6

When the cat’s away….

When the cat’s away….

I’m away this week, on a journey through Central Europe in a battle to the death vacation with my Mother.  We are actually getting along pretty well.  I’m keeping my brattiness in check, and either she’s come to her senses and finally realized that she should stop singing at random times because it makes me insane, or the din of the tourist crowd is drowning out her noise, but in either case, she’s not making me crazy, so that’s good.

Before we left I was looking forward to the trip but also had mixed feelings about it.  The mixed feelings actually weren’t about the trip itself, but about the effects of the trip.  I was out of the office (and incommunicado) for a week earlier in July, and then there were two weeks of ABSOLUTE INSANITY at work, and I worried about the effect being gone again was going to have in the office.  It turns out that it’s going pretty OK.  I’ve got wifi at the hotel and cell service to return calls as necessary.  The madness of last week has been followed by relative calm this week.

Most of my reservations surrounded leaving Baby Beez behind for a week.  I’ve had trips away before.  I was in Virginia for trial college in January and Mr. Beez and I were in Texas for almost a week in June.  Both times she was miserable.  She whined every day, she was begging for mommy.  I knew she would survive, but I felt so bad that she felt so bad.

She has a vague understanding of days of the week.  We talk about what day of the week it is, and how many days until the weekend, and what days she has to go to school.  She understands it well enough to be able to recite the days of the week, but I still think she doesn’t really get it, in terms of me being able to use the days of the week as a mitigation tool to make her feel better about whatever it is that is coming up.

So we arrived in Prague on Tuesday morning.  I talked very briefly on the phone with Mr. Beez and Baby Beez on Tuesday afternoon.  She sounded so cheerful.  She understood I am away but that I’m coming back (apparently she’s telling everyone “my mommy went away!” without further explanation…lets see what conclusions that brings about).

Then, this morning at breakfast, two emails came in from Mr. Beez that completely warmed my heart.  He made a train for Baby Beez, he hung it above her crib, and she’s counting down the days until Mommy returns.  This is not a new technique, but I didn’t expect that she’d comprehend it, but she really is getting it and it is giving her comfort, and that makes me so happy.  And Mr. Beez is not really an arts and crafts kind of guy, but he thought of this train and made it all himself for our little girl, and that makes me so happy too.

train


train2

So Baby Beez is hanging in there, and the countdown-train is keeping her happy til I get home.  Of course, I did promise her I would bring back presents for her, so that probably helps too.

8

Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck

  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck
  • Too Much Amazing For One Little Post #BSP4 @TheBigPotluck

I just returned home from THE MOST AWESOME weekend at the Big Summer Potluck.  I love social media events– I love meeting people with similar interests, I love learning new tips and techniques, I love all the energy and inspiration.  While every event is concerned with content, BSP focused on a love of food unmatched with any other event I’ve been to. There were brand reps present to chat up the bloggers and conversations about SEO and such were not unusual, but this event was extremely relaxed and enjoyable because it lacked the vaguely competitive obsession with ads and traffic and all those other things that are part of the standard social media conference.  That talk has its place and value, but it was a breath of fresh air to spend a weekend with folks who love food and love blogging, but not getting wound up over the numbers of it.  BSP was the perfect size– big enough that you meet tons of new people, but small enough that it’s super easy to meet people.   The speakers were phenomenal– the theme was “Investing in Yourself” and each speaker had unique and highly personal lessons to share about how they sacrificed, invested in themselves, and worked their fingers to the bone, all with major success to show.

Building our Beans and Grains Salads

Jeni's Splendid J-Bar

It goes without saying that we ate well at this conference.  On Saturday, we had breakfast twice.  Fresh fruits and vegetables abounded.  There was bread and butter and cheese everywhere.  The wine pairings with dinner were professionally curated.  It was all amazing.  One blogger said it best by observing, “this isn’t a conference, this is a retreat.”

