Secret Cheeseburgers

Run out of ideas for summer grilling already? Try this easy twist on a cheeseburger. It’s our family’s way of getting a little cheese surprise in the burger.

PREP/TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES

YIELD: 4 SERVINGS

1 lb. ground sirloin

1 tsp. Worcester sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

4 oz. Asiago cheese, cubed

4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Radicchio leaves, red onion, tomato slices (optional)

1.     Using hands, combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into four balls.

2.     Using bamboo skewer or the end of a knife-sharpening tool, poke a hole halfway into each ball. Set aside any leftover meat.

3.     Insert one or two cubes of cheese into each hole. Patch hole with remaining meat.

4.     Flatten each ball into a 1-inch thick patty, making sure that cheese remains hidden inside the burger.

5.     Grill on indoor or outdoor grill for 4 to 7 minutes on each side, until burgers reach desired doneness.

6.     Serve on buns with toppings of your choice.

Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream

After a week at the beach — and the requisite 12-hour car trip there and back — my complexion was looking pretty busted. I looked like I’d aged 5 years in the course of a month, and my skin needed relief. Along came Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream, a rich, emollient dream of a cream to baby my road-weathered, beach-weary skin. It smells delightful, like milkshakes and honey, and goes on thick and velvety. Three mornings later, I woke up with a dewier, rosier face … and maybe some sweet dreams to remember, too. I don’t know that it promises anything for wrinkles or lines, but it does feel good, and so does my skin after using it. 

Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream

After a week at the beach — and the requisite 12-hour car trip there and back — my complexion was looking pretty busted. I looked like I’d aged 5 years in the course of a month, and my skin needed relief. Along came Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream, a rich, emollient dream of a cream to baby my road-weathered, beach-weary skin. It smells delightful, like milkshakes and honey, and goes on thick and velvety. Three mornings later, I woke up with a dewier, rosier face … and maybe some sweet dreams to remember, too. I don’t know that it promises anything for wrinkles or lines, but it does feel good, and so does my skin after using it. 

Last week, I vacationed with my family in Outer Banks, N.C., for the first time. I’ll admit it: I didn’t have high expectations. Between the OBnoXious stickers on every other minivan in my hometown and the hello-from-OBX family photos that show up in Christmas letters from far-flung relatives, I was prepared for the most pedestrian of beach locales.
After a 10-hour drive from Pittsburgh, we passed through a beach town called Southern Shores en route to our rental house in Corolla. The road signs announcing the place drove me to nostalgia from the last time I was in North Carolina: 2002, with my friends Brigit and Lisa, when we rented a Ford Explorer and made an indie-rock pilgrimage through Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Suddenly, all I wanted to listen to was Chapel Hill heroes Superchunk. The lyrics for “Sunshine State,” which I hadn’t listened to since that road trip a decade ago, sprung instantly to mind: “I will be the flounder on your southern shores, on your southern sandy beaches.” The forecast for my cliche of a vacation brightened. Later, we found “Sunshine State” on Spotify and I shared a theory I’d heard about the song’s chord progression mimicking the pattern of a female orgasm. My girl Lisa was the source of that particular nugget of indie-rock wisdom.

Last week, I vacationed with my family in Outer Banks, N.C., for the first time. I’ll admit it: I didn’t have high expectations. Between the OBnoXious stickers on every other minivan in my hometown and the hello-from-OBX family photos that show up in Christmas letters from far-flung relatives, I was prepared for the most pedestrian of beach locales.

After a 10-hour drive from Pittsburgh, we passed through a beach town called Southern Shores en route to our rental house in Corolla. The road signs announcing the place drove me to nostalgia from the last time I was in North Carolina: 2002, with my friends Brigit and Lisa, when we rented a Ford Explorer and made an indie-rock pilgrimage through Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Suddenly, all I wanted to listen to was Chapel Hill heroes Superchunk. The lyrics for “Sunshine State,” which I hadn’t listened to since that road trip a decade ago, sprung instantly to mind: “I will be the flounder on your southern shores, on your southern sandy beaches.” The forecast for my cliche of a vacation brightened. Later, we found “Sunshine State” on Spotify and I shared a theory I’d heard about the song’s chord progression mimicking the pattern of a female orgasm. My girl Lisa was the source of that particular nugget of indie-rock wisdom.

These days, my personal style is heavily influenced by the day-to-day reality of life as a stay-at-home mom to two young children. I may spend my time dodging spit-up and navigating the local playgrounds, but it’s no excuse to look frumpy. 

These days, my personal style is heavily influenced by the day-to-day reality of life as a stay-at-home mom to two young children. I may spend my time dodging spit-up and navigating the local playgrounds, but it’s no excuse to look frumpy. 

Spending the summer slaving

I started working for my first paychecks at the end of 11th grade. At my mother’s suggestion, my first gig was working the cash register at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I actually liked it, crushed on all the boys who worked there and their beer-stealing shenanigans, was happy to get out of the house. That’s how I spent much of the summer when I was 16, although I also attended a musical theatre arts camp during the day, too. It wasn’t too hard to get that Chuck E. Cheese job. Fill out a paper application, interview with the manager in the booth. I didn’t have any work experience other than babysitting, but they hired me anyway. I worked there through 12th grade and the following summer until I left for college. 

