Surprise Tinto Dinner

You know what’s awesome about not having kids? You can decide on a whim to go out to a trendy and expensive restaurant and not have to worry about how you’re going to buy diapers or send someone to college (not to mention get a babysitter for the night).

GG called me at work on Friday to see what I might want to do that night, since we were both, miraculously, free. I thought of a couple places we could go, and then on a whim said it might be neat if we went to Amada for dinner (I’ve wanted to go back since we were there for our anniversary last year). Well, Amada is still super booked, as were a couple of the other Garces restaurants. So then I thought I’d check Tinto, and lo and behold, they had a reasonable 6 PM reservation open! So I made sure to get home from work on time so we could battle traffic into the city, get parked, and get to the restaurant. We actually got there a bit early and had a chance to walk around down Chestnut Street a bit before heading in.

We were seated in the main dining room area, though there’s also an upper bar with some seating, and a basement. I’d read the tables were very close together, and they were, but it was a lot like the tables at Les Halles actually, just trying to cram as many people as possible into a small space. Our waiter was very friendly and knowledgeable, and I couldn’t figure out who he reminded me of but finally decided it was Rob Cantor from Tally Hall.

Tinto is a tapas restaurant, and a lot of the plates are sized for sharing. So probably we should have pared down the amount of stuff we got… I guess we just figured, we ordered like 8 different things at Amada, so we should do that at Tinto too. Semi-mistake. It was an expensive and filling meal. (GG actually calculated that it was the most expensive dinner we’ve had together – more than Amada, or even Chelsea Prime, which was our previous record holder. Yes, he keeps track of these things, haha, because I wouldn’t remember!) But I’m glad we got so much because I wanted to try everything! We just ordered everything up front and then they brought it out in courses in an order that made sense.

We both had sangria (yes even me, I don’t usually drink) – I had the white because it was the sweetest, and GG had the seasonal (a little spicy, definitely tasted like autumn) and the red. First they brought us complementary mahon crisps with some sort of tomato-based sauce. Our first course I didn’t get a picture of, but it was the Mixto plate of three cheeses (not sure what exactly they were, but there was a sheep’s milk, a nice blue cheese, and a very stinky goat cheese that GG surprised me by eating and enjoying), and the asparagus in smoked tomato compote with mahon espuma. Second was the shortrib sandwich with bacon, asparagus, and celery root aioli; Patatas Asturianas, potatoes with tomato compote and la peral cream (basically tater tots with a cheese sauce, but they were seriously amazing); and green beans with almonds, dates, orange, and paprika sherry vinaigrette (I’d read that these were awesome and they were).

Since we were essentially eating a bunch of appetizers, we were taking the food from the dish it came in and putting it on our appetizer plates so we could split everything up. So between courses, people cleared away our dirty plates and brought us fresh plates and silverware. I don’t know if this is how you’re supposed to do it or not – some people around us were just eating off the plates the food came on, but we shared everything so that’s how we did it. The third course was the heaviest: lobster with grapefruit-vanilla nage and migas (that was GG’s, though I did try a bite); organic chicken with truffle whipped mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, and smoked bacon (the brussel sprouts and bacon were amazing, but actually the chicken was probably my least favorite of all the items we got); and the Bomba Rice with morel mushrooms, asparagus, and lemon oil (I was a little incredulous about the price, for rice?!, but I’d read that it was fantastic – and it was seriously worth it).

And of course we had to get dessert. We ordered two to share, but actually each ended up eating our own. I had the Mato Y Miel (goat’s milk mousse with orange-olive oil caramel, orange blossom gelee, and almond lace tuile), which GG didn’t like because it was basically like a goat’s milk cheesecake, two flavors he hates. He ate the Gateaux Basque (Basque cake, pastry cream, and black cherries), which was a bit too strong of a cherry flavor for me, but GG loves cherries, so it worked out perfectly.

So Tinto was amazing, and such a nice spur-of-the-moment night out! Sometimes no occasion is the best occasion for a fancy meal. Despite our best intentions, we passed out on the sofa after we got home. And slept in this morning – the house was too cold and the bed was too warm.

“Lullabye to nightmares, whisper low”

Man, daylight saving time cannot end soon enough. Monday night I was in bed, asleep, by 9 PM because it had been dark for so long already it felt like it was much later. I usually go to bed around 11. And then of course I woke up at 3 AM, because I usually get up at 5. I was awake for about an hour (Sacha was purring and snuggling against me so hard, he does that sometimes in the middle of the night, but I always think it means he’s trying to alert me to something!), and fell asleep again around 4, just in time to get not quite enough sleep by the time my alarm went off. Sigh.

