A little bit of routine…

Routines are a thing. They are a must, but deep, deep down, we hate them. Why else would vacations exist? We crave the few days of the year when we can sit back and forget what we’re supposed to be doing. We dream about no schedule. We live for the moments when we don’t have to answer to anyone. In any normal week, we wake up, shower, drive to work, work, drive home, eat dinner, watch TV and then hope to fall asleep. The American dream, right?

How many of you are cringing right now? Maybe it’s late and you can’t sleep. Maybe you are at work (Tsk! Tsk!). Maybe you are reading this on the way to work dreading a meeting with a boss you despise. Whatever the reason, trust me, I get it.

The problem is…fuck…I hate to even say it. We need it.

I left the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2014 with the hopes of something better. I spent 10 years there. I spent 10 years of my life with those amazing people. I am only 35, so keep it down you 35+ people.

I grew up with that company. My life changed with that company. I married my husband with that company. I made some of my best friends with that company. I became a part of the Pittsburgh community. I had an identity in this city. I was Melissa, the girl who worked at the Business Times.

It’s been awhile now and I have taken on new responsibilities here and there, but I can’t seem to find that same feeling. Trust me, I love working from home. I love working in social media. I love creating crafts with the hopes they will make someone smile. I love working part time for a liquor company which allows me to sprinkle cheer all over Pittsburgh. And I love, love, love having freedom.

But my gosh do I miss structure.

Maybe my personality isn’t strong enough to manage myself. Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through X number of changes since I left the job I considered my safe place for so long. There are people who do it though. There are people who work from home and manage, not only themselves, but a family. And I tip my adorable, tiny hat to them.

I own a corgi. Her name is Ivy. She is the craziest sweetheart I’ve ever known. Corgis, by nature, are herders. They are protective, outgoing, playful and, to some, loud as shit. When she first came into my life, I wanted to understand every little thing about her. This is how I approach most aspects of my life. Do you know what I learned? Corgis, like people, are happiest with a purpose.

Ivy can sit, lay down and shake. She can roll over, spin in circles and play dead. She can chase a ball until her little legs no longer work. She loves long hikes, playing in water and has been known to climb mountains. Her legs are three-inches long, so you can imagine it’s not always easy for her.

That little dog, who is so full of spirit, never leaves my side. I’ve seen her deal with my anxiety and depression. When I couldn’t leave bed for days, she was right beside me. And at that moment, she knew her purpose.

I have seen that dog after a six-mile hike. The smile on her face is unbreakable. We have all experienced hardships in life. We have seen the darkness and yearned for the light. Whenever I bounce back, Ivy is right there with me. She doesn’t skip a beat. I want that passion, that drive and ultimately that purpose. 

Routines are a thing. They increase security in humans and animals alike. Imagine not only a day, but a year, without it. What was once a walk in the forest becomes a struggle to find the path. Embrace the dullness and remember, it could be worse, you could be that little corgi with the three-inch legs trying to jump on a bed just to cuddle up to the one who means the most.


A little bit of home…

New Year, New Me. That’s how the saying goes, right? Well, I don’t like it. And I also despise New Year’s resolutions. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I see them as an unwanted responsibility. Think about it, how many have you actually accomplished? In my 35 years on this planet, I can honestly say my answer is zero.

One year my resolution was to be able to complete one pull-up by the end of the year. I was super into the gym the previous fall and thought, why not? First of all, I can barely do a push-up. Secondly, I’m pretty sure I’ve never won an arm wrestling match (I have freakishly strong friends). And last, but not least, why was this my main concern???

So, here we are in 2017 and my life is no different. If anything, I’ve backtracked. This week is the week I am to move all of my stuff out of my house, my old house. My home. The only home I’ve known in Pittsburgh. The only home I’ve known since I left my mom’s house in 1999.

Think back to when you left for college or when you moved out of your parents’ house for the first time. It was exciting, right? New horizons. New beginnings. New people and places. What did you pack? I wish I could remember.

