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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Menus and madness.......

 Martini, anyone?

So, here's what's happening in Judiland....

As we inch closer to our big July 4th weekend--one that's filled with lots of celebrations--I'm up to my eyeballs in getting the house prepped for visitors, for doing some entertaining and for quite a bit of cooking and all that goes with all of that.... 
One of the things I promised myself this time around is that I was going to make it easy, easy, easy on myself in the menu in what I was going to feed my house guests on a daily basis.
REPEAT AFTER ME---Every meal does not need to be an event, Judi!
Although that weekend is traditionally all about fireworks and hot dogs, we here in Judiland are also celebrating the high school graduation of my next-to-the-youngest nephew on July 5.  With lots of guests coming into town for the celebration and with lots of family and friends attending, there's lots of things to do. order to get it all done and to survive AND enjoy it all,  I've been doing a lot of self talk.  When I find myself scouring Pinterest for new projects or new recipes that I think would be oh so perfect for our 4th of July festivities, I immediately remind myself that I have a table in my office strewn with things that need put away from Easter and I have a litany of graduation party duties and cooking to do AND I haven't even started putting our fun little barzebo (not this exact one but similar....)together for the back patio.  I can be so ADHD  distracted by my need to be creative sometimes.....
My usual M-O prior to my son the doctor coming for a visit is to pepper him with menu ideas and then badger him to tell me ask him which ones he wants.   Although I started out doing that earlier in the month, he was saved the daily marathon discussions due to his work travel schedule.  Which, of course, left me to my own devices when coming up with mom's menus that I think he would like to have.  (As an aside--I should mention that I delude myself a bit about him needing or wanting his mother's food since he is an excellent and adventuresome cook in his own rite.)   Truth time: I redirected my menu questions to my poor nephews.....what do you want Aunt Judi to make for you?
Eh....they are teenagers....they just shrug their shoulders. Pizza delivery would be fine for them!   Although, I am thankful for one thing--- the new high school grad did put in his requests for what he wants me to make for his graduation party....THANK YOU BRETT for making Aunt Judi feel needed. 
Being left to my own devices when doing menu planning can be quite dangerous in one respect and quite freeing in another.  On the dangerous side---I end up with more ideas and more food than anyone can possibly eat in a mere weekend.  Yet....on the freeing side--it gives me the opportunity to consider things that I may not have otherwise.  As long as I continue to successfully do my self-talking to my excessive self, I should be okay.  Fingers crossed. 
(You know, I should have learned my lesson last weekend--when I was running my sorority house--I made a boatload of this enchilada recipe because I guess I figured strapping, hungry frat boys would be coming and going at all times.  Little did I know that college graduate sorority girls are so over frat boys and are content to drink cosmos and stay on their diets.   So, yeah....we'll be eating those enchiladas for a few weeks. And those meatballs.  And that french toast and sausage casserole.  And those cute little mushroom puffs and parmesean tater tots I made.  Yeah, I overcooked...).  
So, on to the freeing part.
No one has ever asked me for Pasta With Roasted Red Peppers & Goat Cheese.
Nor would they ever.  
But, since I'm giving myself freedom to make delish yet easy food.....I chose to put Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers & Goat Cheese on the menu for Thursday night when the house begins to fill up.  With this light, simple salad,  a nice, bright selection of summer wines and a tray of store-bought cut up fruit and this absurdly easy's a simple and perfectly perfect dinner-on-the-deck meal to prepare when I get home from work that will be ready when the first traveler steps foot in the house.  
Now, if I can only resist the urge to embellish this plan with anything more, I'm good to go.  
No Judi, you can't make this recipe no matter how amazing it is.  But, maybe YOU, my blogger friends might want to....

Now, it's time to start thinking about putting together an easy July 4th menu....

Sometimes making things easier on myself takes too much mental energy.....


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I SCREAM!!!!!!

I've been on this ice cream kick that's having it's way with me.
For the past few the darkness of my living room, alone, while watching late night TV, I have been eating ice cream.
Not just ice cream.
No, it's a vanilla bean ice cream slathered in fat free chocolate sauce, dolloped with light whipped cream.
My Lapband is totally allowing it.
Hey, it's ice goes down so easy.
In a dark house with no one home and my Lapband allowing's as if it never happened.  
You can't see me....can  you?

But, now that I've come clean right here on Stories for the Road for all to's now a reality. 
Stand back while the calories apply themselves to my belly....

