Monday, September 12, 2016

Reader Mailbag: Places to Order A Cake From In Pittsburgh

Sometimes Reader Amy Wrote (a few months ago)…

My usual baker broke her wrist. Name some good cake designers.

First of all, Amy reader status is my fault because I haven’t had time to blog. Also, don’t worry - I got back to Amy! I just didn’t post this yet!

Now, back to the cake.

If there is one thing that I’m passionate about, it’s cake. Pittsburgh is overflowing with delicious bakeries. Here are some of my favorite options broken down into three categories: Presentation, Taste and BOTH!

BOTH





Prantals - Hands down my favorite bakery in Pittsburgh. The icing is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. And the cake is always pillow-y and fresh! The cherry on the top of Prantals is that they have FANTASTIC prices. I tapped Prantals to create a flamingo first birthday cake and with little direction they churned out this awesomeness. Oh and while we are talking cake, Prantals you must add this bakery’s burnt almond torte to your food bucket list like NOW.



Bethel Bakery - Living on the west side of Pittsburgh, I wasn’t exposed to this South Hills favorite a lot growing up. Flash forward to my wedding in 2010 when Bethel was the preferred vendor. Oh my goodness, the cake is delicious and the icing is also to die for. I worked with them to create a custom shower cake for a friend and they brought my beach vision to life perfectly!

Taste
  • Giant Eagle - Yep. My number one in taste only goes to our local supermarket chain Giant Eagle. Their icing is probably right behind Prantals in my book. When I was pregnant I craved their yellow cake with chocolate icing (and now I’m craving it again). Their cupcakes, sheet cake and other pastry prices are super reasonable. Giant Eagles icing rose game is on point, but when it comes to fancy cake shapes they lack some skills. They also have typically bakery theme cakes with plastic figures (hello Disney characters).
  • Oakmont Bakery - I’ve had a number of sweets from this shop, but actually haven’t set foot into the bakery...yet. From the looks of their website, I’m missing out - the storefront is adorable! Back to the cake. It’s good. Oakmont also looks like they dip into some fancy design as well!
  • Ultimate Pastry - This bakery made my taste section purely because I haven’t witnessed their custom cake abilities, but I’ve always had a delicious treat from this Sewickley spot.

Presentation
  • Vanilla Pastry Studio - Okay, so Vanilla used to be my go-to for all of my sweet needs, but on recent orders I’ve found the cake to be a bit stale. Their icing is nice a fluffy, but not an overall great dessert. HOWEVER, Vanilla has done some of the most amazing custom cake designs. I’m talking crazy cake shapes and awesome fondant detail. This is your place.

Others to Consider
  • Gigi’s Cupcakes - An alternative to a custom cake this chain cupcake retailer is a bit newer to Pittsburgh (McCandless Crossing). I’m still testing the waters here, but the white wedding cupcakes are great!




  • Gaby Et Jules - (above) A French bakery located in Squirrel Hill (and some sweets in Market Square), they are known for their delicious and adorable macarons, but I’ve had some cake here and IT IS SO GOOD. Some of the more delicious decadent chocolate in the city.

Places I Want To Try

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Thirsty Thursday: Coffee

I’ve had a roller coaster experience with coffee. Never drank it, started drinking it in my early Chicago years (circa 2006-8), then quit cold turkey. Enter 2011. Started drinking a latte here and there. Then I went decaf (I KNOW, eyeroll) because I didn’t want the caffeine, but the taste of something else in the morning. Now with a 1-year-old, I dabble in a cup 2-3 times a week.


As I sip on a sugar-free iced latte from my new go-to, I thought I’d list out my favorite coffee spots in Pittsburgh and a few I hope to hit up. Note that most of my reviews are based on a vanilla latte.  If I’m missing out on the glory of a cup from your favorite spot, please do tell me.




