Pittsburgh Recap Feb 17-21

I have been so blog-lazy lately...that's the term I'm choosing.  I went to Pittsburgh over my birthday weekend (Feb 18 was the big day) and I'm finally getting around to recapping the trip!  I will do my best not to make this long and drawn out.  In fact, let me summarize with my favorite Pittsburgh moments/events/destinations:
5. Exploring the University of Pittsburgh campus
Ashley had a class on Monday, so we walked to campus together.  It was a beautiful walk from her apartment.  Once she got to class, I set off to explore.  It's an urban campus, but I really liked it.  It still had some pretty buildings and rockin' views from the top of one building called the Cathedral of Learning.  Once Ashley got out of class, we enjoyed some Primanti Brothers.

4. Getting in Trouble (multiple times) at the Warhol Museum
I know what you are thinking, how could two sophisticated young women such as ourselves possibly get in trouble?  Well, one was kind B.S. because I think the guy thought I was touching a painting when I was just pointing to it.  But on another floor, after far too many pictures and paintings of dead people, we found this magical room full of floating pillows.  We may have gotten a little aggressive...sorry Mr. Warhol!

3. Quite literally the best brunch ever
There is this diner in Pitt called Pamela's and it's super fantastic.  They are known for their crepe-style pancakes.  So I almost just got the pancakes plain with maple syrup...but then I saw the banana-walnut pancakes.  O.M.G.  The pancakes themselves tasted like banana bread, and then the were rolled around a cut-up banana with candied walnuts, topped with whipped cream.  What?! It was like heaven on a plate.
2. My birthday night out
I had the most stellar birthday in Pittsburgh.  It was full of fun and unique experiences... including almost walking into auditions for a theater :)  We started with some cupcakes!  Then we headed downtown to the musical Ashley took me to called Ruthless!  It was pretty darn funny and my Ham & Legs bloody mary was awesome!  After the show we went to Olive or Twist, a martini lounge...and so much more!  I enjoyed a variety of wonderful drinks and we really liked the live music.  It was a great night!

1. Spending time with a good friend
I know, it's totally cheesy, but no matter what I actually did in Pittsburgh, it would have been a wonderful trip because of who I was spending my time with!  Ashley has been going to grad school out there and I don't know when I'll see her again! We had a lot of fun together, and I already miss her.  So yes, Ashley was my number one favorite thing in Pittsburgh.


Starting Fresh

Lent came at an opportune time this year! To me, Lent always brings about a fresh start and a chance to look at my life, post-new-years-resolutions, and determine how to make it better and more fulfilled. In my Church growing up, we were always taught that it is often more rewarding and "Christ-like" to add a good deed to your routine rather than give up something meaningless.

I suppose this year, I plan to do a little of both.   Mostly because, after Pittsburgh, I was meaning to break some of my bad habits anyway and Ash Wednesday just happened to be the day after I got back from my trip.  So in honor of saying goodbye to bad habits and "sacrificing" something for Lent, I am in day two of NO soda.  Trust me, this is a hard one, and I can definitely feel the lingering headache today.  To help me through the transition period, I am allowing myself one cup of half-caff coffee.  But eventually, I want to cut that too.

As for what I plan to enrich my life with, well, it somewhat has to be secret because I don't exactly believe that announcing your good deeds to the world (or the four people who read this) for recognition and "good-for-you"s is the best way to go about performing such deeds, at least not before they happen.  Let's just say I have some ideas kind of along the same lines as the, "The person in front of you just paid for your Starbucks."

Additionally, I want to continue to enrich the lives of the people I actually know.  I want to engage in meaningful conversations with my friends and family.  I want to express my appreciation and love more often.  I want more date nights with my husband, which start tonight!  I want to spend more time with my Little.  I want to spend more time with my actual little brother as well.

What are you doing in honor of Lent?  Giving up anything? Adding something? Partaking in weekly fish fries? I hope to do the last one a couple times this year too!


Is It Friday Yet?

