Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Afternoon Commute

Well, it's about time yinz embrace the inevitable...


Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen
Song: "Call Me Maybe"

On Music

On a rainy day like today, I am compelled to do some reflecting. The topic at hand? Music. Why? Because a few days ago, I decided to take a really close look at my iTunes library. Having accumulated since 2005, this library was about 12GB's of history... a walk dahn memory lane so to speak. Music certainly conjures many of my memories and places those memories chronologically in particular moments, years, decades, etc. It's an audible scrapbook of sorts. Don't you agree?

Because my iPod was a 1st generation Nano, I was never able to put my entire music library on one device (I know, I know... first world problems). When I crossed over to the Dark Side and got an iPhone in April, I finally had the ability to have all of my music on one portable device, rather than just on my 2003 grad school vintage laptop; AND coincidentally, I was forced to examine the songs and artists that had amassed on my iTunes account.

Thus, in a two-hour-long-one-fell-swoop, I deleted over 200 songs that I either didn't like anymore, had served their purpose, or had never really liked in the first place (in some cases, 75% of entire CD's that had been burned to my iTunes or purchased). Also, in an attempt to revitalize my listening habits, I deleted every playlist that I had ever created. Goodbye "April Showers" mix, "Batmobile" mix, and "Young Adult" mix! Sounds crazy, right? No, I just take my music quite seriously.

How seriously? Well, let's put it this way: if given the option of having movies, television, or music on a deserted island, I would choose music withahhhht a doubt. That being said, from here on ahhhhhht, I am treating my iTunes account as the music library I would want with me on the aforementioned island.

Here are a few highlights of the deletions:
  • 75% of Aerosmith
  • a Paris Hilton single (yeah, that happened) 
  • 75% of Billy Joel
  • 75% of Journey 
  • over two dozen pop hits that were played ahhhhht
  • 100% of Jack Johnson
  • 100% of Ted Leo and The Pharmacists 
  • any song that had been downloaded for work purposes (i.e. Stray Cats' "Rock This Town")
  • 25% of Sublime (the noisy, hyper stuff)
  • my least favorite songs from the Boogie Nights and Pulp Fiction soundtracks
  • anything that had been downloaded at the request of an ex 
Here are a few highlights of what I kept: 
  • all Boyce Avenue, Matt Nathanson, David Gray, Greg Laswell, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bob Schneider, Dave Matthews, Counting Crows, Indigo Girls, Neil Young, Jay-Z, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, NKOTB, The Killers, Norwegian Recycling, O.A.R., Phoenix, Ryan Adams, Tracy Chapman, U2 (these artists make up the bulk of my library)
  • any song that appeared on The O.C. soundtracks. 
  • any song that makes me laugh ahhhhht loud (i.e. David Hasselhoff's "Jump In My Car")
  • any song that brings me to tears for the right reasons (i.e. State Radio's "Indian Moon")
  • the entire soundtracks to Ocean's Eleven, Black Hawk Down, GladiatorLes Misérables, Rent, Wicked, Jesus Christ Superstar, GodspellSpamalot, and Legally Blonde the Musical
  • my most favorite songs from the Boogie Nights and Pulp Fiction soundtracks
But back to my reflections... what I am currently scrolling through is a little over 9GB's of music, and one new playlist called "Pimp Civic" for driving around tahn. I am pretty pleased, and looking forward to adding to this collection with songs of both future memories and typical HGB whimsies (yes, I already downloaded "Call Me, Maybe"). 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Oh The Humanity!

It's not often that I am caught in a situation when/where I do not know what to do. Like at all. When asked about my strengths, I always list "resourcefulness" as one of the top three. This week however, I found myself in a situation that left me speechless and quite frankly, "resourceful-less." Here's how it went dahn...

