Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Housekeeping

Oh seven oh one oh fifteen! As I usually do with this July housekeeping post, I am writing this from the shores of Lake Erie at Sheldon Calvary Camp, where I work each summer as the Day Camp Director for the last week of June/first week of July. Despite the fact that I am working, it is always nice to get away from my Pittsburgh reality for what seem like a few fleeting moments. It's also a nice time and place to reflect on "stuff" and pull various aspects of my life into clearer perspective. Here are a few updates regarding the commencement of June and the advent of July:
  • If you are the type of person who likes to support good causes, I would like to remind you that my dear friend Shelby Allen (known on here more commonly as SAA) is one of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Pittsburgh's 50 Finest this year, meaning that she has taken on the personal challenge of raising $3000. If you are interested in making a donation, you can reach her personal page by clicking here; I also hope to see everyone at the 50 Finest gala on August 13, as it is a truly great party! 
  • Speaking of parties, the National Aviary's Night in the Tropics is coming up on July 11; I also hope to see everyone there. This is the first year that I have done volunteer work on this event; it's a diverse committee of spirited and creative professionals, and I have enjoyed the planning and preparing thus far. Night in the Tropics is the National Aviary's signature fundraiser, benefiting their education and conservation programs. The event will have a steel drum band, a Latin dance band, roving mariachis, and a Latin DJ who also will be conducting Salsa “lessons” for the crowd; food from over thirty vendors and open bar; raffles (like a trip to Hawaii and thousands of dollars in prizes); and experiences with the Aviary's inhabitants. If you want to purchase tickets, you can do so by clicking here. Remember to put my name on your order (Heidi Balas)! 
  • Magic Mike XXL is in my near future. 
  • True Detective is addictive. 
  • I finished The Goldfinch and OH MY GOODNESS, IT WAS REALLY JUST TOO LENGTHY AND TOO WORDY. Pulitzer or not, there was much skimming happening as I got toward the end. I hate when a book becomes a relief to finish. 
  • I will be seeing Jane's Addiction for the third time with my childhood partner-in-crime, JIF on July 10. Our other childhood buddy KLF is joining us, which is great because I never get enough time with her now that we are "adults." While I'm not the biggest fan in the world, I do love Dave Navarro and I have read his memoir. It means the world to JIF to see Jane's Addiction as it's his favorite band of all time, and I wouldn't trade the opportunity to be by his side for that. Ever. 
  • My first article for The Downtowner was published this week, and it featured Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. It's a cool feeling to be published [insert a vision of me doing a weird and happy hop/skip/jump here]. 
  • I have thirteen participants for #STRME, which is fantastic! I cannot wait to send and receive real mail with his group! 
  • I got a Fitbit. I am obsessed. Be my friend. 
  • I have moved again... quickly, painfully, and through the torrential rain. Like I mentioned last week, I cannot thank my support system enough for being there for me amidst my sadness, my stress, and my 800 Rubbermaid plastic bins. Hopefully this new living arrangement will provide peace, especially for Mojito. The poor thing was uprooted only ten months ago, and I thought we had made a home for ourselves; hopefully he will adjust well. 
  • As can be expected mid-summer, there are a handful of birthdays to celebrate, Pirate games to attend, and places to visit; my Instagram should keep everyone updated sufficiently. 
As I have always said when ending one of these posts, thank you for reading and continuing to read The Steel Trap. May was another successful month regarding our number of hits; we are nearly at 277K hits overall and progress remains consistent (and organic)! That's right. I don't buy popularity. We are still in the top 5 on zomato (formerly urbanspoon)! As always, thank you for "liking" The Steel Trap on facebook, following @The_Steel_Trap on Twitter and @The_Steel_Trap on Instagram. Lastly, if anyone has anything that they would like me to cover, or a restaurant for me to review, please send me a message. I am always open to suggestions (you can take SAA's lead because she calls me with them at least once a week)!

Helloooo July! 
-HGB  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

24

Twenty-four things on the twenty-fourth day of June...
  1. Check out this guest piece I wrote on my buddy AJF's blog, everybody loves you..."The Best of Summer Part II... Dining." Of course I found a typo after he had promoted it like 800 times on twitter. Ha! 
  2. I am meeting up with some bloggers on Thursday at Wigle Whiskey. I haven't done anything truly interesting recently, so I am looking forward to this immensely. If you haven't noticed, I also need to relieve some stress in the company of good people. 
  3. I am moving. The circumstances are irrelevant; but the stress, anxiety, disruption, and imposition that it has brought upon me (and my life) has been overwhelming. Thank goodness I have an incredible support system... PSB, JRT, JTP, JDB, EGG, AMS, RRM, MAB, JEG, MLB, SAA, GC, SC, and JAS to name a few. 
  4. My wedding anniversary happened last week. And WOW did it happen. And it was very, very difficult. Anyone who assumes that my outwardly projected flippant indifference is my true sentiment is very, very wrong. 
  5. I am now halfway through The Goldfinch. It's the longest book that I've read since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although it's quite good, I find myself wishing it was Harry Potter
  6. I went ahead and launched an exchange of real mail. If you missed it, you can read more by clicking here. So far I have three participants; I would like six to get this in motion. #STRME
  7. True Detective was exactly what I wanted. And Ballers (FYI one of the writers is ex-Steeler Rashard Mendenhall) and The Brink weren't too bad either. As my cousin RG so appropriately stated, "HBO now owns my Sunday nights." This is a welcome thing, as I have missed True Blood's hold over me. 
  8. It doesn't warrant a whole post, but it does deserve a whole comment. Dairy Queen's Jurassic Blast Blizzard is not even remotely close to being as enjoyable as Ben & Jerry's The Tonight Dough starring Jimmy Fallon, despite their similar flavor components. 
  9. Inevitably, the Rachel Dolezal situation will be on VH1's I Love The Second Decade of Twenty-First Century series.   
  10. I ate sunflower butter today. And I have concluded that it is not and will never be an acceptable substitute for peanut butter.
  11. I need a pedicure.  
  12. When's Gillian Flynn going to write the Amazing Amy books to go along with Gone Girl?  
  13. Hot glue guns are a necessity.  
  14. I got really excited in Lowe's because I found a tool caddy that is totally cool. Does anyone else get excited about items that organize tools? Guys. There is a space just for my hot glue gun. And my drill. And my monogrammed ruler.   
  15. This is a comprehensive list of every celebrity ever linked to Scientology. Fascinating. 
  16. Target has a clearance aisle in the back of the store. You can reread that if you need clarification.  
  17. "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity." -Gilda Radner 
  18. Go see my friend Gina sing live in Market Square on Saturday from 12-2 p.m. It will be a nice, acoustic afternoon!  
  19. My tan lines are already hideous.  
  20. I am working with a few former students this summer at day camp. One in particular cannot stop calling me Ms. Balas. And I am all, "Nope. Not here buddy. Here I am Summer Heidi. She doesn't answer to Ms. Balas."   
  21. June 17, 1994 was twenty-one years ago. 
  22. The Confederate Flag, the Rebel Flag, the "stars and bars"...whatever name you give it, that flag, especially when flying up here above the Mason-Dixon Line, is symbolic of racism. And trust me, I know my history. 
  23. If anyone wants to buy me these pineapple shoes, I would love you forever. 
  24. Weevils. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Steel Trap Real Mail Exchange a.k.a. #STRME

