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Today is the day! Celebrating my birthday with @runDisney @CMNHospitals and @PCPgh

Today is the day! Celebrating my birthday with @runDisney @CMNHospitals and @PCPgh

IT IS MY BIRTHDAY.

lolcat birthday

I mean, if you haven’t heard me talk about it nonstop for at least the last seventeen days, well here you go! THE DAY IS TODAY!

office-birthday

And I just know everyone out in internet land has been looking forward to this day every bit as much as me! So here we are! HAPPY DAY!

So what am I doing to celebrate? Going to work. Having a practice group meeting over lunch. Ya know, keepin’ it real. But Mr. Beez and I will also be seeing a 3RFF movie with our friends at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, so that’s pretty cool.

But you know what would be SUPER COOL? Celebrating my birthday with me! I am clearly so shy and reserved. Which is why I’m flat-out unsubtly suggesting yinz get me birthday presents, specifically the birthday present of supporting me as I fundraise for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. You know, MONEY FOR THE SICK KIDS!

My family has been so incredibly lucky that Baby Beez has been a generally healthy kid. The worst we’ve gone through is that a couple years ago, she came down with croup. We had to go in to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s ER, and then she had the breathing treatment, and then she had to stay for observation overnight. And even though it was a fairly minor ailment in the universe of childhood ailments, it was still a scary moment. As parents, we felt out of control and scared, and all we wanted to do was make our little girl better but we couldn’t do that on our own. We were so blown away by the attention, care and kindness our whole family received at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Baby Beez was cared for with skill, and we as her confused and helpless parents were cared for so amazingly as well.

We have several friends who have children who have needed much more complex and frightening care. Children who have needed multiple surgeries, children who have been fighters from the day they were born, and children who must and will continue to fight every day. We are lucky that we have good insurance coverage, and that in our visit to Children’s Hospital, we didn’t have the added stress of trying to figure out how her care would be paid for. That’s why I’m asking you to help me raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals– to fund critical treatments, equipment and charity care for kids in our community.

I have committed to raising $1,200 for Children’s Miracle Network. I’ve put my money where my mouth is by contributing toward the commitment myself. I’m counting on you get me over the goal line. So instead of us going out for a drink or cup of coffee, please click on the image below to contribute to my Children’s Miracle Network fundraising campaign!

PS– If you contribute, I’ll write your name ON MY PANCE for the Half Marathon!

princess Half marathon

And since I know you are all looking for every possible opportunity to listen to me narrate all the things I think about all day, I have JUST the opportunity for you! I’ll be speaking at PodCamp Pittsburgh 9 this Sunday at 11am! I’ll be sharing about Finding Your Authentic Voice– how to express your true self, engage with your readers, grow your reader base, and even adjust that voice when the time and need is right. PodCamp Pittsburgh will be this Saturday and Sunday at Point Park University, and best of all– REGISTRATION IS FREE! So won’t you join me?

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HAPPY NOVEMBER 18TH, YINZ.

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32 before 32: Harvesting for the Hungry with @PghFoodBank and a stop at Schorr Bakery

32 before 32: Harvesting for the Hungry with @PghFoodBank and a stop at Schorr Bakery

Remember waaay back in the day (over 2 years ago!) when I toured the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as part of a BlogMob event? Well in that tour, I learned that there are a whole lot of neat ways you can help the Food Bank’s efforts to get food to people in need, that go well beyond the usual contribution of canned goods. Of course, donating food and cash as well as helping with food distribution events are always great ways to help. But if you’re itching to try something different and fun and outdoors, Glean events are where it’s at!

Here’s how a glean works- the Food Bank partners with local farms. When the farms are done with their harvest, there are usually still a whole lot of crops left behind. So the Food Bank gathers volunteers to harvest those crops, and the crops go to people who need them! Simple, smart, resourceful!

I’ve been wanting to do a glean for quite some time. The difficulty for me has been that they are usually scheduled for weekday mornings, when I’m at work. Sometimes you just gotta make the time, and so I set aside a morning this autumn when I decided that I was gonna DO THIS.

Food Bank

The glean I went to was at Wexford Farms, just a little bit north of the city. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the crop we were gleaning was collards, which meant that filled boxes were light! (The next scheduled glean was for acorn squash– heavy!)

Wexford Farms Collards

I was really surprised by how much was left behind after the farm was done with its own harvest. Lots and lots and lots. The Food Bank brought a whole bunch of large boxes and we picked the collards and boxed them up until all the boxes were full.