Near my gym, there's an ATM, but it isn't a drive-thru. Meaning, people must park their vehicles and walk up to the ATM in order to make a transaction. This of course, creates many Seinfeld-esque situations that leave me wondering things like, "Is is appropriate to wait in my car if it's too hot/cold ahhhht?" or "How close is too close when waiting behind somebody?" or "Should I limit my transactions to only one if there are people behind me?" and so on and so forth. That being said, walk-up ATM's are confusingly funny, not confusingly aggravating. Everyone wants the same thing: money. We just need a guide book to tell us what to do (please leave comments if you have suggestions).

Anyway, on this particular occasion, I arrived at the ATM to find one man (Man #1) using it. I got ahhhht my my car, and chose to wait about twenty feet away. Within a minute or two, an SUV with two women (Woman #1 and Woman #2) pulled up, and they chose to wait in their vehicle. Right before Man #1 was finished, another car pulled up with three men (Man #2 and Dudes). For clarification purposes, the driver (Man #2) of this second vehicle got ahhhhht of his vehicle before the woman got ahhhhht of hers, even though Woman #1 had pulled up first.

Man #1 finished, and I walked up and started my transaction, which was a mere withdrawal. As I was finishing, I noticed that Man #2 was headed my way. Woman #1 however, beat him to the ATM. And then all hell broke loose. Within seconds, Man #2 was telling this "old b_____" to wait the "f___" in line and how he got there first. By this time I made it to my car, yet remained almost paralyzed as I watched and listened to this escalate so rapidly. Woman #1 replied that she got there first, and Man #2 told her to "f____ off" and that it doesn't matter who pulls up first, it's who "f___ing waits the f___ in line" first that matters. And then Woman #2 chimed in from within her vehicle with a big old "F____ you!!!!!", while Man #1 retaliated with a "Shut the f____ up you f____ing c___!!!!" Woman #1 came back with a "Go to H____!" (all the while completing her transaction) and the Dudes in Man #2's vehicle heckled responsively.

As for me, I really didn't know what to do from the safe haven of standing behind my driver's side door. Caught between calling the police and getting ahhhhhht of Dodge (in this case, the bank parking lot), I just stood and watched for as long as I could stomach this disgusting display of humanity; then with a huge sigh, and with apprehension about what might transpire next, I drove away. After some reflection, I determined that three things bothered me the most: 1.) people shouldn't treat each other that way; 2.) I couldn't do anything to alleviate the situation; and 3.) walk-up ATM's really need rules. With that in mind,  until I get contributions for walk-up ATM rules, I am 100% sure this entire ordeal (and any in the future) could be avoided with this simple thought: If you are a cruel, inhumane person with a foul mouth and a quick temper, you probably shouldn't go to walk-up ATM machines. Better yet, if you are a cruel, inhumane person with a foul mouth and a quick temper, you probably shouldn't go ahhhht in public.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Message From Your Kids' Teachers

This would have been more appropriate earlier this month, but I simply had to share it with yinz anyway. Check it ahhhhhht:


Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Room With a View

Like many people I know, I love spending time in restaurants and bars that have open-air dining sections, patios, and/or a view. Thus, once I was fully convinced that spring was here, I made it a point to finally visit The Porch at Schenley (an Eat n'Park Hospitality venture) in Oakland. I went on a Thursday evening with my friend RLG, only to return the very next Sunday so that JTP could enjoy the experience as well.


Aesthetically, the Porch is warm and welcoming from all angles. Opening up and looking ahhhhht over a vast lawn (that was a parking lot when I was in college), this restaurant manages to blend multiple textures tastefully. The lighting design is smart and enhances the ever present natural light; the layout provides many different seating options for diners from booths to tables to family style; and there is a bar.  

entry lighting
dining room lighting
simplicity
Much like the interior, the menu is tasteful and offers something for nearly everybody. On my initial visit to The Porch, I had a hard time deciding what to order so I opted for an adult beverage while I contemplated. Because I had a long day at work, I felt that the Pineapple Sage Margarita (pineapple infused tequila, fresh pineapple, sage, $8) would do the trick. 