Favorite Coffee Spots In Pittsburgh
  • Nicholas Coffee Roasters - This Market Square spot is MY JAM. I discovered it one day after a haircut (my salon is upstairs). I was getting my husband a cup of Joe and realized their prices were SUPER reasonable. The staff is SUPER friendly and there is also an array of fun snacks in the store.  And the best deal of all - they roast all of their beans in house. (BTW - Adam Levine is a fan).
  • Coffee Tree Roasters - My Shadyside go-to. If the vanilla lattes weren’t delicious enough, CTR offers stickers for your cup. SCORE! Coffee Tree had me dabble in a maple latte after it was one of their seasonal drinks and damn it’s good. They also have a good iced tea.
  • Espresso a Mano - A Lawrenceville stop, for some reason I always refer to this place as Cafe a Mano. Anyways, they have a good iced latte. Sometimes a little more on the sweet side, but still delish.



  • Commonplace Coffee - (above) You have to drive a little into the North Side to get to Commonplace (near The Mattress Factory), but it’s worth the trek. The coffee in this no frills shop is amazing and you can almost always find a spot to park. If you want to enjoy your cup outside, there is a cute little garden across the street. There is also a location in Squirrel Hill AND they also server Leona's Ice Cream (see Zeke's).
  • Zeke’s - Walking into the doors of Zeke’s East Liberty spot, you immediately feel comfortable and a little hipster. The lattes are great and you can pick up a Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwich (WORTH the stop!). Zeke’s has a dumpster drive through (you just gotta look) by the Target, which came in handy when driving around with baby girl.
  • Lili Coffee Shop - A nice little spot in Polish Hill. I wouldn’t recommend driving out of your way for this, but if you are passing through it’s a good option for a cup of brew. They also have brunch options!
  • Carnegie Coffee Company - (below) We tried this spot recently and it is adorable! The shop is located in an old post office and the coffee bar is adorned with old mailboxes!







If I want a regular, hot black cup of coffee, I think Eat ‘N Park has THE BEST.


Coffee Buddah will likely become our new neighborhood go to. My review is still out on this place.


For the record, I’m actually not a Starbucks fan anymore. I’ve realized that these other shops are SO MUCH better than SBUX. I’d also recommend passing on Dunkin’s iced lattes (too sweet) and Crazy Mocha (food is good, coffee is not).


Coffee Spots I Want To Try

I’ve been dabbling in Snapchat a bit with a theme - I only snap what I’m drinking (my name is WhatImDrinking). I never thought I was interesting enough to snap things and I figured my drinking theme went along with this blog name. Follow me if you want to see...well, what I’m drinking!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hangry.

My name is Brandi and I get hangry.

It’s true. If I don’t eat for long periods of time, I’ll become hangry. This was especially true when I was pregnant and early signs show that I passed the hangry gene down to Miss Lennon.

When I get hangry, I don’t need a full on meal. Sometimes a snack does the trick.

Enter the Hangry Kit.




Hangry Kit Sweet & Salty Snack Sampler - Care Package - Gift Pack - Variety of 40 Chips, Candies & Cookies Included - 100% Money Back Guarantee

I just learned about this $19.99 lifesaver from Amazon and I’m totally intrigued. This would make a cute gift for a friend that is expecting or just a hangry bestie.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

DIY Monthly Baby Picture Updates

If you know me, you know I love a theme.

About a year ago before Baby Girl was about to turn 1 month old, I decided that I wanted to make customized numbers to take monthly photos during her first year. I had so much fun planning this DIY project, so I wanted to share how I made this “craft!”

Buy Numbers - Wood numbers can be tricky to find in stores, so I ordered them online from JoAnne Fabrics.

Brainstorm - While I was waiting for the numbers to arrive, I brainstormed monthly themes. I started with a list of what number would be associated with what month. Baby Girl was born in July, so the 1 would be August and then 2, September, etc. Then, I thought about what would be happening that month around Lennon’s date. For instance, her monthly update would be a few days before Halloween, so October was a no-brainer! I LOVED February because the date fell near the Oscars and the number 7 made the perfect red carpet! For some months, I went with just a general seasonal number. The 4 was during fall, so I used leaves.

Complete the Project Early - Knowing that life would get a bit more hectic once I went back to work, I decided to make all numbers at once when I had a newborn that liked to nap!

Attire - After the numbers were complete, my project wasn’t done! I’d need to theme up Lennon’s outfit. I typically planned about a month in advance in case I needed to order something online - allowing enough time for the outfit to arrive.

Take Monthly Pictures - Each month I photographed Lennon on a white blanket. I found it was best to take her picture after she ate and was alert!

The finished project!

