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A Fall Family Outing to @TheCastleBlood and Round Hill Park

A Fall Family Outing to @TheCastleBlood and Round Hill Park

Autumn is by far my favorite season. Even though my allergies do not like the color-changing trees and the falling leaves, my eyeballs do love them. My how pretty Pittsburgh is during autumn. This year Baby Beez got to visit two pumpkin patches (resulting in a bunch of pumpkins still sitting around our kitchen, that I haven’t decided what to do with yet). Her school goes a little overboard on all holidays, and with doing Halloween activities for every one of October’s thirty-one days, you can bet she was all “ERMAHGAWD I LOVE HALLOWEEN SO MUCH!!”

We didn’t do a speck of Halloween decorating, because we don’t do a speck of any holiday decorating, because holiday decorations  aren’t my thing. I did let Baby Beez get one of those stickygel jack-o-lantern things to put on the sliding glass door, but that was the extent of our Halloween cheer. What I lack in home decorating, I make up for in very enthusiastic activities and outings.

This year was our first visit to the “No Scare Matinee” at Castle Blood. I love the idea of haunted houses, but I do not like things jumping out at me, and when it comes to the fake chainsaw man that’s in every haunted house, I’m like OH HECK NO. So a no-scare matinee was the right option for both of us, and we had a lot of fun.

At 4, Baby Beez was just barely old enough for the outing. She was a little bit scared by the spooky decorations in the house, so I didn’t push her on being brave, and carried her through the whole thing (and let her bury her face in my shoulder when she needed to). Castle Blood has a kind of hokey storyline about how you have to help them by finding three things in the house. I mean, it’s hokey for someone in their 30s, but Baby Beez and the other kids in our group got into it, and enjoyed asking the various characters about the sapphire, brain and broken heart they had to find.

The actors struck a great balance of having a spooky vibe, but also joking with kids and being very friendly so they weren’t scared. Also, obviously, there wasn’t anyone jumping out and no chainsaw guys. At the end of our tour, Baby Beez and I grabbed a quick photo with the “Pumpkin Shepherd,” who was wearing a pretty fun Halloween print dress.

Even with the 50+ minute drive from the City, I give Castle Blood an A+ for a family Halloween activity. It’s probably most appropriate for kids aged 5-10, but frankly, is not so bad for grown ups like me, who want to like haunted houses, but are really big scaredy cats.

The Pumpkin Shepherd at #CastleBlood

The tour itself was only about an hour, so on the way home we stopped to check out Round Hill Park. Play Pittsburgh talked up this public working farm, and it was on my “to visit” list. Since the weather was fine and the park is free to visit, a stop was a lovely idea. There were a number of families having professional photos done while we were there. It’s an absolute perfect place for photos. There are so many trees, and the barn and farm structures are pretty and rustic. I’d love to go back there and have family portraits done sometime.

Round Hill Park

“Nature” was the big theme at Baby Beez’ school in October. Black walnut husks and acorns were scattered around the park, and she was excited to gather them to bring them in to show her classmates.

Round Hill Park

There are chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs and horses at Round Hill Park. Baby Beez enjoyed chatting with them and making all kinds of new animal friends.

Chickens at Round Hill Park


Round Hill Park

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Finally, a day where I feel like I’ve got it somewhat under control

Finally, a day where I feel like I’ve got it somewhat under control

Since I have the tendency to share every word I think and every tiny thing I do with the entire internets, I not-infrequently find myself in a situation where a friend is about to embark into the wild world of working-parentdom, and they sweetly assume that since I have not had a public meltdown in the last four years, I have some little bit of wisdom to impart about how to “balance” work and life.

Here’s the wisdom: I have no idea what I’m doing. None of us do. There is no “balance,” there is only triage, and just barely enough time to get the most demanding emergency under control before moving on to the next one. I fly by the seat of my pants. I do the best I can, but I usually have too much exhaustion and too little patience.

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Today, though. Today was OK.

Mr. Beez and I both work jobs where our time is not entirely our own, meaning that we can’t make it to every class party or even know for sure whether we’ll be available or not on a particular day. Baby Beez is at an age where sometimes she cares and badly wants us there, sometimes she couldn’t care less. So I try to keep an ear open and follow her lead. If she doesn’t say she wants me to be at something, I don’t worry much about it. But if she says she want me to be there, I do try to make it happen.

Today was the class trip to the pumpkin patch. She’s been talking about the trip all week, about how she’s going to RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS and get to pick a pumpkin and, did I mention, RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS. She never mentioned any interest in me coming with her, so I did not pay much mind. What do you need mom for, when you get to RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS?

