OK, I know the word is pronounced and spelled ‘Animals’ but sometimes it’s fun to talk like a little kid…
Anyway, Happy 2nd Birthday to our glorious cat daughter, Lucy! We love you more than cat-parents should probably love a pet :-)

our first halloween together


cuddling is our specialty


tv-watching, beer drinking lucy

And here are some weekend highlights in photos (yes, more animal pics :-))

Hungarian Folk Dancers at the Int'l Children's Festival


Petting Zoo at Int'l Children's Festival




Hey friend.


I perused Oakland...


...and then I ate at the Taste of Oakland!

There is so much going on in Pittsburgh now that the weather is perking up!
This past weekend, I did a few fun things in Pgh neighborhoods:
– Started with a one hour, 20-mile spin class in my ‘hood :-)
– Visited the Monroeville Farmer’s Market for this first time this season
– Enjoyed the 25th Annual International Children’s Festival (without kids!)
– Sampled my way around Oakland at A Taste of Oakland
– Picked through oldies but goodies at the Regent Square neighborhood yard sale
– Thrifted at Thriftique
- Shopped in Shadyide
- Listened to a discussion on sustainability and farming with Anna Lappe
- Dined and grocery shopped at Whole Foods
…and that was just on Saturday!!

Whew! Hope you had a fun-filled weekend, too!

Abay: The Ethiopian Way

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of tasting Ethiopian food. My first experience in the ‘Burgh was at a friend’s recent birthday lunch, and boy am I glad that she chose Abay. It’s a small-ish restaurant craftily hidden (from me) in the East End between giants like Whole Foods and the soon-to-be Target. The restaurant was quiet and calming and the servers were very helpful. I mean, how many people really know what injera is anyway?

Our group of 8 (with 3 veggies!) ordered 2 combination platters- one veg and one meat. I was already a happy camper knowing that I would get to try a little bit of everything on the veg platter…a personal smorgasbord of Ethiopian goodness! I sampled: Kay Sir Dinich (Potatoes and fresh beets stewed and blended with garlic, ginger and onions), Shiro Wat (Finely ground split peas, lentils and chickpeas simmered in berbere and a combination of seasonings), Tikil Gomen (Lightly spiced cabbage, carrots, onions and tomatoes stewed in a mild sauce), and Ayib Be Gomen (Fresh collard greens blended with Abay’s homemade cheese). 

Clockwise, from top: Kay Sir Dinich, Shiro Wat, Tikil Gomen, Ayib Be Gomen surrounded by rolls of injera bread

I loved all of our choices, but my favorites were the thick and spicy Shiro Wat and the perfectly stewed and bright purple Kay Sir Dinich. I LOVE me some beets, especially when I don’t have to prepare them! I truly appreciated that all of the unique flavors our tastebuds encountered really balanced each other well. The injera fit in so nicely and sopped up the Shiro Wat perfectly. Oh, I left with a full and h.a.p.p.y. belly!  

P.S. I love that the bottom of Abay’s menu page reads: Abay is a non-smoking, BYOB establishment. Since wine may provide certain medical benefits and may lead you to believe the person you are with is more attractive or engaging than he or she actually is, drinking it responsibly with your meal is encouraged. A corkage fee of $2.5 per bottle will be assessed.

And yes, we did enjoy some lovely white wine with lunch and the company around the table did become more attractive throughout the meal :-)

A Little Spending Spree

You ever have one of those days where you just keep shopping and shopping, popping out of one store with bags in hand and into the next? Well, that was my Saturday! It certainly wasn’t planned, and started out innocently enough with a.m. spinning and tv watching, but soon I was burning a (mini) hole in my wallet. It all began with an afternoon appointment at David’s Bridal. It’s weird and a bit sad walking in to that store to buy a bridesmaid’s dress rather than a flowy, long white wedding dress. Been there, done that I suppose. Now it’s time to support my friend (and former bridesmaid) in her life changing occasion. I may not be dressed in white for the big day, but I will be looking pretty!

The bridesmaid dress style I’ll be wearing (in navy)

Just in case you’re wondering, my bridesmaids wore very cute (of course I think so), comfortable strapless and knee-length royal blue dresses. WITH POCKETS!

