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Of Tapas and Friendships

My kid’s swim class was cancelled tonight, and I haven’t been this happy in ages.  I love the class, and I like that she gets the extra exercise (she has PLENTY of energy to burn), but my days are filled with constantly running from won thing to the next, and it was SUCH a relief to unexpectedly gain 2 uncommitted hours in my evening.  I am celebrating with a glass of wine and eating noodles on the couch.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a “girls weekend” in DC celebrating a very dear friend’s upcoming special number birthday (29! A lady never ages past 29!)  We went to dinner at Jaleo, and it was amazing.  AMAZING.

Ferran Adria Liquid Olives

Ferran Adria Liquid Olives


Cava Sangria? Yes PLS.

Cava Sangria? Yes PLS.


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Jaleo is a taps restaurant, and we ordered our tapas in my absolute favorite way– cover the table with small plates, devour them all, order another bunch of small plates, devour, repeat.  The food was gorgeous, delicious, MAGNIFICENT! The restaurant had such a cool, fun vibe to it too. For our last round of small plates, we told the server to please just pick them for us, and she did NOT steer us wrong.  I wish I could remember all the delicious things we had, but OMG, so many flavors and textures and everything was just lovely.

Jaleo left quite the impression, but what struck me even more profoundly when I returned home from the trip the next day, is how lucky I am to have good friends.  It was just a little weekend, but we had such a no fuss, fun time together, that the weekend was a truly memorable experience. Since I came back from the trip, it’s even given me a little dose of de-stressing to think about the feeling of that weekend, us girls together, watching When Harry Met Sally and the Pitch Perfect movies in the minivan on the drive, drinking wine and chatting, and appreciating a truly great meal.  Happy birthday Sandy and thanks friends for the memories!

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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.

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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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Super Saturday: Smashed Taters, Partying with a Heartbreaker and Losing Myself in a Book

Super Saturday: Smashed Taters, Partying with a Heartbreaker and Losing Myself in a Book

Oh boy, we had such a nice Saturday today. An extraordinarily nice Saturday. And we didn’t even make it down to see THE DUCK yet, although that is on the agenda for tomorrow, once I cross the finish line for the Great Race.

Last night I finished Helen Bryan’s The Sisterhood, which I didn’t really like, but it wasn’t bad enough to totally ditch. I didn’t realize that I didn’t much care for it until about halfway through, and by that point I was already halfway through, so I decided to stick it out to the end. Which I did. And it was nice to just be done with it and move on to something new. So I started Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

bernadette

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

I had an inkling I would like it because it kept coming up as “recommended” on Amazon, Goodreads, all kinds of things. I cracked into it, and I loved it. It was one of those rare books that I just wanted to clear out my whole schedule and sit down and read. Semple’s got solid skills at writing light, fun banter. All the characters are completely batshit crazy, but in a super fun way. The whole plot is ridiculous and implausible, but Semple pulls it off in a way that’s funny and kept me wanting to see what would happen next. I stayed up late last night to read it, and finished the rest of it this afternoon. It was simply great.

This morning, after Baby Beez’ ballet class, we went to the Quiet Storm for our farewell visit. We went there with friends for brunch a few weeks back, only to find that the items Mr. Beez and I loved most and craved weren’t on the menu for brunch. So it was necessary to return to get those dishes as our formal farewell. So today, I got my ultimate comfort food: The QS Home Fries.

QS Home Fries

Smashed taters, soysage, tofu (or eggs, your choice), cheese (or vegan cheez) roasted veggies, pickled onions and garlic aioli. Heaven. And I ate the whole thing. Stuffed. Word on the street is that QS has teamed up with Ava lounge to keep both projects open at a North Oakland location. I hope it works out, because my life will be sadder without those QS Home Fries.

After brunch, we celebrated the First Birthday of Judah K, our favorite little heartbreaker! Judah’s such a sweet little guy and his parents are such wonderful people. Judah was born with a congenital heart defect called truncus arteriosis. He has been through several heart surgeries and rough patches and successes. We were so thrilled to get to celebrate the amazing milestone of his first birthday with his family. The party was at the Children’s Home and was partially a fundraiser for the organization/facility, and it was great to learn about all the amazing work the Children’s Home is doing. In addition to doing arts & crafts, eating like 50 cookies, and playing with kids, Baby Beez got a chance to play out on the Children’s Home’s wonderful playground.

