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Saturday, November 23, 2013

T-minus 100 hours till T-day hits the table......

Okay, let's talk about Thanksgiving.
No, we're not gonna talk TURKEY. 
No, we're not gonna talk STUFFING.
Or mashed potatoes or corn or squash or pumpkin pie or appletinis......
We will save that for another day.
I'm just going to talk about Thanksgiving. 
Interestingly, in some recent research I did on the origins of Thanksgiving foods and Thanksgiving (don't ask me why I do this stuff...), I was struck by how Thanksgiving has transformed so dramatically from it's very beginning.   I guess we can say that about all holidays but somehow I figured that everything about Thanksgiving was deeply rooted in a tradition that began on that very first Thanksgiving way back with the Pilgrims and the Indians.  I must have been absent on all those days when we learned about it in school....I am sure I was home helping my mother get ready for Thanksgiving.  So, I can't be too unhappy about that......hey, I might have always erroneously  thought they served pasta and sausage stuffing on that first Thanksgiving but I have wonderful memories of those extra hours I got to spend with my mother while she was on this earth....
Anyway.....I am not going to talk about that first Thanksgiving.  But, if you want to know's a good place to check it out....
In many ways, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  There's a peacefulness about it that is comforting.  Although there's lots of work to be done ( should see my list right now!), there's not that EXTRA CRAZY work to be done---like gifts and over-the-top decorating and parties, parties, parties.  It's just one day.   The idea of sharing a meal with the people you love and having a day that is just all about being with those people just feels right.  I can't say I always felt this way.  But,  over the years, I formed a new love of Thanksgiving in my own home and with my family.   Clearly, I've passed that love on to my children.  My heart just about burst with joy the other night when my daughter was describing our Thanksgivings to her boyfriend and telling him how much she loved everything about it.  She made it all sound so wonderful and delicious and  magical and just oozing with beauty....which I hope it really and truly is!!!   And, I can't tell you how thrilled I am that my son is all about Thanksgiving.....he asked me to send him his "wine shopping list" and has been texting me with ideas on what he will cook for the feast.   He's making his beer list and figuring out football watching schedules with Carmen and my nephew.  
Hearing all of this and listening in on all of this has made Thanksgiving all the more wonderful and easier to love....
Perhaps the best thing about any holiday (or just any ordinary day) is making the memories that will be carried throughout the years.   Sure, we can cook and clean and shop and decorate and stand on our heads until we are crazy and exhausted--or both.  Sometimes that's what it takes to make a day or an event or a holiday happen.  Yet, in the end, what really matters is that somewhere in all of that....there's a moment that happens that never leaves the hearts or the minds of those we love so dearly. 
And, if we are really lucky.....we will have helped make that moment happen......

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you?

If you are old enough to will never forget......
Walter Cronkite tells the nation that JFK has been shot....

On that fateful day in November of 1963, my mother was doing laundry in the basement as I played nearby.
My Nana (who lived a few doors from us) came running down the steps, crying and screaming in Italian.
She came to tell my mother the news. 
They stood there in our basement, next to the washing machine.... and they cried.
I was very sad.  And scared.  

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I am old enough to so vividly remember that moment 50 years ago.....

Thank you for these words that live in my heart and steer my mind......

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2013!