I displayed the photos at Lennon's first birthday party and then used them on a thank you note (it's a little blurry because it's a screen shot)!



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Shopping: Swan Lake

While flamingos have been having a moment, a bird of another feather is swooping in - the swan.


  1. Land of Nod Plush Swan
  2. ChicWish Adult Swan Skirt
  3. Baby Blanket (black) & Baby Blanket (sunset)
  4. ModCloth Swan’s Riding Bicycles skirt (Yep. This is real life).
  5. Swan Dress
  6. Inflatable Swan

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easy Spring DIY Centerpiece

Earlier this month we hosted a lunch after baby girl’s baptism. I created my own pastel floral invitations and wanted some easy, affordable centerpieces for the tables.

The lunch table was a L shape and seated 18, so I estimated on 4 centerpieces.

I found 4 over-sized pastel jars from JoAnn Fabrics and used a 40% off your purchase coupon to bring the total to about $15-ish. (Editors Note: Yes, I've said that I'm over mason jars. And I really am - with the exception of using them for my breakfast and lunch at work. But these jars were just too perfect for what I was looking for, so I made an exception to my own rule).

Two days before the event, I hit up the Strip District in Pittsburgh to purchase flowers. This was a bit risky because you never know what you will find, but I was able to scoop up 4 hydrangeas and a dozen roses for about $25.

Ta da! Here is my DIY baptism centerpieces for just about $40!





Thursday, December 24, 2015

Shot of Brandi Gift Guide: Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin & Wyoming


OH MY GOSHHHHHHH GUYS I MADE IT! Gifts inspired by all 50 states! Thank you for sticking with me through this process (if you did). I hope that I helped you with an idea or two - if not for Christmas, but for someone in this next year! Merry Christmas!

  1. Virginia is the home to Washington, D.C. and when I think of our nation's capitol, I think of presidents. Not necessarily Pez Presidents but they are pretty fun.
  2. As a loyal Today Show watcher, I saw them mention this cake in a segment and thought - it’s from Virginia! It will be perfect for my blog post! Here’s a Bourbon Cake from Red Truck Bakery. Check out the Guinness Cake too!
  3. Peanuts were first grown in the U.S. in Virginia. There is a whole site dedicated to VA peanuts. You can also pair those with some delicious VA wine!

  1. One thing that I love about Seattle is Pikes Place Market. The flying fish, beautiful flowers and first Starbucks all make thee market a top tourist destination. For those of you that love to frequent the market, here’s an adorable shopping list.
  2. I can’t think of Seattle now without thinking of Grey’s Anatomy’s Seattle Grace Hospital. Can you believe that show is still on? Rather than buy a baby a onesie that says “pretty” or “handsome,” get them one that says “one day you will be a doctor.” Inspired by the show, here’s a doctor onesie.
  3. Washington has a pretty cool wine country. I’ve never been there, but I’ve drank some cool wines from Washington. One is from my brothers from another mother - the Smith Family. Wine always makes a good gift. Go with this Cab!  
  4. Nordstrom is based in Seattle and I’ve gotta tell you - it’s become my favorite department store. You can still buy Nordstrom gift cards online for a last minute gift.


Take me home to the end of this blog post...WEST VIRGINIA!
  1. West Virginia is a HUGE producer of coal. You don’t want coal in your stocking, but you may want some Coal Gum
  2. You guys. How cool is this wallet? The money clip on the front is also a beer opener! Of course my Mountaineers are always on the party school list!
  3. As the famous lyrics go, “Take me home...country roads...to the place...I belong…” Here’s a cute Take Me Home T



  1. The typewriter was invented in Milwaukee. Record players are making a huge comeback. I wonder if typewriters are next!? Etsy has a good selection of vintage machines.
  2. A company that makes a HUGE HUGE HUGE Christmas gift is based in Wisconsin...American Girl! While I never had an American Girl doll (and I don’t let my parents forget that!), I know Lennon will be spoiled with one in the future. This is the new Grace doll in her “sightseeing outfit.”
  3. When I think of Wisconsin, I think of one thing. No, not the Packers. I think of CHEESE. I’ve has glorious curds of cheese from a road vendor - there is nothing like it. You know it’s a special piece of you get a little squeak!  Here’s a Wisconsin Cheese of the Month Club.




