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Sunday Night Catch Up

There have been a number of things over the last month or two that I’ve told myself I need to get around to blogging about. I have the pictures and the intention, and then it comes down to I could either write the post or take a nap. Today I took a nap and OMG it felt good. Naps have been much higher on my priorities list. As they should be for everyone.  I hate that nagging feeling of having a backlog of posts. By the time I have enough time to sit down and write, the older ideas feel stale and I’m no longer into it. So this is my “catch up post” and I’m counting this as a clean slate moving forward.

(1) Now that the winter is really bitter and cold, I am again asking myself WHY do I live in Pittsburgh, and wishing I could go back to our holiday week in Tampa.  We only got to check out a small slice of it, but Tampa seems like a really cool town.  On our last night there we ate at this killer Latin American restaurant called El Puerto.

El Puerto


El Puerto

El Puerto

Mr. Beez had the dinner pictured in the middle, which was basically steaks on top of sausages on top of chicken on top of mountains and mountains and mountains of meat. Also, they had churros, which is nothing crazy or special when you’re in Florida, but churros are HARD to come by in Pittsburgh, so yasssssssss.

(2)  When we were in Florida, we went to Legoland. Everything was awesome.

Legoland

We were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of amusement parks with Baby Beez this year. We went to Disneyworld (Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios), both Universal Florida theme parks, Sesame Place, Kennywood, and now Legoland.  now we are beginning what I will call “A few years of not going to any damn amusement parks” because I’ve had enough amusement. We may take her to Disney again in 5 or so years, but we need some time off for a while.

(3) Just FYI, outside of Legoland is this crazy delicious BBQ joint called Hog Heaven Smokehouse. It’s in a nondescript little strip mall, so you won’t notice it unless you’re looking for it. LOOK FOR IT. I admit, BBQ does not tend to be the most photogenic food, but you need to try this stuff, because it is delicious. Also, it’s a small family run place, and everyone working there was absolutely the sweetest. I felt more like a guest in someone’s home than a customer at a restaurant.

Hog Heaven

(4) We also visited the Dali museum when we were in Florida. It’s been a dream of mine since I was in high school to visit this museum, and it did not disappoint. It also had a special exhibition of Escher’s works going on. It was a complete dream for my high school self.

Dali Museum


(5) Ybor City was a totally cool neighborhood and we had so much fun checking out their local breweries, of which there are several. Our favorite brewery was Cigar City Cider & Mead. They had over a dozen offerings on tap of all kinds of meads and ciders, so many different flavors and all over the spectrum from dry to sweet. The bartenders were super friendly and were proud of the drinks they were serving, and chatted with us the whole time. Also they were playing Indiana Jones movies on a big screen the whole time. A+.

Cigar City

(6) When we got back to Pixburgh, we swung by the food truck roundup at The Brew Gentlemen because I saw that Blowfish BBQ was there, and thanks to the amazing food I had at Hog Heaven Smokehouse, I NEEDED BBQ and all I could think about was smoked chicken and delicious deliciousness. Delicious deliciousness was had, and if you have not yet had Blowfish BBQ, you are sorely missing out on the best BBQ in the city. And if you disagree with me, you are just wrong. Sorry.

Blowfish BBQ


(7) This week I visited Amazing Cafe with my friend Beth, and at risk of sounding ridiculous, it really was Amazing. I had the Tulum tacos, which included roasted tempeh, potatoes and vegetables. I also had a green juice that was legitimately delicious. I don’t really like juice, but from time to time I will tolerate it. I actively liked this juice, which is very unusual for me. Both Beth and I were thrilled with our lunches, the food was fresh, light and made us feel good from eating it. This is definitely worth a mid-day trip out of downtown.

Amazing Cafe Tulum Tacos

(8) This week was Restaurant Week and I made it out for 2 meals.  On Thursday, we went for family dinner to Braddock’s Brasserie at the Renaissance Hotel downtown. Baby Beez was really excited that we were eating at a restaurant in a HOTEL and I have no idea why, but whatever. The food was very good and the service was very friendly, so we had a really nice time.

