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Things I am liking this Monday

    • On a whim during grocery shopping yesterday, I picked up some packets of Justin’s Honey Almond All-Natural Nut Butter. I spread it on my english muffin this morning, and OMG I want to eat Honey Almond Nut butter all day long.

justin-s-natural-honey-almond-butter

    • This weekend involved a few frustrating incidents of very not-good behavior from Baby Beez. This weekend also involved very focused efforts on QT with Baby Beez. We went on a nice long stroller jog on the Jail Trail, we dressed in costumes and had fun at our Temple’s Purim Spiel, we played dolls, we played with Play-Doh. But there was also lots of screaming, some hitting, and some general all-around unpleasantness. I keep reminding myself that this is a process. That Baby Beez is not instantly going to turn into angel child from me playing dolls with her once. But it still puts me in a hard and frustrating position when I want to do fun things with her, but I have to instead stick her in time out because her behavior is not acceptable.

Purim fun!

What do you have coming up this week?

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Cozy and fancy night out at Arlecchino Ristorante @AllaFamiglia

Cozy and fancy night out at Arlecchino Ristorante @AllaFamiglia

For New Years Eve 2012, our double-date dinner was held at the delightful Alla Famiglia restaurant in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Due to our delightful experience there, I was thrilled when my friends and colleagues suggested we have a Clark Hill “Ladies Night” dinner out at its sister establishment, Arlecchino Ristorante. The restaurant is technically in McMurray, but if you’re planning a trip there, it’s just a little bit south of the South Hills Village mall.

For starters, the venue is super-cute. It’s a converted old schoolhouse. It’s absolutely darling, but this also means it’s absolutely tiny, so reservations are a must. You might be able to squeeze in a dinner for two up in the bar area, but it is also tiny, so you are probably better off playing it safe with a reservation. Arlecchino offers complimentary valet parking, which is excellent because the parking area is also tiny and unworkable for self-park.

Arlecchino Ristorante

Arlecchino offers a long list of wines by the glass, and when I asked for a recommendation based on my preference (white, as dry as it possibly can be), the bartender came up with a perfect match.

Arlecchino Ristorante

With every meal a hearty bread basket with “holy oil” delicious dipping oil is offered. We also went with a few starters: a fresh caprese salad, and my personal favorite: the truffoli, a mix of sauteed mushrooms in a sweet sauce with raisins. Amazing.

For my dinner option, I selected the Cottoletta del Monzu (or simply: veal). Each meal comes with the house salad, full of fancy toppings like beets, goat cheese and sunflower seeds, and the pasta del dio, both served family-style. The veal was buttery and savory. The pasta, topped with vodka sauce, was also delicious, and this coming from someone who isn’t a big pasta fan. The house salad, with all its fancy toppings, was fresh and a welcome departure from the typical iceberg-tomato-onion house salad.

A few people in our large group opted for the signature veal chop, which is ENORMOUS and quite a sight to behold. I wish I took a picture, because it is just crazy. They reported that it, too, was very tasty.

Cottoleta del Monzu at Arlecchino

The portion sizes are enormous, and unless you share an entree, you are sure to have extra to take home. The enormous size is very appropriate, given that the prices are, shall we say, special occasion prices. Very special occasion. Coupled with the restaurant’s small size and romantic atmosphere, this would be the ideal venue to propose to your significant other or celebrate a very special anniversary.

For dessert, we all shared the marble cake with salted-caramel icing. It was light and the icing had the perfect salty-sweet contrast. It was entirely too enormous for one, and it was a great option for us to pass around. It is also nice that Arlecchino offers a full coffee bar of cappucino, lattes, drip coffee, a variety of teas, and dessert wines and cocktails.

Salted Caramel Frosted Marble Cake at Arlecchino

While I may have had some reservations about hauling all the way out to McMurray after a workday, I was ultimately thrilled to visit this special restaurant. Like it’s sister restaurant, Arlecchino is sure to become widely known for its quality through excited word of mouth, rather than flashy advertisements.

