Aurora Ristorante

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As I write this, Brent and I have officially found a wedding venue. It’s been a very long month but at least we don’t have to worry about moving and searching for a new place. Once the shock of ReBar settled in, I started to feel hopeful again. Every time I did research on off-beat weddings in New York, I would find more and more leads. Some ridiculously expensive, but leads none the less. I’m not ready to disclose just yet on where we are planning to wed, but we visited a place worthy of a blog post.

For some background, Brent and I never really saw ourselves having a traditional banquet hall style wedding. So, when we went to visit these places, we thought they were nice but they didn’t feel right to us. Also, we both want to look back on our wedding day and be glad we didn’t settle.

Aurora Ristorante is a gorgeous garden-esque restaurant in Williamsburg Brooklyn. When a friend recommended them for their delicious food, the main photo on their website of their garden dining area made my stomach flutter in excitement. Part of this venue search includes the warm and fuzzies. Of course we want good food, but we ALSO want to walk into a place and FEEL like we are actually getting married there. Like dating, there has to be a spark. I felt this spark over the internet… I got there and my heart sank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was too small.

Granted, the entire space could accommodate my guest list, the down side is that half of my guests would be in one room and the other would be in the garden. We filed this space away for an intimate party for a birthday or something involving 50 people or less.

Since we made the trek over there and it was dinner time, we decided to sit down for a nice dinner in the garden. While this place didn’t make the cut for the wedding venue, this is a fantastic spot for a romantic dinner with your boo or a beautiful garden-esque place to dine on delicious eats.

When we were seated, we ordered some beverages. A vodka tonic for me and a hard cider for the boy. To get the full experience, we ordered an appetizer, two entrees and split a dessert.

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Just then a basket of warm bread and a small dish of olive oil appears on the table. Sweet Carb heaven. Warm. Crusty bread with rich olive oil. I had to limit myself to two small squares of bread.

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As I have mentioned on many occasions, the boy loves his pizza. The special piazetta on the menu was a medley of wild foraged mushrooms, grilled radicchio, goat cheese, a touch of truffle oil and paper thin sheets of prosciutto on a buttery focaccia. We went in with our fingers but quickly opted for utensils as it was a little messy but what a combination!!

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I ordered the special of the day. Halibut filet over a sweet corn puree and sautéed kale.

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Brent had the roasted chicken with sautéed chickory and roasted sunchokes. That was so good chicken!

We were stuffed but my experience was not over. The dessert menu touted Italian classics like panna cotta and tiramisu but there was no time like the present to try something new.

The Salted Caramel Budino.

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A velvety smooth salted caramel pudding atop a rich chocolaty cookie and garnished with chocolate cookie crumbles; complete with a healthy dollop of crème fraiche. At first bite, it was just okay but as I continued to dig in with rich, almost coffee flavored chocolate cookie with the buttery caramel pudding and tart crème fraiche, I became addicted. It is hands down my new favorite dessert.

A bit of a bummer that this delicious place couldn’t be my wedding venue but mom turns 60 in six years… might have to keep this place in the back of my mind for a garden party for my queen.

Sausage and Pepper Heroes

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Summer is approaching and in NYC that can only mean one thing: Street Festival Season.

On any given weekend, random streets in NYC will close to automotive traffic to allow people to roam the streets in between kiosks filled candy apples, pashminas, tchotchkes,, mozzarepas, grilled corn and sausage and pepper heroes. While the price certainly goes up every year, the aroma of peppers and onions always makes me swoon, add the fragrance of sizzling sausage and GET OUT OF MY WAY, I NEED THAT SANDWICH!

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Just before the days were warm I had a hankering that would not quit.  I wanted a hero filled with juicy pork sausage that when bit into, the skin produced a delectable snap. I wanted tender caramelized onions and sweet wilted peppers to have a party in my mouth. And I just had to create this baby at home. It wasn’t rocket science. It was pure need. or greed.

Whatever.