Need another reason to drink wine today?
Yeah. Me too.
Hello Beaujolais lovely little wine!  
I am sure everyone has a Beaujolais Nouveau story......let me tell you mine..... 
Several years ago, my very dear and super elegant college roomie and I met in downtown Pittsburgh one very lovely Thursday in November.  Our plans were simple---get dressed up, have a winey lunch and shop.  We were both working moms who needed a break and this was the perfect way to do it.   
Little did we know it was a wine holiday.   As a matter of fact, in our overwhelmed lives and our busy-raising-kids-and-working worlds, we had never even heard of Beaujolais Nouveau.  
But, we knew a lot about White Zinfandel......I will red-facedly admit....
Several weeks before our meet-up, we chose a much-talked-about new restaurant (now closed!) to have our winey lunch and to catch up.  We made our reservations, we both carefully chose our outfits (we had several very serious conversations on the matter!) and both of us ventured into the city on buses from separate parts of the area to meet up under the Kaufmann's clock.    
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with great fan fare and were given a Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day flyer announcing the festivities and the special menu for the occasion.  Upon being seated, we were told that as part of the celebration, we were going to each be given a small sampling of  Beaujolais Nouveau for a toast that was going to happen at noon.   Free wine?  Sure, give us some!
Well, I guess we were a tad bit thirsty....we drank up that little sample asap.....leaving us nothing to drink to participate in the toast!  So, we decided to order ourselves each a glass.   
No can do.....we do not sell it by the glass.....we only sell it by the bottle.   A bottle of wine? No  problem.  We are dressed up, we don't have any kids with us, we came here for wine and lunch.....hellya....give us a bottle.  
Yum. This wine is super good.  Wonder why we never heard of this wine?  Should we order lunch?  Eh, let's just order another bottle while we look at the menu.....
Well, I am sure you can guess the rest of the story.  We laughed our way through a second bottle and a third and then called cabs to bring us each home.  No lunch. No shopping.  
Just two mothers who celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day......
Each year since then, we always send each other Beaujolais Nouveau greetings and remind each other of how we came to know about this lovely little wine.   Both of us rush to our wine stores to get our bottles and sometime in the evening....we both sit down in our own homes, with glasses in hand and toast each other....even though there are many miles between us.  
It's a wonderful reminder that good friends and good wine make good memories.....

If you don't have a Beaujolais Nouveau story perhaps today would be a great day to make one.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Over- Forty Fashionistas UNITE!

Yes, I know I'm OVER-50.....which means that I am also over 40.  

It's that time of  the year when we are all thinking about what we will wear during the holidays.
You are thinking about that....aren't you?
Well, if you haven't even begun to think about it, let me help you along.
You see, I think about what I will wear ALL. THE.TIME.
The holidays are just another excuse to think even more about it.
I don't know about you but I am a marketer's dream come true.
I fall hard for all of the looks in those catalogs that fill our mailbox this time of year.
(hey, I got excited about the Sears catalog when I was a little girl...I've been afflicted for a long time.) 
I have always been completely convinced that fashion is part of each moment---from the shopping to the cooking to the tree trimming to the parties to even the cozy nights at home sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace (do I really have those??). 
Life is like a movie and every scene needs costuming. 
Holiday time is  like the movie-on-steroids......the costuming needs are endless!
Even though I know this about just so happens to be so much a part of who I am, I don't really stop and think about it much. 
But, the other day when  a coworker complemented me on a particular top that I was wearing, the conversation that ensued brought it back to mind again....
"I really like your top!"  she said, complimenting me on a top I was wearing.
"Oh, I bought this a few years ago to cook Thanksgiving dinner in," I explained.
"For WHAT?"  she asked, seemingly perplexed. 
"I always like to have a seasonal looking outfit that looks nice but is comfortable to cook in," I explained rather sheeplishly.  "Not like a shirt with turkeys or anything but something that says Thanksgiving and is somewhat dressy...."  I went on to tell her. 
"Oh....yeah."   she responded.  
Hmm.....I guess I thought everyone did that.....maybe not. 
Here's the thing-- I believe strongly in looking good for my guests when they arrive.  There's nothing worse than going to someone's home for a holiday or a party and they are dressed in their sweats or something that screams WORK.   I think it just makes a guest feel bad or guilty or something.  Maybe that's just me and my bizarre belief that no one should see me sweat when I entertain.  I believe in making it look effortless and magical.  I think it's best for the guest's comfort that way.....
I feel the same way about going to someone's home for dinner or a party.....I want the host to feel good about having me as their guest.  What I wear and the care I put into how I look is a reflection of my joy and appreciation of being their guest.   I want them to know I am thankful and one of the ways  I show them  is through fashion.  
 Feeling good about how I look makes everything so much more enjoyable...don't ya think?
Although I must confess---being afflicted with all of these fashion issues can sometimes cause a bit of stress.
Nothing I can't handle, of course.
But, it's stress nonetheless.
Thankfully, I have found a cyberload of over-40 bloggers who feel much the same as me......they believe in the power of fashion and style themselves and their lives accordingly.  
It's just a beautiful thing.
Not only am I appreciative of their advice and their style and the fact that they are sharing that part of themselves with women like myself, I am so comforted to know that I am not alone in adhering to the simple pleasures of fashion and dressing for the moments of my life......
Here's  just a few of my favorite over-40 style bloggers.......they each inspire  me for vastly different reasons and they each touch different pieces of me.   I put them all together and they influence every style of me.....

