Thursday, November 30, 2006


Have saw, will chop (yes that's really me!). But where does a Fairmount princess find herself a fresh tree for the holidays? Well, some things just must be done outside city limits. Luckily, having grown up in the beautiful countryside of Chadds Ford, I am familiar with where to go - far far into the woods to find the perfect tree to bring back to my urban nest.

Ok, so my mom actually discovered the place, but I will assume transitive credit. Schmidt's Christmas Tree Farm in Landenberg, Chester County, is where we found our firs. Landenberg is probably about an hour's drive from the city, beyond the Ford and Kennett Square. Actually it is quite close to Newark, DE but one would never know it by the rolling hills, brooding bovines and quaint 1-horse towns along the way.

Schmidt's Farm is everything a Christmas Tree farm should be. You are transported by tractor-pulled wagon from the main shop over the hills and through the woods to the trees, chauffeured by Mr. Schmidt himself. Once you've surveyed every Fraser, Douglas, and Blue Spruce and found The One, you saw it down and have it shaken and baled by friendly, young, strapping lads. The trees travel back down the hill separately from you, at which time you feel a pang of anxiety that there is a possibility that yours could get mixed up with someone else's. But fear not, the system is failsafe.

Back at the main shop you can sip free hot cocoa and cider whilst perusing hand-made ornaments and chatting it up with the two resident reindeer, aptly named Fraser and Douglas. They don't fly, but they do make you feel just a little bit closer to Santa.

Schmidt's Christmas Tree Farm, 1741 Flint Hill Road Landenberg, PA

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dealing With Your Quarter-Life Crisis

Oh the quarter-life crisis! I’ve had a tough time these past couple of years transitioning from college life to real life. I’m pretty sure that I’m getting dumber every day. (And my horrendous addiction to Nicholas Sparks novels is not helping the case.) Some days, I have the “I should go to graduate school” discussion with myself. And then other days, I can’t muster up the motivation to walk to Superfresh for groceries.

Last winter was particularly hard for me so I decided I could use a little personal enrichment, and not in the form of a pedicure or shopping spree (shocking I know, but I needed to branch out). So I enrolled in a continuing education course at the University of the Arts. I took a screenwriting class. It was a great way to expose myself to something new and challenging, as well as, meet new people. It was a little expensive ($325), but well worth it when I thought of the money I spent on clothes, shoes, hair, etc. all the while wallowing in self pity. The only other drawback to the class that I can think of is that a couple of my classmates were middle age men who really loved to hear themselves talk about any and everything, all the time. Everybody else in the class was great. And, one of these days, I’m going to finish that screenplay I started. In fact, I plan on asking for another class for Christmas this year.

University of the Arts.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sing City

Karaoke. What is it about karaoke that makes people crazy? You're either obsessed or scared to death. There's really very little in between. Those who have a nice singing voice but are not quite good enough to do anything useful with it are most susceptible to the calling of this psuedo-performance. Some people take it very seriously. Almost sport-like. There's an unspoken sense of competition, like you have to one-up the guy that went before you. Or someone in the crowd decides you suck and wants to one-up you with a mind-blowing rendition of "We are the Champions."

I never thought of Philadelphia as a karaoke capital, but I recently discovered otherwise. With some friends in town for the Thanksgiving holiday, we headed to Fuji Mountain for a relaxing sushi dinner and a few Sapporos (I should note here that they offered this Japanese beer in 3 -yes - 3 different sizes, the 22 oz for those who really need to lube up before taking the mic). Fuji Mountain is a 4-story establishment with the sushi bar on the first floor, sake bar on the second, and the third and fourth devoted to cocktails and karaoke.

Fuji Mountain is the real deal, a chanteur's paradise devoted to the underappreciated art of televised accompaniment. When we'd had our fill of singing along with everyone from Elvis to TLC, we made our way to what we thought would be your typical Brit-style pub, Barristers. Little did we know that we would walk right into Wednesday night karaoke. It is everywhere. So get practicing - you could be up next.

Fuji Mountain, 2030 Chestnut St., 215-751-0939

Barristers Bar & Grille, 1823 Sansom St., 215-496-0786

Monday, November 27, 2006

Organization for the Flibbertyjibbet

A few years ago I was given a Palm Pilot as a present. This was my dream: more gadgetry in the hopes of making my organized. Woot! The only thing I failed to take in to consideration is that I am really a true lover of pen and paper. I can’t stop myself from writing lists of Christmas presents to buy and music I’ve heard and all sorts of stupid things that I actually like to keep and look back on. It was my habit of sitting down and writing pointless nothings that got me hooked on Molekine notebooks.

I like Molekines for a number of reasons. They are well constructed, with nice elastic to hold it together so that all the other crap I slip into it doesn’t get lost. There is a little pocket at the back in which I keep more odds and ends. The covers are hardy – my mum’s puppy chewed a corner and it didn’t make much of a dent.

