Instagram Lately & Whole Wheat Pumpkin & Chocolate Swirl Bread

November 2014

This past weekend, moments of stress, excitement, fear, sadness and relief all swirled in me simultaneously. Amidst long to-do lists and last-minute rushing, I had to remind myself to be excited about a very thrilling new venture. Once I allowed that excitement to surpass my chaotic nearsightedness, it was like the floodgates released. I had to play It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia quotes in my head to balance the sappiness I was exuding. I couldn’t arrive to our preview with watery eyes!

Opening and Julep

With to-do lists and enthusiasm still swirling wildly inside me, I decided to escape everything and focus on my Julep. Before I knew it, my perfect fall afternoon was a tumble of dogs and human, with one aggressive dog’s jaw fixed firmly on my dog’s neck. These things happen with animals, and I couldn’t blame anyone, but I had a mini breakdown nonetheless. I had expected to see my Julep’s neck ripped open, and though she was still in one piece, my mind had already begun to reel with the worst case scenario. I felt helpless as I watched her in fear and pain, feelings prolonged by a cautionary vet visit. Shaved, injected and medicated, Julep is returning to her normal self, but talk about a reminder to squeeze the ones you love!

Swirl bread

I had reminded myself to be excited for the opening of 4121 MAIN, but in the case of the dog park, the universe had reminded me to cherish all those near and dear to me. Moments of stress, excitement, fear, sadness and relief will continue to swirl. That’s life, and those swirls are beyond my control. That doesn’t mean I can’t embrace life’s roller coaster in a wholesome and delicious way.

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Bread

Whole Wheat Pumpkin & Chocolate Swirl Bread
makes two loaves


4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
4 large eggs (organic/cage-free)
3 cups (24 ounces) canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup pure cocoa powder
4 Tablespoons organic milk or heavy cream


Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease (butter or olive oil) and line two 8- by 4-inch loaf pans with parchment paper, allowing edges to overhang. Grease any remaining unlined part of the pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Set aside.

Whisk sugar, oil, pumpkin, eggs, pumpkin, and salt in a large bowl until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the batter, and then whisk until completely combined.

Spoon 2 cups batter into each pan.

Spoon 2 cups batter into measuring cup and reserve.

Whisk cocoa and milk into remaining batter, and then divide between the two pans.

Using a butter knife or small offset spatula, swirl the batter a few times, lifting pumpkin batter from the bottom. Then spoon reserved pumpkin batter over the top and swirl a few times more.

Bake until top is just set and skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 60 to 75 minutes.

Let cool in pan 45 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.


May your swirls be sweet and chocolaty!

The Case of the Curious Dog & The Homemade Nutella

November 2014

[Most] dogs have it pretty great. Specifically, my dog has it pretty great. She works hard. She plays hard. She eats right. She has a handsome beau. She disconnects intentionally. She nestles like a champ. She has established the window nook as her own, and she gets to eat a minty treat each night to keep her pearlies pearly.

two cups hazelnuts

Sometimes I envy the dog life just a tad, but then I am reminded of this one glaring dilemma: dogs can’t have chocolate! I’d sooner live a life without naps than a life without chocolate.

Mighty Hazelnut

Though my little one is well loved and lives a good life, I do feel a tad guilty about the tortured life she lives smelling grainy goodness after grainy goodness.

Curious Dog

Poor little Julep. This toast would make her heart stop, or at least, that’s what I tell her, because yes, I do have whole conversations with her. Once you go crazy, there’s no going back.

Nutella Toast

But dear humans, this toast will make your heart soar! Happy is the morning that begins with homemade Nutella on a sprouted wheat bread. No guilt or heart stopping there!

Punkin Seeds and Nutella

Homemade Nutella
adapted from Bon Appétit


2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
1 cup organic heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread out nuts on a rimmed baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet. Roast, shaking sheet once for even toasting, until deep brown, 13-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (If nuts have skins, rub them in a kitchen towel to remove.)

Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water; stir often until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Remove bowl from over saucepan; add butter and whisk until completely incorporated.

Whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste.

Pour nutella into jars, dividing equally. Let cool.

The nutella will thicken and become soft and peanut butter-like as it cools. Screw on lids.

Homemade nutella can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.


Bone Appétit!

P.S: Perhaps one day, when life settles a bit (Ha!), I’ll pen a children’s book of the same title as this post.

A Fall Adventure to Kentuck Knob by Frank Lloyd Wright

October 2014

On a crisp fall day, one of the first, crisp fall days to demand a thick sweater and warm shoes, a good friend and I ventured through southwestern Pennsylvania, to a house designed by a man, a myth and a legend.