Fifty Not Frumpy
Over 50, Feeling 40
Tamera Beardsley
Style Crone
The Rich Life on a Budget
Fashion Adventures at Any Age
Lady of Style

You can count on me to make the world a more beautiful and stylish place...with a little help from my friends!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HO HO HO......

 The Green Giant says to eat your veggies.......
(you have to be of a certain age to understand this, perhaps.....)

Okay, I gotta confess something right now.......I did not eat my veggies growing up. 
No matter what that GREEN GIANT said.
As a matter of fact, I hated that damn GREEN GIANT!  
It wasn't until I was married that I started to experiment with veggies.
But, I have to be totally honest's not like I am a veggie person.
I never force fed my kids veggies.
And, sometimes I forget about veggies all together.
I really am trying to be better.....
To prove to you that I really am trying to be better---I spent my weekend experimenting with new-to-me veggie recipes for the upcoming holidays.
Man-oh-man--- I hit the jack pot!
On Sunday, I had my taste testers on standby to help me in determining what will make the menus and what won't....
In the spirit of  Thanksgiving......I am going to share these 2 hits with you.....

Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts
First, let me tell you that Brussel Sprouts never touched my lips.  Yes, I was a virgin when it came to Brussel Sprouts.  Until my Sunday morning Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving technique class.  Not only did the entire class go ga-ga over these (myself included!), my at-home taste testers gave them mega thumbs up.  And, here's the kicker--this recipe is easier than easy with a little help from Trader Joe's.  Even without Trader Joe's, it's easy!!!    Oh, did I mention there's bacon???

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped (I used the uncured "bacon pieces" from Trader Joe's)
  • 2 swirls of olive oil
  • 2  cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced small (NOTE:  I used the already chopped shallots, garlic and onions from Trader Joe's....found in the veggie section)
  • 10 oz shaved brussel sprouts (Trader Joe’s sell them ready shaved in a bag!)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (I actually used the Trader Joe's balsamic vinegar glaze for more intensity
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmeggiano shavings (this was my add-in....loved it!)
  1. Cook the chopped bacon, garlic and onion in the olive oil over medium heat until  bacon is lightly browned and garlic and onion translucent.
  2. Add the shaved sprouts and stir well.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until sprouts just start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar and stock and stir well.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes until sprouts are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish if Parm shavings if desired.

Pumpkin Glazed Lyonnaise Carrots
Confession time again--I was never, ever crazy about cooked carrots.  But, once I was introduced to a recipe that my step mother called  glazed lyonnaise carrots, I changed my mind a bit.  In any case....
this recipe I am sharing with you is a result of me tinkering with a combo of my step mother's recipe and  the pumpkin butter glazed carrots they sampled at Trader Joe's a few weeks back.  Finally, this past weekend, after a few attempts that were just okay, I tinkered enough and came up with this one that my taste tester group just about did cartwheels over!!!  Please be careful if they too cause you to do cartwheels!!! 

1 bag of  frozen Trader Joe's Parisian Carrots (these little gems are fabumazing!)--you can use other frozen carrots of course!---follow directions on bag to cook these tender-crisp a sautee pan over low heat.....put.....
A swirl of olive oil
1/2 onion--chopped very fine
Sautee for a few minutes then add.....
3 heaping tablespoons of Pumpkin Butter (I used one that I had open in the fridge from Trader Joe's but other brands will work just fine!)
Slowly add the cooked carrots, stirring as you add them.  Add a little water to thin it if you need to.  Sautee about 5-8 minutes. 
About 5 minutes before serving---toss in a handful of chopped walnuts, a handful of raisins and some fresh thyme leaves.....
Season with salt and liberal amounts of pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley
Toss well and serve.

Oh, and before I forget......if you are looking for a lovely frittata recipe to serve your holiday guests (or yourself!) for breakfast or brunch or lunch or a light dinner......this one from The Proud Italian Cook gets rave reviews from me and  from my taste tasters!   It was the perfect recipe to try out during a taste-testing marathon! Plus,  it's yummy, it's seasonal and it's oh so pretty.   
The Proud Italian Cook never disappoints!!! 

 YUM! YUM! YUM!!!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What feeds us?

This quote speaks to so many ways! 

