January Announcement

If you have been following on my social media accounts, then you might know that recently I have been uploading short “mini” clips of my life on YouTube again.

A few weeks ago, I did announce that I would be starting back up the vlog, however it would be at a date that is yet to be determined.

I am officially, and blessed to announce that Monday will be the first day back (after a 2 year hiatus) on the YouTube Channel. That being said, I am no longer using “officialblackflower” and am starting 100% fresh.

Please make sure to subscribe.

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Piada: Italian Street Food Review

On Sunday afternoon Brandon and I went to Piada. Piada is known for being an Italian fast food restaurant and their slogan is, “Italian street food”. We had waited, nearly a year to go and try their food, simply because people we didn’t want to associate with people who worked there. I would constantly see how their employees behaved on Snapchat, and had zero interest in those people serving me food. However, they all ended up leaving or being fired and thus we decided it might be worth it.

When entering the restaurant, it had a huge hipster vibe. Everything from the paint color on the walls, to the dark granite flooring looked familiar as well. It was as if someone had said, “let’s take Chipotle’s idea, and make it ‘Italian’.” The menus are placed up front next to the trash cans for those to read before walking up to get their food made. Above the cashier their sign just read, “Try our new Mediterranean Power Bowl” with no indication as to how the flow of ordering food was supposed to work. It wasn’t until someone else came in behind us, looked at a menu and then went up to order that we even knew what to do.

Upon ordering our food, I made it clear to the chef (who was named Andy) that it was our first time at the fast food restaurant and we had no idea how everything worked. I went ahead and ordered the “Chef’s Favorite Piada” Which is described as, “a handmade piada filled with spicy diavolo sauce, romaine, mozzarella, sweet & spicy peppers, creamy parmesan.” Andy continued to tell me that I could add whatever choice of meat or other vegetables in it. He recommended the calamari, however did not introduce any other meat options to me, therefore I had it veggie style. When it came time to add more vegetables in, I had told him that I will take whatever he recommends, except for artichokes and onions. He then put cucumbers, sundried tomatoes, and chickpeas. He then proceeded to roll it like a burrito. Which ended up being a mix of flavors that was not enjoyable.

Brandon ordered a “Porchetta Sandwich” which is described as a “slow-roasted pork loin seasoned with Tuscan spices – porcini, rosemary, garlic and peppers. Layered on a rustic Italian roll with basil aioli, pickled red onion and fennel”. Rather, it ended up being a lackluster pile of dry and fatty pork cuts, and a mess of pickled fennel and red onion that came out of a Styrofoam container that was carelessly slopped on top. While the meat of the pork was decently seasoned—it was overwhelmed with the amount of tasteless and chewy fat. On top of that, the Chef had told us that Brandon’s meal came with a side item, he did not disclose that the side item would be at an additional cost. We found that out, only after being over charged for a side we didn’t even have.

IMG_2939.JPGI was originally going to back and order one of their ‘street food’ items to see if maybe it was just the dish that was the issue. Then when another customer, who ordered the “Porchetta Sandwich” complained about the fat, the Chef said he would make a new one and bring it to the table. As the unknown customer proceeded back to his table, Brandon witnessed the Chef take out the uneaten parts of the customer’s sandwich and put it back in the pork container. Seeing this cross contamination made me cringe and thus we decided that this place was not for us.

Overall, Piada is an overpriced, below mediocre fast food restaurant. We spent nearly $20 on just two entrees, that were not made well. We will not be going back to Piada and do not feel as though we should recommend it to any of our friends or family. Although it seems clean on the outside, witnessing the cross contamination shows that the staff does indeed cut corners, and the food itself was not made to our liking. In our opinion this place gets zero out of five stars. However, if you find that you want to try it out yourself, click the link.

 

-S.B

Queen City Underground Tour: Review

IMG_2651            On December 23rd, 2017 Brandon and I went on a tour, in our local city. Cincinnati is known for baseball, a football team that cannot win, and goetta.  The city was and still is very rich and history, and for someone who has lived thirty minutes out of it, I knew hardly anything about it. Brandon has worked in the city now, for almost six month, I started working in it starting September of 2017. While, Brandon works directly in the city, I work in a little district, about 319 Acres, called Over the Rhine.