Moving on from wedding memories, I ordered my dress at David’s Bridal and then just had to stop in to the Half Price Bookstore a couple doors down. I’ve actually been meaning to check this place out, especially since beloved Borders closed across the street. Half Price is even better in my book (haha, pun intended). I picked up a couple gifts and some funny/totally random books, such as Would You Rather…? Pop Culture Edition. Example: Would you rather be machine-gunned to death with Lite-Brite pegs or be assassinated by Cabbage Patch Dolls? That’s a serious thought to ponder :-)…Even though it felt a bit like a clusterf**k with all the inventory in that store, I was pleasantly surprised with their organizational skills and knowledgeable employees. I will be back! Maybe with books to sell, too :-)
Next up, I was on the hunt for a birthday present. After fueling up with Starbucks iced coffee (splash of soymilk, please) and scouring Marshall’s, DSW, Dots, Old Navy and Five Below, I ended up with a lot of stuff for me, but was empty handed for my friend. I decided to get a restaurant gift card that was sure to please. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best present giver. Sorry friends, I still love you!
Other things I learned along the (strip mall) way:
- Five Below is kind of a cool store for cheap junk! I had never been inside before, assuming that it was, well…I didn’t know what it was, but now I do! I walked away with 2 pairs of $4 sunglasses, among other tchotchkes, so I was happy to make this store discovery.
- DSW has awesome shoes. Oh wait, I knew that one.
- Marshall’s has an adorable gourmet food section mixed in with their kitchen supplies. I found a lot of stuff that would make great dinner party or housewarming gifts (just not birthday gifts…)!

My loot!

Among the items I picked up, my favorites include: super strappy sandals from Dots, comfy yet cute walking shoes from DSW (I finally found you!!), coconut oil from Marshall’s, the 2 pairs of Five Below sunglasses at $4 each, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I will have you know that, being the bargain shopper I am, ALL of this stuff (including gifts for 3 friends) cost less than my David’s Bridal dress (which was discounted as well). After spending $55 on gas and a car wash in the same day, I’m pretty happy about that! Let’s see what this weekend holds…I have no more $$ to spend!

Project: Food Budget, Week 16

Hey there, kiddos. Time to check in on mah spendin':

Budget: $75
Actual: $67.85

Under budget, yes, but this was another wacko week. Hubs and I went away for a long weekend so we didn’t need as many groceries as normal. We did save money, though, by bringing food and cooking in our fun little cabin in the woods :-). We also acquired some local PA maple syrup and AMAZING apple butter at a cute little shop in “town.” I’m a little obsesed…

On our way back from mini-vacay, we stopped at Schramm Farms to pick up local produce and eggs (for Hubs). We rarely go grocery shopping together, so when the cashier rang up 7 different produce items and 2 dozen eggs at $13.47, Hubs acknowledged how much we got for so little moola. Well, yes, hunny, I’m a bargain shopper, and I’m all about local and farm fresh if possible! It put a smile on my face to see that he appreciates my frugal ways :-)

Let’s check out those other Project: Food Budget-ers and see how they’re doing:

What’s Making Me Happy

On my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, they finish each week’s discussion with what’s making them happy this week. Here are some new and not so new Pgh things making me oh so happy:

My Goodies Vegan Bakery – available at Quiet Storm (love), East End Co-op (love), and Oh Yeah! Ice Cream (gotta visit)
Pittsblerg – where I found many of the other things making me happy. P.S. I think this blogger and I would be friends, just sayin.
I Made It! Market – I’ve already mentioned this wonderful crafty org before, but it’s worth repeating. I just discovered their Facebook page and the fact that they keep popping up everywhere I want to be. YES!
Ohiopyle – a small community in the Laurel Highlands (1 1/2 hours from Pgh) where I’ll be spending a long weekend and celebrating Earth Day with my man!
Starbucks – free coffee for Earth Day if you bring a reusable mug :-)

Beautious Ohiopyle

Happy weekend to you!

She’s (Not So) Crafty

I wish I could say I am creative. I’ve had crafty bouts here and there with scrapbooking, but I never picked up drawing, painting, knitting or crocheting, or even sewing.