This year, to add to all my notebooks, I bought the Moleskine year planner at the AIA Bookstore. It’s a soft cover so it’s not too heavy for your purse and is handily organized to have the days on one side of the page and the other side just a page for notes and scribbles. If you’re the type that can’t keep their pen still while on the phone making appointments, this is the organizer for you. You must, however, buy the planner early if you think it's your thing because they sell out. And they do not reappear. I made the mistake last year of trying to find one on something like January 2nd and was sorely disappointed.

I’ve also bought their Paris city notebook for my upcoming trip with my sister. I want to customize my sister’s before I give it to her to make it a little more special and also to make sure that we hit all the good patisseries. See how the Moleskine’s make you think straight?!

AIA Bookstore, 117 S 17th Street, (215) 569-3188,
Check out the Moleskine tags on flickr:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Two Thumbs Up

In my new neighborhood I have an abundance of places to look for movies, which is nice because I far prefer to rent a movie that try to watch any of the crap on tv. The only problem is, I never know what I want to rent. I don't go with a title or actor or even a genre in mind when I walk in there. Because of this, the majority of rental places are a little overwhelming for me. Last night when I went in, and even had someone else to help me make up my mind, I reckon it took no less than 45 minutes to choose something and it was a bad choice.

This is why I miss my old neighborhood movie place - Beaux Arts Video. It's a little hole in the wall that is pretty much the total opposite of Blockbuster. The new releases are intermixed with indie titles that you've probably heard a lot about but forgot you were ever interested in. The employee pics are honest and are a mixture of critically aclaimed film noir stuff (that I'm never going to touch) and movies you loved in your childhood and forgot existed (I snap them up right away.)

I will say that they don't have many of the popular releases, which can be a pain when you've set your heart on something. The flip side of that is there are so many good movies around that people don't bother even looking at because we're programmed to head zombie-like for Vince Vaughn's head. Beaux Arts has them all, and their super friendly staff will more than happily recommend something to you.

My favorite thing is they have a little gumball machine with chocolate in it so that when you've been staring blankly at the wall for too long you can recover your sugar levels, focus for long enough to pick your movie and get home to Vince and a glass of vino.

Beaux Arts Video, 1000 Spruce Street, (215) 923 1714

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tis the Season for The Papery

Now that Thanksgiving is over, let the holiday chaos begin! One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the Christmas card exchange. There is nothing my family loves more than reading and making fun of other people's Christmas letters. Apparently, my extended family has a lot of geniuses/saints/world travellers. My immediate family has um...well, you get the point.

One of my backup dreams, should the professional tabloid reader dream not work out, is to open a stationery store. I love paper! And there is no greater place for paper of all kinds than The Papery in Old City. I could spend forever staring at all of the card options for every occasion in life.

Holiday card choices are vast- you can go classy, chic, humorous or godly. The staff is friendly and the store is big enough that you don't have to worry about knocking displays over with all of your shopping bags, over sized purse, 9 lbs. dog, etc. And, fear not, they also carry wrapping paper!

So visit the Papery and stock up on cute cards so you can brag to your nearest and dearest about how fabulous a girl about Philly you are!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Confessions of a Drunk Dialer

I have a problem that I think most people conquer in college. It just so happens that my condition has only gotten worse since college. I am a chronic drunk dialer/text messager/ emailer. My condition knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve talked to you or the last conversation we had. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ex boyfriend, ex best friend, ex guy that said hi to me that time in that bar. I’m a monster.

It’s such a problem that when I was coming out of anesthesia, after having my wisdom teeth pulled, I told the hygienist who was walking me to a bed, that I felt like drunk dialing. What could she do? She smiled politely and made sure I was in a recovery room, far from the phones.

I’ve tried to deal with the problem. I’ve deleted numbers from my phone, deleted email addresses, and even tried writing notes to myself. But where there is a will there’s a way. Just recently, I listed a particular person whom I so kindly reached out to and who is so very very bad news, in my phone as Do Not Resuscitate. I have a bunch of these in my phone- strange but true.
Obviously, there is no way to bar me from technology. It’s better than me showing up at your house, right? Drunken Megan in person with something to say would be way worse. So I warn you innocent people that you should never answer a call from me past midnight, nor should you read emails from me that may seem perfectly coherent but have subjects like “I just need to say this, but definitely don’t write me back”. But, the good news is that apparently I’m not the only one with such a severe problem and cell phone manufacturers in Korea have found a solution- a breathalyzer for your phone! Check this article out .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For a Little Girl About Philly

I love love love giving presents. I get particular joy out of Christmas by spending time looking around for the gift that will be just right for everyone in my family. But last week I faced a new challenge in the gift giving department- the Christening gift.

