I can never figure out what I wore last year when it got cold. I dig through the bins of clothes and it seems like everything is just a bit ragged or too small or doesn’t match the few remaining pieces that still fit and don’t look like they spent the year in a moth colony (ok… I am a bit rough on clothes… let’s not blame moths). In order to get ready for the best time of the year, I splurged on some basics to jazz up the old wardrobe and mix in with the stuff that survived me all last winter.
This year, as always, I plan to spend all fall and most of winter in boots- I have three pairs (two black, one brown) of these motorcycle boots from Target. Yes, really. In genuine leather, they hold up like a dream and after two years, I’m just now having to re-sole them. Buy one half-size up for thick socks and enjoy. Also, if you have… ahem…. healthy-sized calves, these actually FIT. Buy all of them. I’ll probably buy two more pairs to hide away this year if the budget allows, just because I’m afraid that they’ll discontinue them one day and I will have to cry for the rest of my days. (Follow up- the boots are 16″ circumference at the top of the shaft, but stop just below the calf, shaft height-wise, for those of you who need numbers for fit. Since they don’t go over the calf, they fit great!).
My sister and I showed up on vacation and proved we are related by bringing along the same new dress from Old Navy.
It wouldn’t feel like fall without lots of football on the agenda. I’m pretty stocked up on Steelers gear to celebrate the home team, but I picked up a pair of golden-yellow skinny jeans to wear with my jerseys and sweatshirts all season long.
And because the season officially begins when we all don some plaid for a certain Fall Party, I picked up a plaid skirt that will work with tights and boots all winter long. I may or may not have picked some back-up plaid choices… one can never be too prepared when it comes to plaid.
Yep. It’s my very own birthday. December 23. Every single year.
Because I am irritatingly martyred to not being a burden on anyone, this is usually not a big deal. I don’t have birthday parties. I don’t expect special treatment. When your birthday is on Christmas Eve Eve, you expect people to be en route to see their families, last-minute shopping, seeing the Nutcracker, at the office holiday party. I try to avoid doing Christmas errands, just to make the day a little special in this season of go-go-go. I don’t fly and I don’t shop today. I don’t go to Christmas parties. It’s a small concession to having a day doing what I enjoy.
When I’m dating, this is usually a day for one-on-one dinner and a quiet night at home before I fly out to visit the family for Christmas. But as a single lady, I’m in charge of making it worth calling a birthday. I’m taking the day off work to lounge around in my pj’s until dark if I so choose. If I can find a place without a line out the door, I may treat myself to a mani-pedi. I have to pack for Atlanta because the airport shuttle comes very early on Christmas Eve. And then, I’m going to the bar to watch the Steelers game, because even my own birthday doesn’t get in the way of football, with only two regular season games left in the season.
This year has been incredible, in terms of redefining what my life looks like when I make all the decisions. Things I like: cooking for people, sleeping late on weekends, going new places to meet people who make me laugh. Things I’ve eliminated: pretending I’m someone I’m not, being too chicken to meet new people, resisting the idea that I can be loved. I’ve been blessed with a tiny group of people I felt I could just be me around for years. This year taught me that I can just be me with everyone, and amazingly, people will like me for it. No more trying to fit in- this has been a year when I learned that it’s possible to fit all the weird corners of me into life without being afraid of offending someone or looking awkward.
So, with the next eleven days off, I’m spoiling myself rotten. I have time to spend alone. I have plans to see the people I adore. And I can give myself a little credit for growing up a lot this year. Today is about doing whatever I like to do. And even if I’m still figuring out what that is, I feel lucky to have luxury. The best birthday present is knowing that I’ve come a long way since last year. And that if I sleep until noon, that I’m giving myself a present.
After two weeks in New Orleans, I am in this strange in-between land where the snow outside doesn’t seem real and neither does the 78 degree weather I enjoyed just a week ago. This results in really interesting fashion choices, like the tennis shoes without socks, yoga pants, T-shirt, hoodie and coat I wore to shovel the sidewalk this morning. Let me tell you, snow on my bare ankles was quite a morning eye opener. However, my usual winter pessimism is a little buffered knowing that there are places in the world where the sun is shining.
The new office was delightful for my orientation. They treated me to king cake not once but twice and we went out for two dinners while I was in town. If any of you are headed to the Big Easy, I insist that you make your way to Irene’s– hands down the best restaurant meal I have ever eaten. When we walked in, Miss Irene herself greeted us at the door, the waiter jumped right over for drink orders, they sat us in the front window, and we ate. I had a perfect filet mignon and potato gratin that left me wanting to lick the plate, portioned exactly right not to leave me in pain from being full, but not wanting more (minus the desire to eat at Irene’s every night for the rest of my life). Our visit was improved by our sighting of the Trash King of New Orleans, Sidney Torres IV. He is apparently quite the local celebrity, and quite the looker. I only regret not having my picture made with him and Miss Irene before the night was over.