The other evening....over a lovely and much-needed  mid week martini with my husband.....I was explaining my feeling of euphoria upon entering  the Forbes Avenue Starbuck's during the very early morning hours each day........ 
As I dash in from the cold entire being immediately responds.   
There's just something about the ambiance of the place at this time of  the's just special...perhaps even magical....the dim lighting, the roaring fire, the familiar aroma, the fogged windows, the students and other academics milling about, the tasteful holiday decorations.....

It feeds me in ways that I can hardly put into words....although I am trying.
If I recall, I am pretty sure that during my explanation....I called the place "my utopia".
I know you are thinking this is all about my beloved chai latte.
No, it's not all about that.....
There's more. 
It's about feeding my heart and my soul. 
And, it's a beautiful thing. 

Why am I just figuring this out now? 
Perhaps all those years of thinking that food was the only thing that fed me  makes these revelations all the sweeter......

Friday, November 15, 2013

CRAZY I come!!!!!

Stay tuned for  more STORIES FROM THE ROAD to Crazy Town!


Thursday, November 14, 2013


Carve that turkey!!!! 

Did I ever mention that I buy one turkey a week during November?
I have an elaborate system of storing and defrosting them that requires that I don't buy them all at one time.
The whole process can be quite stressful, trust me.  In other words----I drive myself effin crazy over the entire thing.....
I'm sure I told you all about it at some point during.   If I didn' you know. 
I'm excessive and maniacal......(no wonder I needed a Lap band!)
Why do I buy so many turkeys?
Because I cook so many turkeys.  There's the traditional turkey on  Thanksgiving day.  Then, there's the brined and roasted Turkey and the fried turkey and the not-brined traditional turkey (yes 3 turkeys!) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (when we host our annual Turkey fry for a group of assorted family members and several cousins and out of town friends that we only see once a year).  
Plus, I must have massive amounts of leftovers.....right?   
Last year, at the last minute, I panicked...thinking I would not have enough turkeys....and I ended up with 5 turkeys plus enough leftovers from the other turkeys that I was able to send both kids and my sisters and my dad and my cousins away with nice care packages.
Still, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I found myself with one fully cooked, uncarved turkey. 
As you will note if you click on that link....I was offering it to anyone on my blog (and I did have a taker!!!)
So, I made sure to put notes in my menu log and on my 2013 calendar to remind myself----YOU DO NOT NEED A 5TH TURKEY! 

Now that I am fully immersed in my self-imposed turkey frenzy, I find myself at that familiar place of having to restrain myself from buying just one more.   Last night, as I was doing one of my turkey runs.....after I put one turkey in my cart, I found myself reaching for a turkey breast.....rationalizing that it wasn't another turkey, it was a turkey breast.  
Suddenly, I was stopped by someone calling out to me......seems like I always run into someone at Giant Eagle....
"So, what are you doing?  Buying your Thanksgiving turkey already?"  she asked
Did I dare tell her that I was 2 weeks into my turkey buying program?
"Yeah, I like to do it early...."   I heard myself say. 
"I am surprised  YOU don't buy a fresh turkey!"  she said.
Did I dare tell that  I am only on my 2nd turkey and that the last turkey I buy is a fresh, organic, free-range, yadda, yadda, yadda turkey?
"Oh, yes, I buy a fresh one too,"  I found myself embarrassed into admitting....I felt like I was being judged for buying a frozen (OMG!) turkey....
I was turkey shamed......right there at the Giant Eagle. 
"How many turkeys do you buy?  That one you have there looks pretty big!"  she said, pointing to the 22 pound frozen turkey in my cart.
"Oh, we like turkey..."  I sheepishly explained.
"Do you buy a turkey breast too?"  she asked..... 
Oh shit, she must have seen me reaching for a frozen turkey breast....
"I was just looking at them.....I am never sure if we will have enough breast meat", I stumbled... 
She had to know I was lying.... 
"Well, you can always keep it in the freezer if you don't use it.  The price is good."  she advised.
Why do I shop in this part of town????  
"Yeah, we'll see....."  I said, longingly looking into the freezer filled with turkey breasts.

I know there's a lesson in there somewhere.......