In other news, my long weekend ended on Tuesday morning and it feels like I never even had a day off work. Except for all the e-mails I had to catch up on. I got a coupon for 50% off outerwear at Old Navy, so I ended up getting a coat, but not the one I posted about recently, it was another one I liked but GG gave me a weird look when I tried it on because it’s plaid. But it’s cute.

I made the most fabulous risotto for dinner last night, based on the meal I had when we went out on Friday. That meal was called Autumn Risotto, and it was plain risotto with squash, chestnuts, cranberries, and cooked escarole sitting on top. It was not what I’d pictured when I ordered it – plus it was very salty, and the cranberries were so tart they took away from all the other flavors. So my version is just the best parts, all cooked together. Since I usually just cook by “feel,” it’s hard to come up with a recipe, but here we go…


  • 1.5 cups arborio rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 a butternut squash
  • 8 oz. peeled chestnuts
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Cut butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread on a baking sheet, top with about 1.5 Tbsp butter (cut into chunks and placed throughout pan). Bake at 400* for about 30-45 minutes or until tender, stirring a couple times during cooking to distribute melted butter and expose all sides of the cubes.

While squash is baking, cook rice in chicken broth, until broth is absorbed. Then add the wine, cook until absorbed. Add 1.5 Tbsp butter. Last, add the water, cook until absorbed.

While rice is cooking, roughly chop chestnuts so they are approximately the same size as the butternut squash cubes. (Tip: Trader Joe’s sells steamed, peeled chestnuts in a box!)

When the squash is tender and the rice has absorbed all the liquid, mix the squash and chestnuts into the rice and stir to distribute evenly.

If you make this, let me know how it goes!

Long Busy “Vacation” Weekend

GG and I were both able to get some time off work, so we ended up with a four-day weekend. We decided to use our day off on Friday to go to the Philadelphia Zoo, something we both did a lot as children but had never done together. It was a gorgeous day, and we got there around 10 AM and aimed to see as much as we could see. I think we got to everything, except we did skip over a lot of the African Plains and some of the Bears. A lot has changed since the last time I was there, which was definitely 10-15 years ago. For one thing, they used to have a monorail that went around the whole zoo, and that was removed a while ago and replaced by a giant (tethered) hot air balloon. But the balloon wasn’t running on Friday, so luckily I didn’t have to ride on that. There is a really nice new cat exhibit where you can pretty much stand right next to tigers and stuff, if they decide to come up to the glass (which they did). They used to be in a big, smelly building, so this is nice for them. Also, the bird house is pretty cool now – you can actually walk through this rainforest path type area with birds just flying and walking around, loose. The primate building was new one of the last times I was at the zoo, and it opened in 1999, so… no wonder I didn’t remember it that well. The gorillas were really amazing to watch, but one of my favorite things from the whole day was the orangutan family! A lot of other things, like the reptile house and small mammal house, were a lot like I’d remembered them, but with improved informational displays – we actually learned stuff!

Up close and personal with the tiger

Rainforest bird exhibit

Orangutan family!

After a (too-short) nap, we met up with GG’s parents for dinner on Friday night. We ended up going to Theresa’s because I mentioned to GG’s dad that they serve “bunny bites” (saddest appetizer ever: rabbit nuggets with a carrot dipping sauce!), but apparently that is only on the lunch menu. Oh well, dinner was awesome, and then we walked around the corner a bit to make fun of that PBandU place, which is a cute idea but so poorly planned out, it makes me angry just thinking about it. I would love to go in there sometime and set them up with an assembly line, because it really shouldn’t take 30 minutes to make a peanut butter sandwich (true story).

Saturday was Homecoming at MU, so GG and I got up really early and drove out there early to be on campus and parked before they started closing roads for the parade. There is a lot of construction going on still, and a lot of things are closed. Also, the downstairs of the dining hall I used to go to is completely unrecognizable – they removed the mailboxes (those are now in the dorms), the convenience store I used to work at, and the little lunch counter, and replaced everything with a really nice looking combination store + prepared food counter. They even have fresh sushi! (I don’t know if I would trust MU sushi anyway, but there you go. People said it was good.)

The parade was fun, L and S and their friend E met up with us, as did my great-great-grandlittle and her boyfriend, so we had a good little crowd. The parade theme was “Wild Wild West,” and a lot of groups did actually fit the theme, unlike past years. Some of our favorite acts were the Hobo Band, anyone with animals, the baton girls, the Temple Guard Drill Team (loved them last year too, they are awesome), and this guy who I will just call “the king,” he danced and chased floats and was absolutely nuts all morning. We have no clue who he is, but he seemed to have a good time. At almost the very end of the parade were the Parading Atheists of PA, which was actually kind of funny – five people dressed up as the Pope, the Devil, a skeleton, Buddha, and Muhammad.