Okay, now that we have that settled......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MY BIG NIGHT.......NOT!!!!

So, remember on Sunday morning when I oozed excitement about my BIG PLANS for Sunday night?
Yeah.....well..... things didn't quite turn out as planned.....
Here's the MOVIE I bought.....
Here's the movie that arrived..... on schedule, I might add.....
Yes, the MOVIE is in Japanese...or Chinese....not so sure....
Oh, this was such my Judi-luck.   
So, about last night....

There I was---after a fun but exhausting and quite entertaining weekend of playing the house mother of a post-college sorority house, I was filled with giddy anticipation of my planned evening!  And, just as importantly-- my body was ready for some relaxation.  My daughter and her visiting sorority sisters were out on the town and staying elsewhere for the night and I had just finished cleaning up all of the dishes and wine glasses from their late night giggle fest and after-concert party.  So, it was just me, me, me and I was ready, ready ready! 
 I had whipped-up an amazing batch of polenta smothered in Romano cheese, topped with some of the yummiest store-jarred marinara sauces (don't judge me, please....) from one of my favorite local go-to places and had  a lovely glass of my newest conquest.....Feudi Falanghina, waiting just for me, me, me.  After I got my polenta sufficiently dressed and into my bowl,  I eagerly opened the package that arrived on Saturday from Amazon..........and then I saw it...........a teeny, tiny little yellow sticker in the corner that read "Import as described.  See back of case for language of film".   

YES!  I really, really cried.....

It was quite ugly, I'll tell you.

Thankfully, I had wine.....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Killing me deliciously......

A big bowl and a movie.....that's all it takes! (picture lifted from The Proud Italian Cook)

When I was growing up, when my mother announced that we were going to have lasagna for Sunday dinner, I would get butterflies of excitement.  Sunday dinner couldn't come soon enough.  The days were almost unbearable leading up to Sunday. And, if my mother announced it too early in the's a wonder I ever made it to school. I was almost comatose from the brain waves sparking and my stomach doing flip flops and my heart racing at unheard of speed.   By the time Sunday came, my anticipation was almost deadly.  I mean...I was delirious to the point of doing crazy things...out-of-my-head types of things. 
Yeah, seriously.
I kid you not. 
Lasagna made me do crazy things.  

I miss those days.  I miss that lasagna.  

But, this morning, I am sorta feeling a little like those days of being Lasagna Crazed.  
You see, I have big plans for Sunday dinner at my house.
I am going to watch THE BIG NIGHT!
Just me and the DVD and some wine and something Italian....
My someone Italian was called out of town unexpectedly and my favorite fashionista is busy with her visiting sorority sisters....leaving me all to myself to indulge in whatever I want... and this is what I want....

It's an old movie, I know.
But, I have never, ever seen it.
I know...hard to believe.
My excuse is this---in 1996 (when the movie was made), I had an 11 year old and a 5 year old.  My movie watching consisted of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Disney princess movies.
I never even heard of  THE BIG NIGHT. 
A year or so ago, I happened to see on Facebook that one of my favorite little neighborhood bistros was hosting  an evening to thank their families for helping them reach the success they were enjoying by showing the movie while making the movie's signature dish-- Timpano
The pictures they shared on their FB page captivated me.
The wine was flowing, everyone was involved in the process of making the food, they were laughing, there was joy and love and did I mention that the Timpano itself looked absolutely beautiful??
 It was exactly how I envisioned the perfect evening to be.....
Immediately... I was Googling up a storm. What is Timpano?  IMDB--THE BIG NIGHT?
 I was connected.  In love.  Enthralled.  On the edge of delirium.   
Then, when I realized that one of my favorite foodie bloggers--The Proud Italian Cook--was a big fan of the movie and Timpano (and she graciously shared the recipe and all her personal tips on her blog!), I was certifiably delirious.
The deal was sealed--- I wanted to host my own movie and Timpano night for family and friends.
So, I set about making it happen by buying my very own Timpano pan.
Then, life got in the way and for some reason, my family talked me out of it.
So, in the swirl of all of that, I never, ever got around to getting the movie.....
That's when The Proud Italian Cook did another blog post about Timpano.
Within minutes of reading it, I was on Amazon purchasing THE BIG NIGHT.
It came yesterday.
Just in time for SUNDAY DINNER.....for one.  

