Category Archives: Other Slices of Life

An Easter Egg Hunt on the Farm

April 2015

“The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” –Brian Sutton Smith

That quote resonated from the podcast and cut through my work session like garbage trucks disturbing an early morning’s peace. I couldn’t always say this, but I like what I do, although what I do is an ever-changing, difficult-to-describe-succinctly, hodgepodge of creative assignments. However, I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near content with what I do. I’m still figuring out what my freelance job description looks like, what I want it to look like, how to make it sustainable, how to force myself from bed in the morning, when to take breaks, and so on, and so on, and so forth. Suffice it to say, I’m prone to a rambling mind and stressing myself out, but there was Stuart Brown telling me to play more. He was practically prescribing play, and as the founder of the National Institute for Play, he knows a thing or two about the subject.

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

Brown’s research explains how play shapes our brains, creates our competencies, and ballasts our emotions. The benefits do not fade with age, but for some reason, as a society, we leave play behind us, along with our old dolls and missing puzzle pieces. However, if we look to the animal kingdom, we see animals engage in playful activities throughout their entire lives. Taking his message to heart, some friends and I decided to extend a brunch gathering and channel the classic childish Easter pastime: an Easter Egg Hunt! To celebrate the Urban Farmer’s progress, our egg hunt took place on his farm. Appropriately enough, he told our guests, “you’re the first friends to visit who I haven’t put to work!”

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

While Didi and Kara dispersed the bright, plastic eggs and their mystery contents in the farm’s nooks and crannies, the rest of us basked in the warmth of the hoop house. My playful pup couldn’t decide which forces to join, so she kept tabs on both the hiders and the seekers.

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

If you ever want to glimpse purpose and play colliding in one giant smile, you just have to watch Julep on the farm. It warms my heart every time I see her there. The freedom of the wide open space, the abundance of sticks to chew, the deer to chase, the seeds to protect… it fills her, and consequently me, with immense joy. She also offers me plenty of excuses to channel my inner child, so I’m assuming Stuart Brown’s research has an ode or two to our four-legged friends. Sometimes they even lead you to Easter eggs!

An Easter Egg Hunt on the Farm //

The term “Urban Farm” is no misnomer. The “urbanite” soil is still a work in progress, with plenty of real estate remnants in the mix, making for several egg hiding spots. As silly as it seemed, spotting those ill-fitting eggs was really fulfilling.

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

Easter Egg Hunt by With The Grains 03

I may have become a little competitive as the eggs began to fill my seed tray.

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

We each were responsible to fill a few eggs. I’m not sure if this is a tradition, or if it’s a tradition Didi created, but the surprise element made the hunt all the more thrilling. I can’t say all the contents were With The Grains approved, but somebody got a little creative with jamming gas station delicacies into neon eggs.

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

Other goodies included my new squishy dinosaur friend and hand-dyed fabrics.

Easter Egg Hunt by With The Grains 14

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

…and these crazy eyes! This is what happens when the Urban Farmer stares at a computer for too long…

An Easter Egg on the Farm //

The other quote to really hit me from Stuart Brown’s talk?

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

I’m fortunate to have brunches that lead to Egg Huntsthe Urban Farmer, my playful pup, and friends with playful spirits and creative minds. As we hinge on spring and summer, let’s make lists of adventures, explorations and picnics galore! Those are the goals, so stay tuned for more ideas and more farm updates.



Waffles & Winter Reds in Defense of Beauty

February 2014

Because it’s beautiful?
No. Why?

Curved City

In architecture school, the why was always waiting around the bend in the critique. We learned to think analytically, artistically and technically. We learned to push our preliminary concepts and defend our assertions. We learned to use buzz words and reference history. We learned to turn our noses up to symmetry, unless viewing its prescriptive balance through an historical lens. Somewhere along the way though, I lost site of beauty. I buried it because beauty was not enough of a defense to answer those looming whys. 

Life Can Be Magic

It wasn’t until recently I realized how important beauty is, how misunderstood it is, how scapegoated it is. While in a business class, I listened to a woman belittle her ambitions. “I want to open my own salon. I know it’s cliché, and I know it’s just hair, but that’s what I want to do.”

