Monday, February 28, 2011

Date Night, Part II: Lady Gaga

IMG_4938I wrote some time back about how Hubby got me tickets to see Lady Gaga as my anniversary gift.  I have talked in the past about how much I love Gaga's music, so he hit it out of the park with his gift.  And last Saturday, it was finally time to see the show.

After a fabulous dinner, we headed over to Consol to prepare for the show.  We were an hour and twenty minutes early, and already the line for entrance was around the block.  It was awesome though, because we got to see all kinds of people dressed up for the show.  Gaga fans are a whole new breed.  We were over, or maybe under, dressed to say the least.  Next time, I am dressing up.

So, once the doors open, things moved quickly.  We got to out seats, and some girl was dancing on stage, the warm up to the opening act I suppose, I did not pay attention, I was busy finding the best setting for my camera to take good pictures.  (It was time well spent, check out the whole photo set here.)  Hubby worked on perfecting his "little monster" snarl.

The opening act started at 8.  It was the Scissor Sisters, and though I am not terribly familiar with their work, they were a good opening act, high energy, and I really ended up enjoying their music.  Good choice Gaga, you helped them make a new fan out of me!  They played for almost an hour.

Then we waited, and waited, and waited.  There was a bit longer of a delay than planned, I think there was technical difficulties.  I did not mind, gave me a chance to check out more of the crazy outfits in the crowd.

I should mention that we were in one of the highest sections up, and these were people standing on the floor of the arena. Yeah, my camera is pretty flippin awesome!

Finally, as the energy was at a frenetic peak, it was time for the show to start.  There are no words I can use that will capture what the crowd sounded like.  So I will let you hear it instead:
Finally, it was time to see the Queen of the Monster Ball.


The show was so flipping amazing.  Costumes, storyline, dancers, musicians.  All of them amazing.  But the best part was Gaga herself.  Her voice is so.... pure.

I know many of people are not big fans, or have little patience for what they consider her eccentricity.  I wish they could have heard the message she gave that night.  The message was one of pure love, for everyone.  No matter your race, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity or orientation, regardless of how you look, how much money you make, or where you live.  The message was simply "you are beautiful, and perfect, and worthy of love.  Just as you are."  There were a TON of teens at the show with friends, and more often their moms.  I think this message was so important for these kids to hear.  I loved that parents encouraged kids to dress up and express their creativity.  And at one point, Gaga's message had me in tears.  She said, basically, screw all the people who said you are not pretty enough, or thin enough, or smart enough, or anything else negative, because you are perfect.

Who doesn't need to hear that now and then?


Granted, the theatrics and some other aspects of the show may have pushed the limits, and been a bit racy, but, her whole point is BE WHO YOU ARE.  And if anyone ever suspects her love for people, I wish they had been there to see this.

At each show, she calls a fan in attendance, and together the present 20,000 to charity.  This was the fan, his wife, and their daughter, who loves Gaga.  The charity one that helps LGBT homeless people get a new start in life.  How remarkable.  Gaga also told them she wanted to meet them after the show.  This woman loves her fans, and loves humanity.

She also, consequently, loves Pittsburgh, and has one heck of a set of pipes.

I can honestly say, this was the best night I have had since my wedding night.  And my favorite part was when she was singing "Bad Romance", and of course we were all singing along.  Out of my left ear, I could hear Hubby singing along too.  

The show was phenomenal, and I will never ever forget it.


Paws up little monsters.  You were born this way.

Date Night, Part I: The Melting Pot

On Saturday, Hubby took me out for a date night that was so chock full of awesome, I have to split it up into two posts.  We decided, at last moment, to see if we could get reservations at a restaurant I have been wanting to try for a long time, and believe it or not, we got in.  So, off to the Melting Pot in Station Square we went.

The first thing we noticed about the restaurant was that it was almost like a maze, which was actually pretty cool, because it led to a lot of privacy for diners.  For example, in our little part of the restaurant, there were only 4 booths and 1 table, so it was very intimate, and calm.  Also, I loved the decor, a lot of soft lights.

