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NaBloPoMo day 29: Shopping local for the holidays with @imadeitmarket @apricotandbee @smalltowerpress @goodsandevil

NaBloPoMo day 29: Shopping local for the holidays with @imadeitmarket @apricotandbee @smalltowerpress @goodsandevil

I’ve posted some Pittsburgh-focused gift guides in the past (2013, 2014 pt. 1, 2014 pt. 2). This year I made it out to I Made It! Market for their holiday event on Small Business Saturday. I picked up a number of great gifts for friends and family members, and Baby Beez got to do some shopping of her own with some birthday money she still had not spent. We had fun sorting through the things she wanted, and also working on math as she sorted through how much money she had and what she wanted to buy.

I Made It

In the past, I have found that craft fairs were at too high a price point for me to do much shopping. I do not doubt that an artisan put love and care into their products, but a $60 doll is not happening with me.  I was very pleased to find that not only were there a lot of products I just loved, but that the price points were also very accessible.

I Made It

For my niece and nephew, I got this adorable baby doll from Gingercake, the Gaggles of Giggles book from Apricot & Bee (Michelle personalized and signed the book for them, too!) and a digger from Mama Made them Toys.  Baby Beez also got herself a toy car with little people from Mama Made them Toys as well as her own baby doll from Gingercake. I have to tell you, though, she is obsessed with the baby doll. She’s been carrying it all around the house and won’t let it away from her side. She’s a kid that loves baby dolls usually, and she is absolutely crazy about this baby.  For those of you who are crafty, Gingercake also sells patterns in addition to the toys themselves.

I Made It

I Made It

Baby Beez also got this neat butterfly toy from Peg & Pin. It’s a little caterpillar doll, where you can replace the butterfly wings. They have all kinds of little peg dolls for lots of creative imaginative play.

I Made it

I’ve been moderately OBSESSED with this print since the first time I saw it several years ago in a different burgh-focused gift guide. I even reached out to the artist, Barry Gott, a few years back to ask if I could use the image as the banner on this site (and offered to pay him for the permission) and he graciously said that no payment was needed, he’s happy to agree as long as I credit the art as being his.  Ultimately I ended up having custom art made, but it was incredibly nice of him, and I still appreciate it.  So, I’ve wanted to get this print for ever and ever and I’m not sure why I never got around to it. But he was at the market today and I was like YES I AM FINALLY BUYING THIS!!  And I did. And now I have it. So happy!  Barry sells quite a number of adorable Pittsburgh-themed pictures through his shop, Smalltower Press.

I Made It

Mr. Beez was very excited to pick out this super cool Zombie Capital shirt from Goods and Evil. He’s always on the lookout for a clever shirt, and they had a few that he really liked.

Also, a couple of “honorable mentions” are in order for shops I loved, even though I did not pick up anything from them this visit.

Frost Finery

Frost Finery’s delicate handmade jewelry is just gorgeous. She has a few items that are Pennsylvania themed, but my favorite pieces are the elegant drop bead pieces.

I Made It

Resident Design makes these incredible mounted-animal-head paper kits. They sell the kit with instructions, and you assemble it yourself. It’s a really cool project to do with family members or teenagers.  Tristan also said he is working on a smaller-scale version that would be good for working on with school age children.  I, for one, am absolutely terrible with anything involving spatial skills or building things (or following directions for that matter), but if you are a normal person who can, for example, put puzzles together, these would be really cool and fun to build.

I Made ItFount leather goods makes these gorgeous leather bags that are just, wow. I have been wanting to invest in a chic but sturdy leather bag for work, and prefer something more contemporary than the typical briefcase. These bags are just gorgeous.

The I Made It! holiday event is over now, but many of the same vendors will be participating at the Handmade Arcade next weekend.  As you can see, we found some amazing things and were happy to support small independent businesses. Remember to Shop Small this holiday season!!