Not that I want to skip through this week, because I'm sure it will be pretty awesome, but I am so excited to go to Pittsburgh this weekend I can barely contain it!  What's in Pittsburgh you ask?  My friend Ashley L!  Yes, I have several friends named Ashley, but this beautiful woman has been going to grad school at the University of Pittsburgh and it's about time I pay her a visit!  So I figured, what better way to celebrate my birthday than to spend some time with a lovely friend exploring a new city.

I can't wait to spend time with Ashley and explore Pitt.  Here are some of the things I am looking forward to:
The Andy Warhol Museum (half price Fridays w/ a cash bar)
Pamela's Diner Ummm, yum!
Ruthless! The Musical This looks hilarious
Olive Or Twist We are really sophisticated
Church Brew Works Looks phenomenal!
Primanti Brothers After many years of waiting, I finally get it!!
It's OK, you can be jealous. I would be too if I was you! :)  So as fun as this week is going to be, I am already ready for Friday!


Love Yourself

I read this on a blog through My Fitness Pal to remind myself (and everyone) that there may be some things in your life you can change to improve it, but you also need to accept and appreciate the life you have been given and do everything you can make the most of it.  If you think about it, your life is pretty wonderful.  There may be some crappy things happening, bad things that have happened, and things to worry about in the future.  But right here and now, you are living your life and it is up to you to love it or hate.  I am going to continue striving to love every minute of it and every person in it!

Someone will always be prettier.

They will always be smarter.

Their house will be bigger.

They will drive a better car.

Their children will do better in school.

And their husband will fix more things around the house.

So let it go,

and love you and your circumstances.

Think about it.

The prettiest woman in the world can have hell in her heart.

And the most highly favored

Woman on your job may be unable to have children.

And the richest woman you know,

she's got the car, the house, the clothes....might be lonely.

And the word says if "I have not Love, I am nothing."

So, again, love you.

Love who you are.

Look in the mirror in the morning and smile and say

"I am too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed!"


Saturday Song

I won't post all of the lyrics to this song, because it may offend some people.  But the chorus is totally where the message is, for me anyway.  I've always really loved Eminem, and been inspired by him, which a lot of people have a hard time understanding.  But this song has definitely had a lot of meaning in my life lately as I struggle to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and just be happy with myself and my accomplishments.
The only person holding me back is ME, but there is no way I could overcome my own struggles without the encouragement from my friends and others in my life who have been through the same struggles and ensured me it's not always easy, but it is definitely worth it.
I hope that the message in this chorus can bring you some motivation and affirmation in whatever you may be striving to achieve!  The song is called "Not Afraid" by Eminem, just search for it on YouTube.

I'm Not Afraid
To Take a Stand
Come Take My Hand
We'll walk this route together through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin' you know that you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road


Three Party Recipes

Three recipes in one post?  I know you are thinking, "Score!" I'm kind of cheating though...because I didn't come up with these recipes on my own.  I just want to share where to find these three rocking recipes because Ryan, Mat, Ashley and myself give them 8 thumbs up!

Last weekend, Mat and Ashley came over for the evening on Saturday.  We started out with some Cyclone Basketball and Pizza Bread!

Trust me, the pictures taken on my phone don't do it justice!  It was wonderful.  The two things I changed on the recipe to make it a bit healthier was using only 8 oz. of cheese instead of 12-15 and I used spray butter on the top and sprinkled the seasonings on rather than melting real butter and drizzling on top.

Next up out of the oven was this fabulous Bacon Cheeseburger Dip.  I think this was everyone's favorite, but it was also the one that took the most prep time.  

The only substitution I made in this recipe was using light miracle whip instead of mayonnaise, otherwise it all pretty much stayed the same.  However, next time I make it, I would definitely use ground turkey, turkey bacon, low-fat cheese, and fat free cream cheese.  I think it still would have tasted just as indulgent. I bought a fresh baguette and sliced it up to serve it on, but it tasted just as good with bagel chips or tortilla chips as well.

The final recipe I made was super simple and super delicious.  It was a Jalapeno Popper Dip, fantastic!
 Again, the only substitution I made in the recipe was to use light Miracle Whip in place of mayonnaise.  But it probably would have tasted just fine with fat free cream cheese as well.  Also, I didn't measure out the jalapenos, but next time, I'll use a little more...we like our stuff spicy.  This tasted best on tortilla chips in my opinion, but the others were eating it on the sliced baguette as well.


