Archive for the 'Holiday Treats' Category


Walking the talk

It’s that time again — the new year. Welcome to 2015!

Traditionally, this is when we all make resolutions and yadda yadda yadda. Instead of doing resolutions per se, I’m setting out to make some changes by doing a few things differently. If you’ve read my blog in the past or known me out in the real world, a lot of these may sound familiar. Well, this year I’m taking a different approach: Small moves to reach bigger goals, if that makes sense. And there’s no timetable on any of this.

Here’s the objectives:
1) I want to do more with less. Or maybe a different way to look at it: I would like less stuff, but higher quality stuff.

For example, I have about 8 coats. One I called “a bar coat.” Another is a light coat. There’s a heavy coat. A ski coat. A suit coat. You get the idea. And you know which one I wear 99% of the time? A pea coat with a zip up “sherpa” hoodie underneath. When it’s really cold, I add a scarf to it. So, I’d like ditch most of these and have a few really nice coats. Same with hats. And shoes. And clothes in general.

I’m also going to go through my kitchen stuff, ditch a lot of the excess there, and start replacing it with All Clad stuff. No rush, mind you … but a pot here. A frying pan there. You get the idea.

2) I want to be healthier. To get to this goal, I need to eat better and exercise smarter.

This means I’ll be eating more paleo again (I actually like it/feel better when I eat that way), but none of that worry/guilt/superiority mentality that I’ve seen in so many blogs that eventually turned me off it. Basically, quality meat and veges with occasional stops for pizza and Primanti’s. Want 1000 Island dressing on a bunless burger? No problem. The point here will be less eating out, less super processed food, and no guilt when I do decide to eat junk.

The workouts will be a return to kettlebell training, with some basic weight training and walking during work hours thrown in until it warms up and I can go biking again. The other part of this will be lots and lots of stretching to keep my lower back from seizing up due to sitting too much at work.

My only real “vanity” goal here is I’d like to bench 275 and have a sub-34″ waist again by the end of the year.

3) Marathon not a sprint. Like most people, I have a bad habit of wanting results NOW NOW NOW, and I get frustrated (and quit) when I don’t get them as fast as I would like. So, I’m going to pare down what I try and do in a day, focusing on the most important stuff first (cooking/stretching/exercise) and anything after that is a bonus. On my weekends, I’ll do projects.

4) See what’s out there. I’ve neglected my exploration side for way too long. And this isn’t just about visiting new places … I’m going to apply for new jobs. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy with job nor “looking to leave” nor in danger of losing my job or anything like that — but there’s no harm in seeing what’s out there from a stable base, either. Maybe I’ll find something that really inspires me. Maybe I won’t and I’ll stay where I am. Who knows? But I’ll never know without seeing what’s out there.

5) Block/Hide with extreme prejudice. We’ve all seen those posts about “how to deal with negativity.” And maybe it’s right. Instead of letting various social media posts get to me, I’m going to hide/block the posts or hashtags instead of letting them linger or arguing about them.

Again, there’s no timetable on any of this. A fix here. A change there. And slowly but surely, all of these changes will get me to where I want them to be.


So proud

If there’s one thing in this world I know I can count on, it’s my family’s oddness. Now, this doesn’t manifest itself in any kind of dire ways, like random fires or drastic, angry arguments. But, let’s just say that when I get bored, I get creative, and the next thing you know, the rest of the family has followed suit.

This year’s shenanigans started with some toy my nephew got that involves a giant ship and a shark whose mouth opens when you press his dorsal fin. My oldest nephew and sister started helping him put it together, and as always, interest lasted about 10 minutes before he was bored and doing something else.

That meant is was time for the adults to play.

As I was getting the first shot, my nephew saw that I was up to no good. He looked over and said, “Hey, are you taking pictures of the shark?”

“Uhhhh, maybe.” *click* “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

So, after the picture was shared and laughs went around, my sister got a look in her eye, and more pictures were taken…

The oldest nephew was a little bit horrified at watching his mom and I revert to being kids again. But he was also horrified that the shark mauled the tuba player, as he plays sax for Pitt’s marching band. My sister’s comment: “Oh relax — the saxophone player lived.”

The next thing you know, Nephew No. 1 had the shark and had it eating the Virgin Mary in the stable. My mom disapproved, so it ended up on top of an angel.

Then, to my surprise, Nephew No. 4 got into the act. He wasn’t as creative in his use of the shark, but he’s young … he has potential.

Then, as the night went on and the youngest 2 nephews started battling over toys, I was left alone with the shark. Since Nephew No. 4 kept getting a little whiney and saying “NO!”, I had the shark also say “No” in accordance to the conversation. Of course, I was using the voice of the Emperor from the scene where Mace Windu was about to kill him, and then he zaps the shit out of Mace and wins the day. The voice and the shark went together surprisingly well.

Eventually, I went full-blown weird, and told my sister that the shark wanted to eat the Messiah, because he heard that the Savior was tender and mild.