Foggy PA

Even those of us with little understanding of Greek mythology have a rough understanding of Zeus. So it is with Frank Lloyd Wright in the realm of architecture. He appears in coffee table books, wall calendars, and in the case of freshman architecture students, he surely appears in at least one Christmas present. Though we students may have mocked how novices flocked to this mythical figure, we also respected the way he revolutionized the field through his Prairie School of design.

From Where I Stand and Wander

Church Path

We in Pittsburgh are fortunate to live near two Frank Lloyd Wright attractions: Falling Water and Kentuck Knob. The latter is my favorite of the two. It draws less of a crowd, making the commune with the architecture feel all the more intimate, and the sculpture garden is the perfect playful escape.


Thus, when the trees were emblazoned, the mountains were misting, and the leaves were crunching underfoot, my friend and I ventured in pursuit of architecture. We meandered through the places picnic dreams are made of, places where I could sip hot cider from a plaid thermos and stare at the sky like some hippy parody.  Alas, the weather was just a tad colder and rainier than my dream picnic temps, but we enjoyed these bonus scenes nonetheless.

Et voilaKentuck Knob by Frank Lloyd Wright…

Kentuck Knob with Skylight

Pathway to Kentuck Knob

I work best with confident, rule-driven types, so Wright’s confidence in his design theories intrigues me. The tour of Kentuck Knob is a walk through his strict beliefs and prescribed rules. So confident (arrogant?) was he in his capabilities, he designed this mountain retreat without having visited the site. Wright said he could “shake it (Kentuck Knob) out of his sleeve at will.”

House and Sculpture

And then there was that time I accidentally leaned on a fertility sculpture (right) in an effort to capture the perfect picture of the balcony. Shit!

Kentuck Knob began in 1953 when the Hagans, owners of a major dairy company, purchased 80 acres of mountain land east of their native Uniontown. Inspired by their friends’ nearby home, Fallingwater, the Hagans asked the Kaufmanns’ architect Frank Lloyd Wright, then 86 years old, to design a Usonian home for them. After passing Wright’s interview process, he agreed to design their home. The house was completed in 1956, and the Hagans lived at Kentuck Knob for almost 30 years. The Hagan brand ice cream is still sold in the gift shop.

Approaching the Kitchen

Usonia was a word Frank Lloyd Wright used to refer to his vision for the landscape of the United States, including the planning of cities and the architecture of buildings, but as a point of departure from previous traditions and styles.

Honeycombed Balcony

Wright designed Kentuck Knob with native sandstone and tidewater red cypress, which blend naturally in the surroundings. The open floor plan, strategic natural lighting, cantilevered overhangs, and seamless expanses of glass intentionally draw in the natural setting.

Honeycomb Windows

A local woodworker created the honeycombed moldings by hand…BY HAND!

Balcony Selfie

Wright’s window design used minimal framing. The result is a seamless view. In many walls, the glass and stone meet directly, enhancing the integration of the home with its surroundings.

View into Kitchen

Alas, I wasn’t allowed to photograph the house interior, but by bending the rules just a tad, I was able to capture the impressive table extension of the dining room. This room was a special request by Mrs. Hagan, who was able to convince Frank Lloyd Wright of several design modifications. Being an entertainer, she objected to the very modest eating nook in Wright’s original plan. He acquiesced, and pulled the dining space from the back balcony allotment. Oh to eat breakfast at that table with those panoramic forest views!

The Kitchen

Today, Lord & Lady Palumbo own the house. Once their vacation home, they eventually opened the home to tours. When your tour is interrupted by four-legged friends, but you’re not allowed to touch anything, you quickly understand the Palumbos are on site. I made friends with both, so by some degree of separation, that makes me… just a crazy dog lady?!?

Palumbo Dogs


From the back terrace, a path leads to a breathtaking panorama of the Youghiogheny River Gorge and the surrounding scenic Laurel Highlands mountains. I can’t imagine the luxury of having such a view at my disposal every day and watching it change with the seasons.


Kentuck Knob Vista


Then there is the sculpture garden…

Apple Sculpture

Claes Oldenburg

Cantilever Sculpture

Berlin Wall

A segment of the Berlin Wall

Red Army

Red Army by Ray Smith

Telephone Boothes and Red Dancer

After architecture, vistas and sculptures, there was an afternoon food adventure. More on that to come!

Jumping Quelcy

All in all, it was a glorious fall day… Hoorah!


Thanks for wandering with me!


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.