Sausage and Peppers on Multigrain Heroes (serves 2)

1/2 lb Italian style sausage (I used hot)

1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly

1 bell pepper, sliced thinly

2 heroes

Directions:

In a medium sauce pot, boil Italian sausages for 15 minutes. While the sausages are boiling, sauté the peppers and onions in a 1tsp of butter or olive oil over a medium heat. Stir them frequently to allow them to caramelize.

When the onions are a caramel color or light brown, remove them from the pan and set aside.

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Place the boiled sausage in the frying pan to crisp up the casing and brown the sausage. Since its already cooked, you just want to focus on browning the skin. Allow the skin to brown on all sides.

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Feel free to warm the bread you use to assemble the sandwich. I like the bite from a chewy hero. The choice is yours. To assemble the heroes, split the bread down the middle, fill with 1.5 sausages (or more if you have room) and top with peppers and onions.

I loved this. It wasn’t the street food experience but I could appreciate a quick and tasty dinner…

I did NOT however, appreciate the random hard as a rock seeds in the roll that cracked one of my molars.

But that’s for a different kind of post all together.

(happy to report, my molar has been fixed)

Meatza

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Pizza is one of Brent’s favorite foods. His top three favorite foods are Pizza, Ribs and Chicken Wings. Pizza is by FAR his absolute favorite. On nights when take-out is in order, I have to actually protest pizza before the idea is even brought up… Its a good thing we live in NY – the pizza here is good enough to eat at on a weekly basis. But when we were on Paleo, I could tell Brent was going to have a hard time giving up his pizza. It was a good 2 months in to our Paleo regiment when Brent saw the pizza delivery guy in the hallway of our apartment building and the guy said “HEY! We Thought You Moved!!!! Long time no see!”

And that’s when he started to request pizza again. Because I really wanted us to stick to the 90 day plan, I started to do some research on pizza and found a paleo pizza crust (review coming soon) but with a 2 week wait for shipment, I got sought instagram for inspiration. Stupid Easy Paleo had a gorgeous photo of a mediterranean meatza….oh, what is meatza, you ask? Meatza is a pizza made with a meat “crust”. It is in no way a crust but more like a meat party with some sauce and veggies. Basically, Brent’s dream meal.

Meatza supreme (feeds 2-4 people)

1 lb hot italian sausage, casings removed

1/2 cup marinara sauce

3 leaves of fresh basil

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

handful of pitted sliced black olives

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Preheat oven to 400*. In a large skillet (i used a 9 inch), prep pan with a spray of olive oil and add sausages to pan. Create one giant meat patty in the pan and heat over medium heat. The idea here is to get the meat on the bottom caramelized.

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drain any excess liquid in the pan.

Assemble the Meatza with sauce, mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions and basil leaves.

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Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are wilted.

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Cut into 4 pieces and dig in. Served with a side salad.

Knife and fork are a must.

This was really good. And filling. But I’m a NYer, i need my crust.

Getting back on track

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Its been a while.

Between getting engaged, losing my wedding venue and moving (yes, moving!) I haven’t had the time nor the mental energy to sit down and commit to a post. But in the weeks that have passed, a lot has changed. I am sitting in my new living room with my new view of the Manhattan sky line, I have appointments with potential wedding venues and my healthy diet has been on track. Everything gets put into perspective when you go through trials. Before Brent and I moved, the potential move hung over my head and stressed me out. I was depressed over having to start over looking for a new wedding venue. But that all changed when we got the keys to our new home and started the moving process. Moving in general sucks. The only good thing is the fresh start and forcing yourself to get rid of things you don’t need. For five long days, we made a million trips from one apartment to the other with a shopping cart and a dolly. I didn’t think of our wedding once during the move and when the move was finally done, I was so appreciative that I could check one thing off my list. And you can imagine my relief after Brent and I moved heavy furniture with just the two of us and one out of two elevators out of order. One thing is certain, looking for a venue will be a cake walk compared to this move.