Two days before I left, I also got the very welcome news that my new job has already been upgraded, which means a big ol’ pay raise is coming my way to bring me on the level with the other new staff they’ll be hiring. I could not be happier that I took the transfer- the people are better, the money is better, and so far all of my hesitations have worked out swimmingly. I am taking the time to realize that this is good fortune- that this is a moment when for once things are going right. Too often, I think I let those moments pass me by, a little too unnoticed and focus on all the things I want instead.
My liver is still in serious detox from the bourbons and hand grenades I downed down on Bourbon St., and my waistline is expanded with all the bread and gumbo and beignets and cafe au lait and seafood (thus the yoga pants). I’m contemplating raw foods and water until I feel like a human again. Tonight’s Steelers game will be beer-free for me- I’m being a very good girl for a little while until I feel healthy and my liver feels capable of working again.
My new position also comes with a four day work week (I know, now it seems like I’m bragging….), so I’ll be in recovery in my jammies until I go back to the office on Wednesday. In the meantime, I’ll be gathering up all the random delicious memories from the last two weeks to pass along to y’all.
How did the weekend come and go so quickly? I swear I just left the office and here I am procrastinating on packing my bag for work tomorrow. Sigh. At least this week is somewhat slower paced than last week without 2,000 meetings on my Outlook calendar. I do need to check on whether I am scheduled to do a training tomorrow that I forgot to jot down… think it’s possible. Oops.
Anyway, the work-life balance around these parts has gotten a little wonky. I’ve been in the office from 8 am to pm quite a few days in the last few weeks (and finally got up the nerve to ask for some comp time for all the hours I’m putting in). My new boss had me do a fairly important briefing to the Director on my own last week which went over like gangbusters- but work begets more work, so she asked for several follow-up reports that have really cut into my net surfing and blogging time at the office.
Friday night I actually managed to leave at 4:30 pm. Which made me a little anxious, but I bravely plugged along home. BC called and picked me up for what was supposed to be an hour of cocktails and became an all night affair in the back room of a dive bar with a free jukebox. I apologize to anyone who had to listen to our all late 90’s, all the time mix (complete with singing along). When he dropped me at my door we swore to make travel plans for our next vacation as soon as we could save the money and vacation time. A girl and her best guy pal need on the road adventures to feed the fire. New Orleans in October, perhaps?
Saturday was an all day reading fest with my new Amazon.com box full of books. By the time the Steelers game started, I was a little drowsy, but decided to meet up with some acquaintances to watch the game on a big screen with bottled beer. I stayed sober, and the Steelers won. I don’t think there’s any connection there, but you never know.
And finally, this morning was an unexpected visit from my friend B who wanted to go out for breakfast way too early. I begged off on the grounds that I hadn’t even gotten my eyeliner off my cheeks from sleeping in it. I tried a sort of “Mad Men” red lips and black eyeliner thing to go with my cute dress on Saturday night. It was a little over the top, but other than a stained pillowcase, there were no casualties from my experiment. I do love the bright red short nails and pedicure I did….
There are meatballs in the crock pot and piles of laundry to do, so I’m off to pretend I have the enthusiasm to get back on the bus tomorrow. If I have a really hard time of it, maybe I’ll try the red lipstick again for homemaking…
Pittsburgh. It gets a bad rap. Dreary depressed steel town, polluted, down-at-the-heels. All the images I had in my head before I moved here, so I can hardly blame anyone for expecting the worst of a city that’s seen plenty of bad press. However, I am now on my second trip through as a Pittsburgh resident and this time around I have taken time to stop and smell the roses (or pierogies). For potential transplants, visitors, and those who are thinking of escaping the Steel City, here’s my ever-growing list of great Pittsburgh sights, food, and reasons to come, stay, and live in my adopted hometown:
- Beautiful affordable housing. As an older city, Pittsburgh is filled with glorious homes from eras past just waiting for the taking. We live in a townhouse built in 1890 with beautiful mantles and spend less than $500 a month total in rent. Where else could you find that? My last apartment? Located in a historic mansion with panoramic views of the city skyline and a gorgeous wrought-iron spiral staircase to the bedroom. Cost: $375/month.
- The Steelers. I have never been much of a sports fan. In fact, I have avoided organized athletics for most of my life. But in Pittsburgh, everyone loves the home team, proud winners of *SIX* Superbowls. Find a bar, grab a Yuengling, and root for the black and gold- even the dance clubs show the game when its on. I’ll be the girl shouting “SQUISH HIM!” at the defensive line.
- Saturday mornings in the Strip District. Hit up the Farmer’s Market for fresh, local produce and baked goods, then wander down to finish the rest of your shopping at the collection of ethnic groceries, butchers, cheese and chocolate shops, floral vendors, etc. There are plenty of options for lunch or coffee and great small shops with pottery, antiques, and other gift items (or do as I do and treat yourself to something for the house).
