Now we are Four.

Now we are Four.

A while back I was fretting over Baby Beez’ 4th birthday, not sure of how to celebrate it, or how big or how small, or if we pushed Baby Beez toward no party would she grow up resenting us for her party-free years? #1stWorldProblems

In the end, we decided to let her take the lead. If she asked for a party, she could have a party. If she didn’t ask, we’d just put together some special activities for her. Over the last month, whenever she talked about her birthday, the only thing she cared about was cake. Cake cake cake cake cake. I figured  that as long as we get her a cake, we’re golden. And it turns out, it all worked just fine.

Elsa and Anna Cake

We started Baby Beez’ birthday weekend off with a sleepover with her friend Elena. Because I was entertaining 4 year olds and not, say, me, this meant that I made a dinner of hot dogs and corn on the cob, and it was a HIT. Also, easy, and all things I had in the house already. We also enjoyed a very tasty birthday cake from Bella Christies. Elsa and Anna = big hit.

Birthday Cake

Elsa and Anna Cake

Elsa and Anna Cake

After cake, of course, we watched Frozen. The girls sang along and acted out the whole movie. I had to negotiate a couple of disputes, such as advising them that they can BOTH be Elsa, and everything will still be OK.

After the movie, because birthdays mean sugar sugar sugar sugar, we made ice cream sundaes. The girls had fun with the arts and crafts aspects of putting them together, but they apparently aren’t as insane-in-the-brain over ice cream sundaes as I am, because they ate a few bites and declared they were done. Because they are reasonable, healthy children. And I am a sugar-crazed lunatic.

ice Cream

ice cream

Ice Cream

A 4 year old sleepover is much different than a teenager sleepover, because once I bundled these two up and read them a story, the were out. They did wake up at 5am, scared from the thunderstorm, but I put Disney Jr on for them and dozed back off on the couch. This morning was full of chocolate chip pancakes. All things good.

We planned to continue Baby Beez’ birthday weekend with a trip to the Renaissance Faire, but it was rainy and gross out today. This would have meant trudging through the mud, and getting soggy and miserable, so we ditched that plan. Instead we took her to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the movies and afterward, came back to the house for leisurely afternoon naps. Such a birthday win.


RIBS at @HeinzField

RIBS at @HeinzField

Four years ago, I was due to give birth on August 29. That day came and went. And then it was Friday, September 2. And I was still pregnant. And I was so swollen I looked like Violet Bauregard about to be rolled off to the juicing room, plus I had all the absolute CRAZY that comes with being a pregnant woman, several days overdue. So what did we do? Go to the Heinz Field Ribfest. Because, why not. It’s not like there was anything else I was doing. And they had ribs, cornbread, beans and mac & cheese, so in other words, the menu was just screaming for preggos to visit.

I don’t think I’ve been back to the event this time. While I enjoyed the first visit (as much as I could, given my condition), this time around with the kid OUTSIDE my body was much better. Heinz Field Ribfest kicks off the football season, and is held at Heinz Field every day of Labor Day weekend, so you’ve got yinzselves til Monday to go get some BBQ! Admission to the festival is free, but food, drinks, rides, etc. all cost money.

Because small people love all modes of public transit, we parked dahntahn and took the T over to the North Shore. Even without her, this would have proven a much cheaper and more convenient approach than trying to park anywhere near the North Shore. In addition to Rib Fest, there was a Pirates game going on, so parking was at a premium. And Rib Fest is continuing, alongside many other events in and around the stadiums, so yeah, park it dahntahn.

Riding the T

If you are ever seeking a free source of entertainment for a small kid, ride the T back and forth between dahntahn and the North Shore. For a 3 year old, THIS IS OMG SO FUN.

We made it to Rib Fest around 6pm, which was very much at the early end of things. I had planned for us to stay for the 9pm concert by The Clarks, but Baby Beez got tired and punchy well before then, so we didn’t stay. I went to college in Pittsburgh, and to say I’ve already seen a few Clarks shows would be a dramatic understatement, so I didn’t stay up all night crying about missing one.


