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December in a house of blue, white and silver

We don’t do any of that Elf on the Shelf nonsense. Not because I hate all things fun (which I do), or because I am lazy (which I am), but because I am Jewish. I admittedly grew up as one of those “lucky” kids, because my Dad is Catholic, so I got Hanukkah presents (eight days of socks!) and Christmas presents. Nonethless, I’m still not really into the holidays. I’m not a total Grinch. I love cookies, and I have a proper appreciation of A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, the John Denver with the Muppets Christmas Album and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” But that’s about as far as it goes. The holidays aren’t really my thing.

When Alex asked if I’d be willing to host the Pittsburgh blogger holiday cookie swap he was arranging, I said “sure!” …mostly because I knew that I would be the beneficiary of additional leftover cookies. But in the day or so before the event, I realized I was an odd selection for host, because literally the only holiday decorations in my house are the Hanukkah gel window stickies I bought my kid at Target to bribe her to act like a somewhat civilized human being.

The result of 11 food Lovin Pgh bloggers going Christmas cookie crazy #pghcookieswap

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on

The cookie swap was this weekend, and it went swimmingly. With all the cookies and joy and fun and sparkling wine, no one even mentioned my lack of decor. Success!

This year is going to be a weird holiday season for us. Due to the aforementioned Catholic dad, I grew up every year having a Christmas tree at his house. During my college and law school years, I did not have any Christmas tree, but I didn’t have anything else either, so I didn’t even notice. When Mr. Beez and I got serious, I expected him to have a Christmas tree. He had no such intention, because although he personally is not Jewish, “we” are Jewish, our (later to come) family would be Jewish, and we have a Jewish house. So no Christmas tree.

We spend Christmas with his parents. They have a tree, and holly decorations and a ham. Santa visits Baby Beez at her Grandma and Poppy’s house. She has a stocking there. But Christmas, really, was his mom’s thing. She did the decorating, the shopping, and a lot of the cooking. She passed away in October. This Christmas is going to be a big change. It’s too much for Baby Beez to lose her Grandma and Santa in one year. I did the shopping (of course, nowhere near as extravagant as when Grandma was in charge). We’re changing up the menu. Instead of ham, we’ll make prime rib for dinner (which is my Dad’s tradition). And on Christmas evening, we’ll hit up the movies and get some Chinese food, as a nod to Jewish tradition.

This afternoon, I got my act together on the one Hanukkah tradition from my childhood that really “makes” the holidays for me. The Hanukkah box. Here’s the idea: when you have Christmas, you have a Christmas tree to put presents under. When you have Hanukkah, you have to put the presents somewhere, so we wrap a box in paper and put them there. It’s the Hanukkah box. Past years, I’ve used the largest cardboard box I can find sitting around. This year, I decided that I’m sick of trying to line the inside of a stupid box with wrapping paper (an obnoxious task), so I wanted to buy a Rubbermaid type box, and wrap it once and use it year after year. We’ll just put it in the garage in the off season. Baby Beez and I also picked up a bunch of overpriced bows at Target to add a little extra flair (seriously, I spent about $40 on bows today. What is wrong with me?)

hanukkah box

Tonight, our Hanukkah box went live. It’s early enough that we can briefly admire it before the holiday starts on Tuesday evening, but it’s not sitting around long enough that its temptation becomes unbearable for the small person. Also, I’m happy to say that in contrast to past years’ too-small boxes, where gifts were spilling over all over the place, this Rubbermaid behemoth was just right.

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Making a game out of #RWRunStreak — Week 1 in Pictures

Making a game out of #RWRunStreak  — Week 1 in Pictures

I’ve taken the challenge of the RW Run Streak– running at least 1 mile a day, every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I’m training to run the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge (remember– I’m raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network! How about you kick in a dollar or two for the sick kids! I’m at 73% of my fundraising goal!!), and so the Run Streak is a nice overlay with my training schedule. On days where I’m not scheduled for a training run, I just do one quick mile. And the fact that the requirement is only one mile– which for me is only about 11 minutes of exercise– I can convince myself to take that little run early in the morning or late at night on days I would otherwise blow off running altogether.

I’ve turned my Run Streak runs into a little game. I snap a picture during each run, and although my dreadmill days aren’t very exciting pictures, I’ve had a lot of fun thinking of neat snaps when I’m out running in the neighborhood. I prefer running outside a million times more than running on the treadmill, and as long as the sidewalk is reasonably dry, I’ll run outside even if it’s very cold (yes, even though I’m a total California girl who CANNOT stand the cold). Hopefully the ice and snow will stay away, and I’ll be able to keep my runs outdoors! I didn’t think much about it at first, but over the last few days, I’ve had a lot of fun looking around my neighborhood for neat, unexpected things that might make a good Run Streak picture.