When our fantastic waitress came, she asked if we were first timers, and since we were, she was very helpful explaining the menu to us.  You see, this is not your run of the mill eartery, oh no.  This is a fondue restaurant. But fondue is much more than cheese and chocolate.

We settled for what was called The Big Night Out, which included 1 cheese fondue, 2 salads, 1 entree, and 1 chocolate fondue, for two to share.  First we started with the Fiesta Cheese fondue, which of course was spicy.  We got bread, tortilla chips, veggies, and apples to dip into it.  The apples and veggies were my favorites.  I knew right away, this dinner was going to be spectacular.


After that came the salad.  I had a nice spinach mushroom salad with burgundy shallot dressing.  Oh my heavens, it was so tasty!  Then..... the entree.

For our entree, we chose something called The French Quarter.  It included steak, chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage, all with cajun seasoning.  What happens is they bring out some vegetable stock and pour it into the fondue pot.  When it boils, then it is time to add your veggies, and then begin cooking your proteins.



So, essentially, they bring out raw food, and you cook it at your table.  It was so delicious!  And deceptively filling.  You are forced to eat slow, so you do get fuller than you think you will.  There are also all kinds of sauces brought out for you to dab onto your cooked meat and veggies.

After this, you choose your chocolate fondue.  We went for the classic milk chocolate with peanut butter.

We were given all kinds of tasty things to dip into it.

I also had a delicious raspberry cappuccino.

We were at dinner for over 2 hours.  It was time well spent.  Hubby and I got to enjoy a delicious romantic meal.  The staff were so helpful and sincere.  It was overall an incredible experience.  It is definitely the kind of place you go to only once a year or so, because it is a bit pricy, but completely worth it.  We had a fabulous time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Year Anniversary!

Today is my one year anniversary of blogging.  What a year it has been.  Thanks for listening, and caring about me, it means more than you will ever know.


As the sun sets on this first year, I continue looking forward to the next.

Thank you again my sweet friends!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I want to be like Claire

Image from Dover Publications
Thanks to Netflix, both the dvd service and the streaming, I have been able to watch some of my favorite television shows from childhood.  Sure, some are a little dated, but I can't help but think two things: 1.  they do not make t.v. shows as good as they used to, and 2.  When I grow up, I want to be Claire Huxtable.

Claire seems to so easily balance a very successful job, parenting 5 kids, running a household, and dealing with a lovable but patience trying husband.  All while looking fierce by the fashion standards of her time.  I know Claire is a fictional character and all, but, I really strive to be more like her.

As a mother, Claire is patient with her children, but also a stern disciplinarian.  Her children are taught morals and values, but always with a calm, gentle voice.  She and Cliff rarely fought or disagreed on parenting standards.  The children respected her, but also felt a close bond with her, and could come to her with their problems.

As a wife, Claire contributed to the household not only as a breadwinner, but also displaying her domesticity. She was often found cleaning the house, doing the bills, and supporting her husband.  She knows how to take care of Cliff when he is sick, and is able to gently show him the occasional error of his ways.

As a woman, Claire respected her body, had fantastic fashion sense, and was a strong independent woman.  She took time for herself as a person, aside from her other roles within the family structure.

In short, Claire was pretty much perfect.  How can I ever try to attain that?

Well, for starters, I have my very own version of Cliff in my beloved Hubby.  He is proud of my achievements, and supports my ambitions.  He knows the perfect blend of seriousness and silliness to make each day bearable.  He shares household responsibilities with me without ever complaining.  He loves me with undying fervor and devotion, and is not afraid to romance me.

So, it would seem that with such a foundation, I can easily be like Claire.  And if I ever have kids, I do hope to channel a lot of her motherly skills.  An episode I watched today included her having a talk with a sad 5 year old Rudy, explaining that while 5 can be tough, it had it benefits too.  At the end, Rudy cheers not only for her self and her 5ness, but for her awesome Mommy as well.  Someday, I want my kids to cheer for me the same way.