I won’t lie, the next few posts are back logged from when i was cooking regularly. Brent and I have been surviving on take-out for 3 meals a day, for 7 days straight. The day we moved in, I made a breaded tilapia filet with broccoli and mac and cheese. It was all we had in the new place but was so happy to use my new kitchen! Below is a hearty low-carb dinner that was thrown together last minute. If you’re paleo, this is 100% paleo. If you’re not paleo, this is 100% delicious and just so happens to be low carb.

Roasted chicken with sauteed cabbage and sweet plantains.

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To start, I preheated the oven to 450*. I lined a baking pan with foil (for easy clean up) and placed well seasoned chicken thighs and drumsticks in a single layer. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes on each side.

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While the chicken is roasting, prepare the sides. For the cabbage, i shredded half a head of cabbage and sauteed with a sliced of chopped bacon. The bacon drippings made for a nice base for the cabbage. Season the cabbage with salt and pepper and saute over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until cabbage reaches desired texture.

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To plate, i served B 3 pieces of chicken, a cup of the sauteed bacon cabbage and half of a plantain that was lightly fried in olive oil. I had 2 pieces of chicken.

A simple, healthy, and delicious dinner for any week night. Just give yourself a little extra time for the chicken. I like mine with a nice crispness on the skin.

When IT hits the fan…

I remember on New Year’s Eve sitting with my now Fiance and my parents talking about the fresh start the New Year brings. We didn’t have any resolutions so to speak but we did have goals. Brent and I both agreed that we wanted to get the ball rolling on making that whole marriage thing more than just talk. The news elated my parents. And it elated me too. All my life I dreamed of the moment I realized I was going to marry someone. I knew it was Brent from the moment we started dating but saying it out loud was a powerful affirmation.

As soon as the new year began I started doing some research. I wanted to elope. He wanted an actual wedding. With talks of Vegas or Destination Weddings in the Caribbean, I started to go in every direction with my search. One day I searched destination weddings. The next Bed and Breakfast weddings in Vermont and Connecticut. My groom to be suggested we look at some New York weddings too. With a tiny budget in mind, I did some looking around. I crunched numbers after getting quotes from highly rated venues.

The one thing I wanted was a stress free wedding. When I found ReBar, I fell in love. The exposed brick, wrought iron fences, eclectic tastes and tons of local art and upcycled décor sold me. I found tons of GORGEOUS wedding photos from reputable photographers and when they replied to my email asking me to come in and see the space, I knew the way I knew when I fell in love with Brent.

I was going to be married here!

The food was incredible. The vibe was so relaxed. Everything about it was so different. And after tasting the food, seeing the space and even meeting the staff, we decided this was the place. We returned two weeks later to sign our contract securing our date for February 2015 and left a 50% deposit.

Brent and I proceeded to put our monies aside so that when 2015 comes, we could put the final balance down in cash. We were celebrating our fantastic achievement. Our wedding venue was throwing it all in. Open Bar, DJ, Floral arrangements, Appetizers, buffet dinner and even cupcakes. Essentially, all we had to do was show up! We told few people about it until two weeks ago when we were officially engaged.

We told everyone! ReBar! We are getting married at ReBar!

Yay!

We even set up a few friends with meetings with the event coordinator to have their own ReBar wedding!

Last Friday, on May 9th, I was out celebrating my engagement with two of my closest friends. I received a text from another friend who knew I was getting Married at ReBar.

“Dude, have you heard from ReBar recently? Big article in Gothamist and it’s not good news…”

What happened next sent everything into disarray.

I thought ReBar got a bad review or something… but this was far far worse.

http://gothamist.com/2014/05/09/dumbo_rebar_closed.php

5914rebar1 (courtesy of Ben Yakas via Gothamist)

I immediately called Brent. Then my mother. And the story was still fresh so we all thought ReBar just went bankrupt. I tried to shake it off. But the idea of starting over with my wedding planning was nauseating. The thought of losing the 50% deposit I had just given them 2 months ago made me sick.

