My Mixtape Monday – July 27, 2015

First Name: Bree
Twitter: @Librarian_Bree
Sex: Female
Age: 34

Occupation: Librarian

Mixtape Name: What’s New to Me and What I Can’t Live Without

Side A – What’s New to Me
1) Lucky Day by Hunter Hunted
I saw Hunter Hunted open for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness last fall and I have been looking forward to their album ever since.
Favorite Line – “Lately I cross my fingers tight, superstition in my mind… I must be breaking mirrors under ladders all the time, because I’m followed by the rain..”
2) Ditmas by Mumford and Sons
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I love the new Mumford album. So many people complained about how “different” it is. Yes, it’s different, but it’s also fantastic.
Favorite Line – “Where I used to end was where you start… You were the only one.”
3) Cool for the Summer by Demi Lovato
This is my summer song. It’s just fun. I can’t help but turn it up whenever it comes on the radio. I’m sure it will eventually get overplayed and I’ll hate it, but right now I love it.
Favorite Line – “Tell me what you want, what you like, it’s okay… I’m a little curious too…”
4) Caught by Florence and the Machine
Though I don’t think “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is nearly as good as 2011’s “Ceremonials,” it’s still Florence and she still kills.
Favorite Line – “It’s hard to see it, when you’re in it, cause I went blind for you…”
5) If You Ever Want to Be In Love by James Bay
James Bay… One of my favorite new artists. His album is full of great songs, but this one is one of my favorites.
Favorite Line – “I’m not waiting, but I’m willing if you call me up…”
6) I of the Storm by Of Monsters and Men
There will have to be a really REALLY great album to come out in the next five months to dethrone OMaM’s new album as my favorite of 2015. It’s that good.
Favorite Line – “And it echoes when I breathe, until all you’ll see, is my ghost…”

Side B – What I Can’t Live Without
7) Vampire Smile by Kyla LaGrange
I wish somebody would have told me about Kyla LaGrange. She came up randomly on a Spotify playlist and I’ve been loving her ever since. Vampire Smile is raw, sexy, and obsessive. I love it.
Favorite Line – “Baby I need a friend, but I’m a vampire smile, you’ll meet a sticky end…”
8) The Resolution by Jack’s Mannequin
There are few songs that I consider “perfect,” but The Resolution is one of them.
Favorite Line – “Yeah I’m alive, and I don’t need a witness, to know that I survived, I’m not looking for forgiveness…”
9) Secret by Howie Day
I love how Howie Day puts songs together. Lyrically, he makes you think. I love that.
Favorite Line – “Right and wrong is not quite seen, right and wrong is it everything?”
10) Church Clothes by Matt Nathanson
I could fill up a mixed tape with Matt Nathanson. If you’ve never seen him live, you must do so. Not only is he and amazing performer, but he’s also hilarious and often tells hysterical stories between songs. He is also a huge music nerd and genuinely loves music.
Favorite Line – “I wanna be brand new… I wanna trade in these wings, they don’t work like yours do…”
11) Synesthesia by Andrew McMahon
Andrew McMahon is an amazing writer. Not just songs, but anything he writes. If you read any of his blog entries, you will see that. He is so poetic and real in his lyrics. Synesthesia is just a great song.
Favorite Line – “Grab your wings, they’re putting gravity on trial…”
12) I Will Find You by O.A.R.
O.A.R. is one of those bands that I’ve loved forever, and in my opinion, they just keep getting better and better. I Will Find You is unique in the sense that at 9:01 long, it’s almost like two songs in one. The first half is completely different than the second half, but somehow they work together seamlessly.
Favorite Line – “Am I on my way to everything that I want, or am I here?”

Liner Notes: Trying to pick just twelve songs was quite the challenge! I could have gone a million different directions with my mixed tape, but in the end I decided to share some tracks that I’m loving from 2015 for Side A. There is a mix of new artists, new music from some of my favorite artists, and artists that are new to me.

The songs on Side B are the songs I can’t live without. The ones I go back to again and again – the ones that I NEVER skip over in the car. These are the ones I turn up, and sing horribly off-key to.