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NaBloPoMo Day 21: A New Approach to My Lists Each Year

NaBloPoMo Day 21: A New Approach to My Lists Each Year

I’ve been doing ___ before ___ lists for a while now. My first one was a 30 before 30 list. I have since done similar lists leading up to years 31, 32 and 33.  I enjoyed writing the lists and really crystallizing the fun thing I want to do, and making sure they did not slip through the cracks.  By year 32, the enthusiasm started draining and I had a mad dash right before my birthday to cross off as many things as possible.  As my birthday approached for me to turn 33, there were plenty of things left on the list, and I didn’t even care anymore.  I was working on a bigger & better 40 before 40 list, but I don’t really love it right now, and have not decided whether I want to overhaul it or scrap it.

Jump the Shark

The lists, for me, focused me on what I wanted to do as I was working toward them, but also provided a nice retrospective at year’s end.  Often I would grumble about wanting to do so many things but never having the time, but I could look at these lists and say, wow, I really did do a lot of fun, nice things.

I don’t want to abandon the lists altogether, but there’s no sense in making myself do the same thing over again, just for the sake of doing it.  I’m turning things around a bit this year. Instead of listing 34 things I need to do before 34, I’m assembling a list of things as I go, and am memorializing 34 fun things I’ve done in the year before I hit 34. I’m open to suggestions for fun things you think I should check out.

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NaBloPoMo Day 16: Birthday trip to @Nemacolin

NaBloPoMo Day 16: Birthday trip to @Nemacolin

So this is really yesterday’s post, but I was laying in bed last night and realized I forgot to post, and just was not going to get out of bed for the sake of blogging. So 2 posts tonight and I say we’re on track.  My birthday is tomorrow, and to celebrate my birthday we went on a family trip up to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.  I’ve never been there before and I always love spa treatments and excellent food.

We started our visit with brunch at Lautrec.  It’s a lovely buffet with all kinds of pastries, fish, pancakes & waffles, desserts and even prime rib.  Baby Beez’s behavior has generally been getting better as she has gotten older, but I wanted to make sure she was on her best behavior.  To encourage fancy manners, we wore fancy clothes. She loves fancy clothes so this was a thrill in and of itself.  She also likes getting to choose her own foods out of a buffet.  She was able to show her best manners for the meal and we had a very nice brunch.

Nemacolin

Mr. Beez and I went to the spa while Baby Beez spent the day at the Kidz Klub. She was literally the only kid there, but that didn’t bother her any. In typical only child fashion, she made up stories with her imaginary Harry Potter friends, went swimming, watched movies and played with toys. It did not bother her any that there were no other kids there. Although I venture to guess she was a little bit lonely, because by the time we left the resort, she was saying that she missed her friends.

Nemacolin

After having an amaaaaazing time at the spa, Mr. Beez and I spent a good part of the afternoon sitting around, drinking wine and reading the whole internet. It’s kind of a silly thing to do, but we don’t get to just sit and relax very often so it was very nice.


Autumn

We had dinner at Autumn, which included scallops with bacon jam. Yes, Please.  The meal was lovely.  We do get to go out to eat quite a lot, but it was nice to be able to just wander down and pick up our kid afterward, and then wander back to our room. Because we are total party animals, we were all in bed and asleep by 9:30. But that’s a perfect birthday treat for me. I like sleep.

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NaBloPoMo Day 15: The Best Meal We Ate in Montreal

We ate very well in Montreal, but naming our “Best Meal” was no contest. After our 2nd visit to the spa that weekend (IT WAS VACATION WE DO WHAT WE WANT), we called up Bouillion Bilk to see if they could fit us in, and they were happy to oblige. To be honest, I did not do my homework in advance of our travels. Sometimes the time gets away from me. I was perusing the restaurant reviews on Yelp, and the one for Bouillion Bilk was glowing, so we decided to try it. I am so, so glad that we did.