Gettin' Crafty

Gettin’ Crafty

As the party went on into that time of day designated as “nap zone,” Baby Beez got progressively wonkier. At one point, some boys a little older than her were roughhousing (not being bad, just being typical over-sugared 4 year old boys) and Baby Beez ran up to me, demanding that I join in the roughhousing:
BB: MOM! HIT THEM!!”
Me: (shocked, kind of embarrassed) No! I can’t hit them!
BB: Can I hit them?
Me: Uh, no.
BB: Can I kick them?
Me: Um, no. How about you color?

It doesn’t look nearly as funny in print now, but believe me, it was funny at the time. And then Baby Beez continued to get ridiculously tired, tried to lick the bathroom door, and I knew it was definitely time. to. go. home.

So we went home and everyone took a 4 hour nap. And it was amazing.

Tonight it’s movies, magazines, a glass of wine and a lot lot lot of water. Tomorrow is The Great Race. Wish me luck!

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#BlogHer12 — A Retrospective

This was my first year at BlogHer. I suspected it would either be phenomenal or terrible. It was neither, it was somewhere in between, closer to the “satisfying” place on the spectrum. In the opening address, BlogHer’s founders promised that we would “find our flock” and be surrounded with people who finally “get it.” My experience was slightly different, but no less enlightening.

1. I learned a ton of awesome stuff, tech wise

I blog using WordPress, and I know the basics of it, but don’t have the time to really mess around and teach myself much. I attended small, focused sessions on the WordPress platform and on WordPress plugins. Although the sessions were too short to really get into the meat of the subject, they provided exactly what I needed to point me in the right direction to get this blog more in order, tech wise.

I also attended an awesome iPhoneography (iPhone photography) panel, where I learned all about quick and easy apps for photo editing. Since getting my iPhone, I’ve ditched my 5-year-old digital camera, and with all the amazing apps and technology available, I’m convinced that was a rational choice.

I’m just not able to set aside the time I need to get my head wrapped around these things, and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. Even though I didn’t learn all the details I need, I was provided with the foundation and direction to easily find those further things myself.

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2. The blogger economy is not my economy.

I really did not appreciate the scope (and depth) of sponsorship offerings until I attended BlogHer. I met an Australian blogger who was fully sponsored for an 11 day trip to NYC (FROM AUSTRALIA) for her and her husband. There were TONS of other bloggers who came from the US and Canada on someone else’s dime. I knew bloggers are offered free products in exchange for an online review, and are also frequently paid for reviews, but the extent of this practice was lost on me until I came here and started talking to people.

Private sponsored parties were also in abundance. I met people here, started following their twitter accounts, and immediately started reading about all these fun, fantastic parties by all kinds of different sponsoring parties…none of which I was invited to. I admit, I felt left out and a little sad. I’m not a sponsored blogger. I don’t even run ads. This is by choice, it would cause too many complications with my day job. But all the “cool kids” of BlogHer have tons and tons of followers, and are sponsored to the gills. It made me feel left behind. But I’m not like them, and I’m not going to be like them.

Not surprisingly, most of these massively sponsored bloggers do not have day jobs. Blogging is their “day job.” In blogging, time is the currency. The more time you can invest into your site, into scouring the internet and commenting on other sites, and driving more traffic to your site, and optimizing your SEO, the more traffic you will naturally receive. In the economy of time, I am impoverished. Even without revenue, I love to see my site traffic go up and up and up, it’s purely an ego boost. But I have to be at peace knowing that there will be limitations on my ability to build traffic, simply because there are limitations on the amount of time I can put into this little hobby.

Yes, up against these “big time” bloggers, I felt a little inadequate. Then I realized that my feelings were RIDICULOUS. Feeling inadequate undermines all the hard work and accomplishments I have devoted to my professional life, where I’m lucky to be involved in prominent cases, and make my mark on the legal landscape on a national scale. With all the elbow grease and dedication I’ve put in my career, it is absolutely ridiculous for me to feel sheepish in comparison to moms, who have all day long to tinker with their sites and get their traffic sky-high.

3. I know my flock.

BlogHer is not all mommy bloggers….but it is a lot of mommy bloggers. I’ve spent so much time scouring the internet for the working, blogging moms. And specifically, moms that work demanding, high-hours jobs. And I have had little luck finding these people, presumably because they are WORKING instead of blogging. OK, we lawyers and doctors and phamacists and engineers are not working ALL the time, but when you work a time-intensive job, there are limits on how many hobbies you really can pursue, and while many people in this position enjoy playing sports or similar endeavors, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of them who are really into blogging.

