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A Perfectly Pittsburgh Wedding

I’m a sucker for wedding write-ups, and it’s always an extra thrill when the Whirl Wedding Guide rolls into my mailbox. I spent my treadmill time yesterday thumbing through its pages, jealous of the excitement that goes with planning the Big Day. It’s fun to see how couples personalize their big day, what traditions are going strong, and what traditions have fallen by the wayside.

We’ve stumbled out of the newlywed phase– March 29th will mark our 5 year anniversary! Our wedding is just far enough in the past that the stress of sorting out vendors and tussling with family has subsided. All I have now are those fond memories of paging through advertisements, dreaming of what my day would be like in this venue or that, and trying to pick out decor that is classy but speaks to our personalities.

Wedding planning was a puzzle for me, and I craved the success of fitting it all together just right. We were on a budget, but of course we didn’t want the wedding to have a budget feel. The party served to celebrate our union, but we wanted our guests to return home with memories of all the fun they had.

Ultimately, I think our puzzle assembled in a grand success. It was not an all out wedding, but we were able to focus our resources on certain priorities and scale back on others. Unless you’re swimming in a Scrooge McDuck vault of money, wedding planning eventually boils down to priorities, and not every couple’s priorities are the same priorities. We were willing to pare down the guest list to a very small gathering of close family, so that we could have the higher-quality caterer we craved. We lucked out on a venue (the Warhol museum) that had a ceremony space and party space all in one location, with a hotel for all my out-of-town family in very close proximity. A bonus of picking a venue with such BIG personality– we didn’t have to worry about much decorating.

The last two weeks before the wedding brought the usual crush of last minute chaos. If there were one thing I could re-do about my wedding is that I would have spent those last two weeks, and especially the day of, popping a few extra corks and relaxing with some champagne. After all, even if something goes wrong, the wedding’s still going forward, the party’s still going to happen, and everyone has a better time when the hosts are happy.

One of the most fun things at our wedding was a special visit and dance by Steel Dragon. Their performance left us with such extraordinary memories.

When we started off with wedding planning, our singular goal was to send our guests home thinking “Boy, those two can throw a party!” And yep, I think we did it!

For just a brief moment as I perused the Wedding Guide’s last few pages, I considered “Maybe we should throw an all-out 10th Anniversary bash?” But then I realized that by that time, Baby Beez’ Bat Mitzvah will be only a few years in the future, and boy will that be an occasion to celebrate!

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Talk shop with me, @AlexanderFIV @YinzRReadin @The_Steel_Trap and @BrassyLibrarian

Are you interested in starting a blog, but don’t know where to start? Or are you just bored on a Wednesday night? Or are you always lookin’ for an opportunity to hang out with the Pittsburgh-Internet-Famous? If your answer to any of these is YES, then join us at the Greentree Library for a panel talk on Blogging in Pittsburgh.

Heck, even if your answer to all of those is a big fat NO, come hang out with us anyway! See you on Wednesday!

Advance registration is required, and you can take care of that bizness by clicking this link.

Blogging in Pittsburgh

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Green things for lunch at @TosstPgh

Green things for lunch at @TosstPgh

During most lunch hours, I can be found hovering over my keyboard, trying not to coat my desk with sandwich crumbs. Pathetic, yes. But in the billable hour world, time spent lunching is time spent not working, which means more time spent later in the office. So I don’t go out to lunch too often.

For quite a while, Dahntahn was a desert when it came to healthier options. There was McD’s and about 974 Au bon Pains, but not a whole lot that was (naturally) green. With the revitalization of Market Square has also come a broadening of options available, both decadent and healthy.

I made lunch plans with my friend Krista. We are both moms livin’ the big firm life (i.e. ain’t got no time for lunch…or vegetables), and the newly-opened Toss’t seemed like a reasonable option for both of us. It promised to be a quick eat, as well as get some vitamins and roughage in our diets.

Toss't Pittsburgh

The staff was friendly efficient with assembling our salads. I recall that there were probably 10 different options to choose from, all with different toppings and dressings. Pretty much all the salads feature kale (why is kale trendy right now? I still don’t know). My one recommendation is that the kale be shredded into much smaller pieces. As it was, the kale was served as giant leaves, which takes a LOT of chewing and isn’t the easiest to digest.

Lots of Veggies with Tosst

I like having a new healthy salad option dahntahn. There are plenty of indulgent, not-healthy-but-oh-so-tasty salad options already (I’m lookin at you Zorba’s and Easy Street), but this salad really does deliver vegetables. Unlike many of my lunches out, I didn’t leave with guilt over nutritional misfeasance. Was it overpriced? A bit, I guess. But there’s premium to be paid for such convenience.

I would be happy to go here again, but I note that there is minimal seating. Toss’t is a good option when the weather isn’t so miserable and frigid, so that you can pick up your salad and grab a seat at the sideshow in Market Square.

Toss't on Urbanspoon

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VACATION, all I ever wanted

VACATION, all I ever wanted

This winter is killing me. Even with my SUPER BRIGHT light box blasting in my face for an hour every morning, I’m still suffering the winter blahs. 2013 was a banner travel year for me, but after August, the only other traveling I did was a quick trip to California in October for my Grandpa’s funeral. It’s been going on 6 months since I’ve had a proper vacation. No wonder I’ve got cabin fever.

This year isn’t going to be a big year for vacation for us. We’re traveling to Oregon in July to visit my dad, but that’s all we’ve got planned. There are some whisperings about a girls weekend to Bedford Springs in the fall, but that’s still so far away.

I NEED A VACATION.

vacation

It wouldn’t even have to be tropical. Honestly, my dream vacation right now would go like this: Me, going to a hotel. By myself. I love my family and love spending time with them, but for me, feeling relaxed means being left alone.

