Christmas in Pittsburgh 2014



Christmas week: highlights and plans

Christmas week is here! I spent the past two days holiday-partying before everyone heads out of town to spend time with their families. My “festive” holiday sweater got a lot of wear… maybe too much wear. I opted for the unflattering, Fair Isle cotton-blend sweater that was on sale at old navy:

Perhaps the best $20 I’ve ever spent. It was warm, it was comfy and it was festive in a subtle way. Brava, Old Navy! Needless to say, others thought this sweater was awesome, too:

FOT82C4At the second party, which was Elf-themed, we drank some delicious Portuguese Douro red wine and at the end of the night were bequeathed with personalized mixed-drink recipes as a parting gift:

IMG_7510It suffered a little on the way home, hence it’s crumpled appearance. Not sure when I’ll have all the ingredients listed here but it sounds fabulous.

After the party we made a dinner trip to Big Star. We got Cheladas, the queso fundido and *all* the tacos de panza (pork belly) in the place. Mmmmmmm

original_Taco_de_Panza-Edouard_Pierre_resizeOn Sunday, I went a little crazy with the baking. I needed to get rid of a can of pumpkin I had in my pantry and decided why the heck not make a paleo pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie muffins from Elana’s Pantry recipes. After using canned pumpkin against Elana’s recommendation, I ended up with slightly soggier muffins and bread, but they were still delicious. One successful modification I always do to paleo breads from Elana’s website is adding about twice as much salt as she recommends and I think it tremendously enhances the flavor. I cannot recommend her paleo bread enough. I make it literally every week, which is why I require the Costco-sized box of eggs for my baking needs at home at all times.

From Elana’s Pantry

Later, I tried making sweet potato chips using the recipe on PaleOMG, but had varying degrees of success. I seriously need to get a dehydrator, my life would be so much easier! At least I had an opportunity to use my spiralizer, so that was exciting.

Other cool things that I enjoyed this weekend:

1. Finding the softest pajamas at Target

2. Finding out that I can get cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk at Amazon for cheaper than my local grocery store

3. Finding out that I have a new little niece:

IMG_4351Baby Leia! Cutest little black lab puppy in the world. I can’t wait to meet her when we head to Pittsburgh this week for Christmas. I am beyond stoked.

Serial: I too have an obsessive personality

So for the past week or two I’ve been listening to Sarah Koenig’s Serial Podcast. If you haven’t heard about it and/or have never been interested in podcasts or anything of the sort in your life, I think this one might be a game changer for you. Trust me, I wasn’t either, until Serial.

Sarah Koenig, who’s a reporter, begins to delve deep into the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, back in 1999 when they were both seniors in high school. He’s been serving a life sentence ever since. Koenig believes, however, that there were holes in the case against Adnan. She seeks to uncover whether he was in fact guilty by revisiting all the details of the case and trying to piece the puzzle together herself (with a team of various experts and supporters). She introduces new clues and evidence in every week’s podcast. She interviews all the key witnesses in the case. And week by week you get the sense that Adnan may have been wrongfully convicted.

              Adnan Syed
               Hae Min Lee

This is the perfect podcast to listen to on a long walk to work or while jogging on the treadmill; it really makes the time fly. I also find that it’s a great alternative to TV when your eyes have been strained from looking at a computer screen all day long. It’s possibly sparked a new interest for me as far as entertainment mediums go (podcasts, that is).

Listening to the podcast I realize that I, much like Koenig, have an “obsessive personality” (I may have made this term up, or maybe I’m misusing it, but whatever). I  allow myself to be sucked into and consumed entirely by a particular project or task or concept. It’s like whenever I set my mind to something, I get into the zone:

                                                                               Skye’s seriously focused, “in the zone” face.

This makes me extremely detail oriented when it comes to stuff I have an interest in. Paleo, makeup, fashion, cooking, etc. being some of those things. It has its pros and cons, especially if it leads to quick burnout.

That’s why it’s nice to give myself a break by listening to a podcast that lets someone else do the obsessing, and I can just reap the entertainment benefits selfishly. I still take it seriously, though: I can imagine just what it would mean to Adnan’s family to know that their beloved son/brother/friend was exactly the same person and not some monster locked up in a prison.

Only time will tell, so I’ll just have to listen in. And be careful not to get too sucked in.