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The Week in Tweets – July 24, 2015

It’s Friday and Daddy needs a hot slice of pizza and a cold pint of beer! But before we get to that, let’s run through an all-new, all-different Week in Tweets!

5) beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo)

Come on vacation with me if you want to gain 25 lbs in 5 days and spend all your money.

Throw in a hangover, lost sunglasses and a really bad case of sunburn and you have yourself a deal!

4) Damon Hunzeker (@DamonHunzeker)

I’ll just have a whiskey straight, and then I’ll drink some vodka as gay as you can possibly imagine.

All vodka is gay vodka if you drink enough.

3 – tie) Valjean Taffer (@killakow)

Who gets Chopped first:
Chef who doesn’t plate all ingredients
Chef who bleeds on the plate
Chef who uses truffle oil as an afterthought

gokitty (@gokitty)

I hope chopped judges make a lot. Most of that food has to be horrible.

I love Chopped but it’s been on so long that the mystery ingredients just don’t shock me like they used to. I mean, who doesn’t know by now to go light on the Bhut jolokia and always blanch and peel the fava beans first. Therefore, below are some suggestions for future baskets that will assuredly raise the stakes of the competition:

Appetizer round: Shea butter, masking tape, cotton swaps and a live turtle

Entrée round: cigarette butts, Crystal Pepsi, Styrofoam, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s severed head

Dessert round: glitter, snozzberries, 1984 Topps Baseball Andy Van Slyke Rookie Card and AquaNet hairspray

2) no (@tbhjuststop)

don’t worry password, im insecure too

I recommend using self-compliments as a password (good example URtheBest1) because they’re easy to remember and make you feel good to write them. Just don’t make it too specific or you’ll be in for an uncomfortable conversation if you have to repeat it out loud to the helpdesk (bad example Eyebr0ws0nFleek).

1 – tie) Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez)

*takes dog to mommy and me class*

Sincerely Tumblr (@SincerelyTumblr)

Pizza first people second

* takes slice of pizza to Mommy and Me yoga class *

Below is a picture of kitten Rachel from 2005. Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

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everybody loves…Toronto

My wife and I recently spent a long weekend in the fourth biggest city in North America – Toronto, Canada. It was my first time visiting Drizzy Drake’s hometown and I absolutely loved it. Below is a recap of some of the many highlights of our trip.

InterContinental Toronto Centre Hotel: Nestled next to Rogers Centre in the shadow of the CN Tower, the InterContinental was the perfect home base for our stay in Toronto. It was very modern, attractive and clean (like me) with an extremely friendly and helpful staff (again, just like me).

The CN Tower: Getting to the top of the CN Tower was the first activity we undertook after checking into our hotel. It was an absolutely gorgeous day so the 360 degree view of the lake and the city was quite breathtaking. The sky terrace was pretty crowded but we were still able to navigate through the selfie-stick wielding crowds to get some really great pictures.

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Spice Route Asian Bistro & Bar: This popular King Street West restaurant combined a super-chic ambiance and a menu overflowing with sharable Indo-Chinese delicacies. I’m now 17% cooler just by having dined there.

Hey Lucy: Another trendy bistro on King Street, Hey Lucy backed up their fashionable façade with delicious brick oven pizzas and a gaslamp-lit rooftop patio that provided the perfect amount of romantic ambiance.

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Bar Hop: A sh*tload of beers on tap and really great French fries. Bar Hop was basically what I imagine heaven to be like.

Distillery District: Strolling around the cobblestone pathways of this Victorian-style village was such a charming experience. Along with a plethora of artisanal shops and cafes, this area was also home to the awesome Mill Street Brew Pub.

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The Second City’s How to Kill a Comedian: People constantly texting “lol” has devalued the sentiment so much that it has almost replaced “ok” as a compulsory response. Regardless, there’s really no better way for me to describe my Second City experience other than with a capital #LOL. I laughed out loud so much that I nearly p*ssed my pants. And that would’ve really sucked since I only packed one pair.

