Instagram Lately: The Universe Conspiring With Me

November 2014

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

If I distilled down my humble understanding of this world to one statement, it would be the above quote. Month by month, day by day, even hour by hour, I feel my life cinching closer and closer to that something I wanted. For the longest time, I didn’t fully know what that something was, but the picture is becoming clear, and accordingly, I am brimming with gratitude.

Reds of the Week

I’ve hinted here and there about a larger collaboration in store. The time feels right to reveal this new HUGE chapter of my life, on this here beloved corner of my world. In the most organic way, two of my close friends became my business partners, and soon, soon, soon, we will open the doors to 4121 MAIN. This collaboration stems from our friendship, from our backgrounds, our passions and our pursuit of quality through curated details.

Through a brick & mortar and website collaboration, our individual passions will have a much larger platform and a greater potential. I am equally excited and humbled by the way our friends and community have begun to rally around us. From plumbing, to trucking wood, to walking us through an entire branding exercise, to setting up a time lapse system… even to volunteering to move boxes, I am overwhelmed with gratitude!

Wide Rule

In addition to 4121 MAIN developments, I’ve experienced so many meaningful moments lately…

  • My talented photographer friend surprised me with polaroids of my beloved dog, reminding me what a gift a photo can be and how much that four-legged friend has changed my life for the best.
  • Making pizzas, dancing around and acting a fool with that handsome Urban Farmer. He brings a smile to my face every day! And he’s breaking ground! Excitement all around!
  • I had the opportunity to meet a veteran blogger, pick her brain and have a grand ol’ conversation while sitting in some crazy red chairs here.
  • A surprise parcel of #TBT worthy recipe collections.
  • Supporting my friend in her brave fight against injustices.

… and so many more meaningful moments! The list is long, but I’m trying my best to express my gratitude to the individuals and the universe at large. On that note, thank you, dear readers, for humoring my words, wanderings and grainy adventures. It means a lot!

Now, perhaps it’s time to pick up my copy of The Alchemist and begin reading anew!



P.S: You can follow more of my Instagram adventures here, and now you can follow even more of my social media meanderings here too.

#TBT: Doughnuts

October 2014

I just can’t seem to get doughnuts off my mind, so this was an appropriate page to discover amidst my vintage collection. Jelly doughnuts surely loom on my horizon.


#TBT (Throw Back Thursdays) glimpse into the vintage visual feasts in my personal collection of food and entertaining books.




Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse Tour & Tasting

October 2014

Life is full of memorable firsts: your first kiss, your first time behind the wheel, your first heartbreak, your first hangover… your first taste straight from a whiskey still.

True, my whiskey example is far less common than the rest of the list of firsts, but it’s a strong memory. I owe this jolting first to Wigle Whiskey (which I have mentioned here and there on my little corner of the blogosphere). I had the opportunity to tour their flagship location when it first opened. So consumed with enthusiasm was I, I failed to put two and two together: oak = flavor, copper stills = white whiskey.

Wigle Barrels

Expecting that copper color and spicy oak flavor, I licked the miniscule droplet on my finger. The intense grain flavor kicked me in the face, the throat and the wind pipe and has not escaped my hippocampus, amygdala and all those other wrinkles of the brain where memories ricochet.

Tasting Room

Starting a whiskey distillery is a lot like planting a seed. The shade and the oaky flavor linger far in the future, but the tree-hugger and the whiskey enthusiast invest nonetheless. As the Wigle crew nurtured their seedlings, their barrel collection grew and grew. It became clear, they would need a larger grove. Fates seemed to align, and they found a location with the potential for barrel storage, whiskey evangelism, and the nation’s first whiskey garden… à la the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse!

Light Fixture Jellyfish

The Barrelhouse uses a similar design vocabulary as their Strip District location, including its bright colors, clean aesthetic and modern materials, but the tour content is unique to this venue, and it’s worth a separate trip.


In Wigle’s words, on the Barrelhouse tour, you’ll learn how Pittsburgh Whiskey dominated American whiskey production until Prohibition and fueled the steel industry as well as the science behind barrels’ impact on spirits, ie: step aside Kentucky and Tennessee. Here we come!

Learning About Barrels

Wes, my friend and tour guide, explaining the barrel making process. If only you could see how I demonstrated a tree being cut into slats. Had to be there.

Who knew Henry Clay Frick’s capitalist side was reared in the whiskey industry? It was amidst his family’s stills where he first determined to make millions. On one hand, he was an inspirational fella. On the other, he was a cog in the wheel of a terrible era in labor relations. Throw some romance into this plot line, and you have the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Yet, the Barrelhouse tour was the first time I had ever heard any of this story.


Door Details

Beautiful details on the large, wooden doors leading to a collection of charred barrels. In this room, we learned how the charring effects the flavor, much like steeping times with tea making.