So lets celebrate finishing the first week of this 36 day challenge, here’s my first week in pictures!


Short run, and slow, before a long drive to Baltimore, but it's better than 11 min of excuses #RWRunStreak

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on

The ice melted and the weather is mild, put in my 2 miles on the hills of Grandview Ave #RWRunStreak #nofilter

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on



#RWRunStreak on the JCC dreadmill, during baby Beez' swim class #multitasking

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on



Shhhh, srs bzness on my #RWRunStreak route today!

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on


Spotted on my lil #RWRunStreak jaunt tonight: the elves at @RedBeardsPGH are keepin busy

A photo posted by beezuskiddo (@beezuskiddo) on


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Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!

Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!

WE HAVE A REAL FIREPLACE. IN OUR HOUSE! THAT I CAN SIT IN FRONT OF AND READ AND BE SNUGGLY AND SO HAPPY!

FIREPLACE.

FIREPLACE.


Ok, it’s a gas fireplace. And I have no idea how it works. And the little paper pamphlet that has the warranty information is still sitting IN the fireplace, so we might want to get that out before trying to turn it on. But still, A FIREPLACE YOU GUYS! And I’m hoping we can get our act together sometime before next summer to actually get it going, so I can have one of those nice toasty winter evenings in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine and reading books.

It will probably end up being something more like me sitting in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine, listening to Scooby Doo on the TV because at least that keeps my kid sitting in one place. But I’ll take what I can get.

Speaking of books, I’ve been on a streak of good reads lately:

Bonfire

I don’t know why I had it so incorrectly stuck in my head that Bonfire was set in 19th Century England, and was some Jane Austen type book.** It most absolutely, definitely is not. Not even remotely close. It’s all 80s extravagance, scandal and Masters of the Universe. A fantastic, guilty-pleasure sort of read.


**Likewise, for years I thought A Streetcar Named Desire was a musical (thanks to The Simpsons episode where they perform Streetcar). It most definitely is not.

Silkworm

I’m gonna admit it: I’m a total sucker for anything JK Rowling. She could probably re-write the telephone book and I’d be like “Yes, pls, I would like to read.” She’s just a good writer. She’s engaging, she’s fun, her writing is light and quick. Her characters aren’t terribly complex, but they are interesting. You want to get to know them, to see what they’ll do. All good fun.

Lola

Goofy, sappy YA story, without being TOO sappy. I was going to call this a YA romance, but it’s not “romance” as the genre is typically considered. It’s high school romance. Sweet and naive. I really enjoyed this book now, but I wish it had been around when I was in high school, because I would have adored it then.

wolves

Tell The Wolves was hands-down one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s so hard to describe, other than to say it’s a story about identity and family and relationships. One of my favorite things about book club is that since we each take turns picking a book, I read so many books I would have never much been interested in from the description alone. Sometimes these books are amazing. This is one such book. Go read it. Amazing.

So what books to yinz guys have stacked by your nightstand right now?

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BeezusKiddo Holiday Gift Guide, Vol. 2: BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS! w @JJHENSLEY @YaJagoff @RachelBlaufeld and @JonathanAuxier

In my ideal, timely world, this post would have gone up the day before Thanksgiving. But life and such got in the way, so here we are a few days later. But hey, it’s still SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY, and authors are small businesses, so you can still get in your online order to sneak a local author’s book into your bookworm’s stocking this year. (Pssst- Click on the images of the books below to be directed to their sale sites.)

I am a HUGE fan of dark but fun kids literature, thinking Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, JK Rowling, etc. I saw Jonathan Auxier speak at a Creative Mornings Pittsburgh breakfast and immediately snapped up his books. They’re both imaginative, fun and a little spooky. My favorite of the two is Peter Nimble, and I’m looking forward to reading it together with Baby Beez when she’s a little older. (I guess we could read it together now, but I don’t have the patience to read anything longer than a picture book with that small maniac right now.)

PeterNimble_coverqnight gardener


If a thrilling mystery is more up your alley, check out JJ Hensley’s Pittsburgh-centric suspense novels Resolve (a murder mystery set within the Pittsburgh Marathon) and the newly-published Measure Twice.

Resolve

If you have a romance reader on your shopping list, support Pittsburgh’s queen of all things sultry and steamy- Rachel Blaufeld. Rachel has published 2 books so far in her Electric Tunnel series, with more shortly to come!

Electrified

smoldered

And last on my list today is the upcoming debut of Ya Jagoff! blogger John Chamberlin into the print world! Ya Jagoff! promises to be a fun collection of pieces about the joy and craziness of our town!