Braddock's


Braddock's

IMG_5736

Braddock's

(9) The Steel Trap and I also went to Prairie for Restaurant Week dinner. Prairie is also on the gastropub/comfort food theme. The food was brilliantly executed and the ambiance was fun and laid back. I am puzzled, though, why the owners decided to change from Verde, which was a really good Mexican style restaurant in a town with few Mexican Restaurant, into a gastropub/comfort food kind of restaurant, of which there seem to be no shortage anymore. I went for the dishes that they are best known for– the chicken & biscuit and the ice cream cookie, and I was not disappointed. HGB of The Steel Trap also loved it, and you can click here for her review.

Prairie Pittsburgh


(10) Over this weekend, we took Baby Beez to Dave & Busters for a bit. We played this ridiculous pirates game that involved shooting monsters and such, but she and I had so much fun together with it, it was really incredible. I’m not really into video games, and she doesn’t have the skills or coordination to do well at them so she gets frustrated fast, but we were able to make some headway on this silly game and had such a fun time playing it together. It was one of those special little memories that is going to stay with me.

Dave & Busters


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And now it is January

With the new year, I’ve been spinning lots of plates. It’s always a challenge to figure out what is working and what is not.  There’s never enough time to do everything, but you can prioritize and make time for the important things. Figuring out which things are important things, however, is its own process.  I’d like to get back into a more regular pattern of blogging, but that is its own process.  For the time being, here are the things on my mind:

  • We spent Christmas to New Year’s Eve in Tampa. We had some good food down there, and I hope to put something together soon about the places we visited.
  • I love all things true crime, so Making a Murderer totally got me to renew my Netflix subscription.  I don’t necessarily think that documentary makers or journalists always have a particular agenda, but from what I have seen from reporting as compared to my experience handling particular cases (and how they are reported in the news), I find that reporting is often inaccurate (or maybe better described as imprecise) and incomplete.  All of this is a long prelude to say that although I think Making a Murderer is fascinating, it doesn’t inspire me to jump immediately onto the “Pardon Steven Avery” bandwagon.  I do, however, think that what they have presented should motivate the State of Wisconsin to order some kind of independent, external review of the proceedings.
  • I am equally fascinated by Serial and Undisclosed. Like with Making a Murderer, I’m not convinced by them that Adnan is innocent, but I think they raise enough questions that his conviction should be reviewed over again.
  • BTW, Braddock’s posted a picture of their Restaurant Week special online (bourbon braised osso bucco) and I think I really need to make this happen…


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Connections and play dates with @coveyapp

The holidays are marketed as being all about friendships and joy, but all the fun that appears on those glittering Instagram feeds can often ring hollow.  The holidays have their way of making you feel alone and isolated.  A family friend, Sarah, and other motivated Pittsburgh moms realized the importance of connections between parents in fostering friendships between children. The Covey app is especially helpful as the holiday madness winds down, and everyone starts getting back into the rhythm of normal life.  The focus of Covey is twofold– setting up convenient playdates between children, and also creating friendships between parents.

covey

Covey is a smartphone app that parents can use to connect with parents and parenting communities. There is a special section for each parenting community. Within that section, there is an open forum where you can post privately without sharing to your other social media accounts. You can use these communities as resources for your parenting questions or simply share your photos & stories.

Covey values positive, productive interactions.  There are built in community guidelines used to ensure supportive interactions in the app. It is somewhat structured like a dating app–You can introduce yourself to other parents by completing a profile with your interests, parenting style, and kid info. Then you can find other parents based on that very same info. The app will become more and more searchable, so you can look for, say, all {moms, dads} who are members of One Mother To Another that have experience with toddlers and are located near Brooklyn, NY.

When you find other parents like you in your area, you can use Covey to easily coordinate playdates and get-togethers. You can also use the app as a resource for family-friendly activities in your area, or become the local resource for family-friendly activities.

As you may know if you’ve read this blog for a while, I do not do advertising. Covey is not paying me anything or offering me anything for me to post about them.  I believe that the app is a positive thing and know that Sarah and her colleagues have worked very hard at it, and I believe Covey is worth checking out.

You can download the app from http://www.coveymom.com

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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.