Wexford Farms Collards

The whole event took about 2 hours. I really liked how all the volunteers were so focused. My thoughts on volunteering– you are there to do a task, and if you are going to take break after break, you might as well not be there at all. Sometimes I get frustrated with volunteer projects when people aren’t all working hard. There was no such problem at this event. We did take a little break in the middle, but other than that, everyone was working hard and working fast.

Collards Selfie

I participated in the glean event with a couple of friends. On the way back into town afterward, they suggested we stop at Schorr Family Bakery for donuts. Donuts?! YES PLS.

Schorr Bakery

I got myself a maple frosted sweet roll, which was a whopping 75 cents! I can’t remember the last time I bought something that cost less than a dollar! The roll was nice and sweet, balanced with the right amount of breadiness. The bakery was a fun find in the West View neighborhood, which I admittedly know like nothing about.

Schorr Bakery Maple Sweet Roll

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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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A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

On our most recent date night, Mr. Beez and I revisited a much-celebrated favorite, Cure, in Lawrenceville. Cure’s chef, Justin Severino, was very early in the local, ethical foods trend. The cuisine at Cure is of the highest quality and care, and also reliable. Although I do like a good culinary adventure, when you go to Cure, you have a good idea of what you’ll be getting into, and you know it will be delicious. That’s not to say it lacks creativity. The dishes are creative, but we’re not talking anything off-the-deep end.
Cure

Cure’s hallmark is, not surprisingly, its cured meats. The salumi platter comes as a small or a large. The small is appropriate for 2-4 people to have a light snack before the meal. The last time Mr. Beez and I visited Cure, we had the small, and we enjoyed each bite, but wanted MOAR (in a big, roaring fashion). After all, the salumi is what we visited for. So this time, we went all out, and destroyed the large. It could have easily been an appetizer for 6. But don’t let anything hold you back from your dreams!

Cure giant salumi plate

The last time we were at Cure was before they had a liquor license. A part of me misses BYOB, because the mark-ups on alcohol in Allegheny County are inexcusable. However, the cocktails we had really were delicious, so I guess that makes the pain of the price a little less. I usually don’t like any kind of drink with cream or milk in it, but the server promised that the thing I ordered (can’t remember the name…) with egg whites in it was actually very tasty, and if I was grossed out, he’d be sure to get me something I liked. So I took the risk and ended up really enjoying it. The cocktails had the right balance of being sufficiently boozy, but also containing interesting and substantial mixers, so you didn’t feel knocked over the head with a Jim Beam bottle.

Cure Cocktail


Cure cocktail 2

Next up: more foods!


Nice little Spanish dish

My favorite dish of the evening was the salumi, because salumi. That’s what they do. But I also absolutely loved the “Nice Little Spanish Dish.” I ordered it on an impulse, and was so glad i did. It had grilled octopus and something green (parsley?) and this kicky little sauce. It was light and fresh and had all the right things to interest your palate but not bog you down so that you are incapable of moving on to the main course. It is, indeed, very nice.

Cure Hangar steak

I also had a little plate of carbonara pasta which was  very nice, especially the soft egg that I broke open and mixed all in the noodles. However, as it was carbonara, it didn’t photograph the best, so I skipped that photo opportunity. Mr. Beez ordered the hanger steak. This is usually a dish I just ignore on a menu, because bla bla boring boring. However, it is a mistake to ignore the hanger steak on Cure’s menu. It is exceptional. There are so many flavors all at once, and the steak just melts in your mouth. I wished I had ordered this for myself, but by the time I got to taste it, I was simply too fully to eat more. This subsequent visit to Cure certainly lived up to the fine impressions it created in earlier visits.

After our dinner, we still had a little time left with the babysitter, so we strolled on down to the Allegheny Wine Mixer. I love how that bar is fun, and funky, and always has a great selection of wines at reasonable prices. Also, a framed portrait of Vincent Price over the bar. Yesssss.

Allegheny Wine Mixer

We wrapped up the evening with a visit to Page Dairy Mart for their last open weekend of the season. Although they have many amazing choices involving cookies and brownies and all kinds of shakes and blizzardy things, my absolute favorite is the coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. It’s that real, heavy whipped cream too. The best.

Page Dairy Mart Sundae

We love checking out new places, but sometimes a date calls for the comfort of old favorites. All three of these were A+.

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3RFF Time! My Picks for the Three Rivers Film Festival with @PghFilmmakers

It’s NOVEMBER! Which means it is my BIRTHDAY MONTH and also time for the 3 Rivers Film Fest! The timing is hardly a coincidence, amirite? I have not yet pieced together my schedule for this much-anticipated events, but I have selected my “picks” for this year. This year is full of films I’d like to see, lots of dark, dramatic, thrilling films. Can’t wait!!

