family · food · reviews

Emporio: A Meatball Joint – Restaurant Review

So yesterday I posted my menu for the week. In posting this I realized I had never reviewed Emporio: A Meatball Joint.

Emporio is one of those place that we have been going to since we visited PA last March looking for a place to live. What make Emporio special? Their meatballs. That’s what they do… meatballs!

First things first which type of meatball are you going to have, beef, chicken, pork, veggie or the “Ball of the Month”? Now what are you going to do with your balls? Pick your sauce, pick your side (or skip the side) pasta, fries, tater tots, rice, on a roll?

I typically just get “Saucy Balls” which is 4 meatballs in your choice of sauce. This time I just decided to have beef balls in marinara… simple yet yummy. IMG_20180426_174127 (1).jpg

Richard ordered the Taco Ball Salad (taco ball was the ball of the month). This was romaine lettuce, Spanish rice, cheese, peppers and beef taco balls. IMG_20180426_174159.jpg

We have tried the Ball of the month in the past too, one time it was a cheese burger ball, Colby loved that one.

Blake and Colby ordered off the kids menu. This gets them one ball in sauce, a side, drink and a cookie. Blake had beef with marinara (then ate one of my meatballs too) and french fries. Colby had beef with creamy Parmesan sauce and penne with the same sauce


One of Blake’s favorite things about this restaurant is that we saw it on Ginormous Foods. He thinks this is pretty cool. They visited Primanti Bros on the same episode. You can check the episode out here.

family · life

Why did you leave FL for PA??

Whenever people learn that we moved from Orlando, FL to Pittsburgh, PA, we always get that look of … “What were you thinking?” People then always say “Was this for a job?” “Do you miss Florida?” “And many other questions that make you know that people think we are nuts.

Maybe we are, but this is working out for our family.

Yes, the weather in Orlando is a LOT warmer. Yes, Orlando has Disney and Universal and Sea World and Legoland and so many other things. Yes, Orlando is the only place my sons knew as home. Richard too had only lived in Florida.

What have we found? The neighborhood we live in now is a lot friendlier than the one we left. The boys have friends here. They enjoy going out on their bikes and joining up with other kids to play sports, ride bikes, play on the playground and so much more. The school they attend is for grades 4-6. This means they have more freedom and responsibility. The school doesn’t focus all their time and energy on the state testing. They want the children to be involved in learning beyond the classroom. They are more concerned about the depth of knowledge than the breathe of knowledge.

The city of Pittsburgh is a bigger city than Orlando, but it actually has a small town feel. There are lots of museums and things to do, but you can walk around and go to small restaurants and other venues that have been there for decades or longer. When you talk to people around they are friendly and speak highly of the city they love to call home. We have met so many people who say they grew up in Pittsburgh, moved away and came back.

No city, town, area is perfect. But, I will say that feel of this city is so caring and welcoming. We look forward to getting to know the area, city and state more. We are enjoying the change, and not just the change in seasons.

So were we crazy to leave Florida? Nope! We made a step that is helping bring happiness to our family, and that is what is important.

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Flame BBQ restaurant review

Last night there was no way I was cooking dinner. The house was still pretty much a cluttered mess from painting. The kitchen counters were covered with paper, the island was covered with everything that belongs on the counters. The kitchen table was covered with everything we using for painting.

So we decided to go out to dinner and then head to Costco to get the things we needed from there. We didn’t know where we were going to go, so we decided to try some place new to us.

We went to Flame BBQ in Cranberry, PA. I found it on-line while Googling “restaurants near Cranberry, PA”. I really like the near me features on Google as it gives you the map and then you can get to the websites. I like going onto the Google Earth feature of the map as I have to see what it looks like to know where in the world it is talking about. I can’t give directions go north 5 miles, that means nothing to me. I’m more of a drive until you see this gas station then turn right kind of person. So looking at the Google Earth map helps me see what I would see while driving.

Anyway…. back to Flame BBQ. We looked at the menu on the site and sort of had an idea of what we were going to order. We always look at menus on-line before going somewhere for the fact that my boys are picky eaters. They are getting better, but aren’t always super adventurous in their eating.