The Menu  Prosecco

grilled corn and sausage

I love being at an event where not only is it the norm to take photos of everything on your plate, it’s encouraged.  And to give a glimpse of the friendly vibe, once attendees got the shot they wanted, they were quick to move out of the way so that others could snap photos.  Love it.

Strawberry basil shortbread parfait

I’m so tired from a 4+ hour drive home and the piles of laundry I have to tackle immediately (and I leave for Prague tomorrow) that I can hardly put the words together to describe the whole thing, except to say: It’s the best. Totally the best.  A special shoutout to Kelly for telling me about this life-changing event. I will for SURE be back next year!

0

#NoMenuMonday with @HaitianFam1st at @BarMarcoPgh YUM

Bar Marco is better described as a community gathering place than as just a “bar” or “restaurant.”  Its proprietors are incredibly invested in not only making Pittsburgh a better place, but also in helping other Pittsburghers make the whole world a better place.  The No Menu Monday dinner series has been a raging hit over the last few months.  No Menu Monday involves a partnership between Bar Marco, organizations advancing good causes in various forms and guest chefs.  Like the name, there’s no menu.  Basically you pay them, they give you food, and part of the money goes to the organization.  This ain’t no church basement spaghetti dinner, they take their food seriously.

I’ve been meaning to make my way to these events, and with Haitian Families First as the featured organization this week, it was time to stop by for a meal, no ifs ands or buts about it.  Ali and Jamie are both in town right now, and were both there to share news of the great work they’ve been doing.  To make the event extra-special, the meals prepared for the event were from recipes they brought back from Haiti.  The idea was “everyday food,” so we got to sample a bit of the kinds of meals that are common in Haitian homes.  Like most Caribbean cuisine, this means rice, beans, plantains, meat and spices.  These are basic, hearty and flavorful ingredients and made for a tasty meal.

Citrus Cocktail from Bar MarcoNo Menu Monday means, seriously, NO MENU.  So when I asked for the bar menu, the waitress said “Nope, sorry, no menu. But if you tell us what you like, we can put something together for you!”  My instructions were: citrusy, a little sweet (but not overly so), with a vodka base.  This drink had those components, there was also absinthe involved, but only in a small quantity so that you could taste a tiny hint of it, but it didn’t overpower.  This was quite a good cocktail, whatever it is they should make it more often.

Haitian chicken dinenr at Bar Marco

Haitian vegetable fritters at Bar Marco

I attended the event with my foodie buddie Christine.  In an ironic turn to the tables, I ordered the chicken (despite having been a vegetarian for years and years and years of our friendship) and she ordered the vegetable fritters (despite practically being a carnivore).  Both dishes came with rice, beans and a small side of slaw.  The slaw was too spicy for me on its own, but mixed with the rice and beans balanced out to a perfect kick.  I found that the best taste came together when I heaped the chicken, rice, beans and slaw onto my fork all at once and took a huge bite in one gluttonous demonstration.  The chicken was great but the fritters were even better.  I didn’t order the fritters because I assumed they’d be more fried than vegetable (think: latkes).  These were more like heaps of mashed sweet potatoes with a fried crust on the outside.  The inside was creamy and not fried through.  I could get used to fritters like these.

Rum Ice Cream and Plantains at Bar MarcoThe final course was a surefire winner– rum ice cream and fried plantains.  Rum flavored desserts are usually too overpowering with the rum flavor for my taste.  The rum in this ice cream was certainly strong, but was a good match for the plantains and did not overpower my palate.  I was happy to support HFF in their amazing work and even more happy to fill my belly with these flavorful dishes.  Although the $30 price tag is steep for me to make my attendance a weekly happening, the cause was worthwhile and the food satisfying.  I’ll be sure to swing by again to support my other favorite organizations.


1

Banging My Head Against A Wall

Banging My Head Against A Wall

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t made any significant weight loss progress for months.  I’ve been going around and around trying to lose the next 5 lbs since at least May.  I lose a little, gain a little, lose a little, gain a little.  The net progress is none.  I’m not 100% perfect with Weight Watchers, but I’ve been close.  Still, I’m cycling around and around the same 5 lbs.  It’s extremely frustrating.