Pineapple Sage Margarita
Let's just say that after a few sips I was instantly refreshed and prepared for some decision making. This version of a margarita was simple, tangy, and sweet. If I hadn't been toting around a pregnant woman I would have had more... so obviously, I ordered this again on my second trip back and it was just as delicious. For the record, if you are a wine drinker, there are nine whites available, and ten reds; and, there is also the option of BYOWine for a $15 corkage fee. There are four beers on tap and nine bottled/canned selections. Also, there are three signature "Porch Drinks" and housemade seasonal soda, which is my arena. I will definitely try more of these when I return. 

But back to my first visit to The Porch... The menu reminded me of how hungry I was, and as usual I got a little overzealous by ordering an ambitious appetizer and carbs (only to receive an eye roll and a hearty laugh from RLG). Yes, I ordered the Grilled Artichokes (with lemon-mint yogurt, $9) and the Farm Bread (housemade jams & honey butter, $4) for RLG and me to share. 

Grilled Artichokes
Now, perhaps we are not as "cultured" as we should be, because RLG and me were unsure where to begin on these (honestly, I do not think many people would know how to tackle this situation). We ended up pealing pieces from the core of the artichokes and dipping them in the yogurt... it felt awkward, but it sufficed. Anyway, we thought that the artichokes could have been more tender; but we did like the faint taste of the grill which lingered on them. Also, the lemon-mint yogurt was both complementary and delicious. 

Farm Bread
If I didn't care about my figure, I would order the Farm Bread as my meal. Seriously. This is some of the most heavenly bread I've ever had.  It had a dense inner texture, a mildly sourdough flavor, and a light, crusty surface; all of which was prefect for the housemade apple butter, strawberry jam, and honey butter. The apple butter tasted like spreadable apple pie, and had I been observed, one would have seen me spreading apple butter on one bite, then strawberry jam on another, then honey butter on another, and then repeating the process. If only this behavior was guilt free! Yum! 

For our main courses, RLG went for the Pan Seared Salmon (green lentils, rapini, citrus beurre blanc, $18), and I chose the Rocket (roasted beets, chorizo, shaved parmesan, pickled shallots, toasted sunflower seeds, sherry vinaigrette, $10) salad. 

Pan Seared Salmon
I am allergic to salmon, which is a shame because it seems like every restaurant has salmon options that sound delectable. The Porch was no exception. For RLG, this proved to be a great choice, because she ate every last bite happily. It was light and flavorful fish, seared nicely and it went quite well with the lentils. 

Rocket salad
This salad was fantastic! Truthfully, if you tell me that there are both beets and chorizo on anything, I will probably eat it. Thus, this was HGB in salad form. The Rocket was a well-conceived conglomeration of fresh flavors and textures... not too much of any item, but just enough for each bite to provide me with something great. I ate it all despite how stuffed I was feeling from my belly full of Farm Bread. 

On my second visit, I knew that I wanted to try the Cast Iron Cornbread ($5) and the BBQ Chicken (roasted chicken, red onion, pineapple, cilantro, BBQ sauce, $12) pizza. More carbs, I know! 

Cast Iron Cornbread
Truthfully, I probably wouldn't order this again as an appetizer unless I paired it with soup; but it was tasty and the crumb topping was a nice touch to a familiar dish. JTP and I didn't finish it. Now, about that pizza... 

BBQ Chicken pizza
...served on a baking sheet, this BBQ Chicken pizza was more than enough for two people to share. The piles on the side of the pizza were herbs, spicy red pepper, and parmesan cheese to enhance your pizza as you pleased. In previous reviews, I've mentioned how much I enjoy a wood-fired pizza and this was no exception. When I return, it will be hard not to try another one. 

In true JTP fashion, he ordered the rotesserie Duck Legs (fava bean salad, charred ramps, foie gras, blueberry-champagne sauce, $20).  