2018-03-02 18.00.02This restaurant was a small store front in a strip plaza. They had space for about one dozen people to sit in the restaurant so you can tell they do a lot of take out business. They had pulled pork, pulled chicken, pulled beef and brisket as their main meats. This works!

Colby ordered first. He decided to get the Jr. Beef 2018-03-02 18.00.07Brisket Sandwich. The meat in this was very lean and after he added the BBQ sauce it was very tasty. The roll they use for this was good too.

Blake ordered Ms. Chicken which is the pulled chicken sandwich. The meat came with their sweet sauce on it already. This too was really good. The chicken had decent flavor. It had the same roll as Colby.

Richard ordered the Boss Platter. This is two meats and two sides. Richard choose to have pulled pork, brisket, coleslaw and their side called Cheezy potato bake. He also got a kaiser roll with it. The pork was really good. Just like Colby, the brisket had good flavor, but was dry since it was so lean. The coleslaw had a bit too much mayo, but the flavor wasn’t bad. Neither Richard or I liked the potato bake thing. The potatoes tasted almost uncooked and it didn’t have a strong flavor.

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I ordered Pig Pen. This was fries topped with pulled pork and cheese sauce. This was really yummy. I was shocked that the whole time I ate this the fries stayed crispy and never got soggy. I think this was the right balance of meat, cheese and fries. I would certainly get this again.

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We left saying “Yep, we will go there again.” We all agreed that the meat is cooked perfectly and the food was flavorful. I think next time, I’ll try beef and mac (mac and cheese topped with pulled beef) but I did like the pulled pork a LOT.

You will find us going back to Flame BBQ again.

family · life

Valentine Box, Monster Jam and Visiting the Mall

Today was a busy fun filled family day. I knew we were going to have brunch and linner today so I made breakfast burritos. They turned out really good. I made a batch of scramblers with ham and cheddar cheese. We then wrapped it in tortillas and baked it in the oven for about 5 min.

After breakfast, we decided to work on Colby’s Valentine box. This will probably be the last box we make. His teacher is running a decorating contest before they give out their valentines. We went back and forth between a few different box decorations and he settled on Cut the Rope.

Then we headed into the city to go see Monster Jam. We went to see Monster Jam many times in Orlando. When we went to Monster Jam in Orlando it took place outside in a football stadium. This time it was inside the PPG Paints Arena which is where the Pittsburgh Penguins play. Needless to say it wasn’t as big of a show. I don’t think we will be back to see it, but if we didn’t know what it was like to see the big shows it probably would have seemed like a lot more fun.

When we were done, we decided to go to Chili’s for dinner. Then went to the mall. We had yet to visit this mall and decided since we were right there we would. Colby didn’t like his meal at Chili’s… I’m not sure I blame him. He ordered kids chicken and pasta and the sauce was spicy. When I was putting it into the to go box we saw pieces of jalapenos. I wonder if they put the wrong sauce on it? So we decided to stop at the food court and he decided to get a burger from Five Guys. Blake ended up getting a hot dog even though he ate his quesadilla at Chili’s.

It was a fun day for the four of us. Now to play a game before bedtime. Hope your Saturday was fun for you as well.

family · life · reviews

Cirque de Soleil- Crystal and more

Happy Sunday. I know I typically don’t post on Sundays, but I didn’t post yesterday so I’m here today instead.

Yesterday we had a fun and busy day. We went to see Cirque de Soleil Crystal. We got the boys these tickets as part of their Christmas present. Over the years we have been to many different Cirque de Soleil shows. Living in Orlando, Richard and I went to La Nuba a often as a date night activity. We did take the boys to see the show once as well. Richard and I have seen 2 or 3 other travel shows as well. We took the boys to one travel show before this one. Over the years we have seen travel shows that we have really liked and others that we not up to our Cirque standards.

When we saw the advertisement for Cirque de Soleil Crystal we were intrigued. Crystal is a Cirque show on ice. Yes, you read that right.. they were on skates. When I read this I started to question if they could get that Cirque vibe on skates. Would they be too limited by what they can and can’t do on ice skates?