So when the speakers announced in the BlogHer opening that I would “find” my flock this weekend, I wondered where that flock was hiding. And after mingling with and meeting bloggers over the last few days, I know exactly where my flock is– all around me at home in Pittsburgh. I am so blessed to have so many people who understand me, and where I come from, and the challenges I face. And these people are not online, they’re all around me, in real life. I’m lucky to have a great group of friends who understand the challenges of a demanding job. I’ve got my friend Christine, who is always up for a Clarks show and a beer, and my friend Sandy, with whom I can email with day-in day-out about the frustrations and triumphs of raising headstrong toddlers, and even my friend Krista, who I can call up and have a total meltdown over why does everything I write still have typos, even though I’ve proofread it 178 times?!?! I don’t need to FIND my flock, I HAVE my flock. They are all around me, and I am so lucky about that.

4. Folks need to learn some PERSPECTIVE

BlogHer isn’t just for Mommybloggers, It’s for all bloggers. But there sure are a LOT of Mommybloggers here. Mommyblogging, by the nature of the industry, is egocentric. You’re making money talking about yourself. Combine that with a massive expo with tons of freebies, and it’s like a wrathful god dumped all of the Costcos on the planet together on sample day in the Hilton NY. Mommybloggers make money (or at least get free stuff) from their writing. I get that. I get that writing is effort, and is work, and is valuable, and should be compensated. But I overheard entirely too many elevator conversations about the “absurdity” that such and such a vendor would think they’d deign to write about the product, just because they handed out a product for free, but not “working with” (i.e. paying) bloggers.

This came to a head when I was watching the #BlogHer12 hashtag feed on Twitter. During the session on how to price and value services, there were all kinds of enthusiastic tweets about how valuable writing is, and how a blogger shouldn’t sell herself short, and she should get a good contract with whatever company she’s working with, and make sure it compensates her fairly. Then came the tweet about how bloggers should get those contracts reviewed by a lawyer FOR FREE.

Wait.

What?

YOUR writing about the marvelous scrubbing powers of P&G’s latest creation is so valuable and meaningful that it’s beneath you to put hand to keyboard without a check on the way, but I spent over $150,000 on a legal education, have worked damn hard in a cutthroat industry, and have developed meaningful expertise and I should review your contract for FREE?

Sorry ladies, the world doesn’t work like that. The Mommyblog bubble lacks serious perspective about the give and take of the professional world. It’s to be expected, when the main tasks in your life are chasing after little ones, testing new crafts and recipes, and sorting out which humorous anecdotes about your humble existence wrangle the most page hits.

I recognize that this last bullet point probably just made everyone I met at BlogHer hate me now, but whatever. I do have some comfort in the fact that my pals in out in the real world do have some perspective, and don’t make my hair light aflame with anger quite so often. Phew.

So where does this leave me with BlogHer? I am glad I went. Would I go again? Maybe. This year, BlogHer made up half of my official “vacation,” and I wouldn’t spend my vacation again on the conference. Next year is in Chicago, and I could catch a night flight there, and only miss one day of work. The conference itself is surprisingly inexpensive, so I’m certainly not ruling it out. This year it made sense for me to spend my vacation at BlogHer– Baby Beez is too young to behave on an airplane, I wanted to check the conference out. All the pieces fit together. But next year I need a vacation that involves snuggling with a (hopefully better behaved traveler) Baby Beez. So next year is a “maybe” on my attendance, but I’m certainly counting this year as a good experience, and an eye-opening one.

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The cutest wedding in the history of all weddings!

Although we did fit in a little vacation time, the purpose of our trip to New York was to attend the wedding of our friends Jen and Tom.  Jen is an incredibly talented and creative artist– musically, visually, she masters it all!  Their wedding was so charming and so FUN.  Also, the food- DELICIOUS. They had these amazing passed appetizers, and then a family style dinner of Peking Duck with lentils, short ribs with rice, and fish with vegetables. SO GOOD.

We sat next to Jen’s friend (whose name escapes me), who sewed her amazing wedding dress, and dance skirt! I spent the whole dinner lavishing him with praise for his talents, he was swimming in it.  He, and all the other guests, were super friendly and approachable, which made this wedding extra-fun!

He did ask me if we have horses in Pittsburgh. I told him there are horses in the ‘burbs, but we do know how to drive cars here. I don’t think he believed me.

These two can’t get any cuter! Jen serenaded Tom, and then he joined her onstage for a duet so adorable I almost died of the cute!  Going to one of Jen’s comedy shows is more what I had in mind in my 30 before 30 goal of seeing her perform, but with my schedule between now and November, it looks like that might not happen. But Jen DID perform here, so I’m counting this!

The beautiful Manhattan view from the rooftop deck!

They had a fantastic DIY photobooth, using an iPad!

CONGRATULATIONS JEN & TOM!