Duck Legs
This was incredible, and I know this because JTP let me have a bite (or three). It's menu items like this that make me appreciate a chef's talents. How one creates entrees as delicious and fulfilling as these Duck Legs is not only inspiring, but also, it's an impressive exemplification of talent. If duck is in your wheelhouse, I highly suggest ordering this. You won't be disappointed. 

Lastly, I will comment briefly on Oakland, and how The Porch fits into one of my favorite places in the entire world. Just as Pittsburgh is keeps getting better, so too does Oakland by evolving into an even more beautiful urban campus than it already was. More green space, more new campus housing, an incredible baseball complex, the Peterson Events Center, and a renewed Forbes Avenue corridor accent all of Oakland's traditions. Therefore, The Porch, accents the campus in its brilliant location by sharing the Bigelow Blvd./Forbes Ave. intersection with the Hillman Library, and across from the Hillman Libary, the William Pitt Student Union, and the Cathedral of Learning...

my beloved Cathedral of Learning
...now that's a view. 

 The Porch at Schenley on Urbanspoon

(3.25 stars, 3.25/4)

Note: It would have been 3.5 stars, but the hostesses need to get a little better with their greetings and their seatings.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Afternoon Commute

Considering that I am too busy to post anything of true substance these days, the very least I can do for my audience is recommend some quality music for your afternoon commute. This suits me today, and hopefully you will enjoy it as well...

Artist: Boyce Avenue
Song: "No One/Tattoo"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Coincidental Gifting

So yesterday I received not one, but two Andy Warhol-themed gifts! One came via real mail (yay!), and the other came via face to face interaction (another yay!). Check these ahhhhht:


On the left is Andy Warhol perfume (from the lovely LPT), which is a fresh, fruity and floral scent featuring his 1964 "Flowers" series on the bottle; and on the right is an Andy Warhol Pot Belly (from my dear godmother EGG), which is a clever little knick-knack that fits perfectly with my other little knick-knacks* on my kitchen windowsill. Who knew that having a Big Fat Warhol Wedding would bring such delightful surprises to my day?! I am blessed.

*These are the only knick-knacks in my entire house. I feel like I had to say that because yinz are judging me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Everything But The Book (Club)

After a few cancellations and scheduling issues, Everything But The Book (Club) finally managed to get together this past week. We discussed (what we remembered from reading) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

As for The Fault in Our Stars, we loved it. Actually, we loved it so much that all of us agreed that we wouldn't mind reading others works by John Green. It's really well written, and it certainly evoked emotions within each of us. Personally, it's the number one book right now that I recommend to my facebook friends' status update "all calls" for book suggestions. 

Now, about The Hunger Games. Yes, the book is entertaining. Yes, the movie is entertaining. No, we didn't enjoy any of the sequels nearly as much as the first one. No, we didn't think that the movie was as good as the book (i.e. Katniss didn't eat enough in the movie for as much culinary imagery that Collins included in the book; District 12 wasn't nearly as bleak and dirty in the movie as it should have been, nor were District 12 residents nearly as starved as they should have looked... it's coal country people!).  

We also had a pretty significant epiphany regarding how each of figures ahhhht whether we liked the book or not: Do we read, flip, or quit? Obviously, if we read, we are actively engaged with the book. If we flip, we are curious to see how it ends, but not entirely engaged in the act of reading. And of course, if we quit, it's lights ahhhhhht for whatever book we are supposed to be reading. Note: upon quitting, one of our members partakes in the act of physically throwing the book away; because for her, the reading material must be purged in order for her to make peace with the book. And for all of you environmentalists ahhhht there, this is a minor infraction because this particular member is the biggest recycler I know and she composts

Up next, we are jumping on the bandwagon and reading Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. Apparently, we are ready to droves of women who are responding to the much hyped and supposedly scandalous subject matter of romance, suspense, and erotica (I mean, SNL even did a little sketch about it). Do you think we can handle it (I ask this as I impatiently wait for the mailman to deliver my book)? 