Before we purchased the tickets, I did a bit or research on the show and watched the preview videos. One thing that helped was seeing that they got Kurt Browning involved in the planning of the show. I knew the skating would be at a high level when you put an Olympic skater in the mix. I also read that they had both people on skates as well as people wearing shoes to help stabilize them when they were catching the “fliers”

So yesterday we headed into the city of Pittsburgh into the PPG Arena and got ready to watch Crystal. Let me tell you I was sucked in within the first few minutes of the show. It was very different from many Cirque shows in that there was less comedy and almost no makeup. Typical Cirque de Soliel shows have a set of “clowns” who are the between scenes comedy, they had this, but they were a tiny roll in the show. Also typical Cirque show characters are made up until almost indistinguishable, these characters maintained their personal features.

But that was about it for things that made it non-Cirque like. Just like all Cirque shows there was a vague plot that held the acts together into a story. There was so much going on in a given scene that you don’t know where to watch. There was action, there was jumping, tumbling, there was feats that made you hold your breath. But, this was done on skates! There were a few acts that I’ve grown to expect to see at a Cirque de Soleil show, but they had a different flare.

All four of us left with huge smiles on our faces talking about the show. We all enjoyed different pieces of the show and pointed out different parts that another may have missed in watching this or that.

After we left we went and had dinner at a Peppi’s Old Tyme Sandwich Shope. Richard ate there when he was up in Pittsburgh before we moved up this summer. It is known for its cheese steaks subs, so why not! Richard had The New Yorker (cheese steak with bacon, onions and cheese), Blake had a grilled chicken sub with cheese, Colby had a bacon cheese burger sub, and I had a pizza steak. They were really good. We each had a bite of everyone else’s sub (does anyone else do this when you try a new place?) I ended up eating my steak out of the roll with a fork. Don’t get me wrong the sub roll was really good, it was just super messy!

We left our house around 1:30 and got home around 8:15. It was a fun day with lots of laughs. I love days like this where we all step back and just enjoy being together. I have no pictures because I was just living the moment and not trying to capture it. We go back into the city twice in February for two more activities that we got the boys for Christmas. These activities are so worth it for our whole family and are appreciated so much more than a toy.


I enjoy reading your replies to my posts. Keep sharing your thoughts, it helps motivate me to share mine! 

Have you been to see Cirque de Soleil? Which show? What did you do this weekend as a family?

through my camera lens

Welcome back to the north- your old friends snow and cold

This past weekend we found ourselves hunkered down trying to stay warm. The boys didn’t have school on Friday because of the severe wind chill temperatures. The high on Friday was 9F (-12C), but the wind chill had it as -18F (-27C). Saturday was a bit warmer with the high being a whopping 11F (-11C), but the wind chill wasn’t as severe. Being a family from Florida we choose to stay inside the warm house!

On Sunday we went to the gym and then the grocery store. Typically I go during  the week, but we didn’t have any milk in the house, so if we were stopping for one item might as well shop. Sunday’s high was 27F (-2C), which was a great improvement, but still cold.

IMG_20180108_094333.jpgWhen we woke up yesterday it was already 32F (0C) and it was one of those… wow it’s actually not completely frigid outside! The boys and Richard are shocked at how 32 doesn’t feel super cold anymore now that we’ve had subzero days. We also woke up to a wintery mix or snow, sleet and rain. By the time Richard got to work it was a true snow storm. At 11am I went outside to shovel the driveway. There was a good 2″ of snow on the driveway to shovel. I shoveled before the plow came, this is typically not a good thing to do, but I wanted to stay ahead of the snow since I wasn’t sure how long it was going to snow and at the rate it was snowing I would have been overwhelmed trying to shovel later in the day. When the plow came through our cul de sac the first time he was a goodIMG_20180108_115834.jpg 7-10 feet away from the end of our driveway. Then he was gone. Let me tell you I was cursing. I’d already shoveled 2-3 feet of the street since they never get close to our driveway. Just when I thought I’d have to go out again he came back and did 2 more passes around the circle. I was a much happier camper at this time. I still had to go shovel out the plow pile at the end of the driveway, but that was better than what I thought I had to do.