Over the Rhine in the past decade has been on an incline. However, it was like it is today. As a child, I was always told that I was not allowed to walk the streets, and that Downtown Cincinnati was not safe because of that particular district. Growing up, when crossing the river to enter the city, my family would immediately lock the car doors and roll up the windows. It was because of those childhood moments, that when I finally started to go on little adventures, Downtown Cincinnati wIMG_2662.JPGas never one of them. Brandon and I in the past year have gone to major cities, at most four hours’ worth of travel, but had not experienced what was only thirty minutes away from us. Most people today above the age of forty would still say that Over the Rhine is still highly unsafe, however, those my age (twenties) would know better. Over the Rhine has gone from a place that you could not travel at night to a booming area with lots to do.

Working in Over the Rhine, my manager knew that I did not know much about the area. When people would ask me where to go, or eat, I would have to refer them to someone else. I could answer questions about Northern Kentucky, but when it came to Cincinnati, I truly did not have a clue. I’ve never spent a day just walking around Vine Street or even going to Washington Park, which is less than a block away from my work. Honestly, I was lucky that I knew that the Music Hall was directly across the street from me. My manager, for Christmas, got Brandon and I two tickets to the “Queen City Underground Tour”.

IMG_2654.JPG        This tour was phenomenal. I went from a woman who didn’t have a clue to a person who is now able to give an in-depth history of the location.  On top of that, we were able to see local restaurants, and places that have made a name for themselves in the city. Our tour guides, where so theatrical, and polite. You could tell that they really enjoyed what they did and were able to answer any questions you had about Over the Rhine. Which really was a booming city, before Prohibition and the Great Depression. It was only after those eras that the area started to struggle.        The Underground Tour is $25.00 a person, and about 2 hours long. The tour takes you up and down Vine Street, which is the Hub of Over the Rhine. The tour guides tell stories of the first theatres, and pubs that ran the city. You also get to view the first underground crypt, as well as the most prominent underground tunnel; which was called the Coffman Brewery. This tour is about half and half when it comes to being outside, however we got to experience this in twenty-degree weather and I have zero complaints. The tour guides kept us moving and on our toes, so we weren’t cold very long.

If you are ever in the Cincinnati area, and want to experience a historical tour like no other. I would highly suggest this one. We loved this tour so much, that we are super excited to be going back for another tour, Queen City is Haunted. We will be able to enjoy that one however in May of 2018.

The next chapter

As most people know, I have been house jumping for almost two years now. Straight out of high school I ended up house jumping at few different friends’ houses and had quite a few jobs to keep me afloat. Earlier this year Brandon and I decided that we would try and find an apartment of our own, and thus we would be roommates. It seemed far-fetched at the time, mainly because I had struggled to get approved by multiple different apartments. And at first, it was hard. Brandon and I started looking at a dozen different apartments, most were weeded out due to issues with pet policies or distance. However, after searching for nearly five months we ended up directly down the road to where we had currently lived. In August, we got approved at the apartment of our dreams. It had everything we were looking for, including some bonuses.

We have spent nearly two weeks in our new home, and everything is slowly but surely coming together. Our family has grown as well. We started out with just Alfred, the guinea pig, then in early August Brandon adopted a bearded dragon, named Glaurung. About three weeks ago, we needed up adopting a kitten, and her name is Nala. I never thought I would be anything but a dog person, yet here I am, taking care of a reptile and a kitten. All the animals get along, except for Alfred and Glaurung. It’s not that they are aggressive towards each other, it is just that, for a short period of time their cages were next to each other and that ended up causing some sort of conflict between them. Glaurung’s crickets that would make noise, Alfred getting up at 2 am and making all sorts of noises with his cage. That’s okay though, because Nala gets along with both Glaurung and Alfred.