Temple Guard Drill Team

“The King” prances along behind a float blowing fake snow

The Parading Atheists of PA

After the parade, we all went to HoPie for a lunch of pizza and cheese fries. We decided that we kind of hate watching the football games, so rather than waste our money, we just took a walk around campus to see the sights (and show E around, since she went to IUP). After we all decided we were done for the day, GG and I went to visit my brother briefly. And then we headed home. I was exhausted, and it was only maybe 4 PM by the time we got back. I passed out for a little bit, then we ordered Chinese for dinner and called it a night.

Sunday was a day to rest and catch up on chores. I sat down with my recipe scrapbook before going food shopping and for once I’m excited about cooking this week. Since TLC wasn’t showing much in the way of freak shows last night, GG consented to watch House Hunters with me (he secretly likes it).

So today is my last vacation day, except not really because I actually have to call in to a meeting at work in a little bit. Of course all this crazy stuff has to be going on during the two days that I’m off work, right? That’s why I have so much unused vacation time!

Wedding, Sweater, Sacha, Work

So what else have I been up to, besides shopping (okay, including shopping)?

Old People Wedding: Not that they were old, and they certainly acted young, but I went to a wedding last weekend as my grandmother’s guest where the bride and groom were 60, and besides another girl my age, and a bunch of little little kids, I was the youngest person there. It was actually fun and a nice day! The couple was kind of stressing how informal the wedding was, and it was a daytime thing, so I wasn’t sure what to wear that wouldn’t be too formal. In the end, I wore black pants, a white top, and a patterned cardigan, which worked out to be just fine. The food at the reception was kind of funny – it was all really good, but it was a weird assortment: salads, pastas, two types of chicken, quiche, sandwiches, french fries… It was as if someone gave them a menu and they just kind of checked off the foods they liked. But I’m saying too much bad about it – it really was a nice wedding and a fun reception, plus I was home before 6!

Sweater: From my list in my previous post, I actually did get a boyfriend sweater – actually the one pictured, which is from Target. It was really soft. But I was going to wear it to work today and luckily I ran it by GG (which I do with all new clothes), and we decided that it made me look too “hippy.” (As in, it made my hips look wide, not that it made me look like a free-spirit.) I think this one was just too long. I actually have a couple v-neck cardigans that are pretty much boyfriend sweaters, but were purchased a couple years ago before that was a “thing,” I guess. So maybe I should just be happy with what I have, haha. I returned the Target one today.

Sacha’s Check-Up: Sacha went to the vet yesterday for his annual check-up and shots. For such a tiny cat, he is impossible to get into the cat carrier! It took me forever to get him in, and he puffed his tail up so big, and then meowed like he was being tortured the whole way there, and in the waiting room. I thought he’d gained weight since last year, but he’d actually lost a pound. I wish he would gain weight, but he is naughty! Anyway, he’s in great health, teeth look great, etc., but the doctor noticed that his kidneys are different sizes?! She wasn’t sure if one was enlarged or one is undersized, but it’s the first time she’s noticed that, and he’s obviously been healthy, so we just have to keep an eye in case he starts acting weird. He’s healthy and naughty!

Work: For all my complaining about how busy I’ve been, this week was actually relatively quiet. I finished work on time every day. Until… today. I am not in the office tomorrow or Monday, but guess what – all sorts of emergency stuff is happening and I’m the only person who can do anything! It’s a good thing that I’m not going too far, because I will probably be working at least a bit on both of my days off. As an example – it is after 11 PM and I am actually working right now. Sigh.

Busy four-day weekend coming up! Wish me luck!

Things I Want to Buy Soon

Wool Jacket: I wanted a jacket that is more formal looking than my regular nylon Eddie Bauer jacket I got last year, but not as formal as my button-down wool coat. I want it to have a hood, and I want it to zip up with fake buttons or at least a hidden zipper. I actually tried on this bomber jacket at Old Navy the other day, and it’s so warm and the hood is huge (I love that), but unlike this picture, the waist is not nipped-in at all, so I just look like a giant blob wearing it. I need something with a little bit more definition. So, the search continues…

Skimmer Sneakers: A couple years ago I got this awesome pair of black and white herringbone Converse skimmers on clearance at Target, and I didn’t really know what to do with them so I never wore them. But I’ve pretty much worn them out this year. They’re just cute, they’ve got a good shape (kind of pointy toe, not round, so they don’t emphasize my huge feet), and they look good with everything. I really need to find a replacement, or at least additional, pair. Even though skimmer season is about over, so it might be hard (or I might find some end-of-season deals).

