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All the time. Where did it go?

All the time. Where did it go?

It’s nearly been TWO WEEKS since my last post! What happened?!

Since Valentine’s Day, we took a nice little family vacation to Orlando. We went to Harry Potter world, and Baby Beez practiced turning everyone into frogs with her new wand.

Picking out her wand (she picked Cedric Diggory's)

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We also went to Disney World. I have to admit, at one time in my youth, I may have had a BIT of a Disney problem. I had a Mickey Mouse themed Bat Mitzvah…I collected Disney snow globes…I had a massive collection of Disney films. I’ve mostly kicked the habit, but still did want to check out Disney World.  I signed up and completed the Glass Slipper Challenge, which was a 10k on a Saturday and a half marathon on a Sunday. I ran super slow, but was so pleasantly surprised at how smooth those races were. We also had fun running around the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Damn it's early #princess10k

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ERMAHGAWD IT'S HIRO AND BAYMAX MAH FAAAAAAAVORITE

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Getting back into the swing of normal life and responsibilities has been a bit unsteady. This weekend will be a low key time to reset.

I’ve been on a steady stream of excellent books lately. A Tale for the Time Being, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The First Bad Man and Station Eleven were all on my bookshelf recently, and man were they good. Just wow.

I’m waaaaay behind when it comes to watching last year’s Oscar nominees. I’m feeling the need to lock myself in the house and have an OnDemand viewing spree. It may include me eating an entire pan of Rice Krispie treats, because yessssss.

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100 Medals.

100 Medals.

Running is kind of my thing. I’m not great at it, but I can accomplish it without embarrassing myself too badly. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I ran 2 marathons about 10 years ago. I burned out on running for a while. Then I started running again. Then I had a kid. Then I didn’t run for a while. Now for the last 2 years or so, I’ve been back in the swing of it.

before running ATM

I like 10 mile races and half marathons. They’re long enough that I do have to train, but short enough that training doesn’t hijack my life. They get me to travel to neat places. They help me burn off the angry.

Baby Beez appropriates my medals. I’m happy to let her have them. I love teaching her that her mom has been strong and has worked for something that is hard.

Fav part of #EQT10miler – when my medal thief spied my medal and screamed "MOM YOU WON!!"

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This week, she earned her first medal of her own. She participated in a kid’s basketball class, and at the end of the session, she got her very own medal.

A medal for a job well done

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This morning, we were talking about the races I’m running this week. I told her I’m running a 10k and a Half Marathon, and I’m going to be getting a total of THREE medals. She was thrilled. She loves these medals. Jumping up and down, she exclaimed “WE’RE GONNA GET 100 MEDALS.”

I’ve been thinking about it all day. 100 Medals. Why don’t we earn 100 medals?

My girl and I, we’re going to earn 100 medals. They don’t all have to be running. They can be from other sports events. But we’re going to be strong and be healthy and earn those medals. I don’t know what we’ll do with them once we have them. But we’ll have them. With the races I’ve done, we’ve got a good start. We don’t have any deadline. But we’re going to do it. I’ve set up a photo album through Facebook, so you can watch our progress.

We’re going to earn 100 medals.

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Pleasantly surprised by @SteelCactusPgh

Pleasantly surprised by @SteelCactusPgh

By the time we get to Friday, my family is basically too exhausted to function. More often than not, we go out to dinner. And more often than night it is a place where Mr. Beez and I can have a beer, and Baby Beez can be a loud jerk without anyone noticing or caring. Not that we encourage jerk behavior. Sometimes it’s life. And we need food. And we are tired.

I’m running a half marathon next weekend. After an 11 mile group run last weekend, where I assumed there would be water stops, but there were no water stops, so I got no water, I decided it’s time for me to succumb to looking like a dork and plunk down the cash for a fuel belt. So last night I had to stop at the running store to get one. Oh right, and we needed to feed ourselves, and we have a 4 year old, and it was quickly approaching 8pm and we were all hungry and tired.

Steel Cactus to the rescue.

To be honest, I didn’t have expectations one way or another, and enchiladas sounded awesome. Because they ARE awesome. It was still fairly early for the Shadyside crowd, so we got a table right away. It was a generously-sized booth, which was a BIG plus when Baby Beez decided she was tired of destroying the table, and instead wanted to lay down on the seat and suck her thumb (DEAR GOD YES PLEASE BE QUIET CHILD.)

We started with chips and the basic salsa roja. It was nice and garlicky, and the chips were hot and salty. Not gourmet, but we were starving, and the three of us did some serious damage to them in about 5 minutes flat. Our food came out fast, which was also a big plus.