The anticipation is killing me.....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

No water? No problem......

Well, actually, the NO WATER thing was a problem.
In fact, it was a BIG problem.
Especially at 6 am yesterday morning as I was just ready to get into the shower.
But, there is a silver lining.......

What could that silver lining possibly be you ask.....
It's as simple as this......I could grab any pair of pants from my huge collection of summer office-appropriate pants and any top from my even bigger collection of summer office-appropriate tops and throw them in a bag  (without stopping to try them on!) with all of my get-ready essentials so that I could high-tail it over to my sister's to take a shower so that I could get to the office on time.....
Yes, that's a BIG thing.  

Another standing-o for my Lap Band!!!
Yes, Oprah is very happy for me!!!!  '

Happy Saturday everyone!!!  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Just in time for FRIDAY!!!

No, I'm not traveling the Irish countryside or laying on a clothing-optional beach in Italy or sprawled out on a martini bar floor somewhere in France.....
I'm just navigating life here in Judiland......a life filled with too much to do and too little time to do it and yes---a life filled with lots of pulling the covers up over my head....
My motto this morning!!!

Have no fear, I have not abandoned Stories from the Road or blogland.  Nope, I'm not going anywhere.  But, I am not going to beat myself up over the fact that I promised myself that I would not let a week go by without blogging.....because that's just what I did.  Damn, I am just not in the mood for a beat down.  Especially one that I give myself.  And, there's too many people who would gladly beat me up if I was looking for someone to give me a beating so I'm not even going to start taking names....

The truth of the matter is that I am staying up way too late at night working on projects and trying to get things done for the  onslaught of house guests and visitors starting next week through mid August.  My little B&B will have somewhat of a soft opening beginning tonight when a few of Toni's sorority sister's roll into town for a country concert this weekend.  In the past, when I would have a long line of visitors over a period of time, I would take 1 or 2 days off from work and tornado through the house like a crazy woman and things would be done.   Things are a bit different these days at the office so that's not happening.  And, I am paying for it.  And, ironically, so is my day job.   I am practically falling asleep at my desk after living on just a few hours sleep a night so I am not working at optimum capacity.  I know it's not healthy.  You know it's not healthy.  And, my body is feeling the effects of this unhealthy living. 
Last a few minutes 11 pm.... as I burrowed my way through the piles of winter clothes I hid away in my son the Doctor's bedroom, I realized I did not have an ounce of energy left in me.  So, I did the unthinkable.....I stopped.  I flipped the light switch and closed the door and went to bed.   This morning, I realized that I did exactly what needed to be done.  
Now, off I go to tackle that project with a refreshed attitude. 
Then, off to work I go.
But, it's FRIDAY.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's a lucky day!!!!

Yes, I know it's Friday the 13th but you will forget all about now that you are here visiting Stories from the Road!  
There's no bad luck today.....!
The Italian horn....for good luck!

In honor of my mother's 95th Birthday,  I am going to go all Italian on you.
I know I've told you before....but it's worth mother was an amazing Italian mother, daughter, wife, aunt, sister, friend and neighbor.  She was a one-of-a-kind. 
She would have been an equally amazing mother-in-law and Nana  if she would have had those opportunities.  But, God said she was needed in heaven more than she was needed on earth so he called her home 40+ years ago---leaving behind 3 very sad little girls, a devastated husband and an entire boatload of shocked and saddened family and friends.  Even though we all disagreed with God's handling of the situation, we have managed to live in a world without her in it.  So, God knew that in her short time on earth, she gave us all what we needed to carry on long after she was gone.   Yes, God was kinda right.  But, I can't tell you that there aren't days that having a mom would come in pretty handy.  Even so, we don't always get our own  way.  We get what we need to make our own way. God knew that we would be okay and that she would live on in each of us forever.
So....yes... we are okay.  Even better than okay......even though we always, always miss her.  
Thankfully she left pieces of herself.....
A piece of my mother that lives on in me is my love of cooking, feeding my family and friends and making meals an event.  And, good Italian food.  
Sometimes this love of food and cooking drives me crazy and exhausts the hell out of me.  
But, each time I go through the process and the presentation and see the fruits of my labor being savored, I'm back to a place of love....
No, I look nothing like this......