Boyfriend Sweater: I love the idea of the “boyfriend sweater,” but every time I see one I like I just hear that line from this season’s Project Runway, “They were making something called the ‘grandpa sweater!'” I don’t know, I think they’re cute, but I’m worried that on me it might read as sloppy, and I have to make sure it doesn’t hit at the widest part of my hips, and bla bla bla.

“When this gray world crumbles like a cake, I’ll be hanging from the hope, that I’ll never see that recipe again”

Hmm, what did I do this week? Well, Monday and Tuesday I worked, work is crazy, stayed late, bla bla bla, this is my new life. After work on Monday I went to the mall to drop off a bunch of jeans at the Gap to recycle. I ended up with six coupons for 30% off a new pair of jeans that I will never use because I don’t need six new pairs of jeans before they expire on Oct. 20. So if anyone reading this wants a coupon, hit me up! I got a couple pairs of their 1969 jeans a while ago and they are really nice! After work on Tuesday I went to visit my grandmother for a little bit and then did some errands on my way home. They re-organized my Trader Joe’s again! I guess the new layout makes more sense, but it was all confusing and I couldn’t find anything, plus going after work is just a really bad idea in the first place, it’s so crazy in there.

On Wednesday I worked from home, watched a couple Chilean miners get rescued, and made Peppermint Pattie brownies. They are okay, but didn’t turn out as awesome as I was hoping. Also, about the miners: they were underground for two months and now these guys are going to be set for life, they’re getting all kinds of freebies and opportunities, etc. Meanwhile, we have soldiers coming back from Iraq after getting shot at for the past year, and where’s their free Oakley sunglasses, wedding dresses, trips to Graceland, etc.? However, as a friend at work pointed out (and her husband was in Iraq for a year with the National Guard and is currently in Lithuania for a month), people in the military have volunteered to do that job. Oh well, I think the miners are awesome and all, I just think there are a lot of other people who could stand to receive the same admiration. Wednesday night I went to band practice. I really want to be excited for our upcoming concert because we are playing some very awesome pieces, but we’re still at the point where we suck and I’m kind of not into the whole poster/program design thing anymore, so band is really just a bummer lately.

Oh also somewhere in there I was making Where’s Waldo hats non-stop. I might do one or two more, but otherwise I think I’m about done for the season.

Thursday I had an excellent dental check-up and cleaning. Seriously, best ever. I give all the credit to my electric toothbrush. I’ve been using it for a couple years now, and my teeth have continued to improve. Then I came home and set up camp on the sofa to watch 30 Rock live (which was awesome – it was like one giant SNL sketch, which I guess was sort of love-it or hate-it, but I loved it), and The Office. So now I have to catch Project Runway and Fringe over the weekend.

Tonight GG and I went out for dinner. We were going to go to Chik-fil-A in the mall food court because I had a coupon for a free chicken sandwich, but the entire food court was walled off! They must be fixing the floor that was damaged in the flood a couple weeks ago (lots of stores in the mall are still closed!). So we walked over to the Court, thinking we’d get pizza, but at the last second decided to go to Legal Seafood instead. Of course, there are only 3 things on the menu that do not include seafood. One was a $33 filet mignon, and I was not about to spend that much on dinner (even though I’ve had it before and it was awesome), so my realistic choices were chicken or beef tips. I had the beef tips, which are cooked over hickory planks or something, and they were amazing. GG was in heaven with his spicy calamari and swordfish. Then this incredibly annoying family came and sat next to us, so I was so relieved to leave because I think I would have permanently damaged my eyes from rolling them so hard at the mother in this group.

Tomorrow will be a long-ish day, but Sunday should be relaxing and next week will hopefully be a little less busy at work… I say that every week now, though, don’t I?

“I’ll be in the back, and I don’t need the help…”

Oh jeez… I don’t even know what I did this week, I just thought I should update here so people don’t start wondering if I’ve died. I’m still crazy busy at work. Every time I think things are winding down, something new pops up. I’ve taken to checking in from home in the evenings via my laptop, and I really don’t want to make that a habit. (Yet you’d be surprised how many people are online at night when I sign on. Is that the secret – you need to come home from work and continue working? Is that what I’m going to have to do to stay on top of everything?)

