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Exploring THE ROCK

Exploring THE ROCK

It’s a little heartbreaking that our vacation is well over, and with the exception of a 2 day firm retreat to Cleveland next week (full of meetings, not adventuring), I’m not going anywhere fun in the near future. As is typical after vacation, I returned to a chaotic workload and not nearly enough time to get everything done. Add on top of that the myriad tasks that go along with settling into a new house and selling an old one, I’m surprised I haven’t completely lost my mind. I’m close though.

The one activity I was looking forward to the absolute most on our vacation was our tour of Alcatraz Penitentiary, better known as THE ROCK. I’ve visited San Francisco many times in my life, but never have I had the foresight or organization to buy Alcatraz tour tickets in advance. You can’t just stroll in and buy same-day tickets. They sell out a few weeks in advance. As soon as I knew we’d be spending part of our vacation in San Fran, I booked our trip.

View of San Francisco on the boat to Alcatraz

View of San Francisco on the boat to Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Alcatraz


The first part of the tour is the ferry ride over to the island. My kid LOVES all modes of transportation, so she was pretty jazzed to be riding on a boat. The bay is extremely windy, and since it was a hot day, this felt pretty comfortable. The boat ride is only about 10 minutes, which is just enough time for it to be fun, but not long enough to get boring.

Happy campers on our way to prison

Happy campers on our way to prison

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We got to the island and had a short orientation about where to find things. I was really hoping to tour the island and prison with a live guide, but instead the tour is self-guided with a headphone device. Fair warning: a self-guided tour with a 3 y.o. who refuses to wear the headphones is torturous. She quickly got bored, and I was NOT about to ditch this activity because she was bored/tired/bratty. So I guided myself through much of the tour, carrying her and gritting through my teeth “You WILL be quiet and behave or so help me.”

Child, I may leave you here.

Child, I may leave you here.


Touring the prison was fascinating. Alcatraz is a lot smaller than I imagined. There were only a total of about 1500 inmates who were housed here during its years of operation. The cells of course were very small, and the whole prison was designed in the panopticon model. Back in college, one of my literature professors had a couple lectures on the panopticon, so I was very excited to dust the cobwebs off of my education and feel s-m-r-t.

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Alcatraz lighthouse

Alcatraz rec yard

More than anything, the tour made me sad. The audio tour gave the impression that Alcatraz’ conditions were barbaric and a thing of the past. It suggested that the modern penal model is focused on rehabilitation more than punitive measures. Given several cases I’ve handled recently dealing with inmate civil rights, however, I can tell you that the housing conditions at Alcatraz are fairly reflective of the modern conditions in many restrictive housing units (and in some ways Alcatraz may be a more comfortable living situation, in light of the Department of Justice’s recent findings concerning the Pennsylvania DOC’s use of restrictive housing on mentally ill inmates.) It made me sad to think that all the tourists don’t realize that these conditions aren’t actually a thing of the past, but actually a view of confinement conditions that still exist.

Alcatraz Prison

I was hoping that the tour would be ghost-story spooky, but unfortunately there were no such scary tales. Nonetheless, it was a tour absolutely worth taking. Had my kid been older and better behaved, it would have been a great opportunity to talk about social expectations, the need for law and order, and also the importance of treating every person with dignity and humanity.

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The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

It’s been quite a week. We closed on our new house on Friday, left for vacation first thing on Saturday morning, and when we get home from vacation on Sunday, we move right into the new house. Normally I don’t say anything about being on vacation until I’m already back, but all our stuff is packed in a POD, so there isn’t anything in either our new or our old house, anyway.

This year’s vacation has been a low-key visit with family. Because we had a 5:40 am flight out of the ‘burgh, we decided to stay overnight at the hotel at the airport. I took Baby Beez for a swim, and was very successful at tiring that kid ahhhhht (wonderful result: she was so tired that she slept through most of the morning’s flight).

Swimming

We flew in to San Francisco to spend a day checking out the city.

First things first: Breakfast. We braved the 30+ minute line to get a table at Dottie’s True Blue Café, and it was absolutely worth it. Hanging out on a Saturday morning on a sidewalk in SoMa with a 3 year old is full of interesting questions like “Why is that man sleeping on the sidewalk?” So yes, all around an experience.

