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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

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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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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 26: Black Friday

Does JC Penney still make its massive holiday catalog? As a kid, I looked forward to that behemoth ALL YEAR LONG and then it would finally come in the mail, and I would page through the toy section, over and over again, circling things I wanted.  We don’t get that legendary tome in the mail now, but various toy and book catalogs have been trickling in. I’ve handed them over to Baby Beez along with a pen, and she’s enjoyed the process of “window shopping” through those pages just as much as I have.  It’s adorable to watch her curled up on the floor, chattering away to herself as she makes her selections.  She told me that the one thing she wants the most this year is a Singing Elsa doll.  I have a feeling she’ll end up getting it (and I’ll end up wearing headphones around the house even more, because my mind is going to Let it Go if I have to hear that song again).

I didn’t grow up participating in the Black Friday shopping frenzy. Even though it wasn’t nearly as insane in my childhood as it is now, my family preferred to stay as far away as possible from crowded, crazy stores. A few years back I went to the mall at the midnight kickoff and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I think the most crazy is concentrated at electronics stores and Wal-Mart. I had not intention of going to either of those places.  There were a lot of people at that mall shopping and a lot of good deals, but no one was trampled.

This year I decided to try bringing Baby Beez. We visited family in Maryland for Thanksgiving. We drove there and back in the same day (ouch) and got home around 11.   I brought up the late night shopping thing to Baby Beez earlier in the week to see what she’d think. She did have some birthday money and gift cards left over, so I decided she could do some shopping for herself, too.  Mr. Beez and I had talked with her a few times this week about how there are kids who don’t have toys, so we are getting toys for them so that they can have a happy holiday season.  I told her that I needed her help in picking out those toys, but she would also get to spend some money she had from her birthday, and get some toys for herself.

As I expected, she slept through almost the entire drive back from Maryland. She woke up when we got home and said she still wanted to go (I wasn’t going to torture her–and everyone else who was out shopping– by dragging her out if she was exhausted and unhappy). I did let her go shopping in her pajamas. Because why not?

We went to Toys R Us and Target.  Since both stores actually opened at 5, they were fairly busy but certainly not crowded.  This, however, also meant that we missed out on some of the best deals, because those products had sold out hours before. It was fine though, we still got lots of great deals and lots of toys for the kids.

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She’d been asking for one of these stuffed animal purses every time we went to Target, so she finally got one tonight. Baby Beez was impressively well behaved and enjoyed picking out the toys. We also managed to cross off a number of Baby Beez’ friends off the “to buy presents for” list tonight.  She liked talking about what kinds of things other people like and picking out toys for them.

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Once we got to the checkout she was pretty punchy and it was clear that it was time to go home. She didn’t actually fall asleep in the car on the way home. I asked her if she likes Christmas music (in case you are wondering, NO I DO NOT LIKE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Except for “All I Want for Christmas is You” because there is no one, not even me, who can hate that song). She replied that No, she only likes Nightmare Before Christmas music. So I put on the soundtrack, and we belted out “THIS IS HALLOWEEN HALLOWEEN HALLOWEEN!” on the drive back home.

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My Erie Preview with @WholeFoodsErie Presque Isle State Park and Sara’s

My Erie Preview with @WholeFoodsErie Presque Isle State Park and Sara’s

I call my week in Erie an “Erie Preview” because I really did not do a whole lot of visiting or sightseeing. I was there for a trial in federal court, and until the jury went out for deliberations, I was (rightfully) all work-focus-work-focus-work-focus. I have to take a moment to be thankful for modern technology. I left bright and early Sunday morning, and did not return until Thursday evening. I missed my family. I was so thankful to be able to FaceTime with them for a few minutes in the evening, to talk about how much we missed each other and to wish each other sweet dreams.

FaceTime


I’m not going to talk about the trial itself, because frankly that would be inappropriate. But the jury went out on Wednesday afternoon and I had all the way through their return on Thursday afternoon to do a little exploring.

On the drive up. Game face on.

On the drive up. Game face on.


My first order of business once the jury went out was to go for a RUN. I hadn’t been for a run in at least two weeks. There was flat-out no time, and I was so stressed that I did not have the energy for running.But once that work was done, that energy flowed back! For my visit, I was staying at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront, with a room overlooking the little marina.

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I was able to run right out the hotel door onto the Erie SeaWay trail. The weather was absolutely perfect for a run. The sky was clear, the temperature warm, and the lake was a beauty to look at.

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After my run was done, I realized it was only about 6pm, and I still had the whole evening open and to myself. I have heard that Presque Isle State Park is very nice, so I decided to go for a drive through there. After getting there and seeing all the gorgeous trails, I realized it would have been an even more lovely place for my evening run. But I was not in a state to do 2 runs for the evening, so instead I went for a drive. And really, with gas prices being what they are, and with the rush rush rush of modern life, who goes for a leisurely drive anymore? I popped open the sunroof and wound my way through the park. It was just delightful.