We have two meetings on the horizon: one will be My Big Fat Warhol Wedding and the other will be a discussion/drinks/movie night to see Magic Mike. Discussing Fifty Shades of Grey and seeing Magic Mike in the same meeting may render us useless for a day or so, but we are up to the challenge! Here's the trailer once again in case you still haven't seen it: 


Lastly, for your amusement, here's a list of the other topics as discussed by Everything But The Book (Club):
  • dating widows/widowers vs. dating divorcees... "I cannot date anyone who has the same cell phone as my parents."
  • Spanx and the value of a good bra (priceless)
  • When does something become "yours" after borrowing (and keeping) it from someone? For the record, we decided that the rules aren't the same between sisters. 
  • why apartments in Squirrel Hill are so expensive
  • why children sometimes don't sleep during storms
  • how meringue is an awesome and underrated dessert
  • Channing Tatum 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Afternoon Commute

Lately, I've been feeling overly nostalgic about college; and so for today's afternoon commute, I am giving yinz a song that reminds me of the end of my senior year... exactly ten years ago (sigh). Enjoy!


Artist: Phoenix
Song: "If I Ever Feel Better"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Housekeeping

The fact that I am writing this post after midnight on May 4th (and really, people? Are the "May the fourth be with you" jokes all that funny?) is indicative my schedule. Oddly enough, alliterative weather metaphors are what comes to mind: a hectic hurricane, a flurried frenzy, whirlwind weekends, etc. The only reason I am up so late writing this is because I drank two Diet Pepsi's and I am a little wired (Who drinks that stuff anyway? I can only think of two people in my entire mental Rolodex of family, friends, and acquaintances that I have ever seen drink it. Hmmmm.)

Anyway, April was a blurry blizzard of activity that started with Easter and ended with a truly fun hometown wedding. Somehow I managed to squeeze in work and all work-related activities (no, I am not talking about happy hours... I mean work); serendipitously accidentally walking into an ex's post-wedding bash (although the incident was in a public place and my less-than-5-minute intrusion went undetected, it's the worst I have felt about anything in a very long time. Why? Because I am not that terrible of a human being )*; writing a few posts on The Steel Trap; attending the food tasting for my our wedding; reading a few good books; discovering my new favorite gift shop in the Burgh (more on that later); attending several high school musicals (more on that later as well); catching up with my friends as much as I can; falling in love with my iPhone (and consequently becoming addicted to Scrabble); and trying to complete as many wedding related-tasks as I could accomplish. Overall, I haven't spent much quality time with JTP, and I am pretty crabby about it. Actually I am REALLY crabby about it; so,  if anybody even thinks about asking him to hang ahhhht from now until July, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to punch you in the throat, give you the infamous HGB death look, and/or do something spiteful (which I assure you is the worst of my "evils").

On a happier note, my friends had a lovely girls' night ahhhhht in my honor. It's actually what brought me to Station Square on the aforementioned wedding crashing incident. If you don't know by now, I never go to Station Square unless it's for an event at the Sheraton (which is almost never), to hear a live band at the Hard Rock Cafe, or to eat at The Melting Pot. This equates an average of one time a year at best. Nevertheless, I chose The Melting Pot (check ahhhht their "Ladies Night Special") for my girls' night ahhhht so that we could enjoy some cheese, chocolate, and good drinks... but most of all so we could enjoy each other. Unbeknownst to me, they planned a "panty party" since I turned dahn all offers for wedding showers. This involved each of my friends taking turns reading a poetic verse that coincided with a specific pair of panties. Needless to say, I was both surprised and touched. Simply stated, it was one of those evenings that had all of the elements of great friendship: laughter, tears, confessions, meaningful conversations, old stories, and dance moves (for some). I am blessed.

Yes, that would be a bag of panties in my hand. It's all about discretion.