Desert Tree

I refuted her lack of confidence. Her work is not just hair. Her work is expression. It is art. It is the ability to listen to someone’s wants and desires and translate them to a style reflective of the words. At its best, her work is beautiful, and it shouldn’t be underrated, especially by her. Her work is more than the hair, it’s the hours, days and lives it touches. To desire beauty is not to be entrenched in the superficial, but we often feel guilty when admiring beauty.

Birdhouse and Coffeeshop

While learning to answer the whys, I traveled to remote Kenya. Without magazines or mirrors, the Turkana women of the desert still sought beauty. They walked with dignity and grace, with necks laden with brightly colored beads, with hair spindled and accented with a desert crimson. Beauty is part of our makeup. It brings joy, brings us together and fosters memories.


Lately, these ideas have been floating in my head. The pursuit of beauty instigates so many of my endeavors, and I’m finally beginning to appreciate the value of such a contribution. This is not to abandon the whys or the narratives behind my thinking, but it’s to give myself permission to enjoy the beautiful results and the lasting effects they have.

Lili Waffles

A warming plate of waffles and a poached apple from a recent brunch at Lili Cafe. I’m very fortunate to live so close to this neighborhood coffee shop. It has rejuvenated me on so many an occasion.

These musings are the impetus for seeing past the gloomy grays to see bright reds scattered throughout a wintry neighborhood…

Iron Works

…to see fanciful creatures in an imaginary sea…


…to see amber waves of grain jutting through metal curlicues…


…to remember what brought me here and look at it anew…

Mother's Bread

…to see tranquility in quiet resilience…


A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases;
it will never pass into nothingness.

-John Keats

2013: A Year in Review + Happy New Year!

January 2014

It’s been a whirlwind year (aren’t they all, really?), full of extreme ups and downs, so I dedicated time to sitting in my window seat, cuddled under a blanket [and dog fur], sipping coffee and penning my reflections on paper. Not far from my comfortable chair and window view, is a desk and a laptop beckoning me to give my digital world the same due diligence. There I sat reminding myself that as much as I want to share my adventures, and recipes, and engage in a food dialogue, these pages and posts are primarily here for me. These collected words, images and flour proportions remind me exactly how much one year can contain, but only if I take the time to review them. So review them I did, and these were a few of the highlights…


Photo by Alexander Mohamed

For one night, in celebration of 29 years, I stepped out of Pittsburgh and lept into my favorite movie, which happens to take place in my favorite city. While the accordeon played, I blew out 29 candles in a continuation of my birthday cake tradition.

Tea With Heather

A bright spot of tea in the bleak month of snowy, gray February was a visit from Heather Mulholland of Tea With Me. I was so honored to be a stop on Heather’s big world tour, and I enjoyed the time we had together to connect in the real world after so many online exchanges. This proved once again the world is small if you make it so!

Final Shot_gatherings

Photo by Adam Milliron

In April, I began styling work with Table Magazine, and in a rare role reversal, I had the chance to be in front of the camera for an article on gatherings. Eat a delicious Italian meal amongst good company? Of course! I am so grateful to be part of this magazine. Each issue gets better and better, and my creativity has been stretched and challenged. I’m thrilled for what lies ahead!

El Bus Blanco

Tacos from the Tampa Taco Bus is a worthwhile foodventure, but this trip was especially meaningful because I was eating tacos with two of my BEST friends. We had reunited for one of said ladies’ wedding! One look at Sandra’s wedding shoes, and Nina and I were a mess of squished, teary faces. It was love! Full disclosure: even the thought makes me tear up a bit. I love those ladies!

Bourbony Whipped Cream

May was bittersweet. I watched my best friend walk down the aisle, and I couldn’t have been happier, but I returned home to heartbreak. My love, my best friend, my “special one” concluded our relationship and broke a piece of my heart. Our lives had been intertwined, but I had to move forward and learn to flip my own pancakes. In a twist of fate, this batch of independence, in the form of peach & bourbon pancakes, made its rounds on the internet and earned me some press, which humbled my heart and reaffirmed my journey. I was also grateful for the way my friends rallied around me, both in person and via the internet. Through all the sadness, I managed to hold my head high and I also found one of my greatest joys…


Bourbon is a girl’s best friend, and so is my sweet, minty Julep! My search for a four-legged companion also had its fair share of ups and downs and disappointments, but as soon as I saw this tiny little face, I knew I had found my pup! Julep reminded me of the importance of patience. The best things in life are worth the wait. One glance at my instagram feed is evidence of how quickly I slipped into crazy dog lady territory, but I can’t imagine my life without this little lady. She brings a smile to my face every single day. Her sweet demeanor even charmed my family who typically prefers dogs to earn their keep in the pastures amongst cows and sheep.