Interspersed with the tale of whiskey and forbidden love, we learned about Wigle’s various processes to age whiskey, as well as develop new flavor profiles and techniques. The second floor is a whiskey lab of sorts, where honeycombed wood steeps whiskey, where glass bottles lead to “guess that flavor compound,” and where whiskey enthusiasts go to spend their days happily ever after.

Flavor Compounds

The Whiskey Lab


Pipeline and Wood Honeycomb

The best wood for whiskey barrels is oak, but Wigle experiments with different flavor profiles by adding these honeycombed wooden rods to the whiskey as it ages.

Barrel House and Tasting

After the ups and downs, twists and turns of the historical tale, we settled into the whiskey tasting. I should mention I was nursing a delightful cocktail for the duration of the tour, so I recommend arriving fed and hydrated, lest you be a lightweight like me.

Wigle Varieties

Aged Whiskey note

Not only did Wes explain the differences and flavor profiles in what we were tasting, but he explained a technique for how best to sniff and sip. I’ll keep you in suspense, but know this, it worked!  You’ll just have to take the tour to advance to my new snob level of drinking. I’ll see you on the other side.


Corn in the Garden

After the tour, the Urban Farmer and I snacked and sipped in the garden, where my little Nebraska-born heart was thrilled to see corn growing! One of the reasons I support Wigle is their commitment to support local and organic agricultural practices. They use local, organic grains (which obviously makes my heart swoon) and local honey in their version of rum, and that seems to be just the beginning. As the garden grows and expands, I’m excited to see what new concoctions they will develop. When warmer weather returns, I also look forward to spending time in their garden. Any place that welcomes a BYO-Picnic plan definitely works its way into my heart.

Wigle By Night

I came, I saw, I sampled, and most importantly, I did not leave empty handed. Stay tuned as I find more ways to work Wigle products into my life.




Pizza in Pittsburgh: Wood Fired Flatbreads Mobile Pizzeria at the Allegheny Green Innovation Festival

September 2014

As a lover of food, as a proponent of local resources, and as one who likes to slip into a wooded park to escape the world every now and then, I find fracking to be a terrifying force in this region. I have a very close friend who has made it her mission to fight for families being harmed by fracking. She’s an inspiration, and by no coincidence, she’s the reason I have the Urban Farmer in my life. Through this friend, I was humbled to meet a growing group of young girls who have made it their mission to protect their parks from fracking.

Tent Area

These girls may be small in stature, but they have strong voices. They inspire me as females and environmentalists. They are a tremendous reminder to stand up for our natural resources and for our basic rights to clean air, water and food. Every time I think of them, I feel such a mix of emotions and excitement. The next generation of female leaders is going to crush it in a big way, and they make me want to be a better female myself. Two of these girls, Kathryn and Liz, and their amazing mom Joy, had a table at the Allegheny Green Innovation Festival at Hartwood Acres, so the Urban Farmer, the little one and I went to pay them a visit and encourage their efforts.

Food Trucks

We had very little idea what to expect, but there were tents and people galore! There were also food trucks. In any other city, these food trucks might not be that big of a deal, but zoning in Pittsburgh was a prohibitive roll of red tape for the longest time. Seeing the food truck round ups grow in size is a great marker of progress, especially when the food on those trucks supports local agriculture like the trailblazing Franktuary.

Hot Julep

Though I love me a local frank, I had heard about and needed to test Wood Fired Flatbreads. Uninspired by the choice of asiago as a cheese topping, the Urban Farmer and I decided on the Margherita pizza, while little Julep endured the heat of waiting in line. We arrived at this decision just in time to score the very last pizza of the event!

Wood Fired Pizza

Wood Fired Flatbreads is a mobile, wood-fired oven for parties and events in the Pittsburgh area, and after thoroughly enjoying the thin-crusted Margherita, I hope to see them at an event real soon. Though I still question the choice of asiago, I suppose there is only one way to find out. Maybe next time.


In summation:

1. No matter how big or small you are, your voice matters!
2. Support your local food scene.
3. Eat good pizza often.



Instagram Lately: Dogs & Donuts

October 2014

If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die, I want to go where they went.
-Will Rogers

Sometimes the moments I choose to record reflect rare bursts of sunny rays, new ‘doos, scenes that feel stolen from the past, and long overdue adventures steeped in the most beautiful colors…

Victorian Kween Racing Stripes

Other times, my life just boils down to dogs and donuts (and a bagel wannabe).

Red and Punkin Seeds All Over

It’s cool though because at least I know I am a crazy dog lady.

What do your Instagrams reveal lately?


Happy Monday!

P.S: You can follow more of my Instagram adventures here.