On other notes, Brandon continues to work on his book, and I am still getting my poetry together and making notes about what the poems mean to me. Hopefully by Christmas or New Year’s I will have a rough draft of what I would like my first poem book to look like. I don’t really know when Brandon’s first book will be finished, but I know he’s also working on short stories and some other creative writings.

I still would like to continue to blog about new food places that Brandon and I go to, we just haven’t been able to get out of Northern Kentucky since we have moved into our new home. Financing our money is now a huge priority. However, hopefully soon we will be able to eat somewhere awesome and I can write about it. There are so many restaurants that I haven’t been to that I would love to write about, maybe even ones I have been to, that I just haven’t talked about.

Brandon and I, for the first time in five years, did not make it to comic-con. Rent is due this week, and therefore we had to make some budgeting cuts. We were both super upset, because so many people and vendors we love were going. However, there is always next year. It will always be a tradition, just like hosting Friendsgiving and Friendsmas. Which we do plan to host again this year. Which will also be documented just as the Christmas Recipes will be.

I am also a part of a really cool organization called Speak Love, which is an all inclusive group that focuses on loving and respecting one another, no matter our walk of life. I’ve known about the group for about five years now, and every year I go to the Anthony Munoz Conference, however Nick (who started Speak Love and is my mentor) came to me and told me that he thought I would enjoy volunteering with the group. He was right, I am not trying to start a branch at Gateway, so more students can be a part of it. Speak Love means so much to me right now, just because I struggled so much to find peace in my heart and now I feel like I have that.

All our friends are doing well as well. New chapters in their lives have begun and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of them. I don’t want to spill the beans on them, because a lot of our mutual friends have a more private profile, but I can tell you that Hypha is doing great (Also I know she reads this blog faithfully, so if I don’t at least mention her I know I am going to be in for it). Everyone in my life seems to be doing well, Phoebe started school a few weeks ago, and although I told her Kindergarten doesn’t last forever, that there are other grades that come after that, she still says she loves school. My grandparents are enjoying the traveling lifestyle, which I’m so happy that they are doing. My grandparents have done so much for all their grandchildren (especially me) the last five years, and now that all of us are all grown up, it’s time that they start thinking about themselves.

That’s about it with my life right now. Not really traveling, but still writing. Still (trying) to do well in school, although it’s hard with being a part-time worker and having other stresses. But I’m learning to cope with those stresses a lot better, through therapy. I am happy for all of my friends with their lives and how they are living. Overall, after a year of drought, I’m finally getting some rain, so now I’m just going to wait and see how many plants grow.

Until next time,

S.B

P.F Chang’s Review

On Friday night, August 4th, Brandon and I decided to go and try a sit down Chinese restaurant. For most places around our home, there is a 50-50 chance that the Chinese place we are going to go and eat at, is just a buffet of some kind (Or highly Americanized). When going up to West Chester, we constantly pass P.F Chang’s which is what initially brought on the idea to go there.

Upon arriving, the outside of the restaurant has very authentic statues that represent the culture and the way the building is designed is like a mini-Pagoda. The only difference is that it’s one floor plan and it doesn’t build up. The inside however, was dimly lit and had (burning) candles on each table; which was used for lighting. That created a very relaxed atmosphere. A place where you can sit, relax, and enjoy your meal. The décor was also very realistic and none of it seemed out of place. Placed throughout the restaurant were Terracotta Warriors, which stood tall, as if protecting everyone that entered the building, just as they did when protecting the first Chinese Emperor.

The menu was easy to read, as it was broken down into sections. Their appetizers are called “Street Fare”. They named it like wise for famous Asian street foods. When going out to a new restaurant Brandon and I always try and order an appetizer. To us, it sets up the whole meal. If the presentation looks good on shareable portions then we know that so will our food. Same goes for taste. Our waitress was kind enough to tell us what “Street Fare” they are known for and what she recommended. However, we ended up ordering the BBQ Spare Ribs. This “Street Fare” included six pork ribs that were wok-seared with Asian barbeque sauce and topped with sesame seeds. On the side, it also included a spice type slaw. Everything was coated equally and the meat was so tender that I could easily pull it apart from the bone without any mess.