I tried to be optimistic and after so many phone calls with my photographer and a few recently married friends, I found out more bad news.

http://gothamist.com/2014/05/11/rebar_owner_owed_irs_millions_claim.php

And aside from the shit storm of so many couples giving ReBar THOUSANDS of dollars in cash for weddings happening this month, all the way through 2016, there are some really hardworking people- former rebar employees- who are now jobless. Employees who love their clients so much have been working tirelessly to help all of us displaced by reBar to find new places to get married! h

ttp://gothamist.com/2014/05/10/ex-rebar_employee_local_businesses.php

51014rebar1 (via Gothamist)

The community of local businesses have been amazing. The support from other couples screwed over by Jason Stevens has been a tremendous help.

I am spending the first few weeks of my engagement, panicking over finding a venue we can afford now that our already small budget has been slashed. I considered changing the date but with my photographer already paid for and his business being in the wedding industry, there is a good chance I can lose him- and he’s been amazing during this tough time!

If anyone here is reading this and looking to get married, please take away from this experience knowing the importance of INSURANCE! A very small number of brides in this big disaster purchased wedding insurance and will get back every cent they ever gave this douche-nozzle.

I am spending a lot of time researching and visiting venues and praying by some miracle I get the deposit back.

Thank you all so much for reading and for your support. I hope to have good news soon! And insurance on whatever route Brent and I decide to go!

The Best Day of My Life….So Far!

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If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you might know I had some big news on Friday night.

What started out as girls’ night with my mother and best friend, turned into a night that I will never forget.

Spoiler Alert: I’m engaged.

My mother and Danielle were actually scouting locations for my Bridal Shower on Friday night… because Brent and I set a wedding date at the beginning of the year. We certainly didn’t intend to go out of order that way but when we were “just looking” at potential wedding venues, the first place we saw was absolutely perfect! And when we said we wanted to think about it some more, the site manager handed us a calendar of all their available dates for 2015. Our hearts sank when we realized our top three choices were solidly booked. We decided, based on how fast this chart seemed to fill up, that we would be wise to pick a date right on the spot.

So we did.

I was on cloud nine! We were technically engaged! But since we were just looking, we hadn’t made any other arrangements, like, you know an engagement ring. We are old fashioned at heart, and planned to have a proper engagement- sometime in the near future. As a couple, we decided to just tell our family about the big news plus a few of our closest friends. If anyone knows me personally, they know that keeping secrets is not really my strength. Sure, I can keep a secret about something scandalous you told me I must never repeat…but having to keep this awesome secret drove me NUTS! I was reading Style Me Pretty and other wedding blogs at the office and when I sensed someone nearby, I minimized the screen. I created private wedding boards on Pinterest. And saved a ton of potential dresses on David’s Bridal.

Must. Not. Tell. Secret.

Brent is and has always been the type of guy that just doesn’t lie very well. That’s not a flaw in my eyes but a very admirable trait since he is always honest with me. Sometime around Easter, my boyfriend sprung out of bed and jet out of the apartment in a hurry without many details as to where he was going and why… When I asked where he was going, he replied “to run some errands”. My mother also happened to call me that same morning telling me something along the lines of “I’m going out with a friend today so I won’t be able to go to the gym with you…” Turns out, those two were shopping.

When I knew what those two were up to, I seized every opportunity to gussy up and have my nails done and in the back of my mind I would wonder “Is this it?!?”

Fast forward to Friday, May 2nd. My mother and Danielle were going to check out a possible location for my bridal shower and invited me to come along. Since it had been so long since I had a girls’ night, I wore a summery dress, had my nails done and put some make up on. We all met up for drinks at my favorite bar in Chinatown. The plan was for ONE DRINK. But one downtown tea turned into three. I kept texting Brent to tell him we were getting tipsy. My mother kept telling me to put my phone away. We talked about how Brent and I met. The funny moments in our relationship and even talked about how I think he will propose. (for the record, I desperately wanted an intimate proposal with just the two of us. The 23 year old version of me is somewhere dying to be proposed to at a Yankee game… lol)

Suddenly, my mother suggests we forgo the bridal shower hunt in favor of grabbing a quick bite and heading back home. For the first time EVER I said “fine, whatever you ladies want to do”. We had a quick bite and made our way home.