I prefer giving my opinions and telling people what to do, hence the many product/book/restaurant reviews! When it comes to crafts, I need someone to tell me what to do and show me how. And then they need to be very patient and fix all my screw ups…because that will inevitably happen. And it will shatter my ego. And then I’ll quit the whole damn thing… :-)

So, to avoid that whole mess, I much prefer to support other crafty people. Enter the I Made It! Market. These local craft markets pop up all over Pgh to fulfill all your creative purchasing desires. A couple weeks ago, I toured the I (re)Made It! vendors during GA/GI, and last weekend I shelled out some cash at I Made It! Memorable at a local high school.

Planet Soap

A very crafty high schooler making flowers out of duct tape!

Duct Tape flowers. Amazing! I bought a flower headband, of course.

It's the Cracker Barrel Game (triangle with pegs)! I bought one for the puzzle-loving Hubs

My fave - Jilsy

Reasonably priced and adorable bags. yay!!

I am happy to support other creative people (Planet Soap, BandyWoodworks, Jilsy, etc.) so they can further their business/hobby and grow their ideas. Hey, we’re not all meant to be crafty… :-)

If you like what you see here (and are in/near Pgh), you should totally check out Handmade Arcade this weekend. These pics are just a taste of the over 100 vendors that will be downtown on Saturday! I am so sad I won’t be around for this giant craft fair, but I suppose my wallet will be happy…

P.S. Keep entering my Happy Herbivore Cookbook giveaway! Contest ends at 11:59pm tonight! Winner will be announced tomorrow.

In the News Again

My new hometown (Pittsburgh…where have you been?) is in the news again! And it’s all good stuff, of course. Kind of like the opposite of my former home (Detroit, duh).

Check out Springtime for Pittsburgh courtesy of the New York Post.
As soon as you read this article, you’ll want to make a trip to Pgh. We have a couch in the suburbs waiting for you :-)

But, if you still believe in Detroit like I do, you should definitely watch the episode of Secret Millionaire in which a fuddy duddy Jewish businessman(!) from San Diego gives lots of money away to people and organizations in need in the D. I only cried once.

P.S. Why doesn’t anybody talk about the Secret Millionaire show? They are doing good things people! They might not portray the cities so kindly, but it gets the point across. People need help and we should be giving our time and money to worthy organizations. I want to be a professional volunteer and philanthropist one day!

Brunch with Friends

This past weekend, I filled my social calendar with friendly gatherings. It certainly helped that I was staying in the city (ahh, house-sitting) and was near all the action.

Saturday started with a lovely 3-ish mile walk/jog around Squirrel Hill, with a Starbucks stop in the mix. Gotta have some liquids, right? :-) Then came brunch!…gluten free pancakes and fruit salad with (gluten intolerant) friend Amy and then some shopping around the ‘Burgh for a groovy inspired ensemble at Goodwill and Avalon Exchange.

Saturday brunch-o

Dinner was spent with Hubs – he came to visit! We dined at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery at the Waterfront. Who knew there’d be an hour and a half wait for a table at 8:30pm?! We decided to sit in the farthest corner of the bar (directly below a dart board) so we didn’t have to wait as long to chomp on tasty burgers.

Writing on the darts scoreboard...

Mmm handcrafted veggie burger with broc!

Sunday morning started with a quick work thing (blech), but then it was quickly redeemed by brunch with my friend/coworker Stephanie. We had both been wanting to try Square Cafe, this colorful, cute breakfast and lunch diner in Regent Square. I’m really glad we went because the atmosphere was hip, the food was super tasty (and easily recognizable as veg/vegan with menu icons), and they featured artwork from Budapest :-).

Steph! With mug o' coffee, veggie omelet & hash

Peanut butter pancake topped with bananas, choc.chips & real whip, leeks & goat cheese egg beaters, hash AND unpictured rye toast!

Hungarian art

We had a serious meal! I just finished the leftovers…

Sunday afternoon was baby time! I visited my friend Amy and got to watch a beatiful newborn do what they do best – eat, sleep and poop :-)
Then I got yelled at by Jillian Michaels (read: workout) and relaxed with a good book. Ahhh the weekend! I’m ready for more!

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

I don’t think anyone will readily admit enjoying stepping out of their comfort zone, because it wouldn’t really seem that comfortable then, right? I do think it’s necessary to change up routines a bit and challenge yourself to try new things or try new ways of doing old things.