Here I was rather stumped. Finding a present that is rather significant for someone who can’t tell you what they want…. Dilemma… First I started by looking for the traditional present- the silver rattle, the little cup. I found luck with the piggy bank. I love this unusual piggy and it even comes with money ALREADY IN IT! It’s an absolute bargain at $28 so I was all set. Until the godfather, my boyfriend, went and got the very traditional piggy bank from Tiffany’s (at my suggestion. DAMN ME!)

So the search went on. The Children’s Boutique offers not only a wide range of gifts at a wide range of prices, the people there are also extremely attentive. And not in that nagging, you’d-better-buy-something way. The BF had actually originally settled on something they retailed: an adorable stepstool with a little compartment for kiddies to hide things, carved from wood and hand painted. It costs a reasonable $75, if my memory serves me, but for me that was a little high. I ended up getting a super cuddly baby blanket and a weird toy that was all hand wrapped and ribboned to perfection.

Had I really bought what I wanted it would have been an engraved Christmas ornament. Ornaments have always been one of my favorite gifts to give, and a little bell (on sale right now) with the name and birthdate would have been exactly what I wanted. I have heard a lot of good things about Things Remembered, so learn from my mistakes and, when you know what you really want to give, plan ahead and just order it already.

Tiffany & Co., 1414 Walnut St.,

Children's Boutique, 1702 Walnut St.,,

Things Remembered,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wino Forever

Yes, I know this is my second Johnny Depp reference in less than one week...but it just worked, ok?

In keeping with my series on Philadelphia's BYO culture, and since Thursday is Thanksgiving and many folks will head to the homes of friends and family and may like to arrive bearing wine, I thought it a good time to mention a little helpful hint about purchasing wine in the Quaker state.

I'd venture a guess that many of you find it as frustrating as I do that when having a party, you need to make 3 stops - grocery store for food and mixers, beer distributor, and state store for wine and spirits. In other less back-asswards states, people can just hit their local Piggly Wiggly and get it all done in one fell swoop. Not to mention that in many cases these 3 necessary stops are located nowhere near each other! By the time you get done driving and shopping, you rush home to drown yourself in the recently purchased libations.

But there is one shining light in an otherwise dismal state of PA's liquor affairs - The Chairman's Selections. The Chairman's Selections are the PA Liquor Control Board's wayof saying, "We're sorry, loyal patrons and struggling restauranteurs, for being so anal." These are nice wines, (I'm no expert, but they've all gone down smooth so far), supposedly hand-chosen by the LCB Chairman himself (we're to assume he is an expert), available at deep discount prices. The selections change frequently, so there's always something new to try. I've seen $100.00 bottles offered at $49.99, $45.00 bottles for $20, $25.00 bottles for $10, and so on. They're usually displayed along with a nice explanation of the wine's body and flavor and a rating from Wine Spectator or another reputable reviewer. So stock up, it's going to be a long holiday season.

PA Wine and Spirits Shoppes, various locations

Monday, November 20, 2006

Useful Gifts the Series -Part 1 Labels

My days of having Sharpie marker staining my hands are over. Thank goodness for "Stuck on You" personalized stickers! Most mommies spend considerable amounts of time labeling their kids bottles, sippy cups, clothes, shoes and toys. Working mommies are one with the Sharpie, dutifully scribbling their child's name on every blessed thing that their kid brings to school or day care. I have recently said goodbye to my multitude of permanent markers...which by the way are not dishwasher proof on sippy cups and food containers.

I have become a huge fan of these adorable personalized stickers which cleverly adorn just about everything my son owns. This incredibly smart product is a fabulous gift for all the special mommies in your life. Actually, if my husband is reading this (which he better be) I would be very happy to get some of the shoe and clothing labels for our son. The web site is very cute and easy to navigate and their selection is unbelievable. They have small dot stickers and the larger character stickers featured above. For kids with allergies they have personalized no nuts, no eggs and no dairy stickers for food containers and lunchboxes. The site allows you to pick from hundreds of icons, colors and fun shapes. They also offer personalized gift tags (way cheaper than buying a card for every birthday party our little social butterflies attend), luggage tags, pencil/marker stickers, shoe and clothing labels and personalized notepads and calling cards for all those playdate connections. For those moms who are trying to potty train or get their kids to do their chores, "Stuck on You" offers great motivational sticker charts.

You too can abandon your Sharpie markers and just pop these microwave and dishwasher safe stickers on any and all of your childrens belongings. Add these to your Holiday wish lists...I always embrace the useful stocking stuffer (yes honey, I do consider diamonds to be a useful stocking stuffer) and will certainly be ordering some for my mommie friends. Stay tuned for more useful mommie gift ideas!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Sweet Fix

You never know when you're going to get a craving for a cupcake. I used to have quite the habit. And as every cupcake connoisseur knows, it's not easy to find a delicious and fresh cupcake at 9:00 PM. Fear not, I've found the answer. Whole Foods. I do admit that Whole Foods has (in my opinion) a hit or miss bakery section. Some of their baked goods can be overly rich. However, the cupcakes are yummy when you're in a pinch. Of course, they are not of Naked caliber, but they're good when you need a fix.