Growing up, food took center stage.  My mother and her sisters and my Nana were always cooking and serving these amazing meals.  Every holiday or gathering came fully loaded with beautiful displays of their specialties.....from eggplant parmiagiano to lasagna to sausage to meatballs to manicotti and pastas to huge platters of  homemade cookies and cakes name it...they made it. Brilliantly.
Even on an ordinary day, the meals were touched with their magic.
My mother spent hours in the kitchen whipping up daily meals with the same devotion as she gave to Sunday dinners.  Food.  Beautiful, crazy delicious food.  Everyday.
 My taste buds have memories all of their own..... 

Today, as I think of my mother, there are no tears.
There is joy.
A thankful joy that I am her daughter.
And, an acknowledgement of the many hours of joy that she gave to my life in the kitchen and around the dinner table......for those 14 years of my life that she stood beside me and now, as  she sits in heaven and looks down upon me.
Gifts she gives to me.
And, so, today on this her 95th Birthday--in honor of her love to sharing good Italian food.... I am giving you the gift of Italian food.
As you know, I am a huge Proud Italian Cook fan.....her recipes, her advice, her presentation, her generous sharing and her no-nonsense, loving approach to it all aligns perfectly with  what I seek out when I am looking for good Italian food......
Thankfully, she came out with this blog post right in the nick of time as I was planning a small, mid-evening Fathers' Day gathering. This past week, my planning was going back and forth on whether I wanted to do to the traditional Fathers' Day manly meal of steaks and potatoes or if I wanted to shake things up a bit and try a few new things.  Enter Proud Italian Cook  with her reminder of a fabulous recipe for Grilled Clams with Tomato, Wine and Sausage Sauce she shared in 2009.   
With Carmen traveling this past week and then having to work a portion of Sunday, I really wanted to make things evening to kick back on the deck with a cocktail and some great summer food.  That recipe certainly fits that desire.  And, with the other wonderful recipes to pick from, things are easily coming together. 
Leave it to a good Italian woman to save the day.
Thank you,  Proud Italian Cook.

Happy 95th Birthday to my beloved mother...... 

A lucky day indeed!!!!

P.S.--MOM....if you happen to read my blog in heaven.....if you do...forgive me for a few things...welll...forgive me lots of things!!! 
Let's keep this lucky day going!!
BTW...HAPPY BIRTHDAY....sorry I can't be there for the party...well...I guess I am sort of know I'm not heaven-ready quite yet...!  But, I would so love to have a high ball....
Anyway, could you please take a break from your high-balling birthday celebration to help your girls out. 
As I am sure you know, your next-to-the youngest, uber smart, amazingly handsome, super talented, engineering-bound grandson....Brett graduating tonight.  And,....if it's not too much to ask and if you aren't too busy dancing on tables...I have a bit a favor to ask.  If you have any influence on the weather at all or if you know anyone who can do anything about weather conditions..could you possibly roll a few meatballs and mix up a few whiskey sours in exchange for no rain, no storms and no tornado warnings in the North Hills of Pittsburgh?  
If you can't , we understand.   
We know it's your birthday and we know you would hate to break away from a good party! 
 BUT....we are so needing you tonight!!!  They are calling for more storms...
If it's all possible.....PLEASE!!! Stop the storms!!!!
BTW, Mom...if you need any extra incentive....Brett took a 100% Italian girl to the prom!

Our boy Brett and his beautiful Italian girl....

No pressure or anything, Mom....

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I haven't had a pedicure in about 6 weeks.  
And, I know it.
And, it's making me crrrrazzzzy!  
My unpedicured toes are clashing with my darling summer sandals.  
That's how I know that I am not summer-ready.
Tonight, I am remedying that situation.  
Tomorrow, my feet will be summer-ready.
But, will the rest of me?