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I don't know about other Lap Banders but speaking for myself.....I know my way around soup.
Growing up, soup was one of those things I could take or leave.
I was probably way too busy getting to the main course to take the time to savor soup.  
I was a one soup girl for about 20+ years---wedding soup, wedding soup, wedding soup.
And, not just any random wedding soup---it had to be my family recipe.  I was completely convinced it was the only wedding soup worth eating.   It is pretty spectacular.....
Somewhere along the line, I developed a taste for a few other soups--clam chowder and French onion to be exact.....nothing too exotic for me.  And, of course,  I  experimented with soup recipes but never with much fanfare or major success.  
Soup was never part of the repretiore in my kitchen.  My children did not grow up on eating soup.  Clearly, I did them wrong.....
It wasn't until my Lap Band days that I found the true joy of soup.
Soup is a Lap Bander's best friend.  It's one of those band friendly foods that not only nourishes and keeps you satisfied with no major Lap Band issues, it also warms your soul and provides comfort.
And, for a kitchen-loving girl like me--soup also brings me joy in the kitchen.  All the chopping and stirring is relaxing.  And, watching everything transform into something yummy is what I consider a great time. 
Soup-making is an art---a perfect blend of a good recipe, personal creativity, technique and yumminess. 
Sure, I've had my share of dud soups that found their way down the garbage disposal.....oh the stories I could tell.....
But, more often than not, I've been pleased with the results.  Some of those recipes...although good...were one-hit wonders.  While others have become staples in our menus.
My soup-making is now an event that my family looks forward to.   In fact, it's probably only one of the only things about the arrival of cold weather that they absolutely enjoy.   We can all do without the cold and wind and snow and the long dark days of  late fall and winter.  Soup gets us through it. 
While my daughter was in college--I had many soup emergency emails, calls and texts.   I would love those shout-outs for specific soups.  They would send me into the kitchen--deliriously happy--making big vats of whatever they asked for.
I wonder what those girls are eating now that my daughter is a college graduate.....
For as many soup recipes that I've tried, I have never attempted to make a cream of mushroom soup.  I have no idea why but it just never occurred to me.
This past weekend, with  2 sets of out-of-town guests visiting and me holed up with dad duty, we had to figure out a way to not only feed everyone but also to do a bit of Pittsburgh-y entertaining.  With about 3 hours to get away on Saturday afternoon, we decided to take one of the groups (the other group happened to be our daughter's sorority sisters who were lazing around at our house after spending Friday night at the city's young hotspots in Southside)  to Mt. Washington   to see the city in all its grandeur from this magnificent suburban perch high above the city.  This particular group was visiting for the Pitt-Notre Dame game (a huge deal!).  Since Carmen could not make it to the game due to his brother's 60th Birthday party that night, he wanted to make his time with these old friends as celebratory of the reason for their visit as possible.   So, we decided to find a restaurant-bar atmosphere that would fit the casualness of football.   Without much preplanning, we chose  The Grandview Saloon .  Little did we know that the place would be crawling with Guiness-drinking, Jamison-shot-taking Notre Dame fans---in all their glory, decked out in their Fighting Irish best.   My husband and friends--having all attended Pitt---were the 6 lone Pitt fans in the place--all of them wearing their Pitt regalia.  But, with little time to find another location, we huddled into a corner and made the best of the rocking atmosphere and the gorgeous view.   When it came time to order lunch, I spied their "award winning cream of mushroom soup" on the menu.  My choice was made.  Soup. Award winning. Win. Win. 
Yeah, well, I am not so sure how it won any award but I took it in stride......their wine list was good, the company was fun, I was happy to have some time to get away from my dad duties and did I mention that I was happy to have some time away from my dad duties? 
Although the soup was not award-winning by any means, the creaminess of the soup and the faint taste of mushrooms was enough to wet my appetite for a good bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup.
So, no sooner did I get back to my dad duties, I set about finding the perfect recipe.  That's when I came upon Ina Garten's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.   
Ina is one of those cooks who I trust implicitly.  Plus, I love when regular home cooks give their reviews of a recipe.  With those two things going for it, I decided that I would use my free time on Sunday morning to get all of the ingredients before heading home to host a brunch for all of our visiting guests.......yes, I am a glutton for punishment  (trust me, I made it very easy on myself--Panera catering is very helpful with these things!).  Thankfully, the recipe itself does not call for anything too exotic--everything was easy to pick up at the little grocery store near my sister's house (where I was staying with my dad).  After the brunch and everyone scattered to do other things, I set my sights on the recipe.   It was an easy and enjoyable recipe to make--with enough "down time"....(waiting for the stock to cook, simmering, etc) so that I could tackle other little things in the meantime.  
So, friends.....I think I've found another hit soup recipe.   The only minor changes I made to this recipe were:
-In stead of discarding the veggies that I used for the stock, I put them through the food processor with a little of the stock (made a thick paste) and used it as a thickener and cut back on the flour and heavy cream (my version of making it "healthier")
-I added some fresh grated nutmeg at the end and let it simmer a bit  (I love the taste of nutmeg in cream soups and sauces).