As for May, it doesn't look like my schedule will slow up. Actually, I think I am perpetually busy until our trip to Puerto Vallarta after the wedding. Fortunately, May brings the end of my work season and the anticipation of a long summer vacation. It also brings some of my favorite things like a Mother's Day trip to Kennywood and the Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards.

As always, thank you for reading (and [hopefully] passing this blog along). Also, thank you for "liking" The Steel Trap on facebook, following @The_Steel_Trap on Twitter, and following me on Pinterest!

Helloooo May! 
-HGB


*I thought long and hard about even mentioning this incident on The Steel Trap. For those of you who know me, you already know how I felt and feel regarding the entire thing. However, for those of you who do not, please know this experience was one of those invaluably humbling moments... and one that reminded me of just how small the world can be and of how quickly my actions (purposeful or not... in this case, not) can impact others negatively. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Awesome or Flawsome: Turkey Hill Fried Ice Cream

True confession: I miss Chi-Chi's. I want that "celebration of food" back in my life. Their grocery store food line doesn't cut it, primarily because I have to make it myself AND it's not served in a pseudo-stucco "salsified" atmosphere with kids on not-so-Spanish field trips surrounding me and mariachi music playing in the background (kidding on that one). Seriously, what I want is simple: I want to eat the barbecued chicken burrito and enjoy an order of fried ice cream while listening to the restaurant staff sing feliz cumpleaños to someone who has been forced to wear a sombrero. Is that too much to ask? I mean, toxic green onions and bankruptcy are so 2004.* 

For the record, no Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant ever comes close to recreating the hilarious Chi-Chi's experience (not that they were trying to...), and that is a good thing. Since it closed, I feel like most Mexican/Text-Mex joints have learned from Chi-Chi's interior decorating and culinary mistakes. Also, I've learned to accept that the Wing-O-Rito and Ice Cream Burrrrito at Mad Mex are the closest I will get (sans the sombrero, birthday singing, field trip, mariachi music, etc.). Nevertheless, there was this longing... 

...until JTP went to CoGo's and returned with this: 

For the record, this container is already empty. Took two people and two days. 
Suddenly, life without Chi-Chi's doesn't seem so bleak. That's right. Turkey Hill Dairy (Lancaster, PA) has introduced a Limited Edition Fried Ice Cream: "Cinnamon ice cream swirled with cinnamon sopapilla and sweet tostada pieces." One carton later, I declare that this concoction is as close to Chi-Chi's Fried Ice Cream as I am ever going to find. When it comes to ice cream, I have an affinity for pieces of stuff mixed into it (texture, people... texture!), and the tostada pieces are adequately portioned. Also, the cinnamon flavor is neither overwhelming nor underwhelming. Dare I say it was a fiesta in my mouth?

Turkey Hill Limited Edition Fried Ice Cream is officially awesome (Fue una fiesta en mi boca!).

*Clearly, my sass doesn't supersede my condolences for the families who lost loved ones to the infamous Hepatitis A outbreak that struck a local Chi-Chi's nearly a decade ago. I am not that unreasonable and/or cold-hearted. I am just hangry (hungry + angry = hangry). 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day! May Day!

If any of yinz happen to be in good old Uniontown today, it's the 78th Americanism Day (May Day) Parade. This is one of my favorite UT activities of all time, having marched in at least ten of them with either the Girl Scouts or the Uniontown Area High School Marching Band (no, I did not play an instrument... I was a Raiderette. Duh.).

The Trib posted a pretty nice article about it last Friday, "78th Americanism Day parade Tuesday in Uniontown." One interesting tidbit that I learned: "The parade began in 1934 when coal miners gathered for a celebration to counter the annual May Day parade organized by the Communist Party." How 'bout that?

So, if you happen to be watching the parade, try to make your way over to St. Peter's Anglican Church on Morgantown Street. They are selling hot dogs (w/ kraut if you want), and the proceeds benefit a work weekend in which junior and senior high school students help adults refurbish and repair homes for people in need. That's a pretty good cause!