Two nice reds

The other night my sis-in-law was asking me what some good wines were at Trader Joe’s. Right off the bat I made clear that Cabernets were usually off the table with me (pun totally intended) as they tend to be a bit too acidic for my taste. I did, however, remember a couple of favorites that I had in my wine fridge.

Leese-Fitch Pinot Noir. I believe this was recommended to us by the sommelier at Mariano’s actually, but it’s a smooth and rich wine that I really like.


And this delightful Laurent Dublanc Cotes-du-Rhone. It’s very light and refreshing, which is surprising for a red.IMG_7449

I did advise her, however, to stay away from the VintJ label, which I’ve found to be not so great.


Since it’s winter, most of what we’re eating is hearty and savory, which usually requires a nice balanced red to go along. Although, I must say, the occasional Viognier is never out of place at our dining table.

If you have any good wine recommendations I’d love to know (just drop a comment below).

Cyber Monday Manager’s Special: the new TV

IMG_7438Yesterday we got a TV that’s about as big as I am. Alex was beyond stoked. I was just happy that we finally have a “Netflix” button on the remote control, instead of having to turn on the X-Box every time I wanted to watch Gilmore Girls. I really have simple wishes.

After a delicious dinner of Italian Bell Peppers (from Practical Paleo; if you haven’t gotten the book already, you might want to consider your life choices), we unwrapped the beast:

IMG_7442(yes, I am working on a jigsaw puzzle at the moment and I am the biggest nerd that ever lived) It looks a lot bigger in person. And we’re hoping to get a sound bar and ditch those dumpy old speakers.

I then proceeded to savor my delicious dessert consisting of organic dark chocolate with almonds from Trader Joe’s and organic blueberries, the best combo:

IMG_7441I’m telling you guys, organic berries taste about A MILLION times better than not organic berries. They’re like a dollar or two more but sooooo worth it. Trust me on this.

I’ll review my other Cyber Monday picks as they arrive in the mail, hopefully a Friday roundup will be up this week. Can’t wait to see if all these sale items are what they’re hyped up to be!

It’s been too long

Thanksgiving just flew right past me! Can’t believe it’s already December and Cyber Monday! This year we were trying to find a good deal on a quality TV set, mostly because Alex likes to watch football until his eyes fall out. I tend to watch TV on my laptop… is that crazy? Even when I could be watching it in the TV right in front of me. I just find it strains my eyes less to watch it on my laptop, which is probably because our TV is pretty crappy. Womp.

So, we made our way out to Desert Ridge in Phoenix, AZ for Thanksgiving, as I previously mentioned. First I said farewell to work:

IMG_7399Then we hopped on the CTA to Midway airport, desert bound…

CTA photobomb
CTA photobomb

…and pretty much the first thing we did when we got to AZ was hit the pool, of course:

IMG_7402Like the absentminded fool I am, I totally forgot my bathing suit and had to borrow my mother-in-law’s, which was totally fine, especially since she also let me wear her matching white sunglasses. I looked pretty Miami-fabulous, and decided to top the look off with red lipstick for added flair.

No evening would be complete without a little game of Settlers of Catan in the Kandabarow household


And, of course, a beautiful hike through the warm desert:


"We look like a Susan G. Komen ad"- Liv
“We look like a Susan G. Komen ad”- Liv

The night after Thanksgiving, we did Mastro’s Ocean Club and, of course, Dad-in-law ordered the Seafood Tower:

IMG_7416I paired it with a SUPERB Fess Parker Viognier

IMG_7415Absolutely delicious, all around. I heart Mastro’s, especially their bone-in steak. mmmmmm.

The next morning we had breakfast at a place that basically looked like Happy Gilmore’s “happy place”

"We've only just begun to live..."
“We’ve only just begun to live…”

Then walked the grounds of the resort to get our body moving after a filling brunch. Wandering around the city we stumbled upon a pediatric dentist’s office that had an impressive space theme:

IMG_7423IMG_7424Pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. This guy really followed through on his vision.

After an exhausting week of eating, drinking, hiking, card/board game playing and shopping (so much ULTA), we finally came home to this baby:

"Where's my dinner?"
“Where’s my dinner?”

She’s working through a little Demodex infection, hence the little scar on her face. Poor baby, she’s always got something going on. But giving her a big ol’ hug was the perfect ending to a tremendous Thanksgiving weekend. Can’t wait for Christmas.