The soup was a huge, huge hit....with young and old alike.  My father gobbled it down and asked for more (no shock there!), my daughter and her boyfriend devoured it and Carmen and I thought it was amazing.   I served it with breads that I had leftover from brunch (sour dough, asiago and hearty wheat).....
Now, this was an award winning meal......with an award winning soup...... 
Thank You Ina! 

Can't wait to eat leftovers tonight!!

Make this soup.....NOW!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

This is what's going on in Judiland right now......

This is what's going on in my head right now......

Yes, really.......

Did I mention that I've been in charge of my 93 year old father since earlier in the week?
Yeah, I might have forgot to mention that......
I chalk that up to living on little sleep, dealing with last minute schedule changes and having to go to work in the middle of it all.  And, most probably I didn't mention it because sometimes I use my blog to escape from what's really going on around me.  Sometimes it's best to think about something else besides the madness of my own little prison......
Did I mention that while I am staying with my father this weekend, I have house guests staying at my own house?   Yes, I'm entertaining house guests.  Well, technically, I am running back and forth between both places trying to be all things to all people.  That's not all that entertaining, I assure you. 
Yeah, I probably didn't tell you about that either......

To occupy myself during those many hours of watching Andy Griffith and Bonanza reruns with my father--as my dog nephew Willy barks at me incessantly for no apparent reason and to help organize myself for entertaining my guests while I am not there to entertain them---I have been planning menus.   It's what's keeping me sane at the moment.  So far, I'm pretty sure I have everything covered from here until January 2, 2014.....yes really. 
I'm not sure if I am just bat crazy right now or if I am just a crazy genius but I have to tell you, I think I may have uncovered the holy grail of menu planning---DESPERATION!  Being desperate to escape the mind numbingness of 1960's television reruns can work wonders for motivating me to really focus on recipes and ingredient lists and time tables and pots and pans and dishes and linens and everything that goes with setting up menus.   Desperation catapulted me to making extra sure that everything was figured out....down to the nth degree! 
Look out world........

I am now armed and dangerous......

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let's talk shoes......

Can't think of a  better way to kick off a Saturday than doing a little shoe talkin'!