When I have a topic that I am randomly obsessed about on any given day, I tend to seek out information to satisfy my curiosity and feed my wacky need for advice, details, inspiration and gossip. Some days I am on the hunt for recipes and shoes, other days I am digging for advice on why I can't grow clematis or how I can build an outdoor bar without my husband getting involved and other times, I am burning the midnight oil trying to figure out why I have this weird white spot on my neck.
So, yeah, I can get obsessed about just about anything....
Although I like authoritative articles for their range of authoritativeness and reading them makes me feel smart,  I tend to gravitate more towards blogs because I am a nosey girl by nature and I love peeking into real people's lives just to see what they are up to.  And, of course--knowing they are written by regular folks like me gives me  a comforting  feeling of kinship.   Because you know....I am a blogger too....
Last week, on my "googling patriotic tablescapes marathon" , I found myself enthralled with the gobs of gorgeous tablescapes by a handful of lifestyle bloggers.  It seems as though everyday they have one more beautiful blog posted....with pictures of the most beautiful tablescapes or crafts or food or perfectly put together rooms with no clutter or dust.  They seem to have endless amounts of energy and ideas AND time!  As much as I appreciate all of the grand stuff they were sharing with the blog world, I couldn't help but feel a little bit down on myself.  There is absolutely no way I could do even 1/5 of what these bloggers do in a given month let alone a given day!  Seriously, friends....I have clutter...out in the open for all to see and behind many doors.  And, yes.... I have dust for sure...unless it's 24 hours after my cleaning help was here...after that...there's dust until they return!   And, as I type this,  I have a full bin of dirty dishes hidden in my basement.   I could seriously not be a lifestyle blogger and its pretty clear now that I am seriously not ready for summer entertaining!  
And, when I thought it could not get any worse....there it was.....a picture of one of the beautiful bloggers herself in all of her perfection....showing off her pedicure in her new swimsuit, wrap and sandals....hanging at by her pool (probably after cooking a gourmet meal for 50 and setting a magnificent tablescape that will be featured in BHG next month...).   GIVE. ME.AN. EFFIN. BREAK.
What is wrong with ME?
I thought I just needed a pedicure and I would be summer -ready.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


 And, I am not ashamed to admit it!!!

Caio!  I am Burrata! 
 Actually, I am madly in am madly, passionately and deeply in love with Burrata. 

 Yes, I know, Burrata is a little odd looking.  Looks outta shape and kind of strange. 
A little loopy and bumpy and kinda dull and colorless.  
But, oh, once you get that little nugget of goodness going, you will fall hard like me.
I just know you will.
Once upon a time, the beautifulness and the power of Burrata was a mystery to me.
Until one day....way back in my early Lap Band days.....Carmen and I sat in one of our favorite little local bistros on a Spring Sunday afternoon, sipping wine and perusing the menu. 
Soon, my heart began to break.
 No, I could not eat their amazing wood fired pizza. 
No, I could not eat their luscious pasta or bread or rice balls. 
My young Lap band could not tolerate such starch. 
I was doomed to drink gallons of wine and be carried home drunk,starving and deeply sad while violently ripping my Lap band out of my belly with my bare hands.. 
Just then, the lovely waitress Victoria came to our table and announced "The Burrata is here!"..
"What is this Burrata you speak of, oh lovely Victoria? "  I asked in my haze of despair, thinking that she was announcing another pizza or pasta dish.  Yes, kill me now.
" is a ball of fresh cheese from Italy filled with rich creamy goodness....."  she cooed.
It was the first glimmer of hope I felt since I ordered my beautiful glass of wine. 
"Tell me more, tell me more....."   I begged....
And, she did.....
And, the rest is history. 
On that fateful Spring Sunday, from the moment I put it to my lips, I was completely and utterly enthralled with Burrata.
I was swept off my feet from the very first intoxicating  bite.  
Since then, each time I am in it's presence, I am  rendered helpless and breathless.
There is nothing....and I mean that very first time.  

Yet, still.... there is nothing I won't do for Burrata......
Burrata of my favorite ways to partake in the love.....

 So, yeah, I love Burrata.  
You get it. 
Now, let's get on with your Burratacation....