I highly recommend the chocolate cupcake. My favorite part of the Whole Foods cupcakes is that they are bigger than average and, therefore, slightly most satisfying. And for the vegan cupcake lover- the vegan vanilla cupcakes are fabulous and my personal favorite. In fact, I've decided that we should pay tribute to our vegan girl about Philly friends and rate the vegan vanilla cupcake. Here it goes:

Appearance: 6 (it could be prettier).
Cakiness: 7 (semi moist)
Icing: 8 (flavorful)
Sweetness: 7
Freshness: 8
Overall Yumminess: 7

My conclusion is that when you're in dire need of a cupcake- Whole Foods is the place to go.

Whole Foods. 929 South St. or 20th and Callowhill

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Perfect 10 (or 20)

City Nails, Midtown Nails, Nail City, Uptown Nails, Downtown Nails, Center City Nails, Walnut Nails, Chestnut Nails, Nails R Us...Nails, Nails, Nails. How is a girl to know the good from the bad and the ugly? Well the ugly I guess is easy to pick out and steer clear of. Dirty is a definite don't. But so many nail boutiques look the same, they're almost all always busy, how to know if I'll wind up with a fabulous mani or a fist full of fung?

My answer is Rittenhouse Nails. I worked around the corner when they opened a little over 2 years ago so I saw the whole thing go down. Hardwood floors, crown molding, even a lovely chandelier give this walk-ins-welcome a little extra class. The staff are friendly, full of smiles and even chatty despite a language barrier. Last week one of the ladies noticed my engagement ring and asked if I had any pictures of my wedding. How cute is that? Of course I could not oblige due to the fact that it has not yet occured, but whatevs.

The ladies at Rittenhouse are very thorough, so don't pop in if you are pressed for time. They take real care of their clients' digits - no wayward cuticle is safe around them. And if they can make mine look good, they can help anybody! They not only massage your feet and legs during the pedi and your hands during the mani, but also your shoulders while you wait under the nail dryers. Love that.
Rittenhouse Nails, 1742 Sansom St. 215.557.0078

Friday, November 17, 2006

Try it. You might like it.

I went to a show last night and I’m not sure why but just how wonderful it was surprised me. It was the Joanna Newsom show at the Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church, and there probably isn’t much of a better place to see her in Philly. The small audience was deadly silent and spilled out to seating in the aisles and in front of the stage. I was right at the back but still close enough that my $15 standing room ticket now seems ridiculously cheap. So thank you R5.

She was accompanied by four other people to play her new highly orchestrated album in its entirety. I couldn’t really get over her stamina to play her harp for these seven minute long songs and singing along while hardly taking a breath. You may be able to tell from my glowing adoration here that I am now a Joanna groupie type and seeing her live has given me a greater appreciation of her albums.

Sadly, her tour is now moving south and then across to the west coast. And then to England where she’ll play with full symphony orchestras, which I would now KILL to see. Her voice is a bit of an acquired taste so this album really isn’t for everyone. So maybe give her a bit of a looksee and tell me that you’re not a little big enamored now. And then buy her new album and get all swept away.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Head Area Experience

I am a self- confessed hair junkie. There is nothing more rejuvenating to me than a great cut and color. I never go in for a trim. I expect something funky and different every time. My high standards have led me on a bumpy ride throughout the Philly hair salon scene. I've been to lots of salons, rarely going back to the same place more than twice. Therefore, I figured it would be a great public service for me to share my salon knowledge with all the girls about Philly. I'll start with the best and work my way down.

Center City's Head Area piqued my interest after I read some Citysearch reviews. I made an appointment with Stephen and they were able to take me 2 days later. (I also do not have the patience to wait weeks for an appointment.) I was a little nervous because the day of my appointment was the day after the Philadelphia Magazine "Best" list came out and Head Area topped their list. I thought, "um, oh shit. This is going to be a fortune." Sucking it up, I took my Visa and marched on over. The salon is very tiny and located in the back of the Matthew Izzo store. Truth be told, it's kind of a weird vibe. I showed up to my appointment and was seen right away. We discussed my color options. Stephen "got" me. He understood that I like my hair funky and messy and that I'm not a straightening iron kind of girl. The process took a reasonable amount of time (not over 2 hours, like some places). As it came time to pay, I felt my heart racing, hoping I'd still have money left over on my credit card for groceries, but if not, at least I'd have great hair. Well, to my delight, my highlights and cut all totalled came to $110- not bad at all. Five minutes later and less broke than I had anticipated, I was on my merry way with a great cut!
In conclusion, I'd definitely recommend Head Area Salon. The people were nice, the cut and color were great, and it was an all around positive experience.