I live right across the street from my mom. When she was saying goodbye to me, she asked me what I thought Brent was doing. I laughed and said “probably cuddled up with the dog watching a movie”. She laughed and asked me to take a pic and send it to her when I got home and then she gave me the biggest hug ever.

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When I walked into my apartment, it was quiet and dimly lit. There was a strong scent of my sugar cookie candle. The absence of sound wasn’t really alarming but as soon as I walked in, I saw Brent seated at our dining room table with Mickey sitting at his feet. There was a bouquet of red roses on the table and a bottle of champagne chilling. The moment I saw him, I knew. And I immediately started sobbing. Like, my puppy just died kind of sobbing. He told me to sit down because he had a very important question to ask me. I had my cell phone ready to snap a picture and without thinking, I just closed the phone and ran up to kiss him.

“Will you marry me?”

Through sobs, I said yes. I sat down across from him. Just crying. He pulled out a small box and gave it to me. I opened the box to reveal a beautiful round solitaire engagement ring.. And, you guessed it, I cried some more as I hugged my fiancé.

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Despite having a wedding date before getting engaged, it didn’t feel real. Hearing him ask me and having him present me with this ring, I actually FEEL engaged now. I am so in awe of how much that question moved me and so excited to start my journey of wedding planning and all that wonderful stuff.

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It was just the two of us. And the dog. It was everything I hoped it would be and more!

16 Months

Just as I was starting to get into a groove with exercising and eating healthy, I started to feel really tired. Like, BEAT tired. I noticed several people at the office were coming down with something and 5-7 people out sick at a time. I doubled up on my vitamins and water intake because it was a solid 16 months since I was last sick with anything other than a runny nose.

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That tiredness was followed by a sore throat. A sore throat that wanted nothing but bread-like things to feel better. Does that make sense? It wasn’t the need for bread, but the need for texture. I hopped into the local bakery near the office for a post work dessert date with my love. He had just started his new job and we were celebrating his first week of work. I ordered a slab of carrot cake. This is not like me, especially since I have been so committed to not cheating.

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I went home and scraped off all the frosting (WHAT?) and went to town on the cake. The following day I felt a little worse but chalked it up to allergies since I could still taste things. I made a huge loaf of Irish soda bread and took it to work. That soda bread was calling my name all day and night.

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I had not one, not two, but THREE slabs of soda bread with a thick layer of butter that evening.

At the office, everyone went wild for the soda bread. I made it with raisins. But as my throat continued to ache, my craving for the dry bread slathered in cold butter grew. And by the end of the day, I had eaten two more slices of bread and had a boozy St. Paddy’s day cupcake in my in my bag for later that evening…. when all hell broke loose.

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I will spare you the details but I was completely destroyed when two days later I was being diagnosed with Bronchitis at the ENT’s office. My healthy streak was over and I was taking a hefty dose of antibiotics and steroids.

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And if that wasn’t enough, My germy ass got Brent sick during his 2nd week of work. We were both miserable with fevers, achy bodies, dry heaving coughs and sore throats. His boss along with his colleagues begged him to stay home.

We consumed tons of soup.

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And while he bounced back quickly, it took me about a week to feel like a human being again.

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I am feeling much better now and happy to report that I have not had any irish soda bread or boozy cupcakes since… the pizza I just ate is unrelated.

Wine and Cheese Partay!

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Sometime around Christmas, my friend Danielle and I planned a night in with a home cooked meal, wine, cheese and Christmas tree decorating. We wanted to start some kind of tradition since we were decorating my tree. What ended up happening was we sang Mariah Carey Christmas songs on Pandora at the top of our lungs, consumed every drop of wine in the apartment and polished off several pieces of cheese along with crackers and salami leaving ZERO room for the dinner I planned to serve us after our “appetizers”.

