzbek food, so there are plenty of helpful descriptions in the menu. Most of the dishes are variations on meat-and-carbs. Lots of potatoes, lots of grilled meat, lots of sour cream. Love it.


We started things off with the pickled vegetables (banana peppers, mushrooms, cabbage and cornichons), which were pretty standard from the jar pickled things, but added nice crunch and zing to our dishes. If I were smart, I would have taken notes at the time…but I didn’t, so you’ll have to bear with my descriptions of the dishes. The upper left were, I believe, called rolled pancakes. They were similar to blintzes, filled with mashed potatoes and served with sour cream. In the front, were the “pancake bags” filled with beef, a sour cream sauce and mushrooms. These pancake bags were the stand-out stars of the meal. I’m still thinking of them. They were the ultimate comfort food.


We shared the traditional bread, which had a fluffy crust on the outside, with the middle being denser and chewier. I liked having both of these textures together, and the bread had a nice hearty flavor.


I had a potato dumpling dish as my entree (again, the name fails me…). These are cousins to Pixburgh’s beloved pierogi, except the dumpling dough is much thinner and lighter, and the dill was surprising and refreshing.


Mr. Beez had a delicious noodle dish, full of chunky vegetables and chicken and a rich sauce. This dish too used a lot of dill. Personally, I like dill a lot, but don’t know of too many uses for it. I liked these unique approaches to its use, and it brought an interesting depth of flavor.

Although Uzbek food is very meat-focused, Kavsar does have a vegetarian menu. For kids (or just picky eaters), there is plenty on the menu that is similar enough to familiar dishes that Kavsar would make a good option for both adventurous and less-adventurous eaters. Baby Beez is pretty good with trying new things, but she has her moments, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her being difficult. She enjoyed the mashed potato pancakes, a chicken kebab and rice.

Kavsar has been getting a lot of well-deserved. good press. They were featured in the March issue of Pittsburgh Magazine, as well a write up in the City Paper last year. When we first arrived at the restaurant, we were the only folks there, but the place was quite full by the time we were heading out. This made me glad, as I am happy to see this family restaurant getting support and attention from the community.

We grabbed a menu on the way out, because Kavsar is definitely going to be on our takeout short list. We liked the experience of going there of course, but it is also close to where we live, the prices are good and the portions are generous, and the food is nice and belly-filling for those hungry days when you can’t get it together to cook and take out is so necessary.