Head Area. 1109 Walnut St. 215.829.0699.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Get Naked

Something has happened in Center City. A gravitational force that no mere human can resist is pulling everyone toward the corner of Juniper and Walnut. I don't know if it's the name and people think that there's a different kind of sugar to be had there, or that everyone is just hoping that a mysterious gypsy bearing a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp will walk through the door at the very moment that they are enjoying a mini fudge cheesecake at the front table. But whatever it is, Philly is mezmerized by its very own Chocolat. And this place is has a great atmosphere (totally abuzz at 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon), stays open late at night, and a presents fabulous alternative to the 'Bucks.

The Naked Chocolate Cafe's cupcakes have been calling my name since their doors opened, but I have managed to resist their charms...until yesterday, when I gave in (research, of course). Plus, we received a recommendation by one of our fabulous readers, so the Naked cupcake could no longer be ignored.
The first hurdle to get over in the Naked Chocolate Cafe is deciding on just one thing since everything is just so darn pretty. That said, I did not buy just one thing, rather I also picked up a sample of their dark chocolate for my man (that got the thumbs up too). Their cupcakes come in a number of varieties, of which I went for, yes, the chocolate with vanilla icing, again. Anyone who is a fan of carrot cake might want to test that one out because it almost tempted me and I do not go to the carrot. I believe Megan has indulged in the chocolate with peanut butter icing, so perhaps she will weigh in on that variety as well.

The flavor of this cupcake was much bigger than its actual size. I was so drunk with pleasure I actually felt hung over after eating it. Sugar rush, no doubt, because this pup is SWEET. I felt I could have been happy simply smelling it...but unfortunately for my waste line, our 6 criteria do require actual eating. The chocolate cake was dense and moist, and you can taste the real chocolate in the mix - this ain't no Duncan Hines! The icing was very sugary and had a slight granular quality to it, which personally I like, and I will say it was borderline too sweet. Sugar overdose. But isn't that the point?

Score: Appearance - 9 (although the black forest and carrot cake varieties would definitely warrant 10s); Cakiness - 10; Icing - 7; Sweetness - 7; Freshness - 9; Overall Flavor Yumminess - 8

Total: 50
The Naked Chocolate Cafe, 1317 Walnut St.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just don't forget to breath...

I am reluctant to share the following thing with you, as I want to keep it all to myself. I don’t want people to start going to this and then I can’t get in and then because of my big mouth I can’t do my favorite thing anymore.

But, for the greater good and because I am SO NICE, I will let you in on this.

It’s my pilates teacher. Elizabeth. She is so great that she is like Madonna or Cher or Britney and no longer needs a last name. (Plus they don’t put it on the schedules so I don’t know it.) She is my instructor at 12th Street Gym and she also teachers at the ever wonderful Lithe Pilates in NoLibs.

If you’ve ever taken pilates you will know that you can do it one of two ways: (a) you flop around on the floor and think it’s crazy easy and don’t understand why you’re there or (b) you concentrate on what the teacher says and you’re surprisingly beat up by the end of the session. What makes Elizabeth so special is that not only does she manage to squeeze in a TON of exhausting moves into the hour but also she has the care to really teach. She walks around adjusting the moves, she’ll stop the class to give the tips that make you actually do the moves right, and all sorts of things which help you on the way to getting those yummy pilates abs.

Plus, she’s just bloody nice. When I’m forcing myself to sit in a mirrored room with a bunch of dancers in lycra and attempt to move like them, it’s nice to have an instructor that lets you feel less like the elephant in the room.

12th Street Gym, 204 S 12th Street, (215) 985-4092,

Lithe Pilates, Liberties Walk, (215) 928-1663,

Monday, November 13, 2006

Raining Stupid

It's cold and wet and you're soaked, already the day sucks. As you wade through the sea of umbrellas and newspaper shields(buy an umbrella dude), you can't help but notice at least a couple of grown women with children's umbrellas. I'm talking miniature Disney umbrellas, even the kind with the name in fancy script! I don't think it's a matter of running out of the house and taking your kid's umbrella, I think these twisted freaks are buying juvenile umbrellas because they think it's cute. Um, no. It's kinda scary. Scary in that, "I wouldn't let me kids trick or treat at your house" kind of way. As I wandered in to the Girl About Philly headquarters this morning, I had to walk by a business woman, smoking a cigarette with a bright yellow Spongebob umbrella over her head. Automatically, I thought a) eww people should stop smoking in bad weather and b) why are you holding such a stupid umbrella that doesn't even cover your entire circumference.