So, while we may not be the Huxtables, and have their level of perfection...

we are the Harkleroads, and at being that, we are perfect in our own right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Word Filled Wednesday: Father has given

1 John 3
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Life these days is crazy, and not in a fun "man that was a crazy party" kind of way.  You have political factions at war with each other, poverty and unemployment sky high, countless diseases causing people to suffer.  Sometimes, dealing with all the stress, we forget who is really in charge.  And even when we remember Him, we sometimes forget why He does the things He does.  His reasoning can be summed up in one word: love.

In these days of technology, what with the texting and the tweeting and the check ins and the blogging, we forget to listen to that still voice that stirs within our hearts, the voice that reminds us of God's tremendous love for us, and encourages us to act out that love in our everyday lives so that people will know God through us.  Sometimes we need a gentle reminder.

A friend of mine was recently approached by a stranger at church, who simply told her God wanted her to give her a card.  She was deeply touched by this small act of love, and knew it was God reaching out to comfort her, to show her His love.  And He knew that it would take something like this stranger's act to really touch her soul the way she desperately needed.  I love that God always finds a way to give us what we need. The act of this stranger helps people see God in the world.  Because the act of this stranger was one of love.

I encourage you all to take a few moments each day, away from your computer, away from your television, away from your cell phone, and sit, in silence, to listen for that voice within, the stirring of God's love, and His call to make Him known to the world through our love for one another.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No stranger to snow

Guest post written by Cindy Butler

I'm kind of used to snow, but no matter how many times I've gotten ready for the snow or shoveled a sidewalk, I don't think that I'll ever really get used to it. But it's something that I have to do. I wish that I could just go on autopilot or something when I do that and just shovel snow like a robot but that just doesn't work as well.

I was kind of putting off shoveling snow a little bit and when I was doing that I went online with my HughesNet Internet to try and find some good techniques for shoveling snow.

Well, I didn't really find much of anything because shoveling snow is pretty basic. You just pick a spot, start from there and work your way through the snow covered area until you're done. Too bad that you can't buy that de-icer spray that you spray on your windshield into a power washer or something and just clear your sidewalk that way. Although, I think that would work out pretty well.

Snow No More

Alright I will probably bring on the wrath of my entire town when I admit this: Late last week and over the weekend, I was a little sad to see the snow leave.  It made for such beautiful pictures, and seeing the dead grass was a little depressing.  I knew it would be a while before things would burst into bloom for Spring, so it saddened me to not at least have pretty snow to look at; I have since changed my mind about all that however.


Because last night we got hit with a snowstorm from Hades.


 The weather forecasters called for a max of 3 inches.  We got at least 9.  Probably closer to 12 when it was all said an done.  And it started snowing at 3 pm.  Road crews did little, if anything, to prepare for bad roads during rush hour.  The result?  Hubby's 1.25 hour drive home ended up taking him 5 hours.  Completely ridiculous.  Needless to say, he did not make it in today.  The roads were still a mess this morning, oh, who am I kidding, half of the roads in our county are still  pretty much untouched by anything other than the sun.  I am just happy Hubby made it home safe and sound.


I decided to venture out today, to see if the snow resulted in any good photo ops, and boy did it ever!

And while I appreciate the opportunity to get one more awesome set of snow photos in for the year, which you can view here, I am totally ready for Spring.  Even if it means dead grass for a few weeks.

So, Mother Nature, no more snow, mmmkay?

Snow blows!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Word Filled Wednesday: Freely Received

Matthew 10:8
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

I am not even going to lie, this month has been a rough one.  I pulled a hamstring about 3 weeks ago, bruised my knee falling on ice on Superbowl Sunday, and this past Saturday, I bruised my tailbone.  In short, I feel pretty beat up.  And it would be really easy for me to be angry about being in pain, having these injuries mess up my plans, and receiving all this bad luck.  But instead, I am joyful.  And no, it is not the pain meds talking.

I am joyful because I am trying to freely receive God's gifts, blessings, and plans for me.  And though I believe with all my heart that God could instantly heal this pain, I freely receive the love He exhibits by allowing me to suffer, even just a little.  Confused?  Suffering allows me to more heavily rely on Jesus.  At times, when I try to move, I am anticipating the pain to come (it hurts each time I change positions).  My limbs start to shake, I start to sweat, and I know there is no way I can do this by myself.  Luckily, I do not have to, because He is with me every step of the way.  What an awesome gift that is!

