Mocha Break n’at

Yesterday my friend Jackie and I attended Vintage Mixer, “a vendor fair of vintage goods” held in the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.  I managed to expand my vintage Corelle/Pyrex Spring Blossom collection a bit, and I bought some beautiful handmade porcelain buttons (which will hopefully be going onto a coat I’ve been making for the past year and a half or so and would really like to have done for this fall/winter).

Then we crossed the river to the Strip District , where your sandwich should be piled high with ‘slaw and fries, but the staff will begrudgingly accommodate you if that’s not quite your thing.

So good!

Pittsburgh’s been getting a lot of hype from all of the movies being made here, but there are so many surprises in the city that you won’t see in just an hour or two of screen time. Pittsburgh used to frustrate the dickens out of me because I’d get so lost trying to get from point A to point B (I have no sense of direction at all), but there’s too much worth seeing and doing to let some windy roads and construction hold me back.

Pittsburgh Magazine recently sent out a ‘City Guide’ issue with some great – but brief – profiles of some of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, and you should check it out on your mocha break! If you’re a visitor in Pittsburgh, this could help you find out what the locals love to see and do. And if you are a local, you might find something new to love – or have a few “I’ve been there!  I’ve been there!!” moments like I did: What Our Neighborhoods Do Best.

Double Wide Grill, East Carson Street


Get Me to the Church on Time

Wedding websites like The Knot, Weddingbee and Ruffled are mixed blessings. The timelines and checklists, etiquette discussions and stress-relieving tips were amazingly helpful.

But they also fill your head with a billion things that you just don’t need to have or do, especially if you’re trying to maximize your guest list without doing the same to your budget.

I won’t get into all the details of what those things are – every bride and groom is going to have different priorities – but for me, I fell victim to one silly I must have these item: pocket fold invitations.

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I Hear Wedding Bells

My posts have been a bit food-heavy lately (what can I say? I like to eat), so allow me to take you back in time a few months to when I was planning my wedding.

From day one of our engagement (who am I kidding? For months before Nick even proposed) I envisioned a crafty do-everything-yourself wedding and had been stockpiling web links and pictures for inspiration. But I know me, I know how in-over-my-head I can get, and I knew I was going to be stressed enough just with the things I absolutely had to do for the wedding, so I made some compromises for my own sanity. I started with a thousand ideas and intentions, and in the end whittled down my own DIY contributions to our save the dates, invitations, programs, place card display and this:

Photo by Kelly Lester Photography

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Sand in your Mocha Break


My family speaks in movie quotes. Between The Princess Bride, Fiddler on the Roof, Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss and Sandlot, we can have an entire conversation without a single original statement.

So, in honor of that, and summer, I’m just gonna leave this here for you:

PS – if you haven’t seen all of those movies, you really, really need to.


Simple and Sweet

A big thank you to my sister, Lara, for sharing her German Chocolate Cake with us this week!  I got to sample the cake myself and it is delicious.

Today I’m going to continue with the chocolate and family recipe themes.

When my sister and I were little, instead of a cake, often our mom would make cheesecakes for us for our birthdays. I remember one cheesecake that my sister decorated – Mom had reserved some of the filling from her no-bake cheesecake and mixed in food coloring in small bowls for Lara to decorate the cake with. It probably didn’t look very appetizing to the grownups, all covered in purple and green, but we loved it!

I also distinctly remember one birthday having, by my special request, a chocolate cheesecake covered in chocolate chips. I was thinking about that recently and asked my mom if she had the recipe.To my horror, she had no idea what I was talking about! I asked Lara if she remembered it, but she had no recollection of it either. Was I just crazy?

Just when I was beginning to believe I had completely imagined that whole birthday, I got an email from my mom with the recipe!

I kind of want to make one for every person I know (partially just to prove I wasn’t crazy!). For those of you who don’t want to wait around for me to do that, I’ll share with you how to make a chocolate cheesecake yourself!

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Sister’s Mother-in-law’s Baker’s German’s Chocolate Cake

Hello readers!  I’m Lara, older sister of Amy, the east coast half of lace and lemons.  Amy’s recent wedding made me think back on my seven years of marriage, and one of the important lessons I’ve learned:

Chances are, your husband has a strong attachment to some of his mom’s favorite dishes.  The beef stroganoff she slowly cooked to perfection or the Oreo dessert that, even now, makes him drool as he thinks of it.  For your sanity as a bride and daughter-in-law, figure out which of these dishes you can recreate for him . . .and which are best left for his mama to make.

In my husband’s family, birthdays are almost always an occasion celebrated with German Chocolate Cake.  I decided that this was a dessert I could recreate!

First of all, a word about what is, and is not, German Chocolate Cake.  This cake is actually a torte, with three chocolate cake layers filled and topped with coconut pecan topping.  There is no chocolate frosting involved, and there is no icing on the sides of the cake.

NOT a true German Chocolate Cake

Also, it has nothing to do with Germany (though you may serve it after a meal of viener schnitzel and sauerkraut if you wish).  The chocolate used in the cake is actually Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, invented in 1852 by a man named Samuel German.  And the cake recipe was submitted to a newspaper by a Dallas, TX housewife in 1957.  This recipe, with few changes, has been printed on the wrapper of the chocolate for many years.

The good stuff

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Undercover Mocha Break

Sorry this mocha break is coming at you a little on the late side.

One of my favorite websites in the whole world (THE WHOLE WORLD) is The AVClub. It’s an offshoot of The Onion, and there’s a wittiness and humor about it that definitely shows its roots, but it’s largely a straightforward pop culture site, offering movie reviews, tv recaps, music features, and general obsessive analysis of all things pop culture. Can’t get enough.

The last few years, they’ve been doing this series called Undercover, where they invite  very cool bands to cover all manner of awesome songs new and old. I am obsessed with this, as they tend to offer really unexpected and interesting interpretations of a lot of songs I’m super into, by bands I listen to a lot.

Check it out!


Lessons in Pink and Patience

Few wardrobe sorrows are more painful than having to say goodbye to a pair of pants that fit comfortably and go with everything. So you can imagine my dismay a few weeks ago when I dropped strawberry goop down the front of a pair of khakis that have been a staple in my wardrobe for longer than I care to disclose.

As soon as I got home (because of course this happened at work, early in the day) I treated them with a stain remover, washed and dried them, and thought I had won.  But apparently I had missed a few spots, which were now washed, dried, and permanently a part of these pants. Not one to be easily discouraged (at least by wardrobe problems) I went for the magic solution any thrifty girl should have in her stash: Rit dye! 

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It occurs to me that I am America

Today’s post is (juuuuuuust under the wire here in California) born on the Fourth of July. It is acceptable (and some might say it is our duty) to be ambivalent about who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are going, but it is unacceptable to be ambivalent about picnics. So today, my poet friends and I had a wonderful, old fashioned American cookout with all the brats, hotdogs, tofurky dogs, pasta salad and potato chips you could want.

A picnic requires a handful of things to be successful, in my opinion, and chief among those is watermelon.


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