I'd like to suggest that these women invest in grown up umbrellas for the sheer practicality of the matter. They can live out their bizarre juvenile obsessions in other ways, like buying Tigger and Pooh figurines at the Disney Store.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

King Ferdinand, es muy muy bien

Last night I made the commitment to go out in Northern Liberties. I say commitment because as much as everyone loves the starving artist "6th borough" feel of this perpetually up-and-coming neighborhood, no one can deny its isolation from the rest of Center City. If you find yourself unhappy with the venues NoLibs has to offer, there's most definitely a cab fare in your future to at least make it back to Old City. So as far as I am concerned, whatever happens in NoLibs, I stay in NoLibs. For the evening, that is. Sorry cabbies, but I am lazy and cheap.

So this evening we checked out Bar Ferdinand, the latest addition to the Liberties Walk community. Having spent much time in the glorious country of Espana, tapas are always on my menu. I can still remember late night bocadillos after a night out at the clubs in Malaga. And Bar Ferdinand brought me back to these noches calientes where the vino was tinto, the queso was manchego, and the Erino was drunko.

Bar Ferdinand, like many of Philly's Spanish restuarants (think Mixto and Amada) is a really attractive space. The design is flawless, and I loved the tribute to the black bull, one of Spain's most familiar emblems. The food was spot on, from the gambas al ajillo to the pinchos andaluz, it all felt the same as it did in the neighborhood bars in Jerez de la Frontera. The tempranillo wine was a perfect accent to all of the dishes we sampled (and we did dabble in quite a few). The only downside was that most of our dishes arrived almost immediately upon placing our order - definitely out of line with the far more relaxed, take-your-time attitude of an authentic Andalusian outpost.

Bar Ferdinand presents an inexpensive opportunity to experiment with the foods of Espana. Once you've savoured all the tapas you can stomach, head over to Standard Tap or Liberties for a few well-poured pints. And then hail your cab, one stop, straight home.

Bar Ferdinand, 1030 N. 2nd St. 215.923.1313

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Say Cheeeeeeese

This particular recommendation would perhaps normally fall under the heading of "shopping" but I think this camera shop offers so much more that I'm hijacking over to the "adventures" category.

I'm a bit of a secret photography nut. Secret because recently I've been spending more time researching stuff than actually taking any pictures. To further my research, I recently headed out to Photo Louge (aka CBOP for those who have known it over the years) to check out the recent camera of my fantasy: the holga with polaroid backing. Never heard of it? Well, don't worry. You probably don't want it. I'm just insane and think that if I owned this camera then I would soon be on my way to becoming the next Annie Leibowitz. Sadly, Photo Lounge did not carry it. The man who helped me was able to tell me that it's unlikely that I'll find the holgaroid, as it's called (though it sounds more like a bum problem to me), in Philadelphia. But he was able to recommend two New York retailers that might be able to help me.

I then proceded to talk to him for about 45 minutes about other cameras that caught my eye. I have rarely talked to any sales person who was more interested in what he was talking about and less pushy about making an actual sale. Ever. And because of this, after a little more research, I am actually going to go buy my new camera there when I was once just going to head off to Best Buy and guiltily hand more money over to a big chain.

Photo Lounge also produces beautiful prints because they hire people who actually care about photography and know what they're doing instead of just feeding your film into a big box and handing over a pack of crappy looking pictures. You can also load your digital photos online for printing so even if you're as lazy as me about getting them on paper you have no excuse any more.

So if you need advice about your next camera purchase (which you probably do more than you think) or want beautiful prints to add to your albums, please think about heading to Photo Lounge. You'll get the best service around and keep a local store in business.

Photo Lounge CBOP,, 1909 Chestnut St, (267) 322 6651

Friday, November 10, 2006

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Beauty Queen...

As girls about Philly, we are forever on a quest for health and beauty discoveries (and by health, I mean the occasional light beer substitution and by beauty, I mean shaving my legs.) So ta da- welcome to our newest category, creatively titled Health and Beauty.

Let me begin by telling you a very sad story about a girl (a lovely young woman, I might add)who has had problem skin (fine, acne) since...oh in utero. Maybe not that far back..but close. Seriously it's been forever. She tried everything from facials to Proactiv to dermatologists and prescription creams and antibiotics. Nothing worked. One fine day, a coworker tipped her off about a little place called Rescue Rittenhouse Spa and a woman named Rachel. Our little pimple victim promptly scheduled an appointment with Rachel, the miracle worker. Rachel assessed the situation and offered hope and guidance. Problem skin girl began to see Rachel and had all kinds of facials performed, even microdermabrasion. Slowly, but surely, her skin began improving. She would even go on to receive compliments on her complexion!

