Dandelion Tea

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Ah Spring. If you live in Pennsylvania, your yard may look something like this:

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(Totally not my yard, btw…)

So what are you going to do? I, for one, made tea. To be specific, I wanted to make dandelion wine, but the recipe told me that I needed a pint of petals and brewers yeast, and do you know how many petals it would take to make a pint? More than my tiny city back slab has produced at this time, I assure you.

So I went out this morning and checked on the plants, and I picked all the blooms.

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(Based on this recipe: http://omgirlsguide.com/2013/04/22/how-to-make-dandelion-tea-3-ways-dedicated-to-earth-day/)

I picked the blooms from the stems and washed them in a vinegar and water solution and gave them a good rinse and strain.

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Then I let them steep in a kettle’s worth of hot water for 20 min.

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Then I strained the tea using a spider and a fine strainer.

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It has a very grassy smell, but it’s not unpleasant. One might as well make use of a plentiful, natural resource, and try some thing new. If it can boost the immune system, or help detox the liver, those are added bonuses. There’s all kinds of benefits to the dandelion:

http://www.sunwarrior.com/news/11-health-benefits-of-dandelion-and-dandelion-root/

I hope I inspire someone else to try making something made with your own hands from your backyard. You’ll surprise yourself and feel an sense of pride. Enjoy!

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(with local honey from the farmer's market last summer, to boot!)

(with local honey from the farmer’s market last summer, to boot!)

 

 

Fish Fry Fridays

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Pittsburgh has a lot of traditions that are kind of quirks. Old people sweep their sidewalks as a carry over from the days of steel mills. Every time it snows, stores run out of bread, milk, and toilet paper. The theory is that you’ll be stuck at home without these crucial supplies to survive. Older houses will have a toilet in the basement known as the “Pittsburgh Potty” which the mill workers used when they got home so they didn’t much up the house before dinner. The Lenten Fish Fry may not be a distinctly Pittsburgh tradition, but the phenomenon has a distinct regional flavor.

For those unfamiliar, the original premise is that because Lent is the period leading up to Christ’s death, and ultimate suffering for humanity by giving his life. So the Christians who participate in Lent sacrifice to remember. Long ago, it was a time of fasting. But in modern times, it has translated into “no meats on Fridays”. This does not disallow fish. And in even more modern days, especially in my hometown, this means you go to a church’s hall and have a large battered and fried fish, plus sides that usually involve butter and starch, plus if you go to some locations you can also have a beer with your meal, and there is usually a bake sale and raffle.

It is the sheer fact that a time of sacrifice is celebrated with big, flaky, delicious fried things and lots of butter, and isn’t really suffering at all that draws me into this ritual (being raised Catholic and in my adulthood being… something else). 

Last year my work schedule prohibited me from enjoying any church’s delicious fried offerings. This year, my schedule is much, much more open… So I’ve decided to partake of as many of these as I can. I’ve enlisted friends to join me in my crusade of hedonism for a good cause. And I’ve decided that I would document this in the form of a review.

It all begins on Ash Wednesday, March 5th. We started with St. Rosalia Parish in the neighborhood of Greenfield (411 Greenfield Ave). This adventure was shared with TJ. We got our sandwiches and sides to go. 

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The fish was a generous portion on a decent bun. Cost of a meal with 2 sides was $8. The batter was nice and light and crispy. Both of us got haluski (egg noodles with cabbage and onion). I got fries and he got the coleslaw. Both of us found the haluski to be disappointing. TJ described the coleslaw as “very-lightly-dressed cabbage salad”. For those curious, my fries were fairly standard (in the good crispy way), but as always is the challenge with fries to go, they were pretty cold. Adding in that the fish made up for the sides, I will give it 6 out of 10. And I would go back there at any point for a sandwich.

My next stop was at St. Joseph’s in Bloomfield. It’s actually St. Mary’s fish fry, but they use St. Joseph’s space (these places are across the street from each other, mind you). This flight was solo.

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This was the Friday after, March 7. The meal was $10 (also including 2 sides). Also their bake sale was better stocked and really cheap for the goods provided. 

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I spent about 2 more bucks on the sweets, so it was $12 total. I was happier with the sides, garlic noodles and steamed broccoli. The fish was also a generous portion, and the bun was good. The batter was a little heavier, a little crispier, but not displeasing at all. The brownies with dark chocolate dollop on top, and the thumbprint cookies with the kisses were excellent. I would collectively give it a 6.5. Add on points for better sides and desserts, but minuses for being more expensive and I liked the other sandwich a little bit better.

The third stop was this Sunday at St. Mary’s on 19th St in the Southside neighborhood. I was accompanied by TJ and Xavier.

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My total ended up being $12.50 before we got to dessert. The haluski was definitely better. The mac and cheese was good, but I always find homemade mac ends up with over cooked noodles. I was most disappointed with the fish. But the main pull of St. Mary’s is the homemade pierogies. 