Other than that, I had band practice and I watched TV (caught up with all my shows from last week except Fringe, maybe I’ll watch that tonight because I certainly don’t want to see any more Sister Wives). I have the house cleaned up and put back together after last week, which is a relief. GG got a new desk for his music studio – it’s a black corner Vika from Ikea, and it looks very sleek and classy with all his computer and music equipment set up on it. Much nicer than that big wooden monstrosity he used to use.

Yesterday we went to MB and A’s for their Oktoberfest party – I wish I liked beer, because A had four of his homebrews on tap and they were apparently very good – but all beer is disgusting to me. We had lots of fun anyway. GG said he was going to try not to be so offensive and such an attention hog, but that didn’t last long. Actually, it didn’t happen at all. But that’s just who he is, and I’m glad we have friends who like him the way he is.

My Insane Week

For eighteen months, my job was 90% sitting around doing nothing while my company decided what to do with me. So I feel bad complaining about how busy I am these days, but oh my gosh am I busy! This week was going to be especially bad because October 1 was a day that a lot of work had to be done, and I was traveling Monday through Wednesday.

I went into the office Monday morning to do some work. Then I met up with the three other people in my Training group who work in my office, and we headed off together for a five-hour drive out of state for our Training group quarterly meeting. As I was walking out to where we were meeting the car, it started pouring rain, so I was all wet and yucky for the drive. By the time we got up there, I had a headache and wanted nothing more than to hit the hotel bed, but instead we picked up another group member who had flown into town, and we all went out to dinner. By the time we got to the hotel, I just wanted to check for bedbugs (there were none) and collapse.

On Tuesday we were in break-out sessions, so I was just with my little team of five. We were really productive! Our boss is so sweet, she brought snacks for everyone, we all had little cups of trail mix, crackers, grapes, M&Ms, etc. She is super nice, and led the meeting really well – we totally stayed on schedule, and got a lot done.

That night all of Training was supposed to get together for this boat tour thing, which I was not looking forward to because I can’t even look at a boat without getting seasick. So I was very excited when the boat ride was canceled due to the rain. Instead, we all went out to dinner. It was lots of fun, and we could see the boat from the restaurant, which was sort of ironic. Also, the rain stopped. After dinner, a bunch of us walked down the street and went to a couple shops, and then they all wanted to go to a bar so I just stood there and had water and talked to this guy (the only man in our group) who I’d really only ever interacted with via e-mail before. He is very cool! We like the same semi-obscure bands and comedy shows, so that was awesome. Then it was back to the hotel to do some work and go to bed.

On Wednesday the whole Training group was together for the day. The first thing was to report back on what we’d done in our break-out sessions, and our group actually had slides and accomplished stuff, so I think we impressed everyone. Then we moved on to the most tense software demo I’ve ever experienced, which devolved into a weird argument. Then we had some more presentations and bla bla bla, and we finished up on time at 2:30, and then we got back on the road and despite getting caught up in a little bit of traffic, got home at a pretty reasonable time.

It also needs to be mentioned that the rental car we used had a Sirius radio, yet all we listened to was the driver’s Lady Gaga CD about five million times! By the time we got home, I was so sick of “Alejandro!” However, this was definitely the most fun business trip I’ve had yet. I always say, Training groups are the most fun to hang out with! And I get to do this on a quarterly basis now!

Thursday I was back at the office, and it was crazy and I had to stay late. Also it was raining again, all day, which was terrible. On Friday I planned for another long, busy day as I got all this stuff done for its deadline, but GG called with an emergency, so I did everything I had to in the office, got a couple other people to fill in for some of the other parts of my work, and headed home. Because of the weather (the rain had pretty much cleared out, but there were a lot of accidents and flooding), it took me about four times longer than usual to get home. Then GG and I spent the rest of the day dealing with our little emergency. It was a lot of work. Finally around 6:30 we finished for the day, ordered Chinese food for dinner, and I finally was able to log on to my work laptop and get the last of my work done.

Today we had planned to go see The Social Network, so we both did our own errands and chores, then saw a late afternoon show, followed by dinner. The movie was really good! As I’d imagined it would be, it was like the Pirates of Silicon Valley of the 2000s. I really liked the clever way it was edited to switch between scenes of the early days of Facebook and scenes of the legal proceedings of its later days. After dinner we went over to the King of Prussia Mall for dinner and discovered that it had flooded! Lots of stores were closed and there were crews in there cleaning up. The parking lot and some areas inside were all muddy. After doing some research online, it sounds like they had been cleaning up since 6 AM on Friday! What a mess!

Tomorrow we were supposed to go to the Ren Faire with some friends, but they had a death in the family and are having a viewing tomorrow, so we’ll have to cancel. I don’t know what we’ll end up doing instead. Maybe I will sit still for a minute.