Canadian Craft Beers: Though still dominated by Labatt’s, Molson and Bud (ughh), Canada also has a burgeoning craft beer scene with many appealing options. Below are three of my new favorites along with an alliterative summation:

Bar Hop Poutentious ESB (Premium Bitter/ESB – ABV 5.0%) – bitter, biscuity and bubbly.

Mill Street Belgian Wit (Witbier – ABV 5.2%) – hazy, hoppy and hints-of-banana.

Collective Arts Rhyme and Reason (American Pale Ale – ABV 5.7%) – grainy, grassy and grapefruity.

Final Call: Toronto reminded me a lot of Chicago, except much cleaner and without the constant threat of violent crime. It’s a beautiful, big city with plenty of green space and world-class entertaining, shopping and sports experiences.

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Special shout-out to my Torontonian buddy Elle for all her help in planning our itinerary and accommodations. She has now replaced Michael J. Fox as my favorite Canadian!

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My Mixtape Monday – July 20, 2015

First Name: Giulia
Twitter: @miss_donato
Sex: Female
Age: 26

Occupation: Administrator at The Rivers Casino

Mixtape Name: Long days, Hot Nights

Side A
1) 10,000 Emerald Pools by BØRNS
This one is an “I like you but I’m afraid to tell you” kind of songs. Great for belting out in the car when you’re by yourself.
2) Cream on Chrome by Ratatat
Just a good throw on your shades and cruise type of tune. I do it quite frequently. No words, all music. Love this band.
3) Is This How You Feel? By The Preatures
Reminds me of an 80’s girl band for some reason.
4) Cocaine Blues by Escort
70’s vibes. I dig it.
5) Hold On by SBTRKT feat. Sampha
SBTRKT is known for these beats, and with the smooth sounds of Sampha, its best of both worlds.
6) No No No by Beirut
Newest song from these guys. Their songs are beautiful and elegantly written. This one is a little more fun and cute.

Side B
7) Something About You by Hayden James
One of my many favorite funky get up and dance songs.
8) Obvs by Jamie xx
Those steel drums. Makes me feel all tropical n’at.
9) Inspector Norse by Todd Terje
Big fan of his. Especially this song. It’s a futuristic and dance worthy.
10) Holding On by Julio Bashmore feat. Sam Dew
Another disco inspired song. This is my relationship slump song.
11) Gosh by Jamie xx
I ADORE Jamie xx. Perfect for pre-gaming, or post, or during.
12) Ready for the Floor by Hot Chip
If I could listen to this band for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t complain.

Liner Notes: These songs are on constant rotation. Mixture of synth-pop/electronic with a side of funk.

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The Week in Tweets – July 11, 2015

The weekend is here! Let us speed through an abbreviated Week in Tweets before Monday arrives and we’re all miserable again. My responses are all conveyed via “text-speak” acronyms that hopefully you can use in the future. TTYL (Talk To Yinz Later)!

6) netw3rk (@netw3rk)

dance like no one is watching
love like you’ve never been hurt
eat ice cream when everyone is sleeping

HIBE (Hiding In the Basement Eating).

5 – tie) LA (@la_canadiangirl)

Life is too short be happy live carefree ~ inspirational tweet from single people no kids

 Simon Holland (@simoncholland)

So nice to be the first one awake and enjoy a quiet house with a cup of-never mind, kids are awake, they ruined it.

HIBESOINTN (Hiding In the Basement Eating and Streaming Orange Is The New Black).

4) Baby Animals (@BBAnimals)

“WHEN CATS ARE SAD
Bartender: What’ll ya have?
Cat: Shot of rum
[Bartender pours it]
[Cat slowly pushes it off the bar]
Cat: Another.”

COLO (Cats Only Listen Once).

3) Mackenzie Brown (@myarmpititches)

I imagine that there are dumpsters full of Furbies, Beanie Babies and all of the other creepy 90s toys out there somewhere

ROTFDNUBB (Rolling On The Floor of a Dumpster Next to Unsanitary Beanie Babies).

2) bourgeois beth (@bourgeoisalien)

Getting a tuna sandwich from a gas station is a cool way of saying, “Don’t have time to stop to eat, but there’s always time for diarrhea.”

NTMDJ (Never Too Many Diarrhea Jokes).