When ordering the entrée, the waitress made it very clear that everything on the menu is made to share. That P.F Chang’s is very family oriented and encourages everyone to share. Most places, if you are caught sharing food it can be an upcharge or the waitress/waiter will say something. I found it unique that the restaurant was going against that social normality. Brandon ended up ordering the Singapore Black Pepper Chicken, a spicy entrée made with peppers and onions. I ordered Beef with Broccoli. We both ordered white rice, which came in one big bowl, instead of two.

When I think of black pepper chicken, what comes to my mind is the black chicken covered in tangy sauce, it’s typically crunchy and hard to get around. When I think of Beef with Broccoli, what comes to my mind is tiny sliced broccoli with tiny sliced beef, lightly coated with sauce. THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. When our food came out, not only did it look delicious and appetizing; it was! Brandon’s Singapore Black Pepper Chicken had so much flavor and the peppers were cooked just right that it was almost hard for me to eat my own food. The Beef with Broccoli, had an even distribution of both and was covered in sauce, that I didn’t even need to add soy sauce to my plate. The white rice was also soft and made a perfect side item to our meal. We also ordered two vegetable rolls, which made a lovely addition to our plates. The rolls were obviously made with fresh veggies and weren’t dipped in oil before being cooked. With each bite, I just wanted to eat more. At some point, I did become full and had to take home left overs.

Overall, our meal was reasonably priced and for rightful reasons. The portions were big, the food was made fresh and wasn’t greasy. Our waitress, whom we left a good tip to, was polite, honest and friendly. She stayed on top of things (such as refilling our drinks) and was constantly asking how we were doing. When we asked for to go boxes, she boxed everything up for us, and even brought us fresh white rice.

Below, I have included the cost break down, which will include a rough estimate of each individual price. I enjoyed eating there so much, the next day I joined the rewards program. Which after much review is also an awesome program to be a part of, you can earn so many points and earn free meals because of it. I most certainly would give five out of five stars, and will more than likely be coming back to my new favorite Chinese restaurant.

THE COST BREAK DOWN.

2 sweet teas: $6

BBQ Ribs: $6

2 spring rolls: $4

Chicken Entrée: $15

Beef Entrée: $15

In total our meal was $56

** Does not include Tax

To learn more about their menu: https://www.pfchangs.com/menu/main-menu/

Dinner Conversations (Short Story)

     I’m sitting at the dining room table. It’s been a long day of school, and my parents expect me to say something more than, “It was boring.” Which, no matter how true it was, apparently saying it seems worse than telling a lie. “It was great. I learned new things.” I could tell them that, however that involves another conversation… which includes saying what I learned.

What did I learn today? In second bell Marcus decided to throw an eraser at Isabell, who then made a huge scene, which the teacher bought. In study hall, I finally finished my sketchbook, with my own version of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. At lunch, I again sat by myself, but that’s mainly because my group of friends no longer exist. Well, Maria still has my back. You rat a kid out once for cheating and suddenly you’re the snitch of the eighth grade.

It was at that moment that I realized that my parents were staring at me. I had a plate full of chicken, rice and broccoli and hadn’t touched it yet. It was father’s favorite meal, which meant mother was up to something. “Placement tests for the art school is a month.” My mother said, while looking at my father. This was an argument which they had been having for a month now. Mom wants the art school, and father wants the public school, which he attended. The issue with both was that I wanted to get far away and just live a bit. And as usual, they go off into their own conversation on why the other is right.

There is no time like the present.

“So, as it happens, I found a really good school for next year.” My parents look at me clueless. This had been the longest running conversation at the dinner table. The conversation about my future beat out our conversation on how we would beat the apocalypse. Which is a conversation we’ve been having for over a year now, due to all the apocalyptic shows my father watches.

“That’s good sweetie!” She’s trying to be supportive, but every word is cracking because she doesn’t want me to go to the district public school.

“Wherever you want to go, is where we will send you.” He says confident that I’ll pick the cheapest future for myself, go into the family business and still be highly successful.