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Did you #ShopSmall today? My day was spent mostly on an outing to the zoo and a long and much-needed nap afterward, but I did squeeze in a visit to a local coffee shop and bakery. Even though Small Business Saturday has come to a close, I’ve still got quite a shopping list of goodies from local artists and businesses to pick up. I’m doing my best to keep it local this holiday season, to support our local small businesses and the whole community.

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BeezusKiddo Holiday Gift Guide, Vol. 1

DUDE I LOVE HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Ok, I just love shopping. I love the feeling when you pick a gift for someone and it turns out to be JUST the right gift, and they are so happy. I love the feeling when I buy someone something and I see them use it over and over, because they love it. (Conversely, it breaks my lil heart when I buy someone something and it sits in the back of a closet. This is why Mr. Beez and I tell each other EXACTLY what to buy, so we get just what we want.)

Over the next couple days, I am rolling out a ‘burgh-centric gift guide in two parts. I planned to just write one “Gift Guide” post, but then I found way more things than I could put together in just one post. So the big plan is, Volume 1 today, and Volume 2: BOOKS, BOOKS BOOKS tomorrow! Mostly because I love books and ‘burgh authors so much that they deserve their very own post.

First up, for coffee lovers– LIKE ME– 19 Coffee Company  together with PA Mug Co. offers marvelous gift sets, including  wheel thrown and hand-glazed mugs and a bag of 19 Bold coffee. 19 Bold is a hearty, rich blend with a heavy aroma and wonderful notes of bittersweet dark chocolate, caramel and butterscotch. To buy these gift packs, you need to contact 19 Coffee company directly, by emailing ellen at 19 coffee dot com or 412-527-6985.

19Coffee gift

19 Coffee also offers a COFFEE OF THE MONTH club, where they ship 2 pounds coffee fresh from the roaster directly to you each month. This combines two of my favorite things: (1) Coffee, and (2) getting things in the mail.  The best.

19 coffee


When it comes to holiday decorating, I am terrible. I never seem to get around to it, and I would much rather focus my energies on seasonal baked goods than on hanging things around the house. Even with my attitude fast approaching the Grinch zone, I can’t help but LOVE the Gourds and Fruit wreath from Roxanne’s Flowers. in the Strip District. It’s seasonal, it’s gorgeous, and best of all, it’s not gaudy.

Gourds+and+Fruit+01

If you are interested in something more “holiday” than “harvest,” Roxanne’s also offers this gorgeous woodrose & pine cone wreath.

Pine+Cone+Wreath

I’m always on the lookout for a perfect Chanukah Card, and Pittsburgh-based The Bird and the Beard got the right reaction with this one (ha ha, you see what I did there!)

Festival of Lights

As you gather around your Thanksgiving Table this week, you may discover that this mug from Pittsburgh Pottery is just the thing for some of your more talkative relatives.

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Good old fashioned cookbooks are slowly phasing out in my kitchen, as almost all the recipes I use lately are ones I find on the internet. This Kitchen Dock,from Stak Ceramics in Pittsburgh, combines storage for your utensils with a stand for your tablet (or even a good old fashioned cookbook!) It’s stylish, simple and best of all– PRACTICAL!

KDBR2+Tablet+Portrait

After totally killing it on Shark Tank, Simple Sugars has gotten a lot of attention. Listen: it’s well deserved. This stuff is the best. The bomb dot com. Yes I just said that. Because it’s the absolute best. I included the Simple Sugars Collection in my Small Business Saturdays post last year, and I’m including them again, because OMG I love this stuff. Also, I bought a bunch of sugar scrubs on Small Business Saturday last year, but I didn’t specifically buy “The Collection.” Which needs to be fixed as soon as I get my next paycheck. In case you are just dying to buy me something wonderful, my favorite scents are almond, lemonade (only available in summer) pink grapefruit, and gingerbread. I’m also dying to try the cranberry and am sure I will love that as well. Heck, I have never had one I didn’t like.

Collection_2_1024x1024


For your favorite little Panther, this adorable Panther Crochet Hat! H2P!!!! P-I-T-T LET’S GO PITT!

(Yes, it does come in grown up sizes, too!)

Pitt

I need this Biggy Smalls necklace from House of Hades in Pittsburgh. Need.

Biggy Smalls


And there’s no better way to show your Steel City pride than reppin’ in races in other Cities in this Steel City Runner tank from Fittsburgh. This makes me want to run a race in Baltimore, just to show them how it’s done. (If you’re wondering, it’s done very slowly. I never claimed to be a  fast runner.)

RunnerTankShirt-410x480


A Pittsburgh gift guide would be incomplete without a depiction of our lovely skyline. I’m loving this mod print from loosepetals.


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Happy shopping, yinz!