Bon Appetit Bloggers Cook BA

July was a dance party for one when I discovered my grandma-style, beet-substitution semi-freddo made a slideshow on Bon Appétit’s website. I was dancing with delight! Now if I could just get Martha to pay attention to me!

Champagne Toast

Though sundresses and warmth on my shoulders feels forever ago, I am grateful for the friends who surround me, especially these two ladies who have become even closer to me this past year. Being single has reminded me not to cut out important friendships and lose myself in one person.

The Cottage

Sweet, sweet respite. It’s so important! This year I experienced Maine for the very first time, and it was the most perfect way to find respite. I was honored to help my friend Acadia with her wedding decor, and I was so graciously welcomed by her family’s neighbors. They were like instant family, and I look forward to many more adventures north!

Rice Pudding Taste Test

En route from Maine to Pittsburgh, I made a Boston detour and a deeper connection with my wise-beyond-her-years friend Jill. This lovely lady happens to work at a foodie mecca- America’s Test Kitchen, so she generously invited me to tour the place where recipes meet perfection. Though my approach to cooking and baking may differ, I walked away truly inspired nonetheless. The coming year will be filled with even more ATK inspiration as I work my way through one of their newest books.

The Farm

Throughout the summer and fall, I enjoyed plenty a farm dinner. There’s nothing like tables extending into the horizon, fresh farm air, beautiful barns, fresh, seasonal food and down-to-earth chefs full of talent. All these dinners led to the creation of Farm Week on my blog, in which I recounted the many meals shared with fellow foodies on farms. I hope Farm Week becomes a tradition!


Photo by Chris Goodman

Summer quickly faded into fall, and elegant tables moved indoors. As I took a leap of faith and dove headfirst into doing what I love- styling & event design- I found myself at more and more festivities. The one that stood out the most was Thanksgiving. This golden table marked the start of Harvest & Gather, an event design collaboration with painter and floral designer Thommy Conroy. Thanksgiving affirmed all the twists and turns my path has taken this year. I finally feel like I’m on the path which leads to my skills and passions aligning fruitfully. I’m finally challenged and fulfilled by the work I produce, which makes for a very exciting start of a brand new year!


So here’s to a brand new year with far more dancing, cherished pals, growing friendships, wine refills, artful cappuccinos, brunches that spill into evenings, fulfilling endeavors, foreign vocabulary, and warm puppy snuggles! Here’s to 2014!

Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book: A Surprise Cookbook for the Collection

November 2013

Since bringing my little one home from the farm, I have made many, many, many a trek up and down a few flights of stairs en route from my apartment to her little patch of green. In this mad dash, I flash by the neighborly mailboxes all in a row. During one such green-pastured frenzy, a little hint of red, on a bright white box, caught my eye. Oh the thrill that welled inside me when I discovered the package aligned with the mailbox marked with a Q! My little Julep was just as excited to see what the surprise parcel contained…

01 Curious Dog and Girl

In spite of her anticipation, she still minded her manners patiently for permission to approach the surprise…

02 Permission

03 Curious Paws

Oh joy! That hint of red was the seal of the tried and true recipe developers I had recently visited- America’s Test Kitchen.

05 Bubble Wrap

Oh more joy! The bubble wrap revealed the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. Intended to demystify baking, this new addition to my library features 450 foolproof recipes from those precision lovers at America’s Test Kitchen.

06 Book Reveal

“Now what?” her round eyes seemed to say.

07 What Is It Mama

Now we bake, Little One, now we bake a LOT!

Stay tuned as we adventure through the many, many pages of black and white baked goods.