When I had finished shoveling the driveway the 1st time, I decided I should go toss some more bird seed out for the ground feeding birds and make sure the tray feeders had sunflower seeds for the cardinals and other birds who prefer this to the tube feeder. When I went to step out onto the back deck steps I noticed a strange mark in the snow… look bird prints! Yes, a bird was walking around the deck, guess they were telling me they needed more food?

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The boys were so excited when they came home from school. They wanted to go right out and play in the snow. Mean mom I am made them do their homework first, but they had plenty of time outside too. Ever since the first snow they have wanted to make a snowman. The snow that fell yesterday was perfect snowman snow, but they decided they didn’t want to make one. Oh well… next time? They had a blast outside. They helped a neighbor shovel his driveway, had a snowball fight and were using their snow scooters in the front yard.

I grew up in Massachusetts and lived for a time in Rochester, NY as well. I know snow, I know cold, but that doesn’t mean I am used to this stuff. I lived in Orlando, FL for 17 years. I look back on my Facebook posts of the last 8 years and laugh when I read myself complaining about temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Right now we are excited to see that these temperatures are in the forecast for later this week… a virtual heat wave!


family · through my camera lens

2017 Favorite Photo

2017 was such a year of change for our family. Richard moved to Pittsburgh in April. The boys and I moved in June. The boys started a new school in August. We bought our new home in September and moved in shortly there after. Life has been busy, but sooo good.

One of the biggest benefits of moving here is the freedom and independence the boys have found. They spent the summer outside playing. They rode their bikes, met new friends and just loved being kids.

They now ride the bus to and from school. They have more responsibility and more freedom. I feel that they have grown up so much this year. They are no longer little kids, but are now full blown tweens. I see them turning into the teens we will have in the home very soon.

The photo challenge was to pick your most meaningful photo of the year. I could have posted a photo of the new house. I could have posted one of the many rainbow pictures I took over our new home. I could have posted pictures from our time in North Park.

But, most memorable is what stuck out… what is most memorable to me this year is the boys freedom. This photo shows them as they are… boys on the move. Free to run and roam. Free to play and explore. It shows my sons loving together being themselves.

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via Photo Challenge: 2017 Favorites


Soergal Orchards

When we moved to Wexford, we looked for a place to go strawberry and blueberry picking. In this search we found Soergal Orchards right here in Wexford. Soergal not only has pick your own, but it also has fresh baked good, farm fresh produce, fresh cider, local/regional specialty items and so much more.

IMG_20171014_110724.jpgThere is so much to see and do at Soergal Orchards on a typical day, but it’s pumpkin time so there is so much more to do!  On weekends in October they have their Fall Festival. We decided to go check this out today. There were carnival style games, hay ride, pony rides and much more. They open up their bbq stand, cider press and bring in additional vendors. This on top of having bins and bins of all types of squash products, pumpkins, gourds, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and more. They also have a pumpkin patch open to pick your own pumpkins. That is where we headed.

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The boys each picked out a pumpkin to take home. We will carve them closer to Halloween.

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We also went and picked a peck of apples from their apple orchard. The boys had never picked apples off a tree before so this was fun for them. Blake ended up picking about 3 apples and Colby picked 7 or so.

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We stopped and had BBQ for lunch. This was really good. Colby had a pulled pork sandwich that I wished I had myself. I had “Dirty Mac” which was mac and cheese with pulled pork. I liked the concept, but he mac and cheese was just OK. Blake had a hot dog and Richard had nachos with pork on top.

Before we left we stopped into the store and picked up a gallon of cider, 2 half pies (one apple walnut and the other dutch apple, apple cider donuts, cookies and 2 chocolate covered donuts. We have a lot, but everything we’ve purchased at their bakery in the past we have enjoyed.

We didn’t spend money on any of the games. Each ticket cost $1, some games were 1 ticket and others were 2. It was even more tickets to take the tractor ride up the hill to the pumpkins. I am way too frugal to spend money on things like this.

I’m ready to dig my teeth into the apples we got and use them to make yummy apple treats!  I’m sure there will be at least an apple recipe coming from me soon.