1) Kelli (@kjv89)

I actually love the Olive Garden.

UB4E (Unlimited Breadsticks Forever)

Below is a pic of Oscar and Rachel getting cat hair on my bed in the cutest way possible. Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

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Spoonwood – Bethel Park Suburb

Restaurant: Spoonwood Brewing Company

Location: On Baptist Road right past where Hills used to be.

Atmosphere: Hipster warehouse-chic with exposed HVAC, industrial lighting, gray walls and big ol’ metal vats of beer.

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Menu: Salads, sandwiches, soups and, ummm, let me see if I can remember, what was that again…um…oh yeah…WOOD-FIRED PIZZAS!!!!!

Food (and Beer): Let’s start with the beer since that’s Spoonwood’s core competency. I sampled an assortment of their rotating selections and below are my actor-inspired assessments:

Stunt Double Kölsch – refreshingly solid and straightforward with an abundance of malty musk. Basically the Bill Paxton of beers.

O’vermillion Irish Red Ale – an easy-to-drink beer with some light herbal/grassy notes. Basically the Bill Pullman of beers.

In The Black Stout – its subtle flavoring of roasted coffee and chocolate reminded me of the late 90s work of Larenz Tate.

Marmalade Wheat – analogous to how I’ve felt about Katherine Heigl since she left Grey’s Anatomy. I was expecting so much more but its lack of depth and bitter orange aftertaste really wasn’t to my liking.

Elise Saison – dry and peppery with some upfront floral hops. Pretty much a cross between Simon Pegg and Zooey Deschanel.

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Now for the food! I’m not one for overzealous hyperbole, but my first bite of Spoonwood’s pizza was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. On second thought maybe that isn’t completely true*, but it definitely was some of the finest pizza that I’ve ever had in the “wood-fired” style.

The crust was inexplicably both fluffy and crispy and it had the perfect amount of flavorful char on the underside from the “hot as f” oven. A sparse scattering of house-made mozzarella and fresh basil topped my Margherita and defined the concept of quality over quantity.

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The pizza’s size was relatively modest so I was very happy that my wife and I ordered our own instead of planning to split just one. Let that be a lesson to you – the key to a happy marriage is never running out of pizza.

* “Greatest things to ever happen to me” rankings – 1) marrying my wife, 2) my son being born, 3) getting LASIK surgery, 4) eating Spoonwood’s pizza and 5) going to Lollapalooza ’94.

Final Call: Spoonwood’s beer selection was very solid but I can’t say that there were any breakout superstars a la Jennifer Lawrence or Channing Tatum in the bunch. However, I would marry their pizza if it was legal. Highly recommended!

Click to add a blog post for Spoonwood Brewing Co. on Zomato

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My Mixtape Monday – July 6, 2015

First Name: Dana Bee
Twitter: @toastismyjam – public, @yay_toast – otherwise
Sex: Female
Age: 34

Occupation: Higher Education

Mixtape Name: The Education of Miss Dana Bee

Side A – Wake the f up
1) My Number by Foals
2) Disparate Youth by Santigold
3) Something Good Can Work by Two Door Cinema Club
4) Miss You by Foster the People
5) I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab for Cutie
6) Too Dramatic by Ra Ra Riot
Secret Track: Digital Witness by St. Vincent

Side B – Simmer down now
7) Montezuma by Fleet Foxes
8) Nantes by Beirut
9) Holocene by Bon Iver
10) No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses
11) Most People by Dawes
12) Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys
Secret Track: While You Wait For The Others by Grizzly Bear ft. Michael McDonald (Original on Spotify playlist)

Liner Notes: In 2008, my life changed drastically and I fell back into love with music. I bought a new car that came with an XM radio subscription which is where I found a ton of artists and music that would shape the next few years of my life. These artists are one that stick with me still today; that bring me joy when I hear them, and still make me bop around in my seat.

I’ve seen Two Door Cinema Club, Foster the People, Ra Ra Riot, Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Dawes, Arctic Monkeys and Grizzly Bear live and they’ve all been even more amazing in person. My greatest regret with this list is never seeing Fleet Foxes live – I actually own all of the cds and I would love it they would sing me to sleep every night. I’m not as progressive now with my music selections as I was back then, so these groups have a special place in my heart.