San Francisco

Dotties

The ambience is irreverent and fun (not a typically kid-friendly place, but ours stayed out of the way and we didn’t even get dirty looks for bringing her there). The menu is full of all kinds of sweet and savory treats. Dottie’s is famous for their pancakes, but when it comes to breakfast, I opt for eggs. I got zucchini cakes with poached eggs and spicy marinara, and a side of lamb sausage. Amazing. The bloody mary could have done with a few more garnishes, but the drink itself was solid. Dottie’s is A+

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Despite being totally stuffed, we decided our next item on the itinerary should also be full of food. Off to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building we went. The Ferry Building itself is full of gourmet food stalls, like Pittsburgh’s Strip District or Philly’s Reading Terminal market. On weekends they also add on an enormous farmers market. We only made it through about 1/3 of the farmers market stalls, and it pains me to say this, but the variety in California’s agriculture blows Pennsylvania out of the water. All the fruit! The fruit!

Ferry Building 1

Ferry Building 3

Ferry Building 4

After stuffing ourselves, it was time to burn off some calories at the playground.

Playground

And then, a quick rest at our super cool hotel, Hotel Tomo. The price was in line with most of the hotel chains we are familiar with, but the hotel itself had personality and good service.

Hotel Tomo

Hotel Tomo 2

After the brief respite, it was back to adventuring. First up: The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate

golden gate family

And afterward, of course, we ventured to Chinatown for some dinner!

Chinatown

All of this running around on the first day was followed-up with a quiet day of driving up to Oregon, aka quality time with my audiobooks.

Road Trip

I spy Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta

Once we made it to Oregon, we’ve been spending the time hanging out with family. Baby Beez was very excited to go fishing with her Papa. We came back empty handed, but had a lovely time enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.

fish lake

Fish Lake 4

Fish lake 2

That's enough fishing for today.

That’s enough fishing for today.

Today was also busy, with a trip to the Spray Park, a visit to a farm, and hanging out with family. Tomorrow, finally, is a day of doing not much of anything at all. I’m excited to check out a class of Bikram Yoga of Ashland, and we’ll spend the rest of the day just hanging around the house.

Good night.

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Out on the Farm with @BrooklynBrewery @JustinSeverino @BklynHouseChef

Summer has come, the air is warm, the wind blowing sweetly through the grass. It’s time for farm dinners. We kicked off farm dinner season at the Brooklyn Brewery Mash event at Blackberry Meadows Farm in Natrona Heights. The Brooklyn Brewery Mash is a traveling celebration of food, drink, arts and the cities they visit. The air was light with a celebratory spirit.

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Brooklyn Brewery provided the libations, Cure/Justin Severino and Wild Purveyors and Andrew Gerson supplied the eats. Union Rye charmed us with tunes, including a particularly sweet cover of Wagon Wheel that I’ve been humming all week.

Brooklyn Brewery Mash


Brooklyn Brewery Mash

Brooklyn Brewery Mash

We toured the greenhouse, pet the pigs, and clucked at the chickens. Baby Beez had a moment of trauma and betrayal when her beloved cow (whom she named “Buttercup” even though that wasn’t her real name) twitched and headbutted Baby Beez. She quickly forgave her bovine friend, and foreheads and hearts were mended.

Blackberry Meadows Farm

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Blackberry Meadows Farm


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Our charming trip to Boulder

Our charming trip to Boulder

We made it through the 3 weeks of insanity, and finally got our house on the market last Friday. We then promptly left for Colorado bright and early in the morning. My cousin was graduating from High School, and we were thrilled to have a family gathering to celebrate her accomplishments. My aunt and uncle have lived in Colorado for years and years, and I’ve always meant to visit, but never quite made it there. After this fantastic visit, we’re sure to make it back and soon. It’s a 3 hour direct flight from Pittsburgh, which is very easy travel-wise. The Boulder/Denver area is just charming. Microbreweries everywhere, HELLO. I really enjoyed our visit there, and to be honest, I rank the area up with Barcelona and Vancouver as an area I could imagine us potentially relocating to someday (but a very hypothetical someday, we just bought a new house in Pittsburgh. We’re not going anywhere for a long while).

PaeelaOur first day there was full of graduation festivities, including my Uncle Joe’s famous paella. LOOK AT THIS PAELLA. Is it not the absolute best? It tasted every bit as amazing as it looked.

I loved that Baby Beez had the opportunity to play with some of the younger members of our family. I have such warm memories of going to my grandparents and hanging out with my cousins, whether it was splashing in the jacuzzi, or pretending that the garden hose was a microphone and putting on performances in the backyard. We are lucky to have many many friends in Pittsburgh, but not very many relatives, so it was lovely for Baby Beez to get to have time with family.

