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The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

It’s been quite a week. We closed on our new house on Friday, left for vacation first thing on Saturday morning, and when we get home from vacation on Sunday, we move right into the new house. Normally I don’t say anything about being on vacation until I’m already back, but all our stuff is packed in a POD, so there isn’t anything in either our new or our old house, anyway.

This year’s vacation has been a low-key visit with family. Because we had a 5:40 am flight out of the ‘burgh, we decided to stay overnight at the hotel at the airport. I took Baby Beez for a swim, and was very successful at tiring that kid ahhhhht (wonderful result: she was so tired that she slept through most of the morning’s flight).

Swimming

We flew in to San Francisco to spend a day checking out the city.

First things first: Breakfast. We braved the 30+ minute line to get a table at Dottie’s True Blue Café, and it was absolutely worth it. Hanging out on a Saturday morning on a sidewalk in SoMa with a 3 year old is full of interesting questions like “Why is that man sleeping on the sidewalk?” So yes, all around an experience.

San Francisco

Dotties

The ambience is irreverent and fun (not a typically kid-friendly place, but ours stayed out of the way and we didn’t even get dirty looks for bringing her there). The menu is full of all kinds of sweet and savory treats. Dottie’s is famous for their pancakes, but when it comes to breakfast, I opt for eggs. I got zucchini cakes with poached eggs and spicy marinara, and a side of lamb sausage. Amazing. The bloody mary could have done with a few more garnishes, but the drink itself was solid. Dottie’s is A+

Dotties 2

Despite being totally stuffed, we decided our next item on the itinerary should also be full of food. Off to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building we went. The Ferry Building itself is full of gourmet food stalls, like Pittsburgh’s Strip District or Philly’s Reading Terminal market. On weekends they also add on an enormous farmers market. We only made it through about 1/3 of the farmers market stalls, and it pains me to say this, but the variety in California’s agriculture blows Pennsylvania out of the water. All the fruit! The fruit!

Ferry Building 1

Ferry Building 3

Ferry Building 4

After stuffing ourselves, it was time to burn off some calories at the playground.

Playground

And then, a quick rest at our super cool hotel, Hotel Tomo. The price was in line with most of the hotel chains we are familiar with, but the hotel itself had personality and good service.

Hotel Tomo

Hotel Tomo 2

After the brief respite, it was back to adventuring. First up: The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate

golden gate family

And afterward, of course, we ventured to Chinatown for some dinner!

Chinatown

All of this running around on the first day was followed-up with a quiet day of driving up to Oregon, aka quality time with my audiobooks.

Road Trip

I spy Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta

Once we made it to Oregon, we’ve been spending the time hanging out with family. Baby Beez was very excited to go fishing with her Papa. We came back empty handed, but had a lovely time enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.

fish lake

Fish Lake 4

Fish lake 2

That's enough fishing for today.

That’s enough fishing for today.

Today was also busy, with a trip to the Spray Park, a visit to a farm, and hanging out with family. Tomorrow, finally, is a day of doing not much of anything at all. I’m excited to check out a class of Bikram Yoga of Ashland, and we’ll spend the rest of the day just hanging around the house.

Good night.

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No real title today

One thing you don’t realize when you get into litigation is that the busy times are actually manageable. When you have crisis upon crisis, you triage and get to work. It’s the more manageable times that feel more stressful. You’re so used to chaos that when things settle down a little, all the stress comes tumbling down. And even though the work itself is more manageable at those times, they’re more emotionally draining because it’s like you’ve stored up all that stress during the busy period and it all comes pouring out at once when you have a moment of quiet. This is a long way of saying that work is very manageable right now, but I’m still feeling stressed nonetheless.