This morning, I trudged through the brutal morning tasks of making the lunches and feeding the pets and dressing the child and dressing myself and doing my hair and makeup and getting in the car. Although my morning was to be spent working at my desk, I had a hearing scheduled for the afternoon, so I was in a suit.

As we rolled down the hill to her school, a tiny voice peeped from the backseat, “Mommy, will you come to the farm with me?” She was so earnest, I couldn’t say no. I didn’t have time to go back for another outfit, so I went to the farm in my business clothes. I got hay dust on my pants and mud on my shoes. But she was so glad I was there as she snuggled up in my lap on the hayride. And even if I looked a little shabby when I got back to the office, it was worth it.

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As with many 4 year olds, often the idea of an outing with Baby Beez is far more appealing than the outing itself. I will imagine us exploring museum exhibits or singing together at a kid’s music performance, but the reality ends up full of whining, covered in boogers, and with me desperate to unload the kid and go hide on a couch with a book. Today, though, it was all in sync. She was happy, I was happy, she found a lumpy-bumpy pumpkin in the patch just like she wanted.

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We had a sweet morning together. Today, it worked out ok.

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Now we are Four.

Now we are Four.

A while back I was fretting over Baby Beez’ 4th birthday, not sure of how to celebrate it, or how big or how small, or if we pushed Baby Beez toward no party would she grow up resenting us for her party-free years? #1stWorldProblems

In the end, we decided to let her take the lead. If she asked for a party, she could have a party. If she didn’t ask, we’d just put together some special activities for her. Over the last month, whenever she talked about her birthday, the only thing she cared about was cake. Cake cake cake cake cake. I figured  that as long as we get her a cake, we’re golden. And it turns out, it all worked just fine.

Elsa and Anna Cake

We started Baby Beez’ birthday weekend off with a sleepover with her friend Elena. Because I was entertaining 4 year olds and not, say, me, this meant that I made a dinner of hot dogs and corn on the cob, and it was a HIT. Also, easy, and all things I had in the house already. We also enjoyed a very tasty birthday cake from Bella Christies. Elsa and Anna = big hit.

Birthday Cake

Elsa and Anna Cake

Elsa and Anna Cake

After cake, of course, we watched Frozen. The girls sang along and acted out the whole movie. I had to negotiate a couple of disputes, such as advising them that they can BOTH be Elsa, and everything will still be OK.

After the movie, because birthdays mean sugar sugar sugar sugar, we made ice cream sundaes. The girls had fun with the arts and crafts aspects of putting them together, but they apparently aren’t as insane-in-the-brain over ice cream sundaes as I am, because they ate a few bites and declared they were done. Because they are reasonable, healthy children. And I am a sugar-crazed lunatic.

ice Cream

ice cream

Ice Cream

A 4 year old sleepover is much different than a teenager sleepover, because once I bundled these two up and read them a story, the were out. They did wake up at 5am, scared from the thunderstorm, but I put Disney Jr on for them and dozed back off on the couch. This morning was full of chocolate chip pancakes. All things good.

We planned to continue Baby Beez’ birthday weekend with a trip to the Renaissance Faire, but it was rainy and gross out today. This would have meant trudging through the mud, and getting soggy and miserable, so we ditched that plan. Instead we took her to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the movies and afterward, came back to the house for leisurely afternoon naps. Such a birthday win.

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RIBS at @HeinzField

RIBS at @HeinzField

Four years ago, I was due to give birth on August 29. That day came and went. And then it was Friday, September 2. And I was still pregnant. And I was so swollen I looked like Violet Bauregard about to be rolled off to the juicing room, plus I had all the absolute CRAZY that comes with being a pregnant woman, several days overdue. So what did we do? Go to the Heinz Field Ribfest. Because, why not. It’s not like there was anything else I was doing. And they had ribs, cornbread, beans and mac & cheese, so in other words, the menu was just screaming for preggos to visit.

I don’t think I’ve been back to the event this time. While I enjoyed the first visit (as much as I could, given my condition), this time around with the kid OUTSIDE my body was much better. Heinz Field Ribfest kicks off the football season, and is held at Heinz Field every day of Labor Day weekend, so you’ve got yinzselves til Monday to go get some BBQ! Admission to the festival is free, but food, drinks, rides, etc. all cost money.

Because small people love all modes of public transit, we parked dahntahn and took the T over to the North Shore. Even without her, this would have proven a much cheaper and more convenient approach than trying to park anywhere near the North Shore. In addition to Rib Fest, there was a Pirates game going on, so parking was at a premium. And Rib Fest is continuing, alongside many other events in and around the stadiums, so yeah, park it dahntahn.

Riding the T

If you are ever seeking a free source of entertainment for a small kid, ride the T back and forth between dahntahn and the North Shore. For a 3 year old, THIS IS OMG SO FUN.