I have walked through this house, my home for eight years, and I have no idea where to start. These items, these memories, these things that I gathered to turn this house into a home mean nothing now. But yet, something has to be done with them. The clothing that I have lived nearly five months without. The pictures I can barely stand to look at. The decorations I made with my hands and my heart. The antiques I collected on a Sunday afternoon. And the kitchen gadgets I miss so much because that is how I learned to cook. There are pillows and blankets and so many things that provided comfort to me when my world was slowly falling apart. I have the opportunity to box them up and make them mine again.

And it fucking sucks.

Let me ask you now to think of your home. What comes to mind? I am sure to many of you it is where you live presently or where you grew up or, if you’re smart, where the people you love reside. That is where I aim to be.

Like I said, I hate resolutions. I believe in change. I believe in trying to be better. I believe in becoming a better person. And I hate myself for thinking for a second that a new calendar would bring a happier me. Because I hate to break it to you, that’s not how it works.

A home is a place where you feel safe. And don’t get me wrong, I have that now. I have two people who have taken such good care of me since the life I knew disappeared. Funny they both go by the name of Alex, which ironically means defender of men. I have never known a meaning more true. They would both go to war for me. And for that, I am lucky.

If you look up the meaning of home in the dictionary, it is described as the place where one lives permanently. I can list places, names and definitions, but I know where I permanently dwell and, as scary as it sounds, my home is me.

This is my goal. I want to feel safe within myself in 2017. Next week I am headed back to where it all began. Not permanently. But right now, I need to recharge. I have found a yoga class and a gym. I have a pile of books I plan on reading and a laptop where I can write. I need to research jobs in Pittsburgh. Ones that will truly fill this void inside of me. And I hope to come back here with the smile and the optimism I’m sure some of you remember.


A little bit of strawberries…

Today marks the beginning of summer. I’ve never been a summer person. I’m sure that doesn’t make sense to most of you. I get too hot. I hate being hot. I’ve always been partial to spring (probably because of my birthday) and fall (good beer, football, what else do you need?). But this year feels different. Maybe it’s because I have been spending so much time poolside or because my tan is already amazing, but I am so looking forward to sunshine and music and just enjoying the people I love.

This year’s solstice coincides with a Full Strawberry Moon. This hasn’t happened in nearly 70 years. The Full Strawberry Moon gets its name from Native American Algonquin tribes, which knew it as the signal to collect ripe fruit.  Pretty cool, right?

The whole strawberry thing reminded me that the Farmer’s Market started this month and it’s actually going on today. I decided to basically spend my afternoon as a grandmother would. I started the afternoon off with a quick jaunt to the dollar store, just to pick up a few things. From there I went to the liquor store (ok, maybe I’m a hip granny). I don’t know if you guys and girls are into cheap wine, but the Bota Box is STILL ON SALE. After that I figured I’d make my way to the Farmer’s Market. Only it was nowhere to be found. Bummed out, I headed to Hallmark to get my mother’s birthday card (I am a little late as it is tomorrow. Eek!), where the nice ladies informed me that the Farmer’s Market had moved behind the plaza we were in. Perfect. I picked up my peaches, cauliflower and strawberries and was on my merry way.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.57.03 PMI don’t bake at all. Mainly because I am not a sweet eater. I like my sweets in the form of gummy candies or fruit (preferably mixed with wine). However, last year Dave brought home like four baskets of strawberries from my mother-in-law’s house. This was right around the time I started cooking, so I thought I would give baking a try. I had enough strawberries to make a pie and muffins. I think it was probably the first time in 10 years I have had pie, and if I do say so myself, it wasn’t too bad.

Today I decided to celebrate the start of summer and the Full Strawberry Moon by not only eating strawberries, but by painting them. The set of wine glasses seen at the top of the page are now available Etsy shop. Cheers to an amazing solstice and a beautiful summer!


A little bit of meal planning…

Every since I started to love cooking, I’ve been obsessed with Rachael Ray and Tiffani Thiessen (I think she dropped the Amber and I don’t like it.) I watch their shows religiously and I even get Rachael Ray’s magazine. I know, I know, who needs a magazine when you can find everything you need online. Magazines are just something I cannot give up. Plus it gives me a reason to ignore the Internet for a bit.