By now, you know I have this feverish love for shoes.  Some (like my husband!) might consider it a sickness.  Okay, I get it.  But, damn I love shoes.   I always have.  I always will.
My husband loves guitars.  I support his love of guitars.  I wouldn't threaten to throw out all his guitars like he threatens to toss all of my shoes when he trips on them in the bedroom in the dark....
As the years go by and my feet age, there are some amazing shoes that just aren't too feet friendly.
Naturally, I own some of those unfriendly shoes---I call them my sitting shoes.  I wear them when I know I will be sitting a lot. 
But, for those other times that I won't be sitting a lot---like when I am going shoe shopping---I need to have comfy yet cute shoes.  I refuse to give up style for function.  Shoe shopping is hard work and it requires good shoes if you want to get the best results.   If my feet hurt....I am not happy.  And, if I am not happy, I might not buy the best shoes.  It's a complete waste of a good time.
So, I make it my business to research shoes.  Today I am going to share some of the fruits of my labor with you.....because I know you want to know. 
Now, there's something to be said for the notion that you get what you pay for.  But, just because Manolo Blaniks cost hundreds of dollars doesn't make them foot just means they are beautiful shoes.   Works of art.  So, I can appreciate that.  I just can't buy them and convince myself they are comfy.   So, I don't buy them.  I might have to tell my husband that I have saved him millions of dollars because I am sensible enough not to buy Manolo Blaniks. 
He will be so happy to hear that, I am sure.
But, because I love a good shoe and need comfort, I make it my business to get to know shoes.  I also make it my business to talk shoes with shoe experts.  I love to go over to a little  shoeplace near my office that is owned by two wonderful shoe experts and talk shoes with them.   If you are ever in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh.....stop in for a visit at Ten Toes on's like a candy store for shoe lovers.  If you can't get there....their Facebook Page is also a  nice place to spend some time.  It was there that I was introduced to Spring Step shoes......they are comfy and artsy and fun.  I highly recommend them!
Another shoe heaven for me is a little place in The Waterfront area of Pittsburgh....Gordon's Shoes.  This is the place where I fell hard for Allegria and Think! shoes.    Let me tell you---if you haven't experienced the joy of these shoes yet--I suggest you stop what you are doing right now and explore them!  They are joyous shoes!
I am not sure if I've ever told you  my Bernie Mev love story.  Just in case I didn't--I will tell you now.  I bought a pair of these wonderful shoes at one of my favorite neighborhood shoe shops right before I went on a cruise.  Those shoes were just so yummy and comfy...I was in total love with them.  And, they were RED.  On the day we were departing the ship, Carmen came down with a severe case of sea sickness--rendering him unable to help pack up.  I mean....really?   Anyway, there I was---frantically packing up in that tiny little state room while he laid in bed moaning.  I was so pissed overwhelmed, I was throwing things in the suitcases like a crazy woman.  In my haste, I completely forgot to look under the bed.....where my RED BERNIE MEVS were stashed.  When I got home and realized I had left them on the ship, I was heartbroken.  So, no sooner we were unpacked, I ran over to the shoe store and bought them again.   Thank God they were there!   And, while I was there--I scooped up 2 more pair of Bernie Mevs.  Thankfully, I did.  Because the next season, they quit carrying them.   Heartbroken but determined, I researched where they could be found and have ordered several styles since that time.   They are always my favorite summer shoes.
Now, more recently, when I decided that I wanted very comfy and stylish Fall/Winter shoes and boots to wear with leggins and skinny jeans and other casual clothing, I decided to do some extensive research on what Bernie Mev might offer.   Unfortunately, they don't do much in the way of Fall and Winter.  But, during my study, I stumbled upon another brand--Fly London.  Now, let me tell you---those shoes are TO DIE FOR.  Style. Comfort.  YOU need to own them....NOW.  I bought these ankle booties and these shoes.....(and I have a wish list of a few more!!)....they both came this past week.  I have been in shoe heaven ever since I got them in my shoelovin' hands!  I can tell you that they will be on my feet all weekend long!
Of course, I don't want to forgot a few of my other comfy stylish favs that I recommend......
Franco Sarto
Donald Pliner

Time to put our shoes on and kick off Saturday!!!! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Good Morning Friday.......

I am so THANKFUL you are here......

Today, I choose to be happy.
Even though I am facing a  weekend that may not be exactly what I would want my weekend to be.
But, one never knows......sometimes things turn out quite differently than expected.

I'm waiting on the unexpected........

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I never tire of hearing these 5 words......


Yes, I will drink to that!!! 

Yes, friends, even 6+ years later, hearing those words can make my day.
The other day, I ran into someone who I haven't seen since our daughters were in middle school together.
In fact, we realized that the last time we saw each other---it was September 12, 2001--the day after the horrific events of 9-11 and the day she and her family of 3  moved across the country for her husband to take over his family business.   After that, we sent cards and emails until one day in 2004 her email bounced back.  It all ended there.....
They lived in our neighborhood for a smidgen of time but during that time we became fast friends---we went to ceramic classes together, we had each other over for parties and holidays and we shared many glasses of wine, chatting about life and children and marriage and friendships and cooking....
It's hard to imagine that we lost touch and that I didn't know that her husband took up with another woman--leaving her devastated and alone or that she had remarried a great guy she met while on a singles cruise and that she moved to Ohio or that her daughter is getting married to a hometown boy in December (the reason for her visit to Pittsburgh).....those were things I should have known.  And, she should have known that I had weight loss surgery and that I lost 115 pounds.  But, none of that happened.
But, now we both know it all.
A one hour conversation in the middle of the mall was all we needed......   
I'm still smiling. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tip for the day: Stay clear of the break room!