There is no time like the present. I play with my fingers and scramble the words out. “There’s a boarding school, about four hours away, located in Nevada.” My parent’s jaws are dropped. For once they can agree on one thing, I was going crazy. I have an opportunity to live my life outside Roseburg, Idaho and be proud of it. I don’t have friends here and it will be hard enough going to high school.

Many moments pass.

I start to eat. I’m scarfing down my plate, so I can leave the table and go to my room. Nobody is talking. They both can’t be thinking that much, they barely think that much in general. As they continue to sit in silence, I get up. I push in my chair and clean my dish.

“Sweetheart, wait.” My father, holds out his hand. He’s going to give me that, father side hug and tell me what a huge mistake I’m making. That boarding school is for teens with issues. I don’t have issues, obviously, because I’m their little girl. But I please him and walk over. Leaving my dish in the sink.

“May I ask why you’d want to go to this boarding school?” If I knew he was going to ask questions, I would have prepared for them.

“Well… um…” How do I put something so cruel, into the nicest words for such fragile people? I’m fourteen years old, that’s not how the world is supposed to work.

“I want to move away, be on my own. I want to experience new people, and can say I enjoyed it. Staying here, where the sun hardly shines makes me depressed. I don’t have friends at school, my teachers keep sending home notes saying they need you to sign off on things, which I then sign. It’s not that you two did anything wrong, or that you messed up… But secretly I’m wanting more.”

My father hugs me, and for once he’s on my side. “Okay, I understand. I’m not hurt, and if it’s what you want then I’m sure your mother and I can get –” He’s cut off right in the middle of his heart warming speech. A speech I desperately needed from him. Why would my mother do such a thing? This may be the only time I get this from him.

“No.” The most understanding person in this room says. She gets up and walks out of the room. I sit down at the table once more.

Father looks at me and says, “Maybe next dinner she’ll be alright.”

Autumn Is Here… and here are my thoughts

I am, hands down, the type of person who will celebrate Autumn as soon as September rolls around. My favorite time of year is September through November when it’s sweater weather in the morning but by the afternoon it’s still hot enough to be summer. I like to see all of the stores put the pumpkins on the shelves, and then later on the Halloween section.

Now, before you jump down my skin and tell me “Autumn doesn’t start until September 22nd!” I don’t believe Autumn begins on September 22nd, and i certainly don’t believe it ends on December 20th. I’m also not the Autumn Gal who will drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). I am not a PSL fanatic, and I most certainly do not believe that the PSL is what makes Autumn come alive. I believe that Apple Cider is what makes Autumn come alive, when the leaves finally begin  to change colors and fall off the trees they lived on. Now this doesn’t happen until around September 20th.

I love Autumn for so many reasons. It’s not just because of the stores, it’s because of everything that happens within those few months. In Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati, Ohio so many events happen that it’s truly hard to say, “There’s just nothing to do today…” September opens up with Comic Con at the NK Convention center, it’s not as big as the Duke Energy Comic Con (that happens 2 weeks later) but it does indeed bring Madison Ave, alive. After that there are two weekends dedicated to OktoberFest on the riverbanks, which is more for the 21 year olds but also can be quite fun for the underaged groups. During September the U.S.S Nightmare also opens up on the river. This haunted steam boat is named after William S. Mitchell and took over 112 lives in it’s time on the river. For that reason it got the the nickname Death Dredge. Lastly, Kings Island opens for their Halloween Haunt. Although, much of the activities include Halloween in someway, the end of summer happens with the WEBN fireworks and the start of the football season. Reds fans put away their baseball caps and get out their Bengals Jerseys. Which many sports fans can enjoy.

Throughout all of the activities, and the weather changes, my last favorite thing is Candy Corn. During the month of September, candy corn comes back to the shelves. Those little triangle shaped candies bring me more joy than a butterfingers bar. Anyone who knows me, knows that I highly enjoy butterfingers. I do not enjoy Autumn for the PSL, but instead for the traditions it brings with my family and to the town I grew up in.

 

-S.W