If you’re not familiar with “Rachael Ray Every Day”, let me fill you in. The entire thing is loaded with recipes, food pictures and all the things she loves. It’s totally drool worthy. In each magazine, there is a healthy weeknight meal kit. It includes dinner for every weeknight and (and this is the best part) a simple shopping list. So, I thought I’d give it a shot.

The list, which consisted of 15 ingredients, seemed simple enough. If you decide to try this, please note that at the bottom of the list, there is an assumed list, i.e. things you already have in your pantry and fridge. Yeah, I missed that. Anyhow, Sunday evening I made the trek to the grocery store and purchased everything on the list, which came to around $80. Not bad for five dinners plus some leftovers. I mean, come on, there are scallops on the menu. Not to mention, THE BEST scallops I’ve ever had.


Night one was Classic Mu Shu Pork. This recipe called for shredded cabbage. I have used my food processor a total of maybe 10 times, but never for shredding veggies. Did you know you put it in through the top? Fascinating. Did you also know that the blade is super sharp?IMG_8367 It’s like I always say, cooking isn’t cooking without an injury. I don’t really say this, but when I’m in the kitchen, it seems to be true. This recipe called for the hoisin sauce, which, in my opinion, is basically what is in any Asian dish, and a hell of a lot of pork. I don’t even like pork, but damn, it looked good. The whole thing was restaurant worthy and made enough for Dave to take to lunch the next day.

Monday night I went with the Mushroom, Swiss Chard & Cheddar Quesadillas. If you’ve never had chard before, its basically a tougher version of kale. You’re either going to love or hate it. These quesadillas were anything but Mexican and were loaded with veggies. IMG_8412They were served with kidney beans on the side. Weird, right? I thought so too, but like everything else my girl Rachael makes, they were good. IMG_8414

Tuesday, ohhhh Tuesday. This was the night of Seared Scallops with Orange Sauce & Napa Cabbage Salad. I don’t even like citrusy dinners or so I thought. This recipe is fantastic. Dave loved the burnt cheese, which was actually cooked orange zest. Can’t blame him for being confused. I mean, look at it. I was weary of the cabbage salad because it was also citrusy. The whole thing was light and so full of flavor.If you make this, please let me know. I want to drool with you.IMG_8427

Wednesday night I had plans, but I wasn’t going to screw up this challenge. I decided to prepare the Minestrone with Cheese Toast. I prepped as much as I could and then let Dave finish it.
IMG_8439I did everything up to the point of adding the pasta. I left him detailed instructions and asked him to please send me a picture. He overcooked the soup, which became a salty, saturated mess. And where is the cheese on the bread?!? But, he did take a picture and definitely made me laugh.IMG_8536

The final night was Pork Chops with Zesty Tomato Sauce and Swiss ChardIMG_8476This recipe was super quick and easy. Dave decided the chard is not for him, but I love it. All in all, the week was a success. I think the funniest part is him drooling in the kitchen while I perfect my pictures. It’s like foreplay with food. I learned that blades are sharp, Mu Shu Pork isn’t as gross as it sounds and Dave will never be a food photographer.


A little bit of smart social media…

Unless you live under a rock in Pittsburgh, you have heard that Wendy Bell, an award-winning journalist with WTAE-TV for 18 years, was fired Wednesday for comments she made on her Facebook page. The post, which I am not going into at all, has since been removed, but unfortunately the damage is already done.

I see people posting dumb stuff on social media CONSTANTLY. I am one of them, but I tend to keep my opinions to myself. Social media gives everyone a soapbox. And I completely support this, but I know the rules. Even if they’re unsaid. There are rules.