Enter the “house sitting” experiment. Now, I didn’t offer to watch my friend’s place and dog as an experiment, but I might as well look at it that way. I’ve been doing all kinds of new things/switching up the old routine these past 10 days…let’s recap!

1. MUCH shorter commute – The best thing about house sitting 10 minutes away from work! I earned one extra hour per day of me time instead of driving :-)

2. Scooping poop – I’ve never owned a dog, and cat poop scooping isn’t nearly as messy or smelly :-/

Nora dog

3. Getting loved on by a cute pup – OK, the licking part and getting excited when I came home every day was pretty fun!

lots of licking!

4. Sidewalks – When it wasn’t bitterly cold, I took a walk everyday (sometimes there was jogging!). Who knew I’d miss sidewalks and neighborhoods so much?!

A lovely synagogue I passed on one of my walks through Squirrel Hill

5. Weekends in the ‘Burgh – so much better when you’re close to everything! It made me not want to sit on my *ss all day and watch TV. Speaking of that…
6. MUCH less TV watching – I’m a self-admitted TV addict, but I turned on the boob tube for no more than 4 hours in the past 10 days (most of it was the Oscars). That’s a record! It probably helps that my friend only has a few channels to choose from. I just had to get out of my comfort zone!
7. MUCH less Internet time – My friend also doesn’t have internet in her home (partly why the blog posts have been sparse lately). I kept planning to go to a nearby cafe to mooch on Wi-fi but I only made it there once because I didn’t feel the need to be so “connected.” That felt great.

The only time I made it to the cafe...with an iced espresso to sip on a lovely sunny day!

8. Reading – Because of the lack of TV watching and Internet surfing, I got a lot of reading done! I finished two books, Room by Emma Donoghue and Mr. Maybe by Jane Green, plus a few magazaines (from January) that were dying to be read (Self, Whole Living, Vegetarian Times). 
9. Banana frozen yogurt topped with coconut – I’m not a huge fan of either flavor, but for some reason I was in the mood. Must be all about this “new” lifestyle I’m trying out :-)
10. Dancing like a maniac in a dark, empty studio – I had the opportunity, so I ran with it!

see me dancing?

To sum things up, I LOVED these past 10 days. House sitting is pretty fun, especially when it’s more convenient for work. Dogs are awesomesauce (thanks for the new word Caitlin), and getting out of a rut is always welcome in my book! 

The Plethora of Options

First, it has to be said that I’ve written 100 posts on the blog! Woo Hoo!!! Here’s to the next 100 and lots more after that :-)

OK on to the topic of the day:

Grocery stores- they’re everywhere! Of course we need them, but never before have we had so many different options. As I assess my weekly grocery spending during Project: Food Budget, I am also taking a look at my spending habits and where I choose to shop. In Pittsburgh, I’ve found plenty of supermarkets willing to take my money:

Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods
Giant Eagle
McGinnis Sisters
Market District (Giant Eagle)
Right By Nature
East End Food Co-op
Shop ‘N Save
Shur Save

Just this weekend, I visited 4 of those shops in the same day. Yeesh!

I’ve probably talked about each one of these places many times already, but it’s worth repeating my favorites:

Best Store Brand:  Trader Joe’s – obviously everything is their store brand which is one of the things I love about TJ’s! If I didn’t also have to shop for Hubs, this might be my only food stop for the week.
Best Produce: McGinnis Sisters – their stuff is so fresh! McG doesn’t offer many sales but that’s because their produce is usually reasonable priced. Oh and I love the reduced priced stuff that’s about to go bad. Gotta use it that day!
Best Overall: Giant Eagle Market District – I don’t love the normal GE, but the expanded Market District offers plenty of organic options, ingredients from around the world, the same GE sales, and everything Hubs and I need from a grocery store.

I also love Right By Nature, Whole Foods, and East End Food Co-op but I don’t fit them into my regular routine because I think a lot of their stuff can get pricey. Each one certainly has a few great things, though! Namely the bulk bins and hot food bars :-)

Where’s your favorite place to shop for food? What are your most important criteria…Price? Convenience? Variety?

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