The summer after freshman year at Penn State wasn’t as much fun. I was ambitious, but too young and clueless to really know what to do. I felt like I had outgrown Chuck E. Cheese’s, so I called up a temp agency called Kelly Services. It vaguely reminded me of Kelly Girls or Girl Fridays or some other efficient, dependable young lady of commerce that I would soon morph into with office experience at age 18. The world wasn’t really like that anymore in the ’90s though. I had romantic, slightly sexist notions of women in the workplace that kept me cooped up in air-conditioned offices throughout my youth. Kelly Services set an appointment for me to come in and take a typing test and interview me about other skills I had acquired from my first year in college. Beer bongs, cutting lines at fraternity parties, nursing a hangover. None of these were really applicable. But I got a few long-term data entry jobs anyway, and saved up money for the next year. A couple of times they sent me to pass out marketing samples at baseball games. The whole endeavor was lonely and boring.

The summer when I was 19 stands out as The Best Summer of My Life. Still ambitious, but armed with a plan, creativity and some resourcefulness, I landed an internship at Sassy magazine. I sent in my resume and some clips from my music reporter beat at the college newspaper, and kissed the back of the envelope for luck before dropping it in the mailbox in the dormitory commons. The Copy Editor In Charge of Interns interviewed me from New York City over the phone. His name was Alex Press, which I thought was adorable and fictional. I not only had an internship in an amazing city with my best friend as a roommate, but I had a post-graduation career goal to work toward. 

The summers of 20 and 21 were bad copies of the summer of 19. More internships, now at conservative daily newspapers in Pennsylvania. I was old hat at sending out the clips and the laser-printed resume in a big manila folder to the right editor, and letting my college editing experience speak for itself. I brainstormed ways to get in some creative extracurriculars, but the options were slim. 

After I graduated from college and entered the workforce I’d so eagerly eyed, summers just rolled into the rest of the year. No more school calendar dictating the year. No more summer jobs. 

The downtown gown. New Year’s Eve 2011.

The downtown gown. New Year’s Eve 2011.

Our house on the other side of the bored-through mountain was a wreck by modern pregnancy standards. A foul odor of concert port-a-johns doused with Worcestershire sauce permeated the first floor. The dishwasher was packed full of week-old dirty dishes, with pre-Christmas crumbs clinging to their corners, unable to be washed. Upstairs, a dirty white plastic potty chair sat next to a dirty white toilet, left unflushed and rank. Piles of Christmas gift bags, stuffed with tissue paper, socks, and toys, dotted the floors throughout the house. 

We checked into the Fairmont in downtown Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve days before my due date. Our one-night New Year’s baby moon morphed into three nights, as the snow swirled upward against the tall glass of the posh hotel. On the second night, the hotel upgraded us to a suite. We tried nearly every restaurant downtown, indulged in spa services, fielded phone calls from concerned friends and relatives. First and middle names for the baby were agreed upon. The sky shifted from ominous to industrial to twinkling as white strips of snow wedged themselves on top of parking garage roofs and treacherous impassable Mt. Washington streets. Sleepy, time passed in a gray haze of headlights over the Liberty Bridge and persistent elbows and knees bulging beneath dingy maternity clothes.

A trip back to my pre-Internet childhood

 

Upon hearing the rumor that Apple may launch a new iPad in late 2012, one with a 7.85-inch screen, I took a good look at the first-generation family iPad that I use for reading books in my spare time (Joan Didion’s a current fave). I know it’s old, by Apple standards, but I honestly love reading for pleasure on this oldhead iPad. I can get just as engrossed in an e-book as I would reading a physical copy. I never check my email or surf the web while I’m reading. That’s a big switch from when I’m working on my laptop or checking my phone, and the distractions reach epic proportions.
Whether on an e-reader or on old-fashioned paper, reading takes me to another world, one free from email and random Google searches of whatever’s on my mind. It sends me back to my pre-Internet childhood, when I would get completely absorbed in the book I was reading and the pesky details of the day would have to wait. My iPad gives me no notifications of incoming email messages, which I am infinitely grateful for. My positive experience with e-books might be somewhat changed if that were the case.
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a service where you can download books for 21 days using the Kindle Cloud Reader. When your checked-out books reach their expiration date, the downloads automatically disappear from the app. Although the selection is a bit limited so far, I love this service because you don’t have to worry about getting to the library to pick up a book when it’s finally available, or stress out about accruing late fees if you can’t get back to the library on time. 
So is a smaller iPad on my wish list for Christmas 2012? Nah, I don’t think so. My current oldie-but-goodie does just fine for letting me read in the comfort of my own home, free from eye strain and a hunched-over posture.
Dec. 26, 2011
I was a fan of Skinny Cow ice cream (and its advertising) before I started working for this client. The voice for this brand is bold, sassy and fiercely feminine, which makes it so much fun to write for them. I’ve also been a big admirer of Molly Shannon for a long time, too. 
This email blast from September 2011 was one of my first jobs for the Skinny Cow client, which Smith Brothers has had for several years now. 

Dec. 21, 2011

I was a fan of Skinny Cow ice cream (and its advertising) before I started working for this client. The voice for this brand is bold, sassy and fiercely feminine, which makes it so much fun to write for them. I’ve also been a big admirer of Molly Shannon for a long time, too. 

This email blast from September 2011 was one of my first jobs for the Skinny Cow client, which Smith Brothers has had for several years now. 

Dec. 21, 2011

I’m sartorially down in the dumps for several reasons: At 38 weeks pregnant, my dull maternity duds are just that — worn thin duds. This December day is particularly dreary, compounded by the Winter Solstice (raise your glass to the shortest day of the year!) being tomorrow. And as for the holiday retail blitz? So over it. I’m dreaming of sunnier days, a sleeker figure, and a new baby to love.

Here’s my fashion daydream for today.