Behind the Scenes: America’s Test Kitchen

August 2013

I remember the details surrounding the first time I purchased an America’s Test Kitchen magazine more than I remember purchasing my first and only car. On one particularly fated checkout session at Whole Foods, the clean, crisp visual of America’s Test Kitchen drew me into its pages and pages of tantalizing food images. “I must have this I thought.” When I finally glanced the price on the cover, I though, “I must have this and use this!” Use it I did, checking off page after page, as I worked my way through the majority of recipes.

The Library Table

A very impressive table marks the center of the America’s Test Kitchen library, one of the largest private cookbook collections in America, with more than 4,000 items. Each recipe process begins here.

As my checkmarks increased, I learned the true value of that $9.99. Each recipe was more than just a set of ingredients and steps. Each recipe represented a precise approach to obtaining perfection! Each recipe had been analyzed, tested, discussed, improved, rejected or accepted, etc until finally fit to bear the America’s Test Kitchen name and appear in print. Though this approach varies from my “ah, I’ll just use this and sub [just about everything],” I respect their maniacal methods tremendously!

Photo Schedule and Props

Photo schedule and details (left). Photo props for backdrop and base textures (right).

Thanks to an invite from a very talented friend who works for ATK, I had the chance to experience the devotion and dedication behind the scenes.

ATK Photo Props

Prop collection for the in-house photo studio.

In their own words…

America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen, full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe.

Natural Light Studio

The origin of all those tantalizing food images. ATK uses all natural daylighting for their photos.

So Many Plates

After stifling my jealousy for those who work in the beautifully minimal photo studio and the ABUNDANCE of props, we continued the tour, and our path opened to the reason behind the name.

Photos Only Kitchen Tools

Enviable Creuset

Glimpsing the Kitchen

Testers At Work

I asked one of the head recipe developers what the note-taking is like for such an intense process, and she showed me this (good thing she wasn’t using an iPad!)…

Working Recipe

A recipe in progress might look like a stained, ripped printout long before it becomes a beautiful magazine page.

After the research phase, the ATK process draws from five existing recipes. After scouring their own extensive cookbook collection, the other sources might include a recipe passed down from a relative, a NY Times article, a famous chef or a food blog. Then the testers hit the kitchen!

Taco Casserole of Sorts

If your mom turned her taco dip into a casserole and put A LOT of time into perfecting that recipe, you’d see this on your dinner table.

Rice Pudding Taste Test

Comparing rice puddings. Here’s a helpful tip: use coconut milk!

I was fortunate to tour on a day when there was lots of taste testing opportunities. While savoring my two spoonfuls of rice pudding and drawing my own conclusions, I suddenly felt transported to a critique in architecture school. “Have you thought about..?” “I like ______, but what about _____?” “This is what I was thinking when I tried this approach…” It really was a creative, constructive process, but the advantage of architecture school was obvious when I took my second helping of the rice pudding with coconut milk!

Testing Pans

Testing the effect of the pans on the recipe.

Icing The Banana Cake

Of course she is smiling to herself. This cake was memorably delicious!

Imagine your favorite banana bread/cake with a cream cheese frosting marked by a walnut crunch. Enticing as that may be, now imagine the bananas were roasted, and the remaining juice from the roasting became a sweetener for the icing. That’s the America’s Test Kitchen difference, and it’s the difference between a long-lasting craving and an “oh yeah, I think I ate a piece of that cake.”

Grilling Station

America’s Test Kitchen grilling station.

Backyard Reality

What looks like your average grill in an alley transforms to an idyllic backyard scene when the camera rolls- the wonders of tv!

ATK Office

What’s it like to work for America’s Test Kitchen? Sometimes it’s hard to see over the stacks and stacks of cookbooks.

From a checkout lane magazine to the heart and soul of the publication, my many paths had taken me on quite the journey! The peek inside the well oiled machine [olive or canola? ;p] inspired me on many levels. I left eager to delve into a cookbook or two, fiddle with this and that and then review, critique, taste, review, critique, taste, repeat. Granted, you’ll still find me making substitutions with abandon, but I’ll be doing so with the utmost respect for those whose mission is perfection.

03.14.13: Happy Pi(e) Day 2013!


If ever there were proof of my nerd side, it would be Pi(e) Day, a quirky union of math and baking between layers of flaky pie crust.