If I’ve learned anything, its that the only effective way for me to burn off stress is to run, and I need to fit in a couple of runs this week. Also, I’m craving some TV binge watching. I don’t even know what I’d watch. I just want to sit and watch TV for hours on end. I was binge-watching Breaking Bad, but I only left seasons 1-3 out to watch, and all the rest of the DVDs are in storage (with the rest of our stuff). I’m considering re-upping my Netflix, if only to check out Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

June will be a month of fun. On Friday I have us all signed up for the Riverview 5k….however I just learned that Meeting of Important People will be playing (for free!) at First Fridays at the Frick! I really love Meeting of Important People, but I feel like I’ll be a flake if I don’t do the 5k. I’m not running it with anyone, but feel like if I signed up to be somewhere, I should be somewhere. Then again, I think we will all have more fun at First Fridays at the Frick. What would you do?

Mr. Beez is out of town next week, so it’s girl’s night every night. I think I’ll take Baby Beez out to the Three Rivers Arts Festival, maybe even a few times. With our house all packed we still have to eat dinner out every night, so we might as well enjoy some chicken-on-a-stick and gyros while listening to some music. The third week of the month brings the Ben Folds + Pittsburgh Symphony concert as well as my Bench Bar trip to Seven Springs. I’ll be speaking during the Young Lawyers Division CLE on issues about social media, and I’m really excited about that.

We’ll be going on family vacation late in June as well. We’ll be flying in to San Francisco and spending a day walking around there, then driving up to spend the week with my Dad & Stepmom in Oregon. We drive back down on July 5, and (I’m really excited about this!!) will be taking a tour of Alcatraz Island before hopping on our red-eye flight back to the Burgh. What are your favorite activities in San Francisco?

June is filled to the brim with fun things to do in Pittsburgh. If you haven’t checked it out already, you really need to give Pittsburgh Mommy Blog’s June activity round up a look.

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Our charming trip to Boulder

Our charming trip to Boulder

We made it through the 3 weeks of insanity, and finally got our house on the market last Friday. We then promptly left for Colorado bright and early in the morning. My cousin was graduating from High School, and we were thrilled to have a family gathering to celebrate her accomplishments. My aunt and uncle have lived in Colorado for years and years, and I’ve always meant to visit, but never quite made it there. After this fantastic visit, we’re sure to make it back and soon. It’s a 3 hour direct flight from Pittsburgh, which is very easy travel-wise. The Boulder/Denver area is just charming. Microbreweries everywhere, HELLO. I really enjoyed our visit there, and to be honest, I rank the area up with Barcelona and Vancouver as an area I could imagine us potentially relocating to someday (but a very hypothetical someday, we just bought a new house in Pittsburgh. We’re not going anywhere for a long while).

PaeelaOur first day there was full of graduation festivities, including my Uncle Joe’s famous paella. LOOK AT THIS PAELLA. Is it not the absolute best? It tasted every bit as amazing as it looked.

I loved that Baby Beez had the opportunity to play with some of the younger members of our family. I have such warm memories of going to my grandparents and hanging out with my cousins, whether it was splashing in the jacuzzi, or pretending that the garden hose was a microphone and putting on performances in the backyard. We are lucky to have many many friends in Pittsburgh, but not very many relatives, so it was lovely for Baby Beez to get to have time with family.

Boulder run

On Saturday morning I hit the roads for a 5k run. The land is so very flat that it’s such a strange experience for me. It was such a calm and beautiful landscape. I wanted to run the 10k Bolder Boulder while we were there, but Mr. Beez nixed that. I didn’t argue with him, since we are there for just a short time, and wanted to spend that time visiting family and having fun, instead of spending half a day on a race. I suppose we might have to go back next year for Memorial Day weekend so I can do that run!

16th St Mall

We spent a few hours on Saturday walking along the 16th Street Mall in Boulder, checking out the shops, restaurants, and Baby Beez’ favorite- the fountain.

photo 1(2)

We stopped for a bite at Pizzaria Locale for some thin-crust Neopolitan style pizza. I started things off with the frutti di mare salad. It was so briny and refreshing, I just loved it.

Primavera pizza

My mom and I shared the Primavera pizza, topped with asparagus, peas and dippy eggs. It was such a unique taste, mildly salty and so richly flavorful. It’s not what you would typically think of if you’re craving pizza, but it was amazing.