Arlecchino Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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Trapped in a Cemetery, Pt. 1. Or: The time the internets kept me from getting eaten by zombies. Literally.

This Sunday I was living in my own little yuppie paradise. I started things off with a darling little brunch at a new French spot in the West End. Then i got our papers together for our accountant to do our taxes. I took Baby Beez to a kid’s yoga class, and even treated myself to a fancy pour-over. The only thing missing from this nice little weekend was a visit to the Home Depot.

The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and it was a perfect afternoon to take a nice little jog in the Allegheny Cemetery. If you haven’t been there before, it is enormous and gorgeous. I zipped up and down hills, marveling at families of deer lazily grazing and gaggles of geese waddling through the grass. The crypts were breathtaking in their size and richness in history.

Photo credit to FatherPitt.wordpress.com

Photo credit to FatherPitt.wordpress.com

My run was relatively undisturbed. I passed a few people out for a stroll, and one particularly grim looking man who may have hacked someone up with a machete behind a mausoleum. Nothing could break my stride. The weather and scenery were perfect for a leisurely jog. Groundskeepers even drove by a few times in their little service cars, and I had never actually seen groundskeepers out and about before. This cemetery was so attentively maintained.*

It was the late afternoon, and I was careful to mind that the cemetery would close at dusk. I am still traumatized by the time I got lost in Homewood Cemetery and then it got dark and then IT WAS DARK AND I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO GET HOME, BUT THEN I JUST RAN FOR ANY BUILDING I COULD FIND, DEAR LORD GET ME OUT THERE ARE GHOSTS IN CEMETERIES. (I eventually got out of the Homewood Cemetery.)

But the sun was still shining, the air so crisp, and I had plenty of time. I made a few zigzags back and forth on the paths to even my run up to 3 miles, and made my way back to the Allegheny Cemetery’s magnificent Butler Street gates.

Photo credit to FatherPitt.wordpress.com

Photo credit to FatherPitt.wordpress.com


AND THEY WERE LOCKED.

EVEN THOUGH IT WAS NOT DUSK. WHY WERE THEY LOCKED?

They were locked because the like 4 signs I ran past and paid absolutely no attention to all notified me that the cemetery does not close at dusk. The cemetery closed at 5:30. And it was 5:48. Those groundskeeper cars I was so impressed with before: nowhere to be found. I ran over to the groundskeeper house and knocked there: No answer either. The place was dead. (NOT FUNNY) I was LOCKED INSIDE.

Of course, the cemetery would not want car traffic all day and night, so it makes sense for the gates to be locked for the night. I reassured myself that they surely would leave a pedestrian door open. I tried the pedestrian door. Locked, too.

I called Mr. Beez. His response: “Oh.” Because me getting locked in a cemetery does not surprise him in the least. Also, he was busy working, and he saw it like this: either I was going to find a way out, or I was going to die in that cemetery. He’s the beneficiary on my life insurance policies, so what difference does it make to him? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I briefly imagined myself deftly hopping over the gate. Yet I am both fat and old, and the grace with which I imagined catapulting myself in the air was not unlike the grace with which I have imagined myself able to gracefully ride a galloping horse into the sunset. (The last time I was on a horse, it just walked, and I was so scared that I cried.)

It was time to devise another option.

I retreated to the resource for the answers to all life and death questions: The Internet.

photo

And I began racking my brain for who on my twitter feed might possibly have this vital information:

photo(1)

Ultimately there was some progress. I got some critical information from my fbook friends and from Tony Ceoffe (who I do not know in real life, but I knew he ran for City Council for the L’ville district, and he tweets about L’ville all. the. time. so why NOT ask him?) The news: THERE IS A BREAK IN THE FENCE NEAR LESLIE POOL! YOU CAN GET OUT NEAR LESLIE POOL! But….. I HAD NO IDEA WHERE LESLIE POOL WAS.

The tears were starting to come. I started my woeful walk back into the middle of the graveyard, hoping I could find an unlocked crypt and pile up Canada geese into a makeshift mattress, and maybe, just maybe, I could use my sweet kung-fu moves on the zombies and survive the night!