Pi and Pie

This year, I’m content to eat a hand pie for breakfast and continue with my other daily routines. However, in the past, I dedicated a LOT of energy to this day.

Bicycle Pie

Here’s the full story…

May your day be filled with an appreciation for the area of circles and lattice crusts! If you feel more like making pie and less like engaging in long algebra, here are some pie suggestions.

Jack Daniels Blondies For A Plaid Weekend of Harlem Shaking

February 2013

Our common thread is a school so nerdy its mascot was Tartan plaid. When the eight of us gathered at that Special Cabin in the Woods, naturally, the occasion also called for plaid all around (and not one but two roasted chickens).


No matter how I describe this weekend, my words would pale in comparison to Doug’s poetic conclusion penned in the cabin’s visitor book. Thus, I am borrowing his prose:

As I sit here eating jack links premium cuts beef jerky, before shortly leaving to drive back to Philadelphia, I realize the eight of us who spent the weekend here, thanks to the generous hospitality of Jono and his family, have a great unknown future ahead of us, one filled surely with stardom and success and newfound celebrity status. And we have the cabin to thank. For it was here on the evening of February 16th that we filmed our version of the Harlem Shake viral video- the Cabin Fever Edition. Like any masterpiece, it will not be fully appreciated for its ingenuity and vivre for decades- or unless watched at least eight times. The filming of the video was not without its obstacles and roadblocks. We weren’t going to make it!…We made it! The 31 second video starring Jono, Dan, Ben, Kyle, JP, Quelcy, Doug and Diane has 251 views already on YouTube, and if my math is correct, at this rate, we should surpass 1 million votes by Memorial Day.

Clearly, the weekend at the cabin called for a Harlem Shake- A Cabin Fever Edition! Take away the plaid, and what do you get? A video worth watching at least eight times!

After all that, it was time for dessert- dessert and a nightcap in one!

Jack Daniels Blondies 01

Jack Daniels Blondies


16 Tablespoons (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, melted
2 cups pure cane sugar

2 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup whiskey (Jack Daniels)


Preheat oven to 350°F

Butter a 9 x12 glass pan.

Mix melted butter with brown sugar, and beat until smooth.

Beat in eggs, and then vanilla.

Stir in the salt and flour.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 20-25 minutes.

Cool on rack before cutting.

Jack Daniels Blondies 02

While you’re eating one of these gooey, whiskey-y bars, you might want to listen to this song. Enjoy!

Tea With “Tea With Me”

February 2013

Without discipline, our various online personas can easily lead to lost time and lost connections. On the other hand, through these portals, we have more opportunity than ever to find kindred spirits. It’s amazing what can develop in exchanges of 140 characters or less!

Frick Menu and Reflections

It was through Twitter I came to know Heather Mulholland of the beautiful blog Tea With Me. I was honored when Heather asked to interview me for her “Tea With…” series, which inspired my High Tea Hike. After “sharing” tea in the blogosphere, I was faily certain our paths would cross in real life too; I just thought I’d be the one venturing to Vancouver. As the journeys would have it, Heather came to me as part of her enviable travels throughout the US and Europe. This special visit called for a proper tea together, which in Pittsburgh means a trip to the Cafe at the Frick!

Tea With Heather

This was the perfect time for us to meet. Earlier this year, Heather quit what she called her “cushy marketing job.” A major, international trip was a way to start fresh and inspire herself anew before pursuing her passion for holistic nutrition. Meanwhile, yours truly is on the verge of something far more creative for those 9-5 hours. Inspiration, tea and cameras all around!

Frick Window View

A morning of art, an afternoon of tea and thoughtful conversation throughout…not bad for a Thursday!

Tea Sammies

Tiers and Scone

The moral of this tea is to reach out, connect and find a kindred spirit and maybe even live a little vicariously as well, which is exactly what I will be doing when Heather posts beautiful pictures from Paris!!!

Frick Sweets

Heart Cookie

And, as it turned out, this wonderful Thursday was Valentine’s Day!

Some Loves Last Forever, Some Loves…Are Upgraded!

September 2012

I was running out the door- running late out the door- when I noticed an Amazon box. My heart fluttered, and I quickly dashed inside with the retrieved treasure.