Cyclhops

Boulder has some good food, and for Saturday night we ventured out as a very large group to Cyclhops Bike Cantina, which is one of the breweries for Dale’s Pale Ale. Our table was piled high with all kinds of nachos and guacamole and other goodies, and I picked three delicious tacos for my entree. One thing I loved about Colorado dining- avocado on everything. So yum.

We left Boulder on Monday evening. On Monday we had a short visit with family, followed by an outing to the Denver zoo. My mom took me there once when I was a kid, but I have no memory of it. Baby Beez had such a fun time there during this visit, and with all the pit stops that are necessary for traveling with a three year old, we only made it through a small part of a zoo. I guess that means we’ll have to go back and finish it, right?

Andean Condor

I love how the Andean condor was showing off for everyone, spreading her wings and strutting about.

Macaws

penguins

zoo

I can’t believe that we’re back to Friday again. Last Friday feels a million years ago. And since we’re busy with showing the house, we’re living this strange existence where we have to make sure the house is spotless and in tip-top shape every time we step out the door. Our weekend is full of activities and playdates, since it’s just not fair to Baby Beez to keep her cooped up in a house with no toys and not much to do.

Our trip to Boulder was a whirlwind one, but we had a wonderful time visiting family and checking out the town. I only wish we had made our trip longer. Colorado has a laid back, friendly vibe to it, and I would have loved to go for a hike, check out a yoga class, and generally just hang out for a while longer. Lucky for us, my aunt and uncle have plenty of room in their house and love to have visitors, so another trip will be shortly in order!


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Number 4 in 10 to 10, getting closer!

I wrote this post during our 2011 vacation to Myrtle Beach. Baby Beez was nearly a year old then, and the vacation was simple and lovely. Lots of sand, sun and time for snooze. Traveling, even getting around town, is SO hard during the first two years. Now that she’s three, it’s infinitely easier. No more diapers or food to carry. She has the self-restraint and maturity to sit still…if we bribe her. Even today, I’ve been terribly sick all day, but I’ve been able to convince her to sit next to me in bed and watch Disney’s Hercules over and over and over on the ipad while I sleep. My number one piece of advice to new parents: it starts off awful and hard and you won’t believe it at first, but it will eventually get easier. Really it will.

10 Thoughts on Vacationing with a Little Peanut

August 20, 2011

Traveling with a small child is difficult. I’ve got a good handle on packing and coordinating all the millions and millions of things you need to care for a baby, but even with an entire suitcase of toys and enough graham crackers to feed an entire kindergarten class, it’s hard to keep the wee one in a consistently cheery mood while traveling.

The last couple of years Mr. Beez and I have been fortunate enough to take some nice international vacations. This year, in part because of money and in part because of Baby Beez, we pared things down considerably. We visited my family in California in February to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary, we had a long weekend in Orlando in July, and then we had a long weekend last weekend in Myrtle Beach.

The Orlando trip was so-so. We had a day in Daytona Beach that was fantastic.

Baby Beez loves the sand.

Other than driving out to the beach, Orlando doesn’t have much to offer for kids under 3. Myrtle Beach was much better for us. Our hotel was right on the beach, we went to the Outlets for a bit, and we also went for a stroll on the small boardwalk.

Between these three trips, I’ve learned a few things about traveling with infants (or at least about traveling with my infant).

1. Get a hotel room with a balcony and a nice view. Unless you’re traveling with a babysitter, you’re not going to be able to go anywhere after the baby goes to bed. Mr. Beez and I lead hectic enough lives that spending an evening watching TV in a hotel room is welcome and relaxation, but it was especially nice to sit on the balcony and watch the ocean.