FullSizeRender (5)

First, the food was perfect. Amazing.  It’s hard for me to describe the varied, unexpected and delightful flavor combinations, so you will have to make do with the pictures.  Sandy and I are both fairly comfortable with wine lists, but we were baffled by this restaurant’s. The server told us that because their menu is novel and ever changing, their wine list matches by being interesting and inventive. The only wine I recognized on the list was Rioja, so I had that. Sandy asked for the server to recommend wine based on her dishes, and he did an excellent job. This is a place where you can trust the servers to steer you in the right direction.

Urchin Amuse Bouche

Urchin Amuse Bouche


beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries

beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries


scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette

scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette


venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles

venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles


chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee

chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee


kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn

kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn


Second, the ambiance was dead on for our moods that night. The food was fancy but the mood was completely casual and unpretentious.  During most of our trip we were surrounded by all these twentysomethings and it just felt weird.  Boullion Bilk was full of people more in our age range, and the whole place had the feel of people just wanting to enjoy a relaxed night out with a delicious meal.

Third, the people-watching was beyond compare. The host was Alex’s Canadian long lost brother (the host was incredibly friendly, although Alex has the edge on humor). There were many couples with whom we played “guess their story,” which is always one of my favorite games. I think the restaurant is fancy enough that it is a hot spot for couples on early dates, still trying to impress each other. New couples always make for the best people watching. (I say this as my husband and I are sitting in a hotel lobby, drinking wine, and looking at the internets to make the most of our relaxation time now that we have sent our daughter to the Kidz Klub to hang out. #old).

The tastes of this meal are so vivid in my memory that it pains me that the restaurant is so far away. Hopefully I make it back to Montreal soon, and when I do, Bouillion Bilk will be right at the top of my “must visit” list.

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NaBloPoMo Day 14: A Trip up Rt 65 to @PenguinBookshop @AnchorAnvil

NaBloPoMo Day 14: A Trip up Rt 65 to @PenguinBookshop @AnchorAnvil

On the afternoon Alex and I chowed down on Mexican food in Leetsdale, I made the most of my drive by making a few extra stops on my way back to the City.  First, I crossed an item off my “33 before 33” list by stopping at Penguin Bookshop.

I have to admit that I’ve turned into the kind of person that bookstores probably hate. I get almost all of my books from the library and after moving a bunch of times in college and law school, I have no patience for shelves full of heavy things that I might have to move again someday. Even though when it comes to the destruction of the novel publishing industry as we know it I am the WORST, I do believe that independent booksellers are an incredible asset to the community, and I do try to support them.

Penguin Bookshop is cute, cozy and is excellent if you’re looking for recommendations. Their staff are avid readers and they have all kinds of recommendations posted for all kinds of different genres and interests.

Penguin

Since I have a terrible GoodReads addiction, I have a huge “to reads” list, and found that they have quite a lot of books on my list.  I picked out Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, because I loved his We Live in Water. Since Baby Beez is 110% into fart jokes right now, a Captain Underpants book was perfect. I brought it home and she was immediately obsessed with it (that is, until she totally bumped it in favor of the Spiderman book in French. Nothing stands a chance against Spiderman in French).  I love Penguin Bookshop’s little reading nook– it’s perfect for storytime and their other events that they have for kids.

Penguin Bookshop

A few miles closer to downtown, I stopped in Ben Avon at Anchor & Anvil coffee shop. I’ve been following their twitter feed for a while, and they keep serving delicious stuff like Monkey Bread. Anchor and Anvil

The space is super big and would be perfect for book club or a crafters get together.  I tried their “Parking Chair” drink, which is like a melted espresso ice cream, super rich and sweet.  It is a lovely coffee shop, and it’s a shame that I’ve turned into a typical Pittsburgher who doesn’t cross rivers unless someone rips my arm off, because if it were a lot closer I would be there allllll the time. But since it’s kind of far for me, I’m going to have to be happy with visiting there whenever I head up Route 65.

Anchor and Anvil