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Since today was Pi day (3.14), I was most excited to see the pie, which was in demand. I was even offered a dollop of Cool Whip, like grandma’s house. I wanted to give them higher points because homemade pierogies and pie, but the fish was not at all my favorite. I’ll say 5.5, and I feel pretty comfortable that my friend’s would agree. 

Some things I noted: Why do all of these church functions have the most confusing layout known to man? It’s like you have to be in the know to be in the know. No clear labels or signs to direct you where to go, or where to put your tray, etc. Also, they really pack the tables in, but I have yet to see it so full that they needed all of them. There are tables to the detriment of mobility at times. Also, part of me kind of feels bad that the average person working any of these is probably at least in their 70’s, with a few exceptions. But it is what it is, local flavor; shabby curtains, and drop ceilings, plastic tablecloths, and all. I don’t think I’d really want it any other way. It’s what I know and a part of what I call home. 

 

Uninspired…

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What do you say when your creative flow is at a very low ebb? I went to my friend’s viewing the Tuesday after his death. 5 of us crammed into a friend’s vehicle. We ate at a place called the Fun Cafe, were they have cheap burgers and beer. It’s also where they dispatch the cabs from. There is also a spot to bet on the horse races and a place in the back to get a massage. It’s across the street from a topless bar. After the viewing, seeing as none of us were really up for a lap dance, we decided to have a mini wake of sorts at the local bowling alley.

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The next day, I couldn’t handle any more viewings. I couldn’t sit through any more funeral speeches. So I went out and got a pedicure. The color is called Thanks A Windmillion.

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I’ve been trying things to cheer me up. I’ve been an admirer of ties on cats in internet photos for a while. So when I saw a link to purchase these , I “pounced” so to speak. The company is called Oskar and Klaus (http://www.oskarandklaus.com/products) and one of the cats who models is blind. How cute is that? Poor little guy. When the ties arrived, some of my friends came over and we tried out a little mini photo shoot. Wherein, I also wear a knit hat with cat ears.

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I bought a low dose of Melatonin at GNC, to take at nights. That’s to help get better sleep. I try to remember to take my B vitamins to help with the sadness and tired feelings during the day. I try to exercise, and believe it or not, I chastise myself regularly for my poor, poor eating choices. (Though I usually just end up doing it again.)

Last weekend was a low point. I stayed home, hoping to accomplish something off the endless list of “things to do”. In an attempt to be quasi-productive, I made breadcrumbs out of out of date bread. I got out the camera and took the pictures step by step, I thought about what I should season it with before it went into the food processor. I even made a Youtube video, because I felt the antique machine was making crazy noises (that it promptly decided that it didn’t need to make on camera).

I breaded small pieces of chicken and made “nuggets” that I combined with a crude honey mustard ranch dipping sauce.

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To complete the experience I had a sundae of my own concocting for dessert. Herein lies chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate syrup, chocolate and sea salt caramel, and crushed dark choc mini peanut butter cups.

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Promptly after going through all this effort to create content to post, I decided nothing could be more boring than me posting about making breadcrumbs. Thusly, no post happened last Monday.

This week I bought a violin, I accomplished my personal chores, I even had a coffee date with a friend who gave me some thing shiny.

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Hopefully things are turning around in these parts. Hopefully soon I’ll get to the endless list of projects. In all, I just hope to be a little bit better.

Generalities…

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I was supposed to have an art show this Wednesday that didn’t end up coming to fruition due to a leaky roof. Such is life.

I spent last weekend at home, trying to feel motivated to create new pieces for the show. I had tried to make something on Friday that failed on a couple levels, so I’m feeling my creative self esteem at a fairly astounding low.

So Saturday night I took the huckleberries I had in the fridge and tried to make a jam… Only I forgot to get pectin… So it didn’t really “gel”, but it was still tasty and I ate it with fancy cheese. Later it got added onto a cake we dubbed “Frankencake”.

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On Tuesday we had our annual Thanksgiving Lunch at work. Personally, this is one of my favorite work events and everyone looks forward to it. It’s essentially a potluck, with the main courses of turkey, ham, stuffing, and potatoes provided by our caterer Common Plea. I made a large pan of lasagna. The morning started off with a struggle. I had decided to drive in early, thinking I’d park near the hall and make transportation of aforementioned lasagna easy. I should have just taken the bus, because every lot in the city ended up full and I had to park 11 blocks away in the Strip District anyhow. Meanwhile, if I had taken the bus, I would only had to have walked 2 blocks from the bus stop. C’est la vie…

It ended up being a magnificent spread and all’s well that ends well… with a full tummy.

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Last night I went to a bonfire. We burned the things we’d like to be rid of in our lives and gave our host things we want to grow in our lives to bury that she’s going to plant something over. Hopefully I’ll be rid of some indecisiveness and procrastination and I’ll see my voice bloom…

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I got some cool shots that just conveniently looked like a bird in the flames..

Another guest brought this book to burn…

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The story behind it is that it was given by an ex and every time a relationship ends she rereads it, but casting it away is saying, “There is nothing wrong with me that is causing these relationships to fail, they just aren’t the right ones.” And I thought that was quite inspirational.