2. Expect to get take out for dinner. Baby Beez usually crashes out between 7 and 8 pm. During our Orlando trip, we made a few foolish attempts to go out to dinner with Baby Beez in tow. Her meltdown inevitably came right around our entrees being served. This resulted in us taking turns shoveling food in our faces as fast as possible, and rocking and soothing the baby. Mr. Beez and I both have a very low tolerance for fussy babies, including our own, in restaurants. This was no fun. During our Myrtle Beach trip we mostly did take out. Aside from an episode where I called the wrong location of a restaurant with our order and we unnecessarily spent an hour in the car, take out worked much much better. We were able to get Baby Beez into bed when she was tired and eat like grown ups, and without the stress over disturbing other diners.

3. Expect your sleep will be interrupted. Baby Beez has been sleeping through the night probably since she was like 16 weeks old. She’s almost a year now. I’m not used to this wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night garbage anymore. When we’re traveling, she wakes up and gets disoriented and upset. I wish I had brilliant advice for coping with this, or better yet avoiding it, but I don’t. Mr. Beez and I pretty much split the middle of the night childcare, but it still sucked.

4. Bring what you need for the airplane, and buy the rest there. Unless you’re going to an all inclusive, there’s probably going to be a Target, Wal Mart, Walgreens, CVS, grocery store, whatever nearby. You can get the diapers, wipes, baby food, etc you’ll need for the whole trip once you get there. It makes things a lot easier, and you don’t have the stress over forgetting something, because you’re already planning that you’ll have to get most things there.

5. If you’re visiting family, see if they’re willing to ask around to borrow baby stuff. Smaller babies need a lot more stuff than bigger babies. When we visited my family in February, Baby Beez was small enough that playmats and exersaucers were a big part of her activity. My mom asked around and was able to borrow a pack & play, carseat, playmat, infant tub, and exersaucer. It was such a help. We could have made it fine without most of these things, but bringing them with us just wasn’t an option, and having them available made life so much easier.

6. Umbrella stroller. Best invention ever. It’s so light and easy to transport, and they’re so cheap that you don’t have to worry about it getting stolen or broken.

7. Don’t expect do a whole lot. Baby Beez naps a lot. Most babies do. She usually takes 2 naps a day that are 1-2 hours each. We can consolidate them into one nap with little objection from her, but that nap is going to be a long one. As much as I like to go-go-go-go during vacation, that’s just not an option. I used her naptime to nap, read, look at the internets, and watch TV. Going into the trip knowing we were going to have a large chunk of mandatory downtime helped me feel like we weren’t missing out on something.

8. Remember to bring the swim diapers! Swimming is probably the easiest and most accessible vacation activity. Almost every hotel has a pool. Baby Beez loves the water, and I love our swimming time together.

9. “Kid friendly” doesn’t necessarily mean “baby friendly.” I didn’t really think it through when we decided to go to Orlando. I assumed that since Orlando’s such a kid-oriented place, we’d easily find tons of things to do with Baby Beez. Well, babies can’t really do much. She’s too small to ride on much of anything at an amusement park, she’s too small to watch any kind of show, and she’s too little for most of the kid activities you’d find in hands-on kids places like children’s museums, etc. We had much more success in planning activities on our Myrtle Beach trip, because I had a much better grasp on what she can do– pretty much go swimming with me, play on the beach, ride in the stroller, and play with her toys. We focused our time on those activities, and had a much nicer trip. Here we are riding the (enclosed) Sky Wheel in Myrtle Beach!

MAMA IS SUPERIOR.

10. I want this list to be 10 items long. But I can’t think of anything else. Oh yeah, remember to take pictures. We got super cute pictures of Baby Beez when we went to Daytona Beach, but when we went to Myrtle Beach I completely forgot to take any pictures of Baby Beez on the beach. Whoops.

But here’s a super cute picture I took in our hotel room when someone was very tired but did not want to go to sleep. This picture makes me smile so big

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Back to the galley with ye, ye scurvy bilge rat!–Touring the @RoyalCaribbean Freedom Galley!

Back to the galley with ye, ye scurvy bilge rat!–Touring the @RoyalCaribbean Freedom Galley!