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Baby Beez got a cheese quesadilla and a side of rice, because she is boring, 4, and can metabolize carbs way better than us old folks. She refused to eat the rice at first because it wasn’t white and boring, but then Mr. Beez put on his “dad” hat and ordered her to eat a few bites, and she decided she liked the rice enough to eat the whole thing. The quesadilla was exactly as you would expect, which for our purposes was just what we needed at the time, because tired 4 year olds do not do well with new or adventurous things.

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I had the verde shredded chicken enchiladas. Usually shredded chicken doesn’t have much flavor, and you mostly taste the sauce or the cheese. Steel Cactus’ shredded chicken was a really nice surprise. Maybe it was rotisserie cooked? I don’t know, but it was very flavorful and had great texture. It was a very nice perk to the dish. The rice and beans were pretty standard for a Mexican restaurant. That shredded chicken, though, caught my attention and I’ll be sure to return for it.

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Mr. Beez had some kind of large spicy burrito that also had the shredded chicken. He said it was “good” and he agreed with my thoughts on the shredded chicken. I pressed him for more thoughts on his dish, but he was hungry and tired and mostly wanted me to leave him the eff alone so he could eat in peace. In terms of comparable restaurants, I’d say it’s more like El Campesino or Gran Agave than Mad Mex, although the decor does suggest it’s trying for the Mad Mex attitude.

Final verdict: Steel Cactus is pretty standard for what you’d expect for a casual Mexican food place, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. The shredded chicken was high quality, the service was quick, and we made it through dinner with a tired 4 year old without the other diners hating us. Sounds good to me.
Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant & Cantina on Urbanspoon

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Various and Sundry

Various and Sundry

Welcome to Sunday.

Today we took Baby Beez to Sunday School, had a fab grown-ups breakfast at Habitat, and then I did laundry, did a little bit of work and cooked a bunch of food for the week. Not exciting, but much needed quiet time.

Habitat Sunday Breakfast Buffet, yes pls.

Habitat Sunday Breakfast Buffet, yes pls.


My restaurant review posts have slowed down lately. I’m still trying new places and eating way too much, but I haven’t had the review-writing bug lately. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I feel like the review bandwagon is too full and it’s not as entertaining for me right now. Maybe it’s because I spend all day thinking about things and then writing about them, that by the time I get home I’m tired of thinking about things and writing about them. Maybe it’s just because I’m enjoying spending more time doing things than writing about them (I’ve already got 6 races booked this year, in distances varying from 10-13.1 miles). This blog, in the first place, is supposed to be fun, so I’m not forcing myself to write if I’m not feeling it. I’m sure I’ll swing back into reviews eventually.

There are still plenty of other things on my mind, just enough to be the kernel of a post, but not really enough to draw out a whole post, so instead I’ll share them with you in list fashion:

1.   My daughter loves Scooby Doo. She gave us the peace of a THREE HOUR nap this afternoon and I decided to reward her by letting her watch the 2002 Scooby Doo movie. This movie is very likely the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.

2.   Orlando vacation is coming soon. I am so ready for this trip. I’ve been having almost nightly dreams about it. I’m not sure if that’s pathetic or really pathetic. Last night I dreamt (dreamed?) that it was the day we were going to Universal, but I couldn’t get folks moving to actually GO to the park. Like it was noon and I still couldn’t get my family out the door, then it was 1 and they were still not budging, and I was SO frustrated and angry. I don’t know how the dream ended because then Baby Beez climbed into our bed and woke us up.

3. Speaking of bed invasions, we got Baby Beez an OK to Wake clock, in an effort to end her habit of crawling into our bed at FOUR AM. It worked great…for two days. Well, not that bad, but it’s still not a failsafe solution. I’ve been getting up earlier because I need to get into work earlier because I need to work all the hours, and lately I’ve been getting up before she does, so the waking-me-up thing isn’t such a problem. But she’s still rolling in at 6am on a Sunday, which is less than cool.

4. I finally realized that all these training runs aren’t so much about pushing myself to make the distance, it’s more about the recovery. With a very moderate level of training, I could force myself through the 2.5 hours of a half marathon, but I’d be d-e-d at the end. Even though I’ve been getting more like 2 mid-length runs in during the week (instead of 3), I have been diligent about my long run each weekend. As a consequence, I did the 11 miles yesterday, and although I was stiff afterward and still a little stiff today, I’m feeling pretty good all around. This gives me confidence that I’m going to feel just fine after the Princess runs in two weeks.

5.  I’ve been listening to audiobooks on those long runs, which means I’m killin it with my audiobooks. In the last few weeks, some of my favorites have included: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The First Bad Man by Miranda July, In the Woods by Tana French, The Secret Place by Tana French, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. There’s something lovely about listening to a book you’re really into that helps make miles and miles and miles of running seem so much easier.