Spotify Playlist link: The Education of Miss Dana Bee

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My Mixtape Monday – June 29, 2015

First Name: Dawn
Twitter: @redpenmamapgh
Sex: Female

Mixtape Name: Car Songs 2015

Side A
1) Got to My Head by WATERS
I had been thinking of this playlist for awhile now. When I heard this track on All Songs Considered, I knew it was time to start.
2) Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
I resisted this pop gem for as long as I could. It’s… it’s not a very complicated song. But it eventually hit the pleasure center in my brain, and I was seduced. I think I get a little cache for knowing who Mark Ronson is.
Aside: I keep waiting for one of the girls to ask what a masturbator is. Neither has so far, which means they have their own idea. And I’m not opening that can of worms. The 4yo asked if it was a bad word, and I said no.
3) Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
I didn’t even bother trying to resist this one. It’s the 8yo’s favorite song of all time (for now).
4) Happy Idiot by TV on the Radio
This is the 8yo’s second favorite track on this playlist, so I feel like I am parenting well.
5) Reflections by MisterWives
This band is the Chvrches of 2015. The whole album, Our Own House, is car-song worthy.
6) Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) by US3
Does anyone else remember this song? I blame my husband for introducing it to the girls. “Ladies an’ gennlmen…”
7) Left Hand Free by alt-J
This is a weird little poppy song from a band that is otherwise prog rock for millennials. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Side B
8) Hurricane Season by Trombone Shorty
My husband is responsible for this one too. Can’t sing along (it’s an instrumental), but the children almost always request it when we’re in the car, so it was a natural fit.
9) Burn by Ellie Goulding
I originally had “Love Me Like You Do” from Miss Goulding on the playlist, but it was roundly and solidly rejected by my audience. This was our compromise.
10) Elastic Heart by Sia
My other pop diva of choice.
11) Gotta Get Away by The Black Keys
The 10-year-old’s observation: “Wow. He must really dislike the person in this song. He traveled to Kalamazoo to get away from him!” Never mind that this is probably about Auerbach’s ex-wife.
12) Under a Rock by Waxahtchee
This is another oddly poppy song from an indie rock singer who is otherwise not poppy. (h/t to @EdMasley for this one.)
13) Handsome by The Vaccines
Spotify gets all the credit for this one. “If you like A, you will like B.” I don’t remember what A was in this case, but they were right about B. A little cynical, a little mean, but catchy as all get out.
14) Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles
I blame the 10yo’s music teacher for this one. The end of the year show was a retrospective of pop songs for the 60 years the school has been open. This was one of the songs from the 1980s.
15) Back of the Car by RAC
And, we end where we begin, with NPR, All Song’s Considered. A car song! About a car! (Kinda.)

Liner Notes: The concept is simple: a song you can sing along to or dance along to in the car. Someone should to teach the joys of singing along to my 10-year-old. The 8- and 4-year-olds totally get it. My son (the 4yo) knows all the vocal stylings in track 2.

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The Best of Summer 2015 Part VI…Wine

Ann, of the erudite and entertaining blog The Winey Mom, is handling our last entry in our Best of Summer 2015 series. Unsurprisingly, she’s covering wine. Santé!

Welcome summer 2015! Or as we’ve been calling it in Cleveland, the rainy season. Is there anything more frustrating than a promising summer weekend where it rains the entire time? Well, yes, I guess there is: a rainy summer weekend without any wine. Because let’s face it, a little wine can make any day sunny, at least inside my brain.

So what am I drinking this summer? Let’s start with white wine. Because I am nothing if not a weather driven Winey Mom. Summer days on the patio (or gazing at the patio) just scream to me for a crisp, refreshing white wine. Don’t get me wrong, I love red wine. But when the temperatures rise, my taste buds scream for white.