In the end, dinner was good, there was a lot of laughing and only mild blaspheming … so that’s probably as close to the true meaning of Christmas that my family will ever reach.

So, Merry Christmas to you and yours. And my friendly advice: Try to avoid the hot and spicy Messiah. Just sayin’.


Secret Santa vs. Mysterious Santa

Yesterday, an unexpected thing happened: I got a package at work that didn’t contain DVDs, toner or various computer parts.

The return address was “Santa’s Workshop.” My only clue to where it came from was on the postage, which said that it was shipped from Castle Shannon. (And who knew that Santa’s Workshop was based so nearby!)

I opened it up and found a package full of cookies and possibly bread (or brownies or something … I haven’t been daring enough to open it up).

Now, I figure this is from a person on twitter … especially because one of my coworkers, who roams in the same twitter circles as I do, also received the same kind of package at work.

Let’s face it … getting an anonymous gift can be fun, like if you participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange and you have a rough idea of the personalities of the people participating.

But mysterious Santa … well, that’s a different beast. Someone knows where I work, looked up my work address, found out which floor I was on, and then sent it to me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and thought behind this delicious, delicious gift. It’s the basis of every other tween romance novel or chick flick for a reason … because it can be on the exciting side. But in this day and age of weird and batshit crazy people, getting a random package from someone claiming to be Santa can be unnerving.

I mean, remember during 9/11, when people were getting mailed anthrax in packages?

And even though I’m not hardcore in politics, I do work for a company that espouses right-wing ideology. How do I know that some far lefty didn’t decide to target me for an Exlax bombing? Hell, it could even be from an Occupy Pittsburgh protester who saw me dressed up as a reindeer and having my picture taken in their encampment during Santarchy. Oh wait, I haven’t written about that. I’ll talk about that later. But still, IT COULD BE THEM.

Mystery Santa has caused some controversy among my FB friends. I threw out a status update, and got varied reactions. Here’s some of the early comments:

Later comments ranged from “Oh, I see you got my baked goods made from feces” to flat out “There is NO WAY I would eat any of those.”

It does pose a morally interesting dilemma. Do you risk your safety over cookies that arrived at your office under mysterious circumstances, or do you say “Thanks but no thanks,” and toss out what could potentially be a package of perfectly good and delicious cookies? I imagine celebrities face this particular problem daily, with some taking the plunge (looking at you, Orsen Wells) and others tossing out the lot of them (looking for you, Calista Flockheart).

In the end, laziness won the day. I ate some. They are fantastic.

I’ll let you know if I manifest symptoms of anthrax later on.


Untraditional Thanksgiving

Today on Twitter, I saw a lot of people talking about what they are thankful for: Their jobs, their families … pretty much all the stuff that you would expect.

There is no way I could say anything any differently than any of them did, so, I opted to draw my first hand turkey since 1st or 2nd grade. Enjoy.


And yes, I did do a motivational poster on it, since I’m completely addicted to that app.


So, for my American readers, I hope you and your family have a great, and only vaguely insane family gathering. I hope you put on your eatin’ pants, and end up getting completely stuffed on great food. I hope you enjoy napping on the couch while listening to John Madden talk about turduckens.

For my readers in different countries: I wish you could be here to join us.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Independence Day

“Do you really feed the birds in America?”

That’s what an elderly Chinese man asked my mom years ago, when she was in China as a visiting nurse. It was around 1985.

She told him yes. She told him a story of our neighbor, who used to feed the birds every morning, without fail. He would tear apart a couple pieces of bread and throw the crumbs out to the birds, and watch as they flocked to eat.

Apparently, the Chinese man thought that this was one of the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.

When mom told my sister and me the story, we were confused. “What did he mean ‘Do we feed the birds in America?'”

She explained to us that there are places in the world where food is too precious to give to animals that weren’t livestock. Seeds would be put to use for other things — but feeding the birds was a luxury these people just couldn’t afford.

At the time, that was just inconceivable. It’s not that I grew up wealthy or anything … in the early 80s, we used food stamps, we ate generic-label food, I had a lot of hand-me down clothes — hell, we were all in the same boat in Western Pennsylvania when the steel industry died. But even growing up with all of that,  I still had a hard time imagining not having enough to feed the birds, should I want to.

Obviously, we can thank our ancestors for our life today. They put in a lot of work to enable us to have the kind of life that we have. We are in the land of plenty. Instead of wondering if we’ll eat, we think about what variety of food we’ll eat, and if we’ll keep the leftovers or not. Some fret over whether a meal is meatless. Others care not so much that they have the food in front of them, but how that food was grown and how it was prepared. And still others care not so much that there’s meat in front of them, but how that animal lived before it was butchered.

Our choices and options are staggering, if you stop to think about it.

And I think back to that elderly Chinese man. I wonder what he would think if I took him into an American grocery store. The variety that we see everyday was probably unimaginable for him.