I’ve gone from restaurant take out multiple times a week, to a take out dinner maybe once a week.

No progress.

I’ve gone from working out maybe twice a week (at a total of maybe 5 activity points per week) to working out 6 days a week, most days at high intensity (earning me well over 30 activity points per week).

No progress.

I’ve gone from drinking about 2 bottles of wine a week to 2 glasses a week.

No progress.

I’ve replaced my daily late-afternoon sugar splurge with a cup of coffee and a WW mini bar (2 point little cakey thing).

No progress.

I’ve been working hard for months and have virtually nothing to show for it.  At this point, I feel like it can’t all be for lack of effort.  I am beginning to suspect that a prescription I am taking is interfering.  It’s a prescription that medical trials have shown is prone to cause weight gain when subjects begin to take it (and, upon reflection, I did put on weight when I started it).  Anecdotally, the internets are full of accounts of people who have been on it and have either gained weight or had significant difficulty losing weight. I’ve decided to go off this prescription (no, it will not be harmful to my health to do so)  but it’s also very frustrating that it’s going to take quite a while for it to get out of my system.  So even making this decision now, it’s going to be a long time before I see effects, if I even see any. 

In evaluating my weight gain or loss, I focus very strongly on my OWN actions.  I try not to blame anything that is not within my control.  But I had brunch with a friend of mine recently, and she was looking amazingly svelte.  She revealed that a medication she had been taking (different from the one I’m taking) had caused her to gain weight, and even with running and running and running, she couldn’t lose the weight.  Finally when the doctor changed her medication, the weight came off.  This made me start wondering whether the prescription I am on is likewise interfering, despite my best efforts.

I’ve been holding on to a stack of gift cards, promising myself when I hit the 20 lb weight loss, I can use them on some new workout clothes. But I’ve been busting my ass, with no weight loss to show for it.  Athleta’s running a sale, and I’m proud about how I’ve made 5am workouts a daily thing.  I’m going shopping.  It’s not the reward I anticipated, but I’ve been working hard and want to celebrate that.

Have you hit a weight loss plateau or have you had a prescription interfere with your weight loss?

0

Cafe Raymond in the Strip

Cafe Raymond in the Strip

When heading to the Strip District for a meal, the usual popular choices are Pamela’s or DeLuca’s. There’s another quiet little diner I just discovered, although more of the fresh sandwiches and salads variety than of greasy spoon. Cafe Raymond is nestled in nearby Mon Aimee Chocolates. I’ve passed by it a million times, but never really registered it as an intended destination. On a facebook exchange about noteworthy BYOB brunch destinations it came up, and I decided I had to make my way there.

Cafe Raymond

I visited with my friends Krista and Paul on a sunny Thursday late-morning. It was one of those highly unusual circumstances where we all happened to be out of the office for the day, and it was a delight to visit the Strip District and not have to get into a fistfight over a parking spot.

I ordered a combo that included a side salad, a sandwich, a cookie and a drink. If I had written this post in a timely fashion (i.e. not a whole month after the visit…)I would have had much clearer memories of what the sandwich filling was. I know there was prosciutto involved. It’s hard to go wrong with prosciutto, but this sandwich was especially good. The whole meal was just so fresh. And the cookie– red velvet with white chocolate chips. Yum. Paul also had a sandwich, which he was very happy with. Krista had a sandwich, and lord almighty that was an enormous salad. It wasn’t served on a plate, it was served on a slab of tree trunk.

The only downside of Cafe Raymond was that I had so greedily filled my belly with my meal that I didn’t have room to wander around the Strip and pick up other tasty selections (Reyna’s tacos, Lucy’s banh mi, mung bean pancakes and cookies from the vendors outside PennMac are my favorites). Cafe Raymond’s prices are reasonable, and I’m always a huge fan of BYOB. I am also under the impression that, although Cafe Raymond is a beloved spot, it’s not quite as jam-packed as some other destinations.

Cafe Raymond on Urbanspoon