I love getting real mail. I love sending real mail. I have a favorite post office (yes, I am talking to you Turtle Creek). And since I am moving on Saturday (I know, AGAIN... more explanation to follow in a later post), I have devised an ingenious way to get and send more real mail!

But first, a definitive definition: real mail is any form of correspondence that arrives via USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. to your home address that isn't one of the following: a bill, a promotional flyer, a free periodical, information that you requested, or a chain letter. Real mail is from "real" people; it's handwritten, it's thoughtful, and it's fun.

With that in mind, I am launching the first (and hopefully not the last) Steel Trap Real Mail Exchange a.k.a. #STRME. Here are the specifications:

  1. Participation is clearly voluntary (although I have a couple of people in mind who had better do this); six participants are required for #STRME to launch. 
  2. Each participant will put together a themed package (in this case: "Summer Survival") to send to another participant.
  3. Contents of the package will not exceed $35. Postage is additional. 
  4. Packages will be sent on a set date (in this case Monday, July 20). 
  5. Once packages arrive, pictures must be posted on Instagram with the hashtag #STRME. 
  6. A handwritten thank you note will be sent from you to the sender of your package.

If anyone wants to participate, please email me with the following information (subject line: #STRME) no later than Tuesday, June 30:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Any food allergies that you have (I know, I know... but these things must be said, right?) 
If we have six participants (hopefully many more), I will arrange the exchange and we will go from there! I would love for this to become a continuing event! 


Coming Soon!

There are two things coming soon to Pittsburgh that I want to share with you...

First for the foodies, Pittsburgh's new cooking show Between The Eats, is launching June 26th at 12 p.m. in Market Square. The new co-hosted show provides viewers with cooking entertainment that showcases funky new recipe trends and everything "in between." "We are thrilled to launch this show! What a fantastic landing pad for those looking for inspiration and to be entertained," says Terri Dowd co-host of Between The Eats and creator of the popular food blog company Parmesan Princess, Inc. "It [the show] is the missing piece. This amazing food city needs an amazing food show!" 
On a personal note, the Parmesan Princess is quickly becoming a known personality on the local food scene, and I enjoy seeing her about town. "Between the Eats is a game changer," said David Carmine co-host and Executive Chef at Andora Sewickley, “Not only are we teaching people proper cooking techniques, but we are also showing viewers all over the world really cool recipes!" 
Between the Eats will be readily available on any online device. Watch it on your phone, tablet, computer, or stream it to your television. Episodes will be available on the Between the Eats YouTube channel and betweentheeatstv.com to a local, national, and international audience.


And then for the theater buffs, Lamplighter Productions announces the tour of their premiere production How to be a GoodPerson,TM  an ensemble-devised multi-media exploration of communication in the digital age. It tells the story of Vanessa and Paul, two people who are searching for meaning in an environment of overwhelming stimulation. How to be a GoodPerson TM was developed through non-hierarchical collaboration from artists of diverse backgrounds. The play is composed of the real stories and experiences from the Lamplighter team. The final product is a sharp and witty, yet visceral and touching experience. The Pittsburgh dates for the show are July 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7 p.m. These performances will be held at The Maker Theater in Shadyside on Ellsworth Avenue. For more information, please contact [Fayette County's own] Vanessa Frank at info@lamplighterproductions.org.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Under Construction

I don't know if any of you are faithful readers, but if you are, you may have noticed that I have been posting less frequently (maybe it just seems that way to me?). To be brief, my life is under construction; it's almost as if I was building a cable-powered incline during a torrential downpour with vicious (albeit beautiful) lightening surrounding me. Melodramatic much? Maybe. In addition, my writing efforts this past week went to a guest blog post for a friend and to my piece for The Downtowner.

But a picture speaks a thousand words, and this one popped up on my facebook news feed this morning. Coincidence? The photographer is a cabin mate from my days as a camper at Sheldon Calvary Camp, and now in adulthood she's one of Pittsburgh's biggest advocates and a great spokesperson for its progress. I am grateful that she obliged my request to post on The Steel Trap.

photography by the lovely Breen Masciotra