Are you attending the 3 Rivers Film Fest? What films will you be seeing?
Escobar: Paradise Lost

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Starring Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”) this absorbing drama, hot off the screens in Toronto, is that rare genre – a romantic drug thriller based on historical events. Told from the perspective of Nick, an innocent Canadian visiting Columbia, the story unfolds during the final years of Escobar’s reign. The young surfer falls in love with a beauty only to discover that her uncle is Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug kingpin. When Nick is invited to a party at a Xanadu-like fortress he finds himself entangled in a world of excess, corruption, and bloodshed.

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Foxcatcher

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This eagerly awaited thriller – filmed across Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh – tells the mesmerizing story of what happens when Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), a 1984 Olympic champion, sees a way out from under the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). When Mark is invited by eccentric millionaire John duPont (Steve Carell) to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, things go tragically wrong. The real-life crime drama from Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) is also a gripping and profoundly American story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty, and moral bankruptcy. Film provided by Sony Pictures Classics.
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Human Capital
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The time-fractured thriller begins with a fatal collision between a cyclist and an SUV on an inclement December night in Northern Italy. Flashbacks of events leading up to the incident – from three different vantage points – reveal the complex dynamics of two incidentally connected families, as well as the interplay between contrasting economic classes. Slick and stylish, this white-knuckle thriller is adapted from a best selling novel and is Italy’s official entry for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
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Listen Up Philip
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Starring Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, and Jonathan Pryce, this quirky comedy focuses on a prickly, egocentric writer who grouses about a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend and is indifferent about promoting his own career. But he jumps at the offer to use a friend’s summer home as a getaway while he nervously awaits the publication of his second novel – a place where he finally gets peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.  A dark and literary comedy, it uses devices such as omniscient narration and shifts in perspective.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Once Upon a Time Veronica
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A finely tuned, sensual portrait of a woman’s conflicted entry into adulthood, this award-winning film is a thoroughly modern anti-fairy tale. Veronica is fresh out of medical school. It’s a crucial time in her life, a period filled with doubts and important decisions to be made: tough career choices, her close bond with her ailing father, and her active but chaotic love life. Built around a stunning central performance by Hermila Guedes, she presents an emotionally raw, psychologically-complex character. There are desires,adventures, and misfortunes – but no fairy godmothers.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
A Spell to Ward Off The Darkness

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From pagan re-enactors to failed communes, black metal festivals to Arctic hermits, and the forever Golden Hour to the Northern Lights, this experimental documentary is an inquiry into the possibilities of a spiritual existence within an increasingly secular Western culture. We follow an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life: on a small Estonian island, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland, and during a concert in Norway. Atmospheric, musically infused, it proposes a belief in transcendence. In English.

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Stop the Pounding Heart

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Part of the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center, this quietly moving film could not be further from the big city. Set in rural Texas, it’s an investigation into the inner life of a teenage girl — the state of her soul – as she falls for a boy from a vastly different background. Sara Carlson (playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with moral guidance from the Scriptures (no phones, TVs, computers, or teen drinking). This drama, crafted in an intimate documentary-style, reveals Sara’s turmoil about her place in a faith that requires women to be subservient to their fathers and then their husbands.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Supernova

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Featuring an outstanding performance from Dutch actress Gaite Jansen, Meis is a bored and frustrated 15-year-old living in the middle of nowhere with her working-class parents and grandmother. Although an adjacent country road makes a 90-degree turn, seemingly just inviting vehicles to crash into their run-down house, Meis waits for something – anything – to happen, while musing about the laws of physics and energy. This much-talked-about indie from the Berlin Film Festival is a spot-on portrait of restless adolescence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

To Kill A Man

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In this revenge thriller from Chile – the country’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film — a tranquil, middle-class family man is tormented, and later terrorized, by criminals in his neighborhood. Frustrated by the legal system’s bureaucracy, he eventually opts to take matters into his own hands when one of the outlaws threatens retribution after serving time in prison. Based on a true story, the drama focuses on the social and psychological consequences of committing the title act. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Zero Motivation

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A zany, dark comedic portrait of a unit of young, female Israeli soldiers, this indie has been wowing festival audiences this year. The human resources office at a remote desert base serves as the setting for this cast of characters who bide their time pushing paper, playing video games and staging office supply battles – counting down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Handled with a sharp wit and abrupt shifts in tone, writer-director Talya Lavie dramatizes the boredom and personality conflicts, while exploring issues such as patriotism and friendship as well. Contains adult content.