There are several different Burrata out there.
There are my favorites.
And, there are ones that will do in a pinch.
The problem is that  my favorites are imported from Italy and have an immensely short shelf life.
Sometimes they are in stock.  Other times,  I can't find them matter how many desperate calls I make.
In the beginning of my Burrata love, I only knew of a few suppliers I could turn to when my cravings began to escalate.   These days, it seems that Burrata has caught on with the mainstream grocery outlets.  Yet, it takes time and patience (and, it's not cheap either) to discern the good from the bad and the ugly.    
This past weekend, Burrata seemed like the perfect entertaining idea for a cocktail hour.  We were having some of Carmen's business associates and their wives over and I wanted to do something Italian--because I thought they might expect something Italian at the home of a  guy named Carmen.  But, I did not want to do something so" Olive Garden  Italian"  that they would be familiar with it.   Enter Burrata. 
After several calls around to some of my go-to Burrata suppliers and having no luck, I decided to do some research on Trader Joe's brand since I know I can always find it at my local TJ's.  
I dutifully did some internet searching to get the scoop on TJ's brand and came up with lots of varying opinions.   Some people raved.  Some people raged.   Such is the internet....
Not wanting to give up on showcasing Burrata to our guests, I decided to try it out for myself. 
Which I did.
And, I came away pleased enough.  
It was good enough.  
The pro: The price point is a heck of a lot less than what I am used to paying yet it still has the delicate flavor and rich creaminess that I enjoy.  Just not as rich creamy or as delicate. 
The con:  If I was going to serve this to first time Burrata eaters, I wanted their first experience to be as wonderous and magical as mine.  I wasn't so sure if this version would do that. 
 But, I was determined to serve Burrata.  Are you sick or reading the word "Burrata"?? 
I figured that I should use the "good enough Burrata" in a recipe instead of just on it's own to give it more ooomph and excitement.  
Since I didn't feel like consulting Google to find the most amazing Burrata recipe in the land, I decided to call up my friend--the caterer to the stars of Pittsburgh and ask if she had any amazing Burrata appetizer recipes. 
"Everyone wants Burrata these days!!"  she chirped.  "Burrata, Burrata, Burrata!"
"Well, it's sooooo good!"  I cooed into the phone. 
 "I have one recipe and one recipe only!  I figure this Burrata thing will pass.  I am not going to have 20 Burrata recipes!"  she said in exasperation....
Yes, I managed to wrangle it from her.
I figured she wouldn't mind if I shared it.....

Burrata with White Wine, Garlic and Sauteed Tomatoes

  • 1 baguette
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on bread
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup pinot grigio
  • pinch salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 8 ounces burrata, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil

  1. Slice the baguette into 1-inch slices and place on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle the baguette slices with olive oil. Place under the broiler and toast until lightly golden. Flip and toast the other side until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes,garlic, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Place the burrata on a plate or large low-rimmed bowl. Pour sauteed tomatoes over the cheese and garnish with basil. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Spoon cheese and sauteed tomatoes over a baguette slice.

After having this Burrata might be the only recipe she will ever's just lovely.
My guests went bonkers over it.  
Within moments, I found myself red-faced over all of the compliments and accolades. 
Yes, I love Burrata.
And, I am pretty sure Burrata loves me too. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Good morning brain!!!!

As I waited for my new Summer tea to steep in my nifty new brewer this morning,
I collected my blog posting thoughts.  Amazingly--even before the caffeine hit my veins, I found myself at a very unusual place.... my mind was bustling  with  ideas on what I wanted to share today.   Trust me, that doesn't usually in:never... before I have my morning tea!   I'm not sure whatthehell  was going on but instead of wracking my brain for an idea, my brain was swimming with prose.  I suppose a rational and very organized person would use that moment of multiple inspirations to sit down and jot ideas for future postings.  Well, I'm not one of those rational or very organized persons.   I'm more like a very impatient person who gets wild ideas that sound great in the moment but I either tend to lose those ideas in the lunacy of life in Judiland or I don't  think they are really all that great a few days later when I go to use them.   
Yes, I know myself better than I would like....

 Once the tea hit my lips, all bets were off as to what I would blog about today.
 Judi+ Caffeine+ideas busting at the seams=Today's Blog Post

*Let's start with a little weight loss surgery topic.  Yesterday, I was introduced to this article  through the powers of social media.  Now, I could slice and dice this article ten ways to Sunday given the time and inclination (in fact, that was one of my bustingatthebrain ideas for today's blog post).  But, I am going to spare you the torture and thus shall refrain from going all psycho ballastic.  Because that's just not nice....and, hey, I am nice!  Everyone is entitled to their opinions...even if they don't coincide with mine.  BUT! Yes, there's a BUT.  PLEASE. Leave. Weight.  Loss. Surgery.  Patients.  Alone.  That's all I have to say about that.  I promise.