So, while I would love to freely receive the gift of healing, I would much rather freely receive the gift of Jesus. And just as freely as I received this gift, I want to share it, and give it to you.  So, if you are suffering today, know that you are loved, and supported, not only by little old insignificant me, but also by a triune of the utmost significance- Father, Son, and Spirit.

And maybe that will provide healing of another kind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Each day is Valentine's day

Hubby and I are not ones to get majorly sucked into the commercial black hole of Valentine's Day.  I prefer to not go out for dinner, as restaurants are often crowded, overpriced, and kind of obnoxious during this holiday week/weekend.  So, since becoming "old marrieds", we have preferred to stay in, have a nice dinner, and do sweet things for each other

This year it was a little unusual for a few reasons.  First off, Hubby had made a Superbowl bet with me, which he lost, and the terms of the bet were that he had to cook me dinner.  He does not cook.  Ever.  So, since this was going to be a momentous occasion, we decided it would count as our Valentine's dinner, even though it was Saturday.  He made me steak and baked potatoes, very delicious, and even got a cake for dessert.  And he was so excited about his gift to me, he insisted we exchange presents after dinner.  Unfortunately, this meant his was not wrapped, but he did not mind.  I bought him a board game based on the show Dexter.  Not typically a romantic gift, but given that Hubby collects board games, and loves that show so much we named our dog Dexter, he LOVED it!.  He got me Snapeas, a snack I love but are ridiculously hard to find, and an external hard drive to store my pictures.  I was in heaven.  

So, looked like our Valentine's Day was pretty much perfect.  And then, late that night, as I was carrying Dexter downstairs, I somehow fell on the steps and bruised my tailbone.  This is a pain unlike anything I have ever felt.  It hurts to sit, to lay, to do anything but stand straight and not move.  And this had the potential to ruin a big surprise I had planned for actual Valentine's Day.  I was heartbroken.  But Hubby took exceptionally good care of me for the rest of the weekend, and doggone it, I was determined to carry out my surprise.

So, yesterday, I woke up, and got to work.  I baked some bread (thank you Pampered Chef!) and started dinner in the crock pot.  I was making Parmesan Chicken with Green Beans.  So delish.  I also made parsley potatoes.  Again, amazing.  But that was nothing compared to what else I did.

Using 2 large bags of Hershey kisses, I made a heart on the floor of our entryway,

 then a trail of kisses leading from the door upstairs to our room.  

There, I was waiting for Hubby, all dressed up in a skirt and blouse, with a hand made Valentine.

The whole idea was that I "kiss" the ground he walks on.  He LOVED it!  I was really proud of the Valentine, and although I did not get to make dinner as elaborate as I hoped because I was in pain, it still ended up being a wonderful night.  After dinner, we played a couple of trivia games, snuggled with the dogs, and just talked about how much we love each other, and why.  

To me, this is what Valentine's day is all about, a day full of love, laughter, kindness, and joy.  And this is how each day of my life is, all because I am married to my best friend.  I love you Hubby, and each day with you is like Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In The Big City: I Made It! Market

View from Penn Avenue in the
 Friendship area of Pittsburgh
At the beginning of February, I started my photography class.  Each week we get an assignment to do for the upcoming class, and the assignment I was given Tuesday night was to attend a community event and photograph it as a photojournalist would.  I knew just the event to attend.

For a while now, I had been hearing about the I Made It! Market, following them on Twitter, and saw where several of my friends had attended their events in the past.  Labeled as a "nomadic indie crafts marketplace", this is not your typical church hall craft fair.  As an aspiring crafter, this idea of the market really appealed to me.  Basically, it is a place where people can come to showcase handmade wares.  Think etsy in real life.  And it was all kinds of awesome.