- Summertime at the Point. Currently under renovation, the park at the Point is the spot downtown where the famous three rivers meet. The fountain runs til after dark and the crowd lounges around, reading books, eating lunch, chasing kids, or watching the boats on the rivers. I have spent many pleasant hours with a book in hand and mist from the fountain blowing across my sunburned cheeks at the Point- and you should too.
- Style queen that I am, you have to love a city that fashion forgot. Go to the store in your flannel sheep pajama bottoms. Not only will no one care- it’s likely that someone will toss you a compliment. Bad hair day? It’ll never be the worst hair you’ll run into. Trust me. Be unpretentious and feel yourself relax.
- Feed your brain. There are two things Pittsburgh has in abundance- hospitals and some of the best universities anywhere. Get admitted to one and you can take classes at any of the others. The best campus in town, hands down, goes to Chatham University, located in a beautifully landscaped arboretum, with dorms and a student center created from historic mansions.
- Primanti Brothers. These sandwich shops make the most amazing concoctions, which baffled and amazed my 80-something grandmother on her first visit. She still raves to her pals in Tennessee about the sandwiches- with the fries and coleslaw tossed right between the bread. Try it once and you’ll crave it every time you’re still out after 2 am.
- St. Anthony’s. The faithful and the curious will both find something to love in this remote chapel filled with the largest collection of holy relics in one place outside of the Vatican. See the skulls of saints, talk to the nuns who give regular tours, and visit the gift shop across the street, where the kind lady behind the counter once gave me some nectarines from her lunch with my purchase.
These are only some of the great finds I’ve stumbled across so far. I’ll be updating with new sites and tastes and benefits to the Burgh. I’ve lived in major cities, suburbs, and small towns, but I keep coming back. Nowhere is like Pittsburgh. I guarantee it.
A friend of mine who moved here from a “big city” stumbled around for a few weeks and finally asked, “Where are the chain stores?” I pointed him up McKnight Rd. toward the mall and over to over-priced Shadyside. The rest of the city? Remarkably free of big brand names, in favor of small locally-owned boutiques, coffee houses and restaurants. Even the New York Times covered my favorite neighborhood for shopping local: Lawrenceville
I admit it. I don’t bike. I don’t even know how. But everyone else here is doing it. The buses have racks, there are bike lanes in many neighborhoods and citywide bike plan
, and the weekly group rides end up at some bars I may have been to, ahem, once or twice. You can even build your own bike FOR FREE
. And you can bike to DC
, if you so desire.
The longer I hang around Pittsburgh, the more amazed I am by the wealth of creative folks here. The readings at Gist Street
have filled some of my favorite Friday nights with amazing authors. City of Asylum
is changing the world and changing the North Side, one writer and house poem at a time. The Typewriter Girls
do their own thing and collaborate with some amazing cabaret types. I tend to spend my time doing writerly things, but there are also museums
, drag queens and kings
, street carnivals
, and more.
Tonight’s entertainment, if you can call it that, was Monday Night Football on the 75″ projection screen at the local bar. Steelers (7-3) v. Dolphins (0-10). Piece of cake, right? Here’s the guy version of what happened.
Now here’s the girly take on the game: The kick-off was delayed due to rain and they sent out gangs of folks to lay down new grass on top of the puddles. Miami made the mistake of wearing all white uniforms in mud, so on top of being the losing-est team in the NFL, they looked plain atrocious. Some player who got in trouble for being “slavishly devoted” to marijuana (according to the announcer) was back in the game until he got stepped on and had to leave. The Steelers’ Big Ben kept holding onto the football for way longer than necessary and then he would throw and miss or get knocked down. Nobody did anything of any consequence for 3/4 of the game. Finally, the Steelers got rescued by the kicker in the last 20 seconds of the game to win 3-0. I got to go home because it was WAY past my bedtime and I had enjoyed my cocktails. The wings were good. The shots were better. And the Fiance’ will be happy when he comes home later because he LOVES the Steelers the way panda bears love their impossible-to-conceive young.
As for me, I don’t know much, but I know that the kicker deserves a fine adult beverage of his choice. And that I’m no sports guru, but I know a good Monday night when I see one.
Ok. So I should have known that so many bourbon and diet cokes could not end well. But, I had five dollars in the jukebox, people to dance with, a few dollars in my pocket, and a safe ride home. Of course, I now also have a headache.
In honor of my humbled state, I spent the first half of the day in bed and the second half watching all but the last quarter of the Steelers game on the couch with the fiance’ and our friend, B, who crashed on the couch after all the debauchery. We ordered pizza and wings (from two different places- my fiance’ is a freak), gulped root beer and water, shouted at the t.v., and passed out for a nap while the team was still winning. The first words out of my mouth when I woke up to Sixty Minutes on t.v.? “Did we win?” Everyone else was asleep, so I had to see the bad news on the scrolling score report. Like every loyal fan, I’m convinced that if I had the fortitude to stay awake until the end, the sonic waves of my team spirit would have reached the team in New York and buoyed their spirits to rally for victory. I’m sorry I let you down guys.