And for some reason this summer, I have been traveling to France for my white. Ok, not literally, but I have been traveling to the French wine section of various stores, so we’ll go with that. I don’t think, at first, that I was doing this consciously. But a few stores were spotlighting a French wine, I tried it, I liked it and decided to explore the blanc side of the French wine world. Here are some of my favorites so far (I will continue with my French exploration, I’m no quitter). If you can’t find these exact wines, you can use these suggestions to find similar French whites.

a1La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc (2014, 12.5%, Loire Valley, France). Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most grown white grapes in France, especially in the Loire region. And this is 100% Sauvignon Blanc (lots of French whites are blends). I paid under $10 for this wine and would pay it again and again. If you like a tart and juicy Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll want to try this one. It starts off with a nose of green apple. The first flavors you’ll taste are lime, gooseberry and kiwi, followed up with a hint of green bell pepper. It finishes up puckery tart, with a taste of sour apple (if you loved the sour apple Jolly Ranchers as a kid, or even now as an adult, you’ll love this finish!). The wine was juicy and full of layered flavors. Just yummy.

a2Le Chardonnay (2014, 13%, Auvergne, France). This wine is produced by a cooperative, Cave St. Verny in the Cotes d’Auvergne appellation of France (which is just a bit south of very center of the country). This also cost me under $10. You’re welcome. This wine is a very pretty bright, sheer gold color and it smells of honey and minerals. It tastes of honeysuckle, lemon and bright minerals. It ends up with just a touch of sour citrus and has a great mouth feel to it – not too full, not too thin and sharp. No oak in this one – a perfect Chardonnay for summer sipping. Another one to buy again.

a3Cleebourg Pinot Gris (2011, 13%, Alsace, France). I’m going to give props to the Winey Hubby here, because he is the one that got me interested in the Alsace area. Well, not him personally. To be fair, it was his ancestors. Seems a whole branch of his family is from Colmar, which is in Alsace-Lorraine. The area has switched back and forth from French to German rule over the centuries, but at the time they lived there, Colmar was under French rule. So I was curious as to what a Pinot Gris from the land of the Winey ancestors would taste like. The first thing I noticed about the wine was that it poured out of the bottle heavily. Sort of like pouring liquid velvet. We’re talking full bodied here – you could tell just by watching it! The nose gave off aromas of apple blossom, ripe honeysuckle and heavy summer flowers. The first flavor I tasted was of minerals, then golden honey followed by lime peel. It finished on that lime note, tart and almost sour. It delivered the entire gamut of flavors here – rich, creamy, sweet flavor giving way to a tart, juicy finish. If you don’t like sweet white wine, but you aren’t into the big and buttery thing either, you’ll like this one: it starts out creamy and ends up refreshingly tart. This one cost a bit more: it’s in the $15 range.

a4And my last French white for you all is on this list not because it’s from France (although that does help, given the theme of my summer sipping). No, it is here because I am sad. Oh so very sad. Because over in England, they have just started shooting the last (sob) season of Downton Abbey. Hold on, I need a minute.…… OK. And because the folks at Carnival Films (the masterminds behind Downton) are pretty smart, they decided to market a wine line. If you know how obsessed I am with all things Downton, it will come as no surprise to you that I am a very good customer of these wines.

The first offering from Lord and Lady Grantham and the folks at Downton was two French wines. So I’m going to tell you about the Downton Abbey Blanc (2013, 12.5%, Bordeaux). This is a classic Bordeaux blend of Muscadelle and Semillion that starts off with a nose of golden pear and yellow apples. The first flavors are tart apple and starfruit followed by a mellow line of pear. This is such a flavorful wine. And there’s a touch of slight creaminess to it that keeps it from being way too tart and makes it perfectly crisp. This one runs a bit more – I paid $16.99 and you’ll have to order it from wine.com. But let me tell you, it was worth it. Especially for those of us dreading the end of season six and future Januaries without Downton. Sob.

That’s my summer sipping for you…like I said earlier, if you can’t find these particular wines, go ahead and try a French Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. They each have their own distinctive flavors that will pair very well with summer living!

Cheers!

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The Best of Summer 2015 Part V…TGIF!

Welcome to a special TGIF-edition of “The Best of Summer 2015” by my buddy Elizabeth (of the awesome blog BeezusKiddo). Regrettably she makes no mention of Balki or Urkel, but she has put together a list of nine fun Friday activities to add to your summer calendar. Let’s get to it!