Let me just forewarn you that it can be pricey. But, for those of us who have skin issues, it's a great investment.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Went in for sushi, came out with Christmas

While we're on the subject of random lunchtime wanderings, I might as well mention that I stumbled across my first taste of the holiday season the other day at none other than DiBruno Brothers. Most people go for bread, cheese, and $20 per pound salami. On this particular occasion I settled on sushi and a lovely addition to my forthcoming frazier fir. I usually subscribe to the "no Christmas until after Thanksgiving" rule, but how could I resist this fabulous tribute to my city? I did, by the way (shopaholics everywhere be proud of my self-restraint), resist the matching appetizer plates, dish towels, juice cups and pint glasses that were also prominently displayed in the impulse-purchase section.

This porcelain ornament, which is part of the Cityscape Collection by DSC Designs, features all of Philly's most famous landmarks - Independence Hall, Boathouse Row, and the Academy of Fine Arts to name a few. You know, all those places you take for granted, walk by every day but never visit. The artwork has remarkable detail for such small renderings and each landmark is labeled in the artist's handwriting. It is, in a word, adorable. And it's $14.99 plus tax. What can I say? It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St. 215-665-9220

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'll take the psychic and half a sandwich please.

Have your lunch breaks become all about lunch? Do you just run out to Cosi and grab a soup or sandwich and run back to your desk to check emails again? Have you become bored of the same routine? Then try our new Visit A Psychic During Your Lunch Hour And Have Something To Talk About For Days To Come plan!

That’s right. In a moment of inspiration, Megan decided that the best thing to do in the middle of the work day is go out and have the future foretold by a stranger so I happily skipped along with her. Oddly, the first one wasn’t home (hello? Did you not psychically know we were coming?!). And if the next one was too expensive to get anything but a palm reading done, but I guess that’s what you get for visiting a psychic with a Rittenhouse address…

Megan had both her palms read and I only one, as I am willing to save pennies even when it involves knowing my future, which might come in handy (no pun intended). Afterwards Megan was a little cross that she got around the same amount of information that I did for half the palm supply, but if you’ve ever seen my granny hands you’d know there’s a lot that’s going on there in the many wrinkles. The biggest insights we were given were that Megan will live to 91, which she’s dreading, and I will have two children, which is... ok… Really the best thing about it was a great change from the normal lunch hour but you don’t have to be psychic to know that variety is the spice of life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy Election Day

Happy Election Day! Obviously, everyone should vote, especially the ladies, as we’ve only been allowed to vote in the good old USA since 1920, and many of those hot issues out there are about us. And could the Democrats finally be getting their asses in gear? Only time will tell. But aside from all of those reasons, today is a special day because it signals the end of those horrible commercials that have bombarded us for the past 2 months. Don’t get me wrong, I love how each female candidate has to show footage of her with her kids and husband, as the loving mother, and then the ass kicking politician. As long as she has her priorities straight, just like her male competitors. Ha.

But seriously, who are the voices behind these commercials? It gets darker and scarier as each day passes. Wait until Hillary runs for Prez in 2008, those are going to be some awesome commercials.

Finally, good riddance to the campaigning! Now, I can go back to watching Grey’s Anatomy in peace, with the occasional car commercial interjection. Oh bliss.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Don't Forget... vote tomorrow! Not sure where your polling place is? Check out

for the listings of all the Philly districts. The polls stay open until 8 pm.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Culture File: Papa Sal

This weekend I was on a quest to find a new Saturday night "spot". I was going to find my Peach Pit if it killed me. And if Dylan McKay walked out of the bathroom and in to my heart, that would be ok too.
Sure, there are places that I've had some fun at, but nothing that really hit home. L'Etage, on Bainbridge Street, used to be fun, but I've grown tired of waiting in line to get in, then paying a cover, then fighting for air to stand, let alone dance, not to mention, the horrendous bar service. So L'Etage and I are officially dunzo. The 700 Club in Northern Liberties is a good place except that the cab fare there and back is like a slap in the face when you're already broke. (ok and I may have been the tacky girl that made out with some guy on the dance floor last week and, therefore, am too embarrassed to go back.)

After some serious My Space stalking, I found a new place to try, Upstairs @ Sal's on 12th and Walnut. The convenience of a place so close to my pad could not be beat. So I rounded up my people and trekked out to Sal's around 11ish. It was like a small dance party in Grandma's attic. There is no cover. The service at the bar is excellent and cheap. And the DJs don't suck. They take requests and even come out and groove with you. It was not at all crowded and everybody looked to be having a great time. If you're looking to change up your Saturday night location, I'd highly recommend you and yours check out Upstairs @ Sal's.
Upstairs @ Sal's. 12th and Walnut St.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lolita Had a Little Goat

I am always on the hunt for new little boutique food places, so in the months leading up to the opening of the Grocery Market + Cafe I was as excited as a deli addict waiting for their next fix of hard-to-find cheeses. And when that blessed day came I was most pleased. Grocery has a great little set up, with one part dedicated to serving unusual sandwiches, both cold and grilled, soups, smoothies and other impressive lunch type items. This is the side you would call the "Cafe". The "Market" section is the perfect place to grab yourself a treat, find some special bits and bobs for a dinner party or get a lovely gift for the foodie in your life. With the shelves lined from everything from cookbooks to homemade frozen cookie dough and a selection of pre-cooked dishes it's hard to walk out empty handed.