6. Enough with the Sriracha already.

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Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

My New Years Resolution for 2015 was to do all of our grocery shopping at the East End Food Co-op. We’ve made it through January, and to my husband’s shock and joy, I did indeed stick to this resolution. There are times where there is an item or two that we need that the Co-op simply doesn’t have, so we’ve been picking things up from other local vendors such as the Butcher on Butler and the vendors at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
I’ve had to make some adjustments in how I shop in order to make my Co-op shopping a success, but honestly, it’s been far easier and less disruptive in my routine than I expected. I’ve learned:

1. Co-op food goes bad fast. I don’t know if it’s because the fruit isn’t waxed or treated or whatever, the shelf life on co-op produce is short. There’s been a bit of a learning curve, with me throwing out more produce than I’d like, but I’m getting into the swing of things. This means that when I get home, all the produce gets out of the produce bags immediately and into bowls on the counter. This also means that I have a specific plan for the produce I buy. Either it’s going in a recipe or going to be snacks/in packed lunches. I can’t just buy produce with the intent of figuring out what to do with it, because by the time I get around to thinking about it, it will have gone bad. But I’ve developed that habit now, and have gotten myself to buy one week’s worth of produce, which we do eat within that week (my habit at standard grocery stores was to buy TONS of produce, which would sometimes last as long as 2-3 weeks…that doesn’t work with co-op produce).

2. Because of #1, I definitely need to go grocery shopping every single week. I used to stretch out shopping to every 10-14 days, and I’d buy a lot more, but it could last a while longer. Now, I definitely have to make it there once a week, so that we have enough and fresh food.

Co-op snacking

3. BUT ON THE UPSIDE Shopping at the co-op is a lot faster. I can do a full-out shopping trip in about 45 minutes. Yes, the selection is far smaller than at a standard grocery store, but to be honest, by the time I get around to grocery shopping (which is usually a weeknight, when I’m tired already), I have decision fatigue. I don’t want to have to compare four different products. I just want to be like “I need frozen ravioli, oh look, here is the frozen ravioli” and put it in my cart. Also, I really like that the products at the co-op are focused on health and the business practices of the companies whose products they stock. I don’t have to sift through political issues and concerns about all kinds of preservatives and food additives that I don’t understand. Those kinds of products aren’t even stocked at the co-op, so I don’t have to worry about weeding them out.

4. I’ll be honest, the co-op is expensive (I’d say comparable to Whole Foods in price). The bulk dry products (rice, beans etc.) are actually very inexpensive, just much more time consuming to prepare. The rest of the stuff can be pretty pricey. I am planning on getting a farmshare again in the spring to bring our produce costs down. I do make far fewer impulse buys…although the impulse buys I do make tend to be a lot more expensive ($10 pint of Jeni’s ice cream and $10 block of gourmet cheese, please).

5.  I’ve gotten into a pattern with our meals and shopping. It’s not full-on meal planning, but I do need to put a little thought into the shopping list ahead of time. each week I pick 2 or 3 recipes to make, and we have those for dinner throughout the week. For example, this week I made the Post Punk Kitchen’s Tamale Shepherd’s Pie, and it was fantastic. Even though we eat meat, I often use vegetarian or vegan recipes (sometimes adding in meat, dairy, eggs etc.), because their kinds of ingredients are always available at the co-op. Also, I was a vegetarian for a long time, am comfortable with veggie cooking, and do like preparing meals that are heavy on veggies, beans, etc. rather than the meat & potatoes approach.

We pack lunch for work, which is usually sandwiches or soup with fruit & veggies, so all of that is also easily purchased at the co-op. I also keep a couple boxes of frozen pizzas, frozen ravioli, and frozen vegetarian chicken nuggets on hand for the inevitable “got home way too late need to make something FAST” nights.

6. I do enjoy grocery shopping nights because I pick up something from the hot bar or prepared salads, which is healthy, tasty, and relieves me of having to cook on a night I’m already getting home late anyway. Their hot bar is pretty rockin. I got sweet potato gnocchi this week that were fan-tastic. Can’t wait til those are on the menu again!

I’ve liked this first month and feel like the goal I picked for 2015 is both manageable and worthwhile. I don’t even feel like it’s been much of a challenge so far. Although they don’t have the processed foods I would often buy at standard stores, I’m familiar with the kinds of products they do stock, and don’t have any sort of learning curve in terms of learning to cook with them. Also, the Jeni’s ice cream and gourmet cheese. I can never be sad with Jeni’s in my cart.