My life changed when a dear friend lent me his Canon Rebel camera. Suddenly my creative endeavors were far more worthwhile because I could capture them in a meaningful way. After saving and saving, I bought my own Canon Rebel T1i, and it was one of the best investments I ever made. I truly loved that camera! After two plus years, I had the opportunity to sell my beloved camera to good hands- my own! I had been using my camera for my day job, and I figured they owed me for its wear and tear, so they bought my beloved, I stored it permanently at work, and I bought this new beauty- the Canon T4i!

It’s a new era, and it will be a long one as my next leap requires a lot more independent wealth than I have right now.

Stay tuned for the new and improved photoventures!

Ready For My Closeup: The Final Show at The Waffle Shop + Blog Reflections

July 2012

There was a corner in Pittsburgh that my have caught your eye. Whether it was the curious bilboard atop the building or the large, waffle-shaped sign on the sidewalk, there was something different about that corner.  

That corner was the site of The Waffle Shopa neighborhood restaurant that produced and broadcasted a live-streaming talk show with its customers, operated a changeable storytelling billboard on its roof, and ran a take-out window with food from countries engaged in conflict with the U.S. The shop was a public lab to bring together people from all walks of life to engage in dialogue, experimentation and the co-production of culture. The project functioned as a classroom for students from Carnegie Mellon University, an eatery, a TV production studio, a social catalyst, and a business.

The Waffle Shop was – past tense- all of those things because it has since closed. July 28th, 2012 marked the end of an era for that corner. The Waffle Shop poured the last of its batter onto waffle irons and streamed its last episodes. I was honored to be part of the finale thanks to a special invite from Chef Tom Totin, the host of a weekly program titled “Cookspeak.”

The timing for my appearance on Tom’s program was symbolic for me. Just a little over one year to the date, I had launched my blog on Cookspeak. I had worked privately for more than a year to solidify my photos and stories into something more meaningful. When I caught up to my real time food adventures, I sought to share my blog with the world in a big, celebratory way. Tom and The Waffle Shop immediately came to mind.

Tom’s show became a set of bookends marking these chapters of my life in the blogosphere. Accordingly, much of our most recent “on air” conversation reflected on what I have learned, what I have experienced and what is yet to come in my adventures with the grains. Now I’ll share those thoughts here.

Reflections On A Year in the Blogosphere & Lessons Learned…

Making Food For People Is Far More Satisfying. 

I put a lot of extra care into designing my kitchen and dining room, knowing I’d be spending a lot of time there. It finally dawned on me I needed to share that dining room space for it really to come to life. I started inviting friends over for brunch on a regular basis, and I have posted several of those experiences. Through these brunches, I have been reminded how strong and inspiring my friends are. I have a friend who fights fracking, a friend who promotes the education of girls in science/math/technology, a friend who draws intricate worlds of imagined mechanisms, a friend who knows exactly who she is and beams with positivity! This brunch in particular reminded me how special the people in my life are, and how lucky I am to know them.

The series of posts related to my boyfriend’s birthday also remind me of the significance of preparing meals for the people I hold dear. I’m tremendously grateful to have him in my life, and I wanted him to feel as special as possible for his birthday. In addition to his many amazing qualities, he supports my food fancies. He always lets me take pictures of our food before we eat, and not every fella would be so tolerant, let alone encouraging. I’m very grateful for his patience, and I showed him my appreciation in this birthday video.

Blogging Can Bring Exciting, New Opportunities.

When I first launched my blog, I happened to run into Adam Milliron, a photographer I had met years prior through a photoshoot. I asked him for photography advice. Since he liked my style, we started to do some practice shoots together for fun. One of my favorite shoots with Adam was this ode to Art in the Age liquors. Nearly one year after reconnecting, we worked together professionally on the Sarris Candies catalog (stay tuned for its distribution this winter!!!). This was a huge step for me as I’m very eager to dive deeply into the food styling world.

Blogging Inspired Me To Look At Pittsburgh With Fresh Eyes

When I started to blog about the food and experiences of my travels, I decided to include my Pittsburgh wanderings as well. In many ways, I had begun to feel stagnate in this city. I had lived here a long time and started to feel like everything was the same. When I opened my eyes a tad, I noticed a burgeoning food scene, so I began to incorporate posts about the many noteworthy Pittsburgh restaurants.