Yelp! Here you are Wyoming! The last state! Go easy on me.
  1. The majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming. It’s kinda one of those U.S. places that would be great to see - on the same list as the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park.
  2. J.C. Penny’s opened its first store in Wyoming. If you are reading this today (Christmas Eve), I’ve gotta got with recommending a gift card. Any gift card that is! Most you can now print online too!
  3. Scott Avett of the band the Avett Brothers was born in Wyoming. It still isn’t too late to buy someone an iTunes gift card or concert tickets!



ANnnnnnnnnnnnnnndddddddddddddddd! That’s a wrap! MIC DROP.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Shot of Brandi Gift Guide: Texas, Utah & Vermont



  1. Texas is the state with the most farmland, so this barn from Land of Nod is a perfect suggestion for a tot on your list!
  2. Cowboy boots and Texas go hand in hand. How awesome is this beer boot?
  3. Beyonce was born in Houston and I bet it’s likely that there is SOMEONE that you know on your list OBSESSED with Queen B. You can find her song lyrics on a lot of items like this mug from Urban Outfitters.

  1. The state symbol of Utah is the beehive because it stands for thrift and industry. Store cookies for your honey in this beehive cookie jar!
  2. Utah gets a lot of snow. Because of this, Salt Lake City has hosted the Winter Olympics.  I really don’t know a lot about gifts for skiers, but I know a lot of people put a GoPro on their helmet. So here’s a GoPro and a helmet cam mount!
  3. Beaver, Utah is the home to the creator of the television. Trends are showing a decline in television watching and a rise of people watching videos or Netflix on their computers, tablets or phones. To watch Netflix on your TV, I recommend Apple TV. It was a lifesaver during the 90 degree temps during my maternity leave!



  • Vermont is the number one producer of maple syrup in the United States. After a trip to Canada in 2011 I discovered that I LOVE maple syrup. There were a lot of online options for Vermont Maple Syrup, but I liked this little cabin tin!
  • One of the most famous companies based in Vermont is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Honestly, if you bought someone on your list a cooler filled with Ben & Jerry’s, it would probably be one of the coolest gifts ever! (pun intended). This flavor here was inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch.
  • Sometimes reader husband Brady’s favorite band is Phish. The guitarist of Phish, Trey Anastasio is from Vermont. Phish has a pretty crazy gift shop with rad things like this t!

Fact Source

Shot of Brandi Gift Guide: South Carolina, South Dakota & Tennessee




  • My cousin Courtney is a Clemson grad and of course Brady and I take every opportunity we can to remind her about that time when WVU scored 70 points on Clemson during the Orange Bowl. Courtney can use these glasses to celebrate when Clemson may be in the National Championship game this year!
  • From Charleston, South Carolina, I’m a big fan of giving these Rewined candles as gifts. The scents are inspired by wine and the glass around the candle is a recycled wine bottle!
  • The first tea farm in the United States was created in South Carolina.
  • Charleston is totally on our bucket list of travel places in the U.S. From the food options to the beauty of the town, I hope we can make it there some day! Plan a trip here.



Oh boy. Another Dakota. Let’s get this!
  1. I forget this a lot, but Mt. Rushmore is in South Dakota. Do you know that it took 14 years and $1M to build? That price tag seems a little low to me. For $39.99 you can have your own replicia from the Mt. Rushmore gift shop. There is also Mt. Rushmore lip balm, koozies and mango salsa...because...well because why not?  
  2. Tom Brokaw is from South Dakota. And Tom released a new book this year.
  3. If one mountain carving wasn’t enough, the construction of Crazy Horse is underway.  If this is completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world. If you want to see this crazy thing be built, you can donate!


  1. Elf on the Shelf was actually created by a Tennessee resident. I used to be all about the Elf, but this year I’m a bit over it but this card made me LOL.
  2. I love Reese Witherspoon. I love all of her movies, her book suggestions on Instagram and I love her new Draper James line. Based in Tennessee, Draper James has chic clothes and adorable accessories like this embellished scarf. I hope shoes are coming soon!
  3. Nashville has become a popular drinking destination of many of my friends and is the capital of country music. You can plan a trip yourself OR look into visiting the second most popular house in America - Graceland - the former home of Elvis Presley.

Fact Source