 'Tis the season for the BREAK ROOM to be overflowing.......
A sideways view (couldn't figure out how to rotate it!!) of what our office kitchen looked like yesterday...all kinds of tempting goodies!!  THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING!!!!! This picture does not include the several dozen mini sandwiches one of our partners graced us with mid day! Nor does it include the huge box of bagels that Brueggers dropped off for us late in the afternoon.......OMG! 

The BREAK ROOM--- the place where everyone puts the treats they don't want to tempted with at home........

I don't know about the place where you work but my workplace is filled with lots of very generous, sharing people who whip up all kinds of salty and sweet treats or who love to pick up special treats and bring them into the office!   So, there are times when our office kitchen is a literal  smorgasboard of gut-busting temptations......
Although this food-sharing goes on throughout the year, right after Halloween, things ramp up quite a bit.  Take yesterday for example---one of my lovely coworkers entertained all weekend and had some yummy leftover taco dip she wanted to share.   Another coworker wanted to test his culinary skills on everyone by baking up a batch of muffins.  And, another coworker decided to pick up a few bags of sponge chocolates while he was on a little weekend getaway.  And, then there was the employer partner who decided to order several beautiful sandwich trays for their luncheon---only to have MOST OF THEM leftover....which they then put in our office kitchen! And, last but not least--can I mention that Bruegger's loves us so much that they wanted to show us how much by dropping off a huge box of bagels to our office at 3 pm!!!    All of this on the day after another coworker decided we needed a carton of munchkins. 
Now, like I've said a million times before---there's room for all of these things in life.  My Lap band has taught me that.  But, you know....I must make one teensy weensy confession here---with the kinds of days I've been having at work lately, those break room temptations are not doing me any favors.  Yes, I'm human like that.   By the time mid day rolled around yesterday, I was *THIS CLOSE* to taking the taco dip and chips in my office and shoveling it into my mouth with non ladylike abandon.  But, I didn't.  Because people would talk about me.
And, at this point, I don't need to give people one more reason to talk about me......
And, let's face it----the taco dip wouldn't have solved one thing. might have made me sick enough to go home. 
On hindsight.....perhaps I should have taken that taco dip and chips into my office.....yesterday would have been the perfect day to come home and curl up on the couch in a fetal position and feel awfully sorry for myself! 

 In any case......just thought I'd warn you about the break room thing.....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

'Tis November!!!!

Yes, I realize we are 5 days into November. 
5 days into the biggest foodie month of the year.......

So far, November has been a whirlwind of visitors and cooking and cleaning and entertaining and running here and there. 
There's been no time to stop....until right now. 
Today is a very special day here in Judiland.
My new college smart, creative and wonderful daughter......begins her big girl job.
Full time.  In her field of study.  With benefits.  
Today is the start of her career.
Ah, to be young.
Such an exciting time......for all of us.  
But, especially for my  fashionista girl.....
My Career Girl and I.....celebrating her new job with a bunch of fun girls at Rumfish Beach this past Friday night! 

  Oh, and before I forget....speaking of cooking.....I wanted to share this new-to-me recipe that I whipped up this past Sunday evening during one of my cookathons.  I'm working on a few new menu items for the next round of guests we are entertaining this month.  We had a chance to sample it last night and let me tell's definitely an easy yet elegant meal.....and it tastes scrumptious!  It got rave reviews from my taste testers!  
Romantic Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms 
I experimented a bit with the recipe and made the following adjustments (based on the reviews):
-Before sauteeing the chicken, I dredged it in flour seasoned with a little salt, pepper and lemon zest.  It helped to thicken the sauce.  
-I used frozen artichokes from Trader Joes instead of the ones marinated in the can
-I added a heaping tablespoon of  Herbs de Provance when I was sauteing the artichokes and mushrooms.
-I added a splash of heavy cream at the end to give the sauce some richness.
-I served it over linguine (I may switch it up and serve it over Farfalle--bow-tie pasta).  
-I am still working on the type of salad I want to serve.
-I have decided on serving a cheese course with this meal.....this one looks yummy and simple.   
-I served this last night with a simple white table wine--a Verdiccho---that I had on hand.  But, since I think artichokes can be a complicated taste to pair with a wine, I might spend some time researching what wine might work best.  The Verdiccho might end up being what I will go with since it did work well.  Note:  I did not use the Verdiccho in the recipe.  I had a half a bottle of Pinot Grigio sitting in the fridge so I used that.  

Yes, it's November.
Let the cooking begin.....