If you’re an American celebrating Independence Day today, at some point, take a step back from the grill, look around you and listen. When you hear someone ask for wheat bread instead of white, or a Boca burger instead of a hamburger, or states a preference for one beer over another … look at Old Glory and smile.

You, my friend, are living the dream.

Happy birthday, America.


The Aftermath

So Christmas has now come and gone, and I can finally breathe a little easier. Here’s the events that surrounded my holiday:

  • The Grinch: Christmas almost didn’t come for my relatives. My car’s ABS system apparently exploded. Now, people can lament the timing … the weekend before Christmas … but for me, this is absolutely common. My former car, a 1.8 Turbo Jetta, was well known for exploding right before EVERY holiday so there would be an extra day of waiting. (I’m convinced that car was assembled by orphans from “Our Lady of the Perpetual Check Engine Light” in Mexico.) My current car has been rock solid, so I was surprised when the DOOM lights started popping on. Well, on the 23rd, I took it to the dealer, who promptly told me that the repair was covered under warranty. I was able to save Christmas by hitting Giant Eagle for gift cards after that, thank God.
  • The Nephews: Apparently, I almost lost 2 nephews when my sister and her husband awoke to find that they broke into their older brother’s silly string, and managed to hose everything — Christmas tree, TV, nativity scene, computer — everything. It was even on the ceiling, for Pete’s sake. My sister isn’t really a drinker, so when my mom told me to bring extra beer for Christmas Eve dinner, I knew it was bad. I think she was ready to just go to a mall and abandon them.
  • The Recipe: My great-Aunt Mary passed away recently. Now, this is the Slovak side of the family that I don’t know very well, due to the fact that my grandfather left my grandma (who was Italian). This lead my grandma to shunning all aspects of him, including that side of the family. So, my mom was surprised when, at the funeral, relatives told her about a certain dish that the Italian side of the family made for the holidays, and that my grandma taught them how to make.  She never made it for us, that’s for sure. But it’s like a lasagna, except with rice, eggs and little meatballs. I made a batch, but don’t think I made it correctly. However, I could see why it would be loved … it’s like eating the inside of pigs in a blanket or stuffed peppers and not having to deal with the cabbage or pepper. I’ll post a blog entry about making it later.
  • Meat Wars: Some of you will remember the post after Thanksgiving, where there was an epic struggle about the leftovers. Well, this time, my sister’s family took a lot of ham, but there was still a ton left over.  Well, mom tells me to come and “take what you want” from the pile of ham. So, I take about half of the pile, which was enough to feed me for about 2 weeks. Mom looks at me and says, “Take more.” I take half of the remaining pile. “No, that’s too much for me,” she says. Frustrated, I look at her and say, “Mom, how much ham do you want?” “Just a piece or two.” /facepalm
  • It’s like a Snuggie, only better: Best Christmas gift? My “Walk the Slank” Slanket. OK, technically some of the new windows were the best gift, but that slanket is pretty frickin’ sweet.
  • Post Party: So I met up with a gaggle of friends after I got out of work on Christmas day (sorry I missed you, Wormy and MB). They were all loaded. Now, the funny thing about being a “known” blogger is that, invariably, drunk people come up to you and tell you that you can’t blog about what they just did, even if you have no idea of what the hell they are talking about.  This happened last night … and I still have no idea of what was done that I shouldn’t be blogging about.
  • Post Party II: One of the guys I used to hike with informed me that they named a hill on the brutal Rachel Carson Trail after me. The story goes something like this: A few years ago, I was doing the Rachel Carson Challenge. I became dehydrated and confused in this one area I like to call “the Valley of Death.” The valley is essentially a giant “V,” with steep slopes on each side. I didn’t see any markers, and had no idea of where to go. I picked left and climbed up the steep-ass hill, only to find out as I reach the top that I’m going the wrong way. That move pretty much sapped all of my will, and ended my day out. Well, I’ve told the story on the hikes I used to help organize, but now that I can’t go, my buddies tell the story for me. So, the wrong hill is named after me. Thanks guys. LOL.

Merry Christmas!

As we near the magical hour when Santa arrives and drops off loads of goodies (or you go to Midnight Mass or some such to celebrate Jesus’ birth), I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year.

I think the “Greg and Donny” version of a Christmas Carol sums up my feelings well:

(An aside to Greg and Donny: You guys rock.)

While I have many things to report, the best thing was learning an Italian family recipe that, for whatever reason, my grandma opted not to follow in. It’s called “[something] filling” — basically, it’s similar to a lasagna, except you make it with sauce, rice, hard-boiled eggs, 1 lb. of cheese and tiny meatballs. I just so happened to have all of the ingredients (except for the meatballs), so I’m trying to make it so mom and I can have it for lunch tomorrow.

Of course, this is strictly from memory — which, as I drink, things will get fuzzier. This should be fun and interesting…

I’ll post a blog about making that dish, just for giggles.

Anyway, best wishes to you and yours. Have a kind, peaceful and wonderrific holiday.

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