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But a new tradition was born. Our monthly wine and cheese night. While creating our lineup I remembered the cheese slate Brent got me for Christmas the year before. I felt bad having never used it but now that we have a monthly wine and cheese night, the slate is my favorite thing ever.

Recently, Danielle came over with some new cheeses she discovered at Trader Joes. Bacon Cheddar, Smoked Gouda (Hands Down, Brents all-time favorite cheese), Gorgonzola, quince paste, and salami with crackers. I provided a crisp white wine for Brent and Danielle while I sipped a fruity malbec.

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I absolutely love our wine and cheese nights. We get really creative with our combinations. That gorgonzola with the quince paste was a surprise winner for us. And have since added a spicy raspberry jam to the fruit spread.

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I will admit that at the last wine and cheese party we had, Brent and Danielle got into a spirited game of who could blow out the candle from far away. Despite hot candle wax being blown all over the table, we had a good laugh. And Danielle kicked Brent’s butt every time!

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Brent is a good sport.

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MOAR CHEESE!!! PLEASE!

Brent’s Birthday!

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A little late. But better late than never.

Brent turned the big 27 towards the end of February. While I like to pretend I don’t want to make a big fuss on my own birthdays, Brent really doesn’t like to make a big fuss. I like to pretend and then make somewhat of a fuss. But he is very uncomplicated and if he wants something on his birthday, I make it happen.

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His only request was dinner at a local eatery: Eastwick. And a red velvet cake (light on the frosting)

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My parents wanted in on the birthday action so they proposed a breakfast outing followed by a visit with grannie.

If there is one thing I miss about Queens, it’s the close proximity to Kane’s diner. If you didn’t know about Kane’s and walked into it for a quick bite, you wouldn’t think anything of this old timey diner. But really, this place has the best pancakes ever- take that IHOP. This diner is open 24 hrs a day like a good diner should and they don’t just make buttery stacks of pancakes, they make everything. Their menu is a bit overwhelming, especially if you have a hard time making decisions.

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The first time I took my mother here, she went for a truck drivers breakfast of eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, toast and homefries. The order came with a stack of pancakes which I encouraged her to try.

She hates pancakes.

She took a bite and there was no going back. Mom still hates pancakes but she LOVES the pancakes at Kane’s diner.

Brent was game for some breakfast pancakes.

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Until he saw the ribs.

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After asking the waitress if they served ribs at 10 am, she smiled widely and said ABSOLUTELY! And when Brent couldn’t decide on ribs or pancakes he shocked us all.

 

“Can I have the ribs, with a side of pancakes?”

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Birthday boy gets what birthday boy wants. He loved the pancakes and especially loved the ribs.

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After our hearty breakfast, we had a great visit with grandma and afterwards, went home for power naps and birthday cake.

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Dinner at Eastwick was filled with mac and cheese, short ribs and mashed potatoes. We considered going to the movies after but at 8:45 pm I was feeling really tired (crashing from ALL THE CARBS!). I went to lie down for a quick minute and ended up passing out for the night.

 

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I suspect while I was passed out, there was some major damage done to that birthday cake…

Lately in Photos

I’ve been absent. I’m sorry! I thought I would take a minute to share some recent events via photos.

Things you may have missed in the last 30 days:

Dad had a very successful knee replacement.

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Dad is also doing really well in physical therapy!

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BR got a new job!

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We had a farewell party at the local watering hole. BR’s real name is Brent!

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Brent got REALLY drunk!

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I decided to reward myself of 30 days of healthy eating…with a dessert sampler. Was the most delicious and most stupid thing ever.

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I am obsessed with my nails.

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Grandma moved to an assisted living facility! It’s gorgeous!

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I saw the Mayor live and in person while enjoying one of my last lunches with Brent.

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We took a decent selfie- that’s newsworthy!

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