I worked at a newspaper for 10 years. I started before social media was used in the industry. Even then there were SO many guidelines. When social media came along and the paper decided to use it, I think they were even a bit scared that they didn’t know what they were getting into. Because one little slip can be dangerous. Look at US Airways. Their tweet was definitely not safe for work. In a different ballpark, but just as unfavorable, was McDonald’s hashtag #RonaldMcDonald. I don’t know a lot of people that like clowns, so I get it. They should’ve thought that one through. Side note, good work, Heather Oldani. She snatched up the Twitter handle @RonaldMcDonald in 2009.  I can only hope she gets some money for that. And what about when LG, whose smartphones are naturally curved, poked fun at the bendy iPhone 6? Good idea, except they sent the tweet from an iPhone

You get the point. Nobody wants to make this mistake. So, let’s go over some basic questions to ask yourself before you post anything online.

Is this post valuable to my customers?

Social media provides companies with a marketing tool that wasn’t always available. That doesn’t mean it should be taken advantage of. Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches over and over again. They look at you as the expert. Provide them valuable information.

Is my post shareable and likeable?

What do you do when you see something you like, think is funny, find interesting or important online? You share it. Companies need to think with that mentality when posting to social media. Customers don’t like a bore and will quickly hit the unfollow button.

Is my post offensive?

Whether it’s comments about news events, long-held beliefs or a bad joke, an employee’s offensive post can damage a company’s image. If not handled properly, racist, homophobic or sexist comments put an employer at risk for lawsuits and losing customers.

Is my post relevant?

Again, your customers follow you for a reason. I don’t visit US Weekly’s Facebook page hoping to read about car insurance. It’s as simple as that.

Am I posting at the best time?

Companies need to be aware of what is going on in the world. You do not want to be posting something promotional while everyone else on social media is reacting to a national tragedy.

If you are still unsure if you should post something, you probably shouldn’t. Double check with a coworker or simply hit delete. It will cause a lot less stress in the long run.


A little bit of artichoke pesto chicken…

It’s been awhile since I posted. Technically it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to do anything creative. Life just gets in the way, I suppose. I’ve already taken two trips this year, one to Philly and one to Denver. Both were with my nonbiological sister, Tomdee. After a long drive across country, which included a stop in Chicago and Kansas City and a week in Colorado, I said goodbye and left her to start a new chapter. I love everything Denver has to offer (especially now that it includes my best friend), but I was exhausted and glad to be back in Pittsburgh. I’m happy to have time to work on my crafts. I have a few new ideas in mind and I am donating to two upcoming fundraisers, Art for Change and Steins-Strong Golf Outing. I have also been cooking nonstop. I hosted Easter yesterday, which turned out marvelous minus a small mashed potatoes mishap (this is the recipe I should’ve posted! I am still so confused.) And I am slowly getting back into writing and researching all things social media. The warmer weather definitely helps. I am looking forward to summer days and working outside.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but after visiting Colorado this month, I want to do more. Fortunately, Dave caught the bug too. Shortly after we came home, a wheatgrass juicer and fresh wheatgrass were delivered. For all you skeptics, it does make a difference. Another part of my plan is less beef. I hardly eat it as it is, but if you know Dave, well…

With vegetables on the brain and a little help from Pinterest, I came across a recipe for artichoke lemon pesto chicken pasta. I poured myself some wine and went to work. You’ll notice this recipe calls for spaghetti squash. I cannot stand the look or smell of squash, so I went with farfalle instead.

IMG_7905If you love artichoke hearts, you will love this recipe. The smell of them cooking mixed with fresh garlic was amazing. You’re basically making a pesto, so I got to bust out my new food processor. I am unfamiliar with these fancy gadgets and it took nearly 30 minutes for me to figure out why mine wasn’t working. The safety features they put on things these days, geez.

IMG_7904After combing all the ingredients and finally getting my pesto pureed, I added it to the chicken and pasta and piled on the spinach. If there is a way to add greens to anything (which there usually is), I’m in. The final product looks a lot different than the original, which I can only assume is because the pasta soaked up the vegetable broth. Or, more likely, I messed something up. Regardless, the outcome was delicious.

Two side notes. Yes, those pans are new and, yes, they are purple. They’re available on my girl Rachel’s site. Also, the wine glass featured in the first image is a custom design and can be ordered here (don’t worry, it wont be that exact glass!).

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