First, let's talk about the building.  The Saturday market was being held in an interesting piece of real estate called the Glass Lofts.  These are really lovely pieces of property, and the building is so brightly colored, it would be so easy to give people directions to your home! 
"I am the first loft on the left on floor 3 of the lime green building.
You can't miss it!
 It seems as if a lot of revitalization is going on in this neighborhood, as well as East Liberty (a few streets over), and it really caters to the young, hip, indie crowd.  If you or anyone you know is interested, please contact Stephen Cummings at Howard Hanna.

When I got inside, I was promptly welcomed by one of the market organizers, who warmly showed me around, and was very excited that I wanted to take pictures.  Everyone was so friendly, a trend that would continue the whole time I was there.  

The first vendor I encountered was The Neighborhood Blonde.  She had a whole table full of wares she calles "eco chic".  I just loved the little notecards she had displayed!
Just a small sampling of the really cute merchandise!

Next up, I visited with Candy (yes, that is her real name she assured me!) from Candy's Confections.  She had a whole table full of delicious looking candy, just perfect for giving to your Valentine.  I immediately wanted to eat everything, but I showed some amazing restraint.
Chocolate covered oreo or little piece of
heaven, you decide.

I then met the mother and daughter in law team that makes up Room Threads.  They were showcasing a lot of adorable headbands, as well as lots of other pretties for the home.
They were sweet enough to let me take their picture.
At this point, I meandered into another room of the market (remember, this was all set up inside the lofts) and spotted Amanda Wolf, from Wolf's Den Pottery.
The artist is as lovely as her pottery.

I immediately wanted to chuck all my store bought dishes, and have Amanda become my exclusive dishware provider.  Her pottery and dishes are so gorgeous, and so functional, being that it is all microwave and dishwasher safe.  Beautiful and useful?  Heavenly!

A little while later, some artwork caught my eye, and I asked the artist if I could take her picture with some of her work.

She seemed so shy, yet her work is so bold.

Kassandra Amada has a style that is so unique and haunting, her images really stayed with me.  I really just fell in love with the imagery this woman creates.  I really hope to one day own a piece of her artwork.  It is just... breathtaking.

Next, I visited Garabella.  Amy, the artist, had a lot of different clothing and goods for sale.  I really loved these clocks, and thought the simplicity of them beautiful.
Birds are very in right now.

And then....I spotted what I thought was possibly the greatest baby related item ever.
If I ever have a baby, someone
please buy me this!
Coming from an old school Polish family, and being a Pittsburgh girl at heart, this yellow bib with black lettering stating "p is for pierogi" stole the show, and my heart.  Seriously, this is capital A-dorable.

One of the most popular types of wares being sold was jewelry.  There were so many amazing artisans, but the pieces from Erika Originals really caught my eye.  She had several different styles of jewelry, but the ones I found simply fabulous were these pendants made from vintage maps. 
Have I mentioned that
I love Pittsburgh?

So many different cities were available.  Other pendants with vintage images were available as well, including some adorable doggies (alas, no dachshunds).
Another fantastic jewelry artist was Anne Harrill from Oceanne.  She makes custom bridal jewelry, as well as what she calls "whimsical wearables".  I absolutely fell in love with one of her necklaces, and am kicking myself for not getting it.
My birthday is in April.  This would make a
great gift.  I am just saying.

The last vendor I visited was Stephanie, from September Mornings.  She had a great collection of vintage inspired jewelry, as well as some really adorable headbands.  And her booth was set up so cutely!
A display that would appeal to any
girly booknerd like me!

Trust me when I say that this is just a sampling, a fraction of the amazing artists that were out at the I Made It! Market today.  Every single vendor was incredibly warm and friendly, whether I was asking their permission to take photos, or asking questions about their merchandise.  It reminded me, yet again, why I love Pittsburgh so much, and how many amazingly talented people and exciting events this city has to offer, if you go out and look for them.

So, my advice to you Pittsburghers, whether born and raised, new to town, or a temporary yinzer due to visiting, get out and see the wonders this city has to offer, the amazing people and places.  Buy hand made.  Support local artists and artisans.  And, if you are looking for a loft, I know a guy.

The next time I see this sign, I fully
expect you all to be there.