When it gets to Friday, PUT A FORK IN ME I’M DONE. It’s time for some fun! Well actually, it’s time for about 4 hours of fun. I usually end up working on the weekend, because that’s the billable hour life. Still, TGIF TGIF TGIF. And now I’m going to share with you my favorite ways to spend those 4 precious hours and cut loose! (But not Thursday night in Oakland loose, because I’m old.)

1) Evening drive with the windows daaaaahn and a sundae at Page Dairy Mart

e1When’s the last time your joyless, gas-price-watching self went for a good, frivolous drive? Windows down, absurd music blasting, just enjoying the wind through your hair? That long stretch of East Carson Street from the end of the Sahside to the Glenwood Bridge is absolutely perfect for that kind of cruising. Page Dairy Mart is right on the way, so remember to bring your cash (no cards accepted!) to get a summertime treat!

The chocolate chip cookie sundae with Nancy B’s world famous chocolate chip cookies is out of this world, but is far too big to eat all yourself. My usual favorite is coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. And the whipped cream is the heavy, real stuff (you’ll have to specifically ask for it, they don’t automatically include it on the basic hot fudge sundae). I never liked soft serve, then I tried Page Dairy Mart, and a Pittsburgh summer isn’t a summer without it.

2) Drive in at Dependable, with popcorn, popcorn, more popcorn and maybe a popcorn

e2When my husband and I were carefree, childless young’ns, movies were our THANG. We went to the movies at least twice a week, I had all the weekday specials at the Sahside Works memorized (Free popcorn night! Student night! Holla!) It was a glorious time. Then we had a baby, and unless you’re a total jerk, having a baby puts a damper on your movie theater outings. EXCEPT, we are lucky enough to live in a fine city with not just one, but TWO drive-in theaters! Dependable Drive-In and Twin Hi-Way Drive In. They’re both out in the Robinson-area. I have only been to Dependable, and we just love it.

In theory, the movie is late enough that your joykilling kid will fall asleep and you can have grown-up time in peace. In reality, our kid usually stayed up through the entire double feature, only to pass out when we started the car to drive home. So yes, our small child watched Ted and Snow White & the Huntsman. We are highly inappropriate parents. But we also were able to keep the windows rolled up, and keep her chatter, noises and occasional crying to ourselves, while still enjoying our favorite pastime. Although it was not intentional, I think that this was good training to get her to sit still and appropriately through a whole movie. By the time she was 2, we were able to take her to the real (kids) movies without incident.

3) Furry sightings outside Anthrocon

e3YOU KNOW YOU LOVE SEEING THE FURRIES. Anthrocon is July 9-12 this year, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m no furry, but having a happy hour windowside at a downtown Penn Avenue establishment has become a tradition for me and my friends over the last several years. Anthrocon organizers have stated that they keep coming back to Pittsburgh because the people are friendly here, and from everything I’ve seen, there have been very friendly interactions between the furries and the non-furry public. I love snapping pics with folks in the very best costumes, and Anthrocon attendees have always seemed happy to pose with the curious public.

4) Corndogs, sheep and a Penny on the Floor at the BIG BUTLER FAIR

When I grew up in a tiny desert town in California, the one thing we had to look forward to every year was the ANTELOPE VALLEY FAIR! Even though there’s a lot more going on in this bright-lights-big-city, my love for the county fair has not ebbed. Deep fried food! Sheep to snuggle! All those funny chickens with crazy feathers! Questionable carnival rides! The Big Butler Fair is the biggest and best fair in Western Pennsylvania, and we go every year.

e4Mr. Beez’ favorite part of the fair is the school bus demolition derby. I, of course, prefer the night with the “Mystery” music performance, which every year turns out to be The Clarks (surprise!). There is nothing more “summer” in Western PA than seeing The Clarks at the Big Butler Fair, except for seeing The Clarks at the Fayette County Fair. This picture is not The Clarks, but instead is some weird Amish (former Amish?) AC/DC cover band called The Earthquakers. It was such a surreal, somewhat disturbing performance that it’s become a running joke now. But they are a thing, and you can sometimes see them perform at the fair, too.