*For my dinner on the deck this past Sunday that got rudely squelched by a quick arriving torrential rain storm (I will spare you the details on that debaucle!),  I tried out 2 recipes that I think everyone needs to know about.  Although we had planned on grilled steaks, we found out less than 24 hours before the dinner that one of the guests does not eat red meat and another was a vegetarian.  Yeah....OMG.....!  That left me little time to pull together a completely different menu.  Next time, when we are having people who we don't personally know that well (husband's business associates and their wives), I will be sure to find out these things beforehand.  #Wordtothewise.   In an utter panic,  I scoured my menu diary for recipes to try.  But, I came up uninspired.  Don't ask me why but everything in my volumes of summer menus felt so common.  Yes, that's my food snob speaking.  So, I turned to the mega power of the internet and threw caution to the wind then said a few hopes of coming up with the perfect little dinner that would make everyone think my husband is not only a genius engineer but also a genius wife picker.   And, let me tell you--I did pretty good.  Everyone was oohing and aahing and just about doing back flips.  My husband is now king of all things engineering and wife picking.  I deserve jewelry.  For your very own jewelry-getting menu....may I strongly suggest these two tastey recipes....
Easy Grilled Honey-Dijon Chicken....the longer it marinates, the better it is! Use thicker chicken breasts for the grill so that they are juicey! 
Creamy Pasta Primavera.....instead of the veggies used in this recipe, I used sugar snap peas, strips of red, green and yellow peppers, quartered artichoke hearts,  diced onions, matchstick carrots.   And, as always, I used the best quality romano cheese.
You're welcome.  

*You need to see the movie Chef .  But, a word to the not go hungry. before you go.  You see...I speak from spirited gal pals and I  literally sprinted out of the movie when it was over screaming for big, fat sandwiches!  Here's the deal---we were running a bit late for the movie so we didn't get a chance to eat beforehand.   Yes, we lingered at the outdoor bar at one of our favorite local summer meet-up places just a tad bit too long.  But, the weather was magical, the wine was flowing  and the conversations were tantalizing.  And, may I say...we all looked stunning in our summer GNO outfits!   Whocouldblameus?  But, really....see this movie. 

*Shoes.  I swear I am going to throw out all of my 300 pair shoes (seriously, I probably have 300 pair!) and only keep a few of the most amazing brands in the world.  Well, not really.  But, I could.  Because these are the only shoes I have been wearing since the warm weather hit.  I am totally, totally smitten.  Cute. Fashionable.  OHSOCOMFY!  And, did I say...CUTE?  And OHSOCOMFY?
My secret shoe obsessions......FLY LONDON, BERNIE MEV, Think!, Allegria, Jambu.
Treat yourself and your feet to these life-changing shoes.....

*And, last but not least....make sure there's a Negroni Bianco in your summer. 
You will thank me. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stop what you are doing.......

Take a break from whatever is bogging you down. 
Walk away from it for a little while.
Time and distance can work wonders.  

It's amazing how much easier it is to deal with that torturous thing that's been making you bat-crazy if you move on to something that energizes you instead of drains you. 
As a matter of may even speed up the time it takes to figuring the whole thing out!
All of us have things that keep us toiling away only to see no end in sight.  Frustrating....I know. Perhaps instead of staying there and continuing our toil, we should make it a habit to know when enough is enough....with the promise of coming back to it when we are refreshed. 
Even though I know that this particular method has worked for me time and time again, I always manage to forget to actually do it when I am in the heat of a project that is giving me major headaches and stress. 
Yesterday, I was forced into setting aside a very annoying and no-end-in-sight and no-good-answer work project because I had to leave the office to make it in time for a massage that I had scheduled a few weeks back.  Part of me felt very irresponsible to leave the work without being done but another part of me really, really needed that damn massage.  
As it turns out....I really, really did need that massage.  My massage therapist Aaron told me that he never felt my neck and shoulders so tight....even though he has only been my massage therapist since November, I'm taking his word for it.  
After my massage, I stopped by the fabulous little ice cream shop next door and got myself one scoop of their downright delicious coconut-chocolate chunk ice cream.  Then, I meandered through the charming uptown section of my little suburban hamlet before going home to tackle some deck sitting and garden admiring. 
My work world was far, far away as I sunk into my pillow-strewn bed and fell fast asleep.  

This morning, I awoke with  a brand new perspective on that damn project.
So, I spent a few minutes reviewing it and guess what?
I'm pretty sure I know exactly what I need to do to get it done.

Once again, I've been reminded of a lesson I've learned many, many times before.
But, I have to tell you....I don't mind relearning things. 
Well....I don't mind relearning valuable things. 


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Did you say orgasmic mushrooms?

Yes I did!  