My gait began to drag as I envisioned the long, cold haul ahead. When, what was that? What did I see round the bend up ahead? A vision in classic L’ville, she with her nose ring and he with his beard and cardigan! So carefree and enjoying the crisp fall air! I would have offered them some of my delicious pour-over, but alas my provisions were long spent.

And who knew where to find the Leslie pool? THEY KNEW! They cheerfully pointed me off in the right direction (and as I stomped through the mud, I suspected that they were relieved to get away from this sweaty, tearful mess).**

A few moments later, I found it! The hole in the fence was real! And I WAS FREE. Husband’s gotta WAIT to cash in on those policies! I almost kissed the sidewalk, but this is Lawrenceville and if there is one place you do not want to kiss the sidewalk, it is Lawrenceville.

Sweet, sweet freedom.


________________________________________________________________

* In retrospect it occurred to me that these groundskeepers were likely warning people that the gates were going to close, and probably shouted out a warning to me personally. However, with my music at near-deafening decibles, I was oblivious to all but (1) my pace, and (2) my internal debate on whether listening to “The Thong Song” in a cemetery was going to score me eternal damnation (remains unresolved). Alas, their efforts went unheeded.

**They also informed me that there is a pedestrian gate at the Penn Avenue entrance that is always open. So I was never really locked in to begin with.

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A very stretchy day with the Pgh Yoga Expo @PghYoga @BYSQH

I’m way behind the ball on this because the Pittsburgh Yoga Expo was a full month ago. Nonetheless, it’s an annual event so it’s worthwhile to share it with yinz, so you can keep a reminder in your calendar for next year. I’m an infrequent yoga practitioner (I try to make it into a studio once a week). Thanks to a groupon, I’ve been trying out bend yoga for the last few weeks, but my usual go-to is Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill. Bikram Yoga is a 26 pose series performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. Bikram is a good course for you if you like consistency– Since I go infrequently, doing the same poses every time helps me really see my changes and improvements from session to session. I also like that I can tell exactly where we are in the class without having to look at a watch. Needless to say, Bikram is not the right yoga for you if you want a lot of variety or if you want to do all kinds of acrobatic headstand things (no headstands in that series of 26). It is also a great option for you if you have a lot of free time, because the class is 90 minutes long and you DEFINITELY need a shower afterward. I do not have a lot of free time, which explains why I go so infrequently.

Rebecca Rankin, owner and lead yogi of Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill organizes the Pittsburgh Yoga Expo every year. I heard about it last year, but was not able to go. When the tickets went on sale for this year’s event, I was very excited to snap one up. Also, I made sure to get a pedicure, as I did not want to scare the yogis with all-day exposure to my feet.

Pittsburgh Yoga Expo

The Expo features 25 minute workshops all day long, in which you get a little taste of various different types of yoga. It truly is an all-levels experience, and is a nice option if you want to try new things out. There were practitioners of Forrest Yoga, Chakra Yoga, Core Active Yoga, etc. There was a lot of core work, which I am NOT good at, but since the sessions were only 25 minutes long, I could tough it out even in sessions that were very challenging for me.

The one suggestion I would have for next year is that I hope they bring in more food vendors. They do advertise that there will be food vendors present, but for most of the day it was only juice vendors and one vegan bakery vendor, who had a very limited supply of lentil stew. I would have brought a lunch with me if I knew that were the case (as it was, I scarfed down a vegan muffin and some juice), but it would have bee even better if there were some vendors there selling more substantial fare. All that yoga makes me HUNGRY.

My favorite part of the day was the demo session, when Rebecca Rankin and Zeb Homison showed off the crazy stand on your head yoga stuff.