Donut o’ the Month for JoJoTastic: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Ale Donut

October 2014

It’s time for another installation of Donut ‘o the Month! Check out the full story and inspiration behind this recipe on my friend Joanna’s blog JoJoTastic! You’ll want to stick around and be inspired by her blog for a spell, so set aside some time, perhaps with a donut and pumpkin ale in hand.

Pumpkin Ale and Donuts

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Ale Donuts

Donut Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 packet rapid rise yeast (2 ¼ tsp)

3/4 cup pumpkin ale/beer

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large local egg yolks (room temperature)

1/4 cup local heavy cream (room temperature)
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, softened

Non-GMO Safflower Oil for frying

Glaze Ingredients

1 1/2 cups organic confectioners sugar
1/4 cup Pumpkin ale/beer


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add the flour, sugar and yeast.

In a saucepan over low heat, heat the beer until it reaches between 120 and 130 degrees F.

Add the beer to the stand mixer, mix until most of the flour has been moistened.

Add the vanilla then the yolks, one at a time.

Add the cream, salt and softened butter.

Building up speed, beat on high until the dough comes together and gathers around the blade. The dough will be very soft.

Add dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubles in size.

Punch down the dough and knead lightly to remove any air bubbles. Return to oiled dough,  and allow to rest for 1 hour.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1-inch thickness. Cut donuts out with a 3 ½ inch biscuit cutter with 1-inch circle holes.

Place donuts on a baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper. Loosely cover with a towel.

Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 30 minutes (or longer if you’re living in a cold apartment like yours truly).

Fill a large heavy bottomed saucepan with safflower oil until about 4-inches deep. Add a deep fry thermometer, and bring oil to about 360 degrees, adjusting heat to maintain temperature. Be careful not to overheat oil.

Working in batches, fry the donuts on each side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from oil and allow to cool on a wire rack.

To Make the Glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and the pumpkin ale until well combined. Dip each donut in the glaze. Allow glaze to set before serving.


Happy Donut Times!

p.s: I usually make a point of sharing my baked goods, but these were so tasty, my selfish side prevailed. Only the Urban Farmer managed to make the cut. I definitely need to make more soon!

Pizza in Pittsburgh: Pizza Boat

October 2014

My middle school “Family & Consumer Science” teacher described pizza as healthy. Healthy. I could misconstrue her words. I could use some small version of her in my mind to justify greasy pizzas from large, hairy, sweaty men who haven’t consumed a vegetable, other than the peppers held hostage by greasy, over processed cheese, since the time Ms. Schwartz made her health declaration. I could go that route, but that would be terribly uncharacteristic of me. Like Ms. Schwartz, I too believe in the health benefits of pizza, but only when pizza is made with the best of intentions and ingredients… so let’s eat a healthy slice from the Pizza Boat!

Skeleton Pizza Slicer

It would be really exciting for me to show you pictures of a houseboat docked on the Allegheny River, with sailor types slinging pizzas. Hold that thought, which was part of the Pizza Boat founders’ initial vision. Logistics may have prevented the realization of their nautical pizza dreams, but the name stuck. Their “boat” is a trailer with a wood fired oven and a sink. Their river is a parking lot. Their kitchen is a tent and tables, and their pizza is top notch!

Pizza Boat Prep

Pizza Boat Oven 01

Like Howl’s Moving Castle, Pizza Boat just appeared on my horizon one day, and for whatever reason, I questioned very little of this non-boat boat. I just ate the thin crusted pizza, engaged in some sarcastic banter with the amusing dough boys, went along my merry way and praised their pizza to friends. It wasn’t until digging up this article that I learned these fellas earned their dough tossing stripes at Roberta’s in Bushwick. Roberta’s has been on my to-go list for quite some time, so I appreciate this teaser.

Pizza Boat Oven

Co-founder Jeff Ryan putting my pizza in the “Pizza Boat.”

When the sun was still beaming late summer warmth upon us, my best Italian friend and I went on a little afternoon pizza date. The Pizza Boat was docked at the Bar Marco parking lot- in the historical Strip District neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Pizza Boat Parmesan

Co-founder Matt Watson grating parmesan on our pizzas.

On this particular date, we went pretty classic, but I recommend the “Market Pizza” options which feature seasonally inspired flavor combinations.

Pizza Handoff

Pizza Boat Pizzas_vertical

Like much of the myth surrounding the Pizza Boat, what lies in store during the colder months is unclear to me, but they are waging a battle against the Anticrust this weekend, so hurry up and enjoy a slice of their pilgrimage because it’s good for you. Even my home-ec teacher Ms. Schwartz would agree.

That’s what’s happening in Pittsburgh. What exciting pizza developments are happening in your locale?


Happy Pizza-ing!