Next up, time for RIBS! There are all kinds of ribs & BBQ vendors from all over the country, all with various and sundry trophies and proclamations of greatness. Now someone may prove me wrong, but personally, I’m of the philosophy that when serving a crowd of this size, it’s just not really feasible for a traveling BBQ vendor to be able to create massive quantities of ideal smoked meat. Smoking takes time and attention, and I just didn’t see how it would be possible to smoke so MANY ribs in any sort of ideal smoking conditions in a traveling setup. So I went with the assumption that probably any of the vendors would be fine, but I didn’t expect that any of them would prove themselves exceptional. But also, I only ate from one vendor, so maybe there was some exceptional fare and I just missed it. We ended up picking a vendor out of Texas, mostly because they did offer mac & cheese, and that’s what Baby Beez wanted for dinner. Ribfest BBQ

The BBQ sauce was really good, but the ribs were pretty gristly and chewy. I’d say that the quality was fairly comparable to a run of the mill BBQ restaurant, but the food didn’t set itself apart as exceptional. Still, the event itself is a lot of fun, and I’d be happy to go back in future years for the fun of the fest, even if it’s just average fare.

Ribfest Mac & Cheese

Baby Beez has become accustomed to my foodblogging nonsense, and as I snapped pics of my plate, she urged “Mommy, take pictures of MINE, too!”

Ribfest Rides

Ribfest had a couple of carnival rides. Since we’re suckers, we bought Baby Beez 5 tickets. There are maybe 7 rides total, and she decided that most of them were too scary. She rode the cars over and over and over and over and had a very happy time.

Finally, dessert was a necessary order of business. I opted for kettle corn (although, I must sadly report that the freshness and perfection of Pittsburgh Popcorn Company has ruined me to any other popcorn. And the popcorn I picked up at Ribfest just didn’t compare.)

Ribfest Ice Cream

This girl is following in my foodie footsteps. She properly appreciates herself a good cone. So yum.


Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

One of my “to do’s” on my 32 before 32 was to attend a farm dinner. Unlike so many other things on that list that I’ve utterly failed to tick off, I have actually made it to two farm dinners this year. You can click on this link to read about the first one at Blackberry Meadows Farm. For a second one, we went on a double-date outing with some foodie friends to Churchview Farm.

Although I spent several years as a vegetarian, I fell off that bandwagon while pregnant with Baby Beez (craving hotdogs, 24-7), and now I’ve turned into quite the charcuterie snob. When I saw that Crested Duck Charcuterie, an amazing brilliant beautiful wonderful butcher shop & teeny-tiny restaurant in Beechview, was the featured restaurant for an upcoming Churchview Farm Dinner, I was ALL ABOUT IT.

Churchview Farm

Churchview is a small family farm nestled away in the hills of Baldwin. Churchview is a well-known name in the restaurant & local food circles in Pittsburgh, and it was neat to see how a farm providing so many fruits, veggies and herbs all throughout the city can provide so much on such a small parcel of land. The evening started off with a little farm tour, led by the farmer, Tara Rockacy. It was neat to see everything growing, and the chickens and guinea hens waddling around and clucking, but it was especially nice to hear in Tara’s voice how much this farm and her work mean to her. Farming is certainly not easy work, and I can imagine that running a farm in basically an urban area is even harder. But it comes through clearly that she finds meaning and beauty in what she does, and she is proud to share it.

Crested Duck Farm Dinner

On to the meal! These farm dinners are special because the chef, here Kevin Costa, spoke about the thoughts and motivations behind each course. I admit that I was really looking forward to a massive dinner all full of charcuterie, and was a little disappointed to hear the Chef announced that he instead chose to draw his inspiration from the beautiful produce of the farm, and work more with the fresh vegetables and fruits, rather than the cured meats which so often drive his dishes. My disappointment was short lived, as each course was so delightful.

Crested Duck Salad Niciose

First up was the salad nicoise, although it did not have any tuna in it, so I don’t exactly know what makes it nicoise. In any event, it was delicious. The pickles were so fresh and the boiled egg was just at that perfect level where it’s all just barely cooked, but not so cooked that it’s all pasty.