Pittsburgh Yoga Expo


Pittsburgh Yoga Expo

I put this picture in here because this is the pose that LOOKS like it would be easy but IT KILLS ME every time we get to it in yoga class. I can’t even lift my leg up, forget bending over and touching my toes. I have enough trouble just lifting up my knee and not falling over. It is HARD, but he makes it easy.
Pittsburgh Yoga Expo

The Yoga Expo is also unique because it had an arm balances workshop, where they broke down grasshopper pose into small manageable bites, and so many people in the room were able to do their first arm balance! I tried hard, but didn’t make it this time around (thank you, T-Rex arms of mine), but I think if I work harder at strengthening my arms and core, I might have some success next year.
Pittsburgh Yoga Expo

The event is really well organized, flows really well, and for $15 ticket (in advance) is a steal for an all-day series of workshops. See yinz on the mat!

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Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Mr. Beez and I take a neighborhood-centric approach to our date nights. By planning multiple destinations in one neighborhood, we cut down on travel time and parking hassles, and spend more time having fun than getting from place to place.

In January, we had a Sahside date night at Pittsburgh’s City Theater and Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine. This is my third visit to the City Theater. While it is a small company, I am always blown away by the amazing quality of their performances. When my mom was in town a couple of years ago, we took her to a show, I don’t remember the name but it was about a pair of brothers, and she still brings up how amazing that show was. Two other big pluses about City Theater: (1) Their Greenroom events are an awesome deal, and while I have yet to actually make it there, I’ve heard they are rockin’. (2) Their annual gala is reliably one of the best events in the ‘burgh each year.

On to the show! South Side Stories is a one-woman show written and performed by Tami Dixon. It’s first run was last year and was highly acclaimed. I was extremely bummed that I didn’t get around to going, and was elated to hear that they were bringing it back for a second run. Dixon is a talented actor, and brilliantly weaves together a tapestry of the personalities, meek and overpowering, of the remnants of milltown Pittsburgh still living in the South Side.

South Side Stories preserves uniquely-Pittsburgh culture in a way that the thirty-somethings in Pittsburgh have only heard as memories from their grandparents, or if they are lucky, their parents. I say “they” rather than “we” because I’m a Pittsburgh transplant, and do not personally have the milltown history in my family, so I can only experience it as an outsider. Then I look at my daughter, and realize that although her dad’s family has steelworking in their history, those stories are going to be as abstract to her as they are to me. It’s a culture that is quickly fading.

Dixon’s play is, frankly, amazing and important to Pittsburgh culture. I hope City Theater brings it back for future runs.

City Theater South Side Stories

After the show, we shuffled our way through the snow and wind to a cozy dining spot a mere block away– Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine.

Kassab's Lebanese Cuisine

I must admit that walking into Kassab’s, I had no expectations, because Middle Eastern food does not excite me. Mr. Beez loves it, but I am generally ambivalent. The only thing I usually have much interest in is pickled turnips.

Kassab’s, however, turned my ambivalence on its head. Let’s start with the hummus– it is so silky. We ordered the appetizer platter, which at around $15 and massive portions of their appetizer selections, it was intended to be shared by more than 2. But it was awesome. And yes. We ate it all. And there were lots of pickled turnips, ALL FOR ME, because Mr. Beez wouldn’t eat a pickled turnip if you paid him.

Kassab's Appetizer Plate

I ordered the grilled chicken flatbread sandwich. It, too, was amazing. It was warm and flavorful, and accomplished all the things such a sandwich is supposed to accomplish (which, I guess, is taste good and be filling. Which it was)

grilled chicken wrap at Kassab's

Mr. Beez had a shish kabob platter and was also extremely pleased. He did share a little bite of lamb with me, and it was so buttery and delicious.

Kassab's Shish Kabob Plate

The service at Kassab’s was casual but attentive. There was a large table nearby that was celebrating a birthday, and it struck me that Kassab’s really is a great place to get together with friends. I may not usually crave middle eastern food, but I now feel differently when it comes to Kassab’s. It is only 8:30 am right now, but all I can think about is that hummus and those turnips and all of that amazing food. Kassab’s has earned a well-deserved spot on this family’s short list of favorites.

Kassab's on Urbanspoon