5) Dining Al Fresco With a Spot of Vino at Pusadee’s Garden, Full Pint and THE ALLEGHENY WINE MIXER

e5Some nights, when there’s a sweet breeze, dining al fresco is a must. Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville has a gorgeous, romantic patio and delicious spicy noodles to boot. It’s not a typical “kid-friendly” sort of establishment, but we’ve been welcome as long as our kid has kept her behavior in check (the iPad and her adoration of noodles help.) It’s BYOB, so you may want to stop in at the Full Pint taproom across the street to pick up some brews for dinner.

Also, Allegheny Wine Mixer, the best wine bar in the city IMHO is across the street, and it is perfect to stop in either before or after for a wine flight or two (on nights we are without the child, thankyouverymuch).

6) Outdoor music in the park at First Fridays at the Frick and WYEP Summer Music Fest

e6With many festivals and events, Pittsburgh’s got a nice outdoor music scene in the summer. First Fridays at the Frick and WYEP Summer Music Fest (THIS SATURDAY) are two of my favorites. Parking in and around Point Breeze for First Fridays can be tricky, so you should arrive early. Pack a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine and meet up with some good friends. The mood is laid back and fun.

There are more activities going on with the WYEP Summer Music Fest and it tends to have better-known acts. Technically, it’s on Saturday, so it’s more like TGIS, but it’s a great event so it shouldn’t be excluded on a technicality. If you’re lucky, maybe you can snag an outdoor table at The Porch to enjoy a nice meal along with the tunes.

7) Happy Hour at Arriba & the Clemente Museum

e7I literally only learned about this place this week, and it’s a gem. Most people I’ve asked haven’t even known that we have a Roberto Clemente Museum here in Pittsburgh. It’s the project of commercial photographer, Duane Rieder. You know that iconic photo of the Steelers praying in the locker room? That’s Duane’s photo. And those super-sexy X Shadyside gym advertisements? His too.

Although the building is unassuming from the outside, the Roberto Clemente museum is a gorgeous space, stylishly restored. It’s a mecca for baseball fans, and is even fascinating to someone (like me) whose interest in baseball is limited to the snacks.

The Roberto Clemente Museum houses its own winery, Engine House 25. Both require an appointment to visit, although they do have occasional open houses. Arriba is a wine bar right next door, just opening this week! It, too, is super chic, and serves Engine House 25’s very respectable wines. My favorite of the offerings was the Malbec, while Mr. Beez prefers the Merlot. Arriba will also be serving small plates, and if the cheese plate we had at Engine House 25 is any indication, they will be delicious.

8) PIZZA NIGHT

e8Friday night is perfect for Pizza Night, and Tony Giaramita has JUST the pizza for you. Tony’s parents own the legendary La Tavola Italiana in Mt. Washington, so he has the knowledge and the background to sling a killer pizza. Tony’s a personal friend (we went to law school together), and I of course was excited for him he opened his own place…but we went there and OMG THE GREENPOINTER. This pizza. Seriously. And I am not just saying that because it’s Tony. This pizza is amazing. It’s topped with spicy soppresata and hot honey, and is un-believable.

9) Night in. Comfort food. Boom.

And of course, sometimes you get to Friday night, and going out is just NOT happening. You need to put on your cat pance, chill on the couch, and binge watch Say Yes to the Dress.

e10Thanks for hanging in there for this SUPER LONG post, but I couldn’t help myself, because I AM SO EXCITED FOR FRIDAYS. TGIF! TGIF! TGIF!The ultimate comfort food to go along with a Friday night-in is a Burgatory milkshake. I love Burgatory, but I hate dealing with the long, long wait there, so Burgatory take out is just perfect for me. I get shamefully excited for each announcement of the special flavor of the weekend, because they are always creative and amazing (seen here: fried ice cream milkshake). When the flavor on special doesn’t catch my fancy, my usual go-to is the coffee & donuts milkshake, or the Prantl’s burnt almond one. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Thanks, too, to Alex for letting me TGIF it up in herrrre!!

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