I pulled over and stopped to take this selfie. No pictures while driving. Obvs.

I pulled over and stopped to take this selfie. No pictures while driving. Obvs.


The park is huge and full of trails, and there are beaches and lighthouses. The lake doesn’t have the waves of the ocean, but my kid cares more about the sand than the waves. I think it would be an ideal spot, and only 2 hours drive away, to take her for a little beach outing this summer.

After my drive, I stopped at local legend Sara’s for some summertime comfort food. Yummmmmmmm

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Afterward, I retired back to my room, to enjoy one last evening of watching whatever I wanted on TV  (read: Teen Mom) and sleeping basically sideways across the bed because OMG IT WAS A KING SIZE BED AND I HAD IT ALL TO MYSELF.

The next day while the jury continued its deliberations, I made my way over to the Whole Foods Co-Op. I picked up some necessaries (a mud mask for later, and a couple of bags of Food Should Taste Good multigrain tortilla chips, because they are the best). I also got lunch of a small wrap, a kale and beet salad and a chocolate chip cookie sandwich.

Whole Foods Co-op

All the food was extremely fresh and delicious. I must say, there is something special about the friendliness of a Co-Op. Since we are members of Pittsburgh’s East End Food Co-Op, the Whole Foods Co-Op extended their member discount to me. Also, I got to sign their guest book 🙂

Before this visit, I probably would have never considered doing a little family trip to Erie, but this trip introduced me to a lot of things my family would enjoy. Erie is now on my short list of destinations, when we are getting restless and just need to get ahhhhta tahhn. On a future visit, I’d like to take Baby Beez to the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum. Also, the Erie area has quite the local brewing community, including Lavery Brewing Company, Erie Brewing Company and The Blue Canoe Brewery.  Mr. Beez and I would very much like to check out their offerings.

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What a sucker.

What a sucker.

Before Baby Beez was born, I would joke that my kid was not gonna be one of those spoiled kids. My kid was gonna have 2 toys: a stick and a rock. And maybe, if she was extra good, she’d get a rusty tin can to kick around.

But once she arrived, she was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. So yes, she was spoiled. Also, I am a total sucker for making her happy, so I basically trip over my own feet in a rush to buy whatever it is she likes. Just to see her smile.

This week, especially after seeing my credit card statement from our Disneyworld vacation, it really struck home what a sucker I am. Sure, she enjoyed Disney and toys and what have you. But there’s a LOT of stuff that this kid loves just as much that is free or virtually free. Prime example: The playground. Going to the playground is probably her favorite activity in the universe. And that costs $0. (Or, more accurately, it costs the tax money I’m already paying anyway.)

Other free/nearly free entertainment that this kid LOVES:

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Playing with sticks.


My crack about the stick and rock was prescient, because DUDE THIS KID LOVES STICKS AND ROCKS. She doesn’t swing them around too wildly, mostly she pretends they are wands, and picks them up and keeps exchanging them up for bigger and better sticks.

library

Going to the library.


We are incredibly lucky to have a magnificent library system in Pittsburgh. There are constantly activities and programs for all ages (yesterday, we went to a Japanese cultural program for little kids), and they have a massive collection of books, cds, dvds, etc. Basically, anything you could want, they have it. The kid’s room is not a typical quiet reading area. There’s a train set, toys, computers, etc. Even before I had a kid, the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library was one of my favorite places in the city. With all it offers for little monsters, I love it even more.

Running around Statutes

Running around Statutes

Baby Beez loves Dippy the Dinosaur, but she pretty much loves running in circles around any statute. Yesterday she ran around Dippy’s legs, and yelled to anyone who came close by that you should stay away from Dippy’s butt or he’ll pee on you. Because yeah, she’s 4. That’s what 4 y.o.’s do. Anyway, it was a good way to [try to] get her to burn off energy. And it cost zero dollars.

Chasing Squirrels

Chasing Squirrels

You probably can’t see it, but there’s a squirrel in the tree. Whenever this kid sees squirrels or birds, she’s like “MOM IT’S MY BEST FRIEND, I’M GONNA CATCH IT!” I guess that’s what happens when you’re an only child, you feel like you have to chase down and physically restrain all your friends. I’m perfectly fine with letting her run after small city-dwelling animals, but Baby Beez is in a phase where she flat out ignores me when I yell at her to stop running, which leads to the panic that she’s gonna keep running and bolt out into the street. She’s small and fast and argues with me when I try to explain the threat of moving vehicles. So yeah. There’s potential in this activity, but it needs some work.

At the Car Wash

At the Car Wash

Some kids are terrified by the car wash. Not mine. She gets super excited and narrates the whole process. LOOK IT IS THE SOAP! NOW IT IS SPRAYING DOWN THE CAR! This activity technically cost money, but I did need to wash my car anyway, so it’s an added bonus that it’s also fun for the kid.

Other free activities this kid loves: The playground. The playground at the mall. Running around in open spaces. Did I mention playgrounds? Also sticks. And playgrounds.

What are your kid’s favorite free activities?