We made it to Rib Fest around 6pm, which was very much at the early end of things. I had planned for us to stay for the 9pm concert by The Clarks, but Baby Beez got tired and punchy well before then, so we didn’t stay. I went to college in Pittsburgh, and to say I’ve already seen a few Clarks shows would be a dramatic understatement, so I didn’t stay up all night crying about missing one.

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Next up, time for RIBS! There are all kinds of ribs & BBQ vendors from all over the country, all with various and sundry trophies and proclamations of greatness. Now someone may prove me wrong, but personally, I’m of the philosophy that when serving a crowd of this size, it’s just not really feasible for a traveling BBQ vendor to be able to create massive quantities of ideal smoked meat. Smoking takes time and attention, and I just didn’t see how it would be possible to smoke so MANY ribs in any sort of ideal smoking conditions in a traveling setup. So I went with the assumption that probably any of the vendors would be fine, but I didn’t expect that any of them would prove themselves exceptional. But also, I only ate from one vendor, so maybe there was some exceptional fare and I just missed it. We ended up picking a vendor out of Texas, mostly because they did offer mac & cheese, and that’s what Baby Beez wanted for dinner. Ribfest BBQ

The BBQ sauce was really good, but the ribs were pretty gristly and chewy. I’d say that the quality was fairly comparable to a run of the mill BBQ restaurant, but the food didn’t set itself apart as exceptional. Still, the event itself is a lot of fun, and I’d be happy to go back in future years for the fun of the fest, even if it’s just average fare.

Ribfest Mac & Cheese

Baby Beez has become accustomed to my foodblogging nonsense, and as I snapped pics of my plate, she urged “Mommy, take pictures of MINE, too!”

Ribfest Rides

Ribfest had a couple of carnival rides. Since we’re suckers, we bought Baby Beez 5 tickets. There are maybe 7 rides total, and she decided that most of them were too scary. She rode the cars over and over and over and over and had a very happy time.

Finally, dessert was a necessary order of business. I opted for kettle corn (although, I must sadly report that the freshness and perfection of Pittsburgh Popcorn Company has ruined me to any other popcorn. And the popcorn I picked up at Ribfest just didn’t compare.)

Ribfest Ice Cream

This girl is following in my foodie footsteps. She properly appreciates herself a good cone. So yum.



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Weekend Update from the Beez Homefront

This has been the second quiet weekend in a row. It’s partially a matter of necessity, as both Mr. Beez and I have been finishing our weeks lately with lots of catch-up work for the weekend. It’s also partially purposeful, as my bad habit of scheduling 3-4 activities a day, for each Saturday and Sunday, has led to many exhausted work weeks. That was just not sustainable.

I have been overzealous with my 5K race sign ups. Last weekend I ran and Mr. Beez + Baby Beez walked the Brookline Breeze. Yesterday, Sandy and I ran the Yinzer 5K for Light of Life Rescue Mission. Next Saturday, we’ll be hitting the trails yet again for the Run Around the Square. The 5K distance has been nice because it’s a bit of exercise without taking over the whole day. I’m considering signing up Baby Beez for a kids race in the Steelers 5K, and maybe even running the race myself, but haven’t made up my mind. After that, I’m not signed up for another race until the Army 10-Miler in October. This is probably for the best, because I’ve been using a training program which calls for long runs on Saturday. A 5K race is too short for that purpose, and it’s inconvenient to try and tack on extra mileage before or after a race.

Yinzer 5k

Lets run, yinz!

Relatedly, the training program I’m on is essentially a half marathon training program, where the race would be scheduled the week after the Army 10 Miler, so now I’m considering signing up for a half marathon on that date. Options include the Columbus Half (which is already sold out, so I’d have to look into picking up someone’s transfer bib), the Hershey Half Marathon, or the Runner’s World Half & Festival, in Bethlehem, PA. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on any of these options yet, but I’ll have to make a decision in the next month or so.

On the flipside of cardio exercise, Baby Beez and I were on a sugar high this weekend. Baby Beez insists on continuing to grow, so I had to get her new duds for her ballet class. Afterward, we stopped over at Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor. Chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for her, and a turtle sundae for me.

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor


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Her vociferous obsession with chocolate is just further evidence that this kid is basically the loudest, most outrageous parts of my personality in distilled form. Watch out, world.

On Sunday we also baked a cake together. No special reason, other than I wanted a cake. I learned that you should NOT bake a pineapple upside down pan in a springform pan, because the melted butter will leak all over the oven and you’ll almost burn the house down. But I promptly responded to the billowing smoke, saved the house from smoldering, and saved the cake as well. That’s a victory, right?

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On the whole, we had a pretty sweet weekend. How was yours?