Pate en croute

The pate en croute was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. It’s so weird looking, that I think if it were offered to me in any context, I would have been like “no thank you, I do not want to eat that.” But I’m so glad that the timing and presentation was just right to get me to try it, because it was awesome. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like a little charcuterie platter baked together in pastry? I think? In any event, so good. It also satisfied my charcuterie craving for the evening, so that was a good thing.

seafood stew

Here’s the part where I will mention the lovely wine pairings that were coordinated with each course. So very, very delicious. Thanks to those delicious lovely wine pairings, this is around the course where I no longer really remember the particulars, other than “TASTY!” This is the light and lovely bouillabaisse. Tasty tasty.

cheese pairing

Oh, this cheese plate, so good. Everything about it was so perfect, except for it being so teeny tiny. I tried to steal Mr. Beez’ cheese plate but he jabbed me with his fork. So good. Did I tell you how good it was? I’ve never thought of pairing cheese and almond paste, but omg so good.

Chard tart

We wrapped up the evening with a dessert of a sweet swiss chard tart. I think this would make an amazing breakfast dish. The chard makes it hearty, but the candied pine nuts, golden raisins, orange zest and whipped cream ensure that it’s nice and sweet. Like the pate, it’s not something I would ordinarily pick on my own, but I was glad that it was presented to me how and when it was, because I did like it quite a lot.

There are a few seats left at the remaining Churchview Farm Dinners this summer. The experience was such a lovely, laid back evening, and the food and wine, just lovely. I was full from my dinner when I started writing this post, but now after revisiting all those food memories, my stomach’s rumbling again. Gotta go rustle up some grub.


Something for everyone

Something for everyone

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Weekend Update from the Beez Homefront

This has been the second quiet weekend in a row. It’s partially a matter of necessity, as both Mr. Beez and I have been finishing our weeks lately with lots of catch-up work for the weekend. It’s also partially purposeful, as my bad habit of scheduling 3-4 activities a day, for each Saturday and Sunday, has led to many exhausted work weeks. That was just not sustainable.

I have been overzealous with my 5K race sign ups. Last weekend I ran and Mr. Beez + Baby Beez walked the Brookline Breeze. Yesterday, Sandy and I ran the Yinzer 5K for Light of Life Rescue Mission. Next Saturday, we’ll be hitting the trails yet again for the Run Around the Square. The 5K distance has been nice because it’s a bit of exercise without taking over the whole day. I’m considering signing up Baby Beez for a kids race in the Steelers 5K, and maybe even running the race myself, but haven’t made up my mind. After that, I’m not signed up for another race until the Army 10-Miler in October. This is probably for the best, because I’ve been using a training program which calls for long runs on Saturday. A 5K race is too short for that purpose, and it’s inconvenient to try and tack on extra mileage before or after a race.

Yinzer 5k

Lets run, yinz!

Relatedly, the training program I’m on is essentially a half marathon training program, where the race would be scheduled the week after the Army 10 Miler, so now I’m considering signing up for a half marathon on that date. Options include the Columbus Half (which is already sold out, so I’d have to look into picking up someone’s transfer bib), the Hershey Half Marathon, or the Runner’s World Half & Festival, in Bethlehem, PA. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on any of these options yet, but I’ll have to make a decision in the next month or so.

On the flipside of cardio exercise, Baby Beez and I were on a sugar high this weekend. Baby Beez insists on continuing to grow, so I had to get her new duds for her ballet class. Afterward, we stopped over at Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor. Chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for her, and a turtle sundae for me.

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor

photo 5

Her vociferous obsession with chocolate is just further evidence that this kid is basically the loudest, most outrageous parts of my personality in distilled form. Watch out, world.

On Sunday we also baked a cake together. No special reason, other than I wanted a cake. I learned that you should NOT bake a pineapple upside down pan in a springform pan, because the melted butter will leak all over the oven and you’ll almost burn the house down. But I promptly responded to the billowing smoke, saved the house from smoldering, and saved the cake as well. That’s a victory, right?

photo 2

photo 1

On the whole, we had a pretty sweet weekend. How was yours?