Boulder run

On Saturday morning I hit the roads for a 5k run. The land is so very flat that it’s such a strange experience for me. It was such a calm and beautiful landscape. I wanted to run the 10k Bolder Boulder while we were there, but Mr. Beez nixed that. I didn’t argue with him, since we are there for just a short time, and wanted to spend that time visiting family and having fun, instead of spending half a day on a race. I suppose we might have to go back next year for Memorial Day weekend so I can do that run!

16th St Mall

We spent a few hours on Saturday walking along the 16th Street Mall in Boulder, checking out the shops, restaurants, and Baby Beez’ favorite- the fountain.

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We stopped for a bite at Pizzaria Locale for some thin-crust Neopolitan style pizza. I started things off with the frutti di mare salad. It was so briny and refreshing, I just loved it.

Primavera pizza

My mom and I shared the Primavera pizza, topped with asparagus, peas and dippy eggs. It was such a unique taste, mildly salty and so richly flavorful. It’s not what you would typically think of if you’re craving pizza, but it was amazing.

Cyclhops

Boulder has some good food, and for Saturday night we ventured out as a very large group to Cyclhops Bike Cantina, which is one of the breweries for Dale’s Pale Ale. Our table was piled high with all kinds of nachos and guacamole and other goodies, and I picked three delicious tacos for my entree. One thing I loved about Colorado dining- avocado on everything. So yum.

We left Boulder on Monday evening. On Monday we had a short visit with family, followed by an outing to the Denver zoo. My mom took me there once when I was a kid, but I have no memory of it. Baby Beez had such a fun time there during this visit, and with all the pit stops that are necessary for traveling with a three year old, we only made it through a small part of a zoo. I guess that means we’ll have to go back and finish it, right?

Andean Condor

I love how the Andean condor was showing off for everyone, spreading her wings and strutting about.

Macaws

penguins

zoo

I can’t believe that we’re back to Friday again. Last Friday feels a million years ago. And since we’re busy with showing the house, we’re living this strange existence where we have to make sure the house is spotless and in tip-top shape every time we step out the door. Our weekend is full of activities and playdates, since it’s just not fair to Baby Beez to keep her cooped up in a house with no toys and not much to do.

Our trip to Boulder was a whirlwind one, but we had a wonderful time visiting family and checking out the town. I only wish we had made our trip longer. Colorado has a laid back, friendly vibe to it, and I would have loved to go for a hike, check out a yoga class, and generally just hang out for a while longer. Lucky for us, my aunt and uncle have plenty of room in their house and love to have visitors, so another trip will be shortly in order!


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Party Weekend, Party Food

Party Weekend, Party Food

This weekend involved multiple parties and social engagements. We also visited my in-laws, and I was thrilled to take a short nap on their couch, because I can only take so much running around and socializing. Today (right now really) is also the Superbowl. The only part of the Superbowl that the Beez family is really interested in is the snacks. I made tasty Superbowl snacks, but of course made way too many for our party of 3, so there will be plenty of snacks brought into the office tomorrow.

One of the parties this Party Weekend was a 3 year old birthday party at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. We have visited the museum several times before, but this was our first time there for a party. I was so impressed with the party, it was such a lovely time. Of course with a room full of toddlers, it’s total chaos, but it was managed, fun and safe chaos. The party was just long enough for everyone to have tons of fun, but ended before the kids started having exhaustion meltdowns. Baby Beez (and I) had such an awesome time, it was so fun. We had the lucky timing that the party ended right as the museum’s Chinese New Year celebration began, so we got to see the wonderful lion dance performance.

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Our little Superbowl snack-fest was meant to be all out gluttony, but I did a 4 mile run right before chow time, and consequently wasn’t even all that hungry. I chowed down, but didn’t CHOW DOWN, so that was good. On the menu:

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Seafood nachos, by request of Mr. Beez. He seemed to like them. I thought they were fine as far as nachos go, but lump crab is expensive, and I would have been just as happy with regular cheese nachos. I mean, cheese and chips, you can’t really go wrong.

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Cheesy tater skins, also by request of Mr. Beez. Super easy and super good (bake potatoes, cut in half, scoop out middle, toss in cheese, bake some more, top with chives).

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And from the WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS SOONER files: Buffalo chicken dip stuffed potato skins. @HezziD shared this recipe on twitter today, and while I originally wasn’t all super crazy about Superbowl snacks this year, once I saw that tweet, I was all “I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!”  And yes, it was everything I could have ever hoped.

We also had chili and pizza available for the eating, but never got around to eating either because omg, why did I make this much food for 3 people?

Unrelated to the above, this week’s slow cooker meal: Crock Pot Beef & Broccoli. Super easy and super satisfying (a little salty for my taste, but easily remedied). This one’s going into permanent rotation in this house.

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