Last weekend, after our little hometown getaway, we stopped off at a great little butcher downtown to pick up some gorgeous steaks to throw on the grill for a dinner we are hosting this coming weekend.  When we are in that part of town, we always make a stop at this place--their selection and their quality of all types of meats is probably some of the best around that we have found.  
Sadly, steaks are not my friend.  No matter how prime they are or how we cook them, we can't seem to get them to the point where I can eat them safely with my Lap band.  After enough bad steak experiences, I decided that when I make them, I will  take one bite and then dig into the sides.  While everyone oohs and aahs over their steaks, I get to eat the sides.
So, what that means is that I need to ooh and aah too!  Therefore, I  have to make certain that the sides are absolutely wonderful.   Not just wonderful....they have to be downright amazing. 
Thankfully, my research on recipes is a big hobby of mine so I enjoy willing away the hours in search of the perfect menu item.  And, I take an even greater delight in heading into the kitchen to experiment with the recipes, taking lots of notes and then making any tweaks that I feel necessary.  It's a process that I fully enjoy and one that also makes my taste testers happy (sometimes I have to call my taste testers in or deliver my results to my taste testers!).   Such was the case with this mushroom recipe that I have aptly coined "Orgasmic Mushrooms".  My taste testers went ballistic with excitement as they savored each bite....they raved and cooed and went all-out hedonistic on me.   Hence, the name I gave them.......
This recipe is an adaptation of  this recipe....without the chicken and the pasta (although making it with both is also delightful!).   I just use a menagerie of mushroom types that I pick up at the grocery store---I triple the amount of mushrooms that the chicken recipe ( chicken!!) calls's as simple as that!  This recipe is the perfect accompaniment to a delectable grilled steak.  In fact, every time I serve them, I get so many compliments, I get orgasmic myself. 
The key to keeping this recipe a little less naughty if you are just making it on any regular day is to cut back on the butter and oil and replace it with a low salt chicken stock.  As a matter of fact, I love serving that version over a creamy's oooh so good!   But, for those occasions where I am entertaining and/or serving steak, I want to serve it in it's rich goodness.  And, this velvety beautiful sauce needs the butter if I want it to have  the rich goodness that I am aiming for.   


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Whiskey and donuts for breakfast? Snacking on wine?

 It was just what the doctor ordered!  I am cured!

My Weekend In Pittsburgh, PA..... 
We started  with breakfast....raspberry lemonade donut for me, maple bacon donut for Carmen....
Yummy donuts.........
 Then, we moved on to a fun and very informative and tastey tour of the only whiskey distiller in Western PA.  They also make a lovely, smooth gin  called die. for!

Locally distilled whiskey......
After that, we ambled down to a one's the city's newest little hidden gems for a winey snack.....

Fun little Urban winery.....

Remember when I told you about my little weekend adventure?
Well, if the hint that I gave....the pretty picture of my hometown Pittsburgh.... didn't give it away then I will own up---yes, our little getaway was to Pittsburgh PA....
Only a few miles away from our little suburban hamlet yet a world away when you need to be a world away.
 Beginning early Saturday morning, we jam packed the weekend with some fun activities and sight seeing.  We tried out a wonderful new place for lunch  in one of our favorite areas of town--the Strip.   Then, we had yummy cocktails on the sunny roof top of this place where they serve one of my favorite warm weather drinks--a Hendrick's Sage Gimlet.  After some meandering on the city streets, we went to a fun, musical production of Johnny Cash songs at the CLO then  dined late night at one of our favorite little Italian places in the heart of the Cultural District.    We capped it off with a night at one of our magnificent old world hotels in our beautiful city with a view that always takes my breath away!
On Sunday, we lolligagged here  then  frolicked there before leisurely enjoying the ambiance and tranquility..and the lemon pancakes and the creative, tantalizing cocktails... of this little place....
After that, the drive home--driving through the streets of our fair city and across the river and through the tunnels---was only20 minutes.
Another part of the perfection of the perfect weekend in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Sometimes the perfect vacation is only minutes away.
Try it. 

As a side note......
Yes, I know, it appears that I ate and drank quite a bit while visiting Pittsburgh this past weekend and Chicago only two weekends ago.  (I guess that means that's what I like to do! ).  Yet, my scale tells me that I actually lost 5 pounds.  You heard me right.....I lost 5 pounds since May 15.    I was pretty stunned myself.  However, after thinking about, I realized that both visits consisted of walking, walking, walking and more walking.   
Another reminder of the power of exercise....