My goal was never to act as a food critic in those posts. Though I might make critiques or suggestions for improvement, I’m offering support to the places I see as raising the bar. I have many pictures (again…the patient boyfriend dinner companion) that never make it to the blog because if I have nothing nice to say, I shall follow the ol’ proverb and exercise restraint. On the other hand, when a restaurant really does it right, my enthusiasm shows!

Through these restaurant posts and social media, I have been able to connect more closely with other local foodies and chefs, especially Justin Severino of Cure. I admire his obsessive dedication to sustainable and local foods, a characteristic that became very apparent after attending one of his Sunday hog butchering demos.

I’ve also stretched the bounds of a food blog through some more unique Pittsburgh experiences:

What does brunch have to do with a Porsche? I’m so glad you asked! Find out!

What do small plates and craft cocktails have to do with a giant, water balloon fight? Well, let me tell you!

It’s A Great Big World, But The Internet Can Make It Smaller & Friendlier! 

I hesitated on using twitter, but like many a modern tool, if used correctly and with restraint, it can be an invaluable resource. Through twitter, I happened to connect with a whimsical and creative chocolatier based in Charleston, SC. I still owe him a care package, but he got the ball rolling by sending me a sampler of his chocolates. As a thank you, I made him a video.

I also connected with a PGH blogger who has since relocated to the sunnier coast to live in San Diego. Who can blame him?!? I feel like I’ve known Rodzilla the Diningsaur for a while even though we never had the chance to meet. I liked his writing and trusted his restaurant reviews. Unfortunately for him, he left before Union Pig & Chicken opened, so as part of a promise I made, I took “him” to the restaurant, so to speak, by bringing a cutout of his little diningsaur logo with me. Then I brought “him” to The Waffle Shop because I figured he hadn’t been there either. You’re famous little diningsaur!

My Fifteen Minutes

As we all exist more and more in the digital realm, there is something increasingly special about the tangibile, printed world, which is why seeing myself in an edition of Edible Allegheny was especially rewarding.

I smiled one of my BIGGEST, longest-lasting smiles ever on July 4th of this year. On that day, I opened my inbox to discover it had been bombarded with emails from WordPress (my blogging platform). I thought I had been spammed until I looked at my stats. On the contrary, I had been featured on WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” page, where they highlight standout blogs. There was a picture of my avocado egg recipe, and it was a dream come true for a WordPress blogger.  I was so honored and happily overwhelmed by all the comments and praises. It still makes me really giddy inside!

What’s Next?

I’m taking some time on my blog to focus on the simple moments in life (such as this stoop picnic), to step back and focus on intentional happiness. Hopefully, I won’t come across as a cheesey lifecoach, but I am investigating a lot of life questions that are common for my age.

You will see even more touches of my style online and in publications! I’m pursuing more food styling opportunities, so if you know of any, send them my way! I dare say, you’ll probably see a portfolio soon because that’s the grown up thing to do!

No editors or publishers or independently wealthy individuals have contacted me, so I can’t say there is a book in the works yet, but I would love to turn With The Grains into something you could hold, dog ear, write on, stain, wrinkle and cherish.

You’ll probably see me experiment more with graphic design, as I’d like to learn more about the rules of the design game. If you are a graphic designer and love bestowing your wisdom upon eager learners, let’s grab some coffee and talk!

Branding! Ooh, that’s a topic that interests me quite a bit. I also like change. Combine that interest and that habit, and you’re bound to see some changes around here.

A wedding cake(s)! When I launched my blog on Cookspeak, I mentioned I’ve always wanted to make a wedding cake. This September, I will be doing just that! I’m thrilled my dear friends have asked me to make the cakes for their special day.

I’m looking forward to even more connections with other bloggers, online food publications, chefs and foodies.

In honor of The Waffle Shop, might I remind you of these delicious waffles? You really must give them a try!

In Conclusion

I love my little corner of the blogosphere. I love creating and preserving memories. I hope my passion inspires you in some way, or in the least, fancies your eye because if you are reading this, you are part of what has made this year quite magical for me! Now go find ten friends and tell them to read too! Cheers!

ps: I created various versions of a flier to leave for The Waffle Shop brunchers, but you might spy some around the town as well.