Our cruise vacation was a mix of activities and relaxing.  For someone like me, who unabashedly overschedules herself (I want to do THAT! and THAT! and THAT!) the daily schedule of activities delivered to the cabin each night sent me into a tizzy of excitement. Wine tastings! Yoga classes! Bingo! I want to do it ALL, but much to my family’s pleasure, I did restrain myself to only picking one or two things a day to do.  One of my favorite activities of the cruise was a pasta making demonstration and galley tour.

Basic pasta is crazy crazy crazy easy to make.  This I knew before the class.  I actually thought they’d be teaching us something more intricate than a basic flour/water/etc noodle, but that’s what they had planned.  I would not say I was disappointed.  I didn’t go on a cruise with big hopes of learning cooking techniques.  This was just a novelty and was coupled with a very lovely pasta lunch and wine pairing.

Pasta making demonstration


The pasta demonstration was entertaining enough for an afternoon activity, but the real draw for me was the galley tour.  I was curious to see what was involved in feeding these 4,100 gluttonous guests and 3,000 hardworking crew members (sidenote: cruise passengers are exceptionally loud, pushy and demanding, cruise staff have the patience of saints. I could never work on a cruise ship.)  Because I take my impressions of reality from Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean, my expectations of a ship galley involved dark corners, leaky barrels and lots of rats.

Good thing my imagination doesn’t dictate reality.  I’ve been in restaurant kitchens before and (if it’s a good restaurant) they are pretty darn clean.  Let me tell you, this galley was clean.  Everything was stainless steel and shining.  There wasn’t a wayward crumb to be found.  And it wasn’t like they prettied the place up for a tour to walk through.  We came through a little after lunch so the kitchen crew was well underway with dinner preparations.  The floor was slippery (with water, not guck), and it appeared that all surfaces were being constantly cleaned and hosed down.

The galley


fruit decorations

One thing that had never occurred to me is how much they make fresh on the ship.  I have no idea why I assumed that, for example, the ship would get stocked up with bread at port.  Nope, not at all.  They bake all their bread fresh.  Every single dinner roll, muffin, and cake. Everything is freshly baked.  In hindsight, it makes sense that the individual ingredients would be much more space-efficient and result in much higher quality of food.  Can you imagine even storing a week’s worth of bread products for 7,000ish people?  And not just plain bread, the variety.  In the dinner breadbasket alone there were at least 4 different kinds of rolls offered each night.

For SRS, my Kitchenaid's got nothin on these mixers.

For SRS, my Kitchenaid’s got nothin on these mixers.


All the breads

Commercial kitchens are notoriously cramped models of efficiency.  The standard restaurant has nothing on this ship’s galley.  Every single thing is positioned for maximum efficiency.  There is literally no room for inefficiency.  To accommodate the sheer capacity of cooking that must be done, the galley is divided over multiple floors, with different regions for different things.  It is all so complicated and specific that I didn’t get a good handle on it, other than wow.

Plating Meals

The soup pot machine things.

The soup pot machine things.

Relatedly, the Royal Caribbean food was very good. Cruises are known for having unlimited, great food, but I suspect that a lot of cruisers aren’t traditional “foodies.”  My palate has become more developed and more picky since our last cruise (in 2009), and I expected to be disappointed.  I was not.  The flavors were rich, the staff was happy to accommodate when we requested customizations to dishes, and the food was consistently fresh.  In the past I have admittedly turned my nose up at people who praised cruise food, assuming that they only appreciated the virtually unlimited access to food, and not the quality.  In the case of Royal Caribbean, however, the ship’s crew mastered both quality and quantity.

Royal Caribbean offers a “behind the scenes” tour that is very comprehensive and includes the galley, the bridge and all kinds of other neat things.  That tour, however, is very expensive.  I was most interested to see that just the galley tour component was paired with this pasta demo, and only set us back $15 per person.  If you have a cruise in your future, keep your eyes peeled for a similar offering. The galley tour was one of my favorite activities on the cruise and it seemed to appeal to everyone who participated, not just the food dorks like me.