My latest purchase there was for my first contribution to the Cupcake Showdown. They have a menu of five types and I grabbed a couple that looked chocolatey and icingy and caramelly all at the same time - The Little Lolita. What I failed to do was read the full description of what the Little Lolita had tempted me with: chocolate-ancho cake, goat's milk caramel, cream cheese frosting and chile toffee peanuts. As much as the cupcake was overall very well made and the ingredients thoughtful, I just couldn't get away from the goaty taste left from the caramel. My mother felt otherwise, so perhaps it was just my immature palate sabotaging me. I may just be better suited to the Plain Jane: madagascar bourbon vanilla cake, vanilla bean frosting and vanilla dots. Whatever your choice, it certainly won't be average.

And so to the scoring:

Appearance- 9; Cakiness- 9; Icing- 3; Sweetness- 6; Freshness- 10; Overall flavor combination yumminess- 4

Total: 41

Grocery Market + Cafe, 101-105 S 13th Street, (215) 922-5252

Friday, November 03, 2006

Find a BYO, Courtesy of "The Google"

If you haven't yet been seduced by Philadelphia's burgeoning BYOB culture, than you are a much less hungry person than I. Who can resist the grilled whole fish, garlic hummus platters, goat cheese salads, hand-rolled gnocchi and vanilla creme brulees that await, just a few doors down any given block at one of the city's over 200 BYOBs. And its not just the food that tempts, but the din of happy voices, the buzz of the kitchen just a few feet away, the low candle light and the hearth-like warmth of these undersized and often overstuffed 1-room establishments. Why just in the last week alone I have had the pleasure of dining (and drinking) at 2 of these pint-sized places, Mercato at the corner of Spruce and Camac Sts. in Washington Square West (pictured), and Audrey Claire at 20th & Spruce in Rittenhouse.

But with the sheer number of BYO options these days, who can choose? Personally I'm trying to hit them all one by one, but it's going to take some time. And since they seem to be multiplying by the day, how can one even keep up with the latest and greatest? Now, thanks to the wonders of Google maps and the clever folks over at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation, finding your next BYO has never been easier. Their new Interactive BYOB Restaurant Map lets you find what you want, where you want it. Just choose a neighborhood, and all the BYOs are marked by cute little bottles of vino, conveniently color-coded by cuisine type. Red for Italian, Orange for French, Yellow for Spanish/Latin American, Green for...well you get the idea. Click on your chosen bottle and up pops the address, website, phone number, and important bits of information like whether they take reservations (not likely) or accept credit cards (dream on).

The map even lists the Wine & Spirits shops in the area in case you run out of the fruit of the vine before the cheese course arrives. Brilliant.
Greater Philadelphia Tourism & Marketing Corp.
Interactive BYOB Restaurant Map

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lady Sovereign Ain't No Pikey

Don’t ever give a teenager a microphone. Especially, Jay-Z protégés named Lady Sovereign a.k.a. Louise Amanda Harman.

Last night, I went to the Starlight Ballroom to see British phenomenon, Lady Sovereign. In truth, I was excited for the possibility of standing witness to another one of her infamous Philly meltdowns. As usual, a really shitty band opened that made your ears want to bleed. When that was over, I figured Lady Sovereign would take the stage in the next 20 minutes. Not so much. She sat in a booth to the side of the stage with an entourage and chain smoked. I resisted the urge to call out- “Lady Sovereign, your lungs!” The girl is Polly pocket size. Seriously, I wanted to scoop her up in all of her baggy pants, ponytail to the side, and 2 different color eyes glory and put her safely in my pocket.

Eventually she did go on. And I have to say I didn’t love her new album right away, but seeing her perform it live, I was into it. I think I’ll give it another shot. She addressed the incident from last year, where she stormed off stage, and apologized, saying that she watched the You Tube footage of her antics. It was nice to see her poke fun at herself, as she doused the meager audience with beer, flipping us off every 3rd second. She even talked about her menstrual cycle and called everyone pikeys. I mean if that’s not rock star material- I don’t know what is.

Check out Lady Sovereign’s debut- Public Warning.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


That's National Blog Posting Month, by the way. Started over at as an alternate to National Novel Writing Month, which I don't think any of us girls about Philly were quite prepared to do just yet. This whole NaBloPoMo is way more up our alley.

So we're going to give it a go...
The four of us are endeavouring to have a hell of a lot of content up here in the next 30 days. Cupcakes and shopping and bitching! OH MY!