Thursday Thoughts

Random thoughts of the day:
-I'm glad I'm not sick any more (knock on wood!)
-I wish I was working out more/harder
-It'd be nice if I didn't have to work out at all
-I am excited to get my engagement ring back today, finally!
-Is it really already February 9th?
-My bday month started out shitty, but it's heading towards awesome pretty darn quickly!
-After a slight weight gain the past week, I am still officially 20 pounds lighter than I was this time last year!  If anything should keep me motivated, that should!
-I really want to do a Color Run
-I should probably get back to work...


Miracle Fruit Experiment #1

Andy and Ashley got us some pretty sweet Christmas gifts this year.  We got a "grow your own ghost chili" (that's all for Ryan!), a wreath made by Ashley (it'll be on my door, first day of spring!), and some Miracle Fruit tablets.  If you have never heard of Miracle Fruit/Berries, learn about them here. In short, You take the little, dissolve-able tablet and suck on it.  Hit as many taste buds as possible and boom!, enjoy a wedge of lemon that tastes like very sweet, not sour, lemonade!
There's a tablet on my tongue, you can barely see it!
Mmmm lemon!
The package comes with ten tablets, so of course, we only used two last night.  We decided we would have food tasting experiments with them, so here are the foods we sampled with our first experiment:

 We had lemon, kiwi, muenster cheese, baby carrots, a kosher dill pickle, Zours, salt &  vinegar chips, and Moose Drool Brown Ale.  Our verdict:

  • The lemons were by far our favorite transformation, no face-puckering at all, purely sweet and delicious
  • The dill pickle tasted like those little sweet pickles you can buy
  • The kiwi was not tart at all, almost syrupy sweet
  • The baby carrots tasted the same
  • The muenster cheese tasted rancid! 
  • Zours lost their sour note, tasted like regular Mike and Ikes
  • The salt & vinegar chips, that I normally HATE, were quite good.  Almost apple-y? If that makes sense...
  • And the Moose Drool, which is not a stout, just a brown ale, tasted chocolately.  I can't imagine what a Guinness or Young's Double Chocolate Stout would have tasted like!

As you can see, we had no problem eating a whole lemon!  If you can get your hands on these tablets, often times sold out online, do it!  It's a lot of fun. Next time, I want to try grapefruit, dark chocolate, tobasco sauce, orange juice, an IPA, and goat cheese.  
I will note, the effects only lasted about 30 minutes for each of us.  Though certain things, like the beer, tasted sweeter for about an hour.  But as we were enjoying our last slices of lemon, about 30 minutes from when we took the tablet, they started tasting sour again.  So definitely have all of your foods ready before you pop the tablet, don't waste any precious time!  Have fun!


Sentimental Saturday Song

I have no idea if I will continue this trend of posting songs on Saturday, but if I do, the series will be called "Saturday Song."  Clever, I know.  I came up with it all on my own.  I did throw in the word "Sentimental" today because this song does have some history for me...and perhaps a future as well! I may be singing this song in Lindsey's wedding, which is appropriate, because we sung this song together in choir in high school and also as a trio with Stephanie at Lindsey's piano recital at graduation.  Check it out, Charles Dickens can write some beautiful poetry.  The link to it actually being sung is at the bottom.

These Things Can Never Die
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

The pure, the bright, the beautiful
That stirred our hearts in youth,
The impulses to wordless prayer,
The streams of love and truth,
The longing after something lost,
The spirit's yearning cry.
The striving after better hopes;
These things can never die.

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A sister in her need,
A kindly word in grief's dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high.
The sorrow of a contrite heart;
These things shall never die.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do,
Lose not a chance to waken love;
Be firm and just and true.
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high,
And angel voices say to thee,
These things can never die.


A Stroke of Luck...

...and not the good kind!  I am having the most awful week regarding my physical well being.  Seriously?!  I started the week with a stupid sinus infection and now I'm ending it with the stomach flu.  Is it so much to ask to just a catch a break for a while?  I'm tired of feeling like poop every other freaking day.