So local friends… check out Soergal Orchards now in the fun fall activities or another time just to get their yummy baked goods. I know I’ll be back!


food · reviews

Waffles InCaffinated

As I mentioned in my post about Pig Iron, we recently went to Pour in the Park. At Pour in the Park, we got to taste pumpkin waffles from Waffles InCaffinated. Although neither Richard or I are huge fans of pumpkin anything, we both tried two different types of pumpkin waffles. We thought they were really good considering the flavor. The one I tried was pumpkin with dried cranberries. I added their home made vanilla syrup.  Richard tried pumpkin with raisins with the homemade Bourbon maple syrup.

The waffles were very perfect Belgium style waffles. There was a good balance between the pumpkin and the add-ins. The vanilla syrup was a bit sweet, but balanced out the tart of the cranberries. The Bourbon maple was not a sweet as original maple syrup.

Since Richard was off work today and we had the morning to ourselves we decided to go out for breakfast. We decided to try Waffles InCaffinated, in Wexford, and get something that wasn’t pumpkin. We walked in the restaraunt and was greeted by the waitress who promptly sat us. She then took our drink order and offered to walk us through the menu.

There is a LOT on the menu, but we finally decided what to try.

Richard got the Megaberry

 “Mega yum! blueberries and raspberries on the inside, fresh berries tossed in our own vanilla bean syrup on top! a mountain of whipped cream and our berry reduction sauce complete this long time fave!”

As you can see it looked yummy and since you can also see his empty plate at the end I can tell you it was yummy. They put blueberries and raspberries inside the waffle as well as all the fresh berries on top of the waffle. This was a huge portion, but super tasty.


I ordered French Toast

 “Italian bread sliced down and rolled in our egg mix, pressed in our waffle irons and served with our signature honey mascarpone spread! For the ultimate experience, review the toppings list!”
I didn’t dislike the dish, but I didn’t love it either. I would not have been able to tell you that this was French Toast in anyway. It certainly needed the help of syrup as it didn’t have much flavor. The honey mascarpone spread was not bad, but it was super thick and was too sweet. I felt like this dish needed cinnamon or something on that idea to give it more flavor. I tried it with both the vanilla syrup and the bourbon syrup. It was much better with the bourbon syrup, but still not OMG I have to eat this all and come back for more.
I know we will be going back to Waffles InCaffinated. Next time I will probably get a waffle, it is called Waffles InCaffinated.
food · reviews

DiBella’s Subs

When I grew up in MA, we had so many really great sub places and lots to choose from. When I moved to FL, I couldn’t find a good sub place. The local grocery store, Publix, probably had the best subs around. But, it’s not the same as going into a restaurant that is dedicated to making subs.

When I came up to Pittsburgh to visit Richard in May we decided to go out for subs one night. We had been walking to most of our meals since he lived right in the Strip District. This night we decided to order and Uber and go to a different section of Downtown Pittsburgh. We found a sub place close enough to the Point that we would be able to walk over to the point after we ate and just enjoy the views. We ended up a DiBella’s Subs. We really enjoyed the subs. The people who worked there were really helpful and funny. We left full, having enjoyed a good sub, and enjoying the company of the staff. (We were like the only people in the place at that time). Both of us said we’d have to go back there at some time. Richard never ended up going back before he moved out of the city and we hadn’t been back into that part of the city with the boys.

Yesterday we went to the movies to see Ninjago and decided to go out for lunch. We were looking for somewhere to go have lunch that we hadn’t gone to before and found a sub place across the street next to Lowes, our next stop. So we decided to go there. When we walked into the restaurant Richard and I looked at each other and said… hey this is the place we went downtown. While the staff at this DiBella’s wasn’t as funny or interactive, I they were much busier than when we went to the one downtown, the food was still good.

We ordered 4 subs. Blake got ham and salami, Colby got ham and bacon, Richard got a cheese steak and I got the Cowboy, Thick-cut bacon, BBQ sauce and all white meat chicken topped with cheddar cheese. We also ordered a chocolate chip cookie.  Ummm we should have bought more than one of the cookies, they were really good!

We then came home to see if where else we could go to DiBella’s near by because we will be going back!