I would watch Say Yes to the Dress All. Day. Long. And ordering ridiculous things over room service. Like pizza, a hot fudge sundae, and a bottle of champagne. And then I’d go to the spa and have a seaweed wrap and a mani-pedi with a paraffin dip. And then go back to my room and read books all afternoon. And if I’m lucky and this hotel was in a tropical place, I’d go sit outside in the sunshine for a few hours and sun myself and drink frosty drinks. And then I’d go to bed. At like 7pm. And it would be amazing.

What vacation are you daydreaming of right now?


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Lunch with @KateStoltzfus of @Yinzpiration

2013 was the year of Kate Stoltzfus. Even if you don’t know her personally, if you were in Pittsburgh, you probably heard her name. Kate is a woman who knows everyone. Literally. And her blog, Yinzpiration, has been charming our fine City since 2010. Kate was a 40 Under 40 awardee last year, together with her co-Pilots she has been soaring the entrepreneurial skies with Propelle, she’s brought the Creative Mornings breakfast lecture series to the ‘burgh, and even offers her own “Connectornoon” services. This woman’s on fire!

katestoltzfuseverydayheroes

Kate was a perfect target for my first “real” Lurk No More interview. I’ve been reading Yinzpiration for ages, and I’ve exchanged friendly “hellos” with Kate at events here and there, but I can’t really say we know each other. We had just enough familiarity to get the conversation rolling, but plenty of uncharted territory to discover.

We met at the mutually-treasured Park Bruges for lunch on an icy January afternoon. Who can resist a plate of moules in wine sauce on a cold day? Although I had the best intentions to write out all kinds of questions in advance, and even send them to her before our get together so she could ponder, these plans all came apart under increased demands of work. I didn’t let my lack of preparation get me down, and sidled up to the table all ready for our friendly chat.

Kate, like me, is a transplant to Pittsburgh. She moved here right after college to take part in the PULSE program, grew to love Pittsburgh, and made it her forever home. The endeavor that likely brings her the most recognition is Yinzpiration. She recalls a PodCamp speaker explaining that it is good career insurance to grab coffee with someone from your network once a week, to keep the connections vibrant. At this point, Kate already had the Yinzpiration domain name registered, she just didn’t have a plan for it yet. And then it all came together: Yinzpiration would be her coffee break. She set out to get coffee with 100 Pittsburghers, with the simple goal of meeting people and showing the world that there are interesting people in their 20s and 30s doing cool things in Pittsburgh.

As Kate delicately enjoys her salad (while I slop through the moules like a St. Bernard at a water dish), it strikes me how different Kate is from the impression I had developed of her. Both are positive—but based simply how well known and well-spoken Kate is, I had assumed she would have one of those loud but friendly personalities that would be thrilled to hug you but may bowl-over the timid. To the contrary, Kate is cheerful and humble. I can’t get over how genuine and gracious she is. “Networking” to Kate Stoltzfus isn’t of the cocktail party and close the deal variety. Rather, she gets to the heart of it—making friends.

Before starting Yinzpiration, Kate did not realize that she had a penchant for, or even an interest in, networking. Once she got a couple of really good conversations under her belt, she realized that there were so many forms of “networking,” and by making these connections with people in her community, life became richer. Yinzpiration was also the entre to her other professional endeavors. Through her interviews, she met her co-pilots Emily Levenson and Carrie Nardini (who recently stepped down from the project). Propelle has been an immeasurable boon to local women in business, fostering both the connections and the skills to get small businesses off the ground.

Given all that Kate has accomplished in just a few years, we talked about the how and why of goal-setting. Like me, Kate seems to have mastered year-by-year goal setting, but does not project further than that. There is a certain flexibility to her goals, and she routinely checks in with them, making sure to listen to her heart, and striving toward “what’s feeling really good,” but abandoning goals that no longer serve her. I asked her how, once she has those goals set, does she get the motivation together to put in the elbow grease to reach them? To Kate, the answer was simple: Her goals are self-motivating, she is inspired by the results. When she works hard to put together an event for Propelle and sees new connections blossom and women take business-leaps that render results, her efforts have paid off. Watching that payoff keeps her inspired to keep at it.

We transitioned into what is easily my favorite conversation topic—fun things around Pittsburgh. Selfishly harvesting ideas for my own free time, I asked Kate “What would you do with a day in Pittsburgh, free of responsibilities?” Her eyes brightened, and she immediately responded “A massage!” Little did I know that Kate is a licensed massage therapist, and she too loves to indulge in a relaxing massage now and then. Following her massage, Kate would spend her day out on the water. In Pittsburgh, there is plenty of water to be had. She would love nothing more than to sail the rivers with good friends, soaking up the sun’s gentle rays.

Our conversation wound down by me picking her brain a bit on her Connectornoon networking services and her well-known networking mojo. We agree that there is a disconnect about how people perceive “networking” and what “networking” really can be. To “network,” one need not suck down wine to suffer painful small talk. Rather “networking” is as simple as meeting people, sharing interests and being friendly. Kate’s advice, which is particularly apt for the shy: Start one person at a time. Find out what they are interested in. Share what you are interested in. Ask if they can recommend 2 or 3 other people who also share your interests. So much is built out of recommendations in this town. Also, become a regular somewhere. It doesn’t matter where—a library, a coffeeshop, a bar, a church or Temple. Even if you aren’t comfortable diving right in to a conversation with a stranger, you will eventually become known to people, and someday break the ice, just by being around them frequently.

As we wrapped up our lunch together, I admitted that I sheepishly felt a little like my “Lurk no More” plans were copy-catting her. In typical Kate fashion, she smiled broadly and replied, “I didn’t invent interviews.” Her response was heartfelt, and so was her enthusiasm. She was thrilled to see her work inspire someone else to take on something new.