Archive | January, 2013

Today! Today! Today! Party time with .@HaitianFam1st !!

31 Jan

Today is the day! It’s the Haitian Families First Back to School Party!
I’m excited for all this to come together. Great sponsors have stepped up, we’ll be rockin out with The Standard Band and we’ve got really awesome gift baskets to raffle off. I feel especially blessed to have AWESOME friends who put together a HUGE wine basket (16 bottles!!) for the raffle auction!
Now I just have to tie up a few loose ends, and shuttle like 3 car loads worth of stuff to Bricolage, and then it’s time to PARTY!! See yinz all tonight!!

http://www.facebook.com/events/126838940812866/?ref=25

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My love for .@CostcoTweets Truly Knows No Bounds

30 Jan

When I was a kid, I hated Costco.  We went there every weekend and went shopping, and it was boring.

When I got to college age, I learned better.  Costco meant huge hauls of food for cheap.  Awesome.

costco Since then, my love for Costco has grown and grown and grown.  I love that they treat their employees ethically.  I love that they offer huge hauls of food (especially produce) for cheap.  I would complain about the mindless hordes of shoppers, but I manage to go there pretty much exclusively at off-times, so I don’t have that problem at all.  Costco has been essential for baby supplies like diapers, wipes, etc.  I can’t imagine how much more those things would have cost basically anywhere else.

To top it all off, I had hands down the best customer service experience of my life at Costco today.  Let’s set the stage:

1.  Last year, I was talked into upgrading to an “Executive” membership, which means you get 2% of your purchases in cash back.

2. At the time of upgrade, I was promised that the cash back check would at a minimum be the difference in cost between regular membership and executive membership ($55).

3.  I got the cash back check, and it was only $21.87.

4.  My mom sent me a gift card for my birthday to renew my membership (this is my awesome awesome birthday present every year).  Except Mr. Beez was the one shopping when we were reminded that our membership was renewed.  He didn’t realize that I had a gift card for that, and he also didn’t realize the difference between executive and regular membership. So he paid out of pocket to renew executive membership, even though we didn’t want that anymore.

So I went into Costco ready to confront them about the insufficient check, and the member renewal gift card that I was really hoping they’d let me just use as a gift card instead of having to hold onto it until renewal time, and was actually unaware that our membership was renewed at the executive level at that time.

I approached customer services, and first asked them about using the the membership gift card as a merchandise gift card.  The representative: “Oh no, I’ll just give you cash for it.” CASH. DID YOU HEAR THAT! SHE JUST GAVE ME CASH, AND I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK FOR IT, MUCH LESS FIGHT FOR IT!.

costco logoBut wait, it gets BETTER.

I show her the insufficient cash back check, gearing up to get in a fight about how they promised I’d at least get a check for $55, even though that’s not exactly what the fine print on the member terms says, but i wouldn’t have upgraded if they didn’t promise that….

She takes one look at the check, and before I even really say anything, she says “This was done wrong. You’re supposed to at least get $55.  I’m going to cash this check and also give you the rest of the amount in cash.”  SHE GAVE ME THE WHOLE AMOUNT I WAS SUPPOSED TO GET IN CASH. AND I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK FOR IT, MUCH LESS FIGHT FOR IT!

Then came the final step– I asked her if Mr. Beez renewed at the executive or regular membership. She looked it up and said “Oh, it’s executive, if you just want regular, I’ll refund you the extra amount he paid for the executive.”  And then she did it! Right there! In cash!!

So I walked into Costco, ready to start talking my lawyer talk and get all bent out of shape…and lo and behold, I didn’t have to do any of that.  They put about $150 in cash in my hot little hand, right then and there.  It was such an exceptionally easy and fantastic customer service experience, I called Mr. Beez right away and said “YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED AT COSTCO…”

So folks, my love for Costco is ever stronger.  I of course turned around and immediately filled my cart and spent that $150, and that was the happiest $150 I’ve ever spent at Costco.  See, they give me money, I give it back to them, everyone wins!

Costco, will you be my Valentine?

A Morning Full of Happiness with Creative Mornings .@Pittsburgh_cm

29 Jan

I don’t know what it is about today, but it’s starting out great!  I had a good workout last night, followed by a good glass of wine and a good sleep.  I woke up happy and well rested.  And even better– Baby Beez woke up in this amazingly happy and friendly mood!  She is so cheerful today, it’s awesome!  The day looks to be a great one– I’ve got lunch plans with a friend, a party tonight, and I’ve got a steady amount of work to do but not so much that I’m pulling my hair out and losing my mind.

Even though the event was a couple weeks ago, my happiness this morning made it a perfect day for my recap of the Creative Mornings Pittsburgh breakfast talk with David Newell aka Mr. McFeely from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

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The theme for the morning was “Happiness,” and it was clear that happiness is something that Mr. McFeely knows well (yes, I know that’s not his real name, but I can’t help calling him that, and I don’t think he’d mind anyway). Providence has smiled on Mr. McFeely, he found his way into his career with Mr. Rogers by a series of happy coincidences. In Mr. Rogers he then found a true inspiration, friend and mentor. Most of his talk was about Mr. McFeely’s path in life and his memories of working with Mr. Rogers. It was clear that his career and his life has been full to the brim with joy.
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Mr. McFeely was wonderfully generous with his time.  He signed autographs and took pictures with everyone after his talk, and even offered to mail out autographs to anyone who wanted one but could not stay.  He was friendly and chatty and loved meeting everyone. 

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In a world so often full of dead-end careers and disappointments, it is inspirational to hear people who have found genuine satisfaction in their paths.  The path to fulfillment is never a straight one– there are plenty of unexpected bumps and unaticipated tangents– but a positive attitude and a willingness to take a little risk here and there is a constant theme in such positive stories.

Hope you all have a happy day!

A Lovely Little Day Trip to Christian W. Klay Winery

28 Jan

As much as I love wine, I’m not particularly familiar with wineries in this region.  When LivingSocial offered wine tastings and tours of Christian W. Klay winery near Nemacolin Woodlands, I quickly snapped that up!  Our visit was in late January, so the vines were dormant, but that hardly detracted from the tour.

Roy is in charge of all things agricultural at the winery, and he proudly taught us about his craft.  This winery is a true family business, and they take enormous pride in their work.  Roy was so excited to tell us about all the grapes he had experimented with and all of the seminars he has taken, and all of the famous winemakers he has met.  There are few things more fun than listening to someone share their craft, when they are truly passionate about their job.  Even though I’m not one to dig in the dirt, I eagerly signed up to the winery’s volunteer mailing list.  They have volunteer grape picking sessions, and I can’t wait to get out there this summer and help with the harvest!

Klay winery offers a wide variety of whites, reds and fruit wines.  Their focus is not “what’s popular?” but “what can we do best?”  Although Mr. Beez and I are always an easy sell when it comes to wine, it was refreshing that there was no pressure whatsoever to buy.  Nonetheless we found several wines we really loved, and ended up purchasing four bottles.  I’m generally more of a red drinker than a white drinker, but I love super super dry white wine.  Klay offered two very dry whites that I absolutely loved (the “Fort Necessity” and the “Blanc de Lafeyette”).  The winery’s price point is very reasonable ($14-20).  Lucky for me, they also sell at the wine shop at Station Square, so I won’t have to haul all the way back to Fayette County when these delicious bottles are long gone.

We had a lovely afternoon touring the winery, and I’m very excited to learn more about Western Pennsylvania wineries and hopefully visit a few more once we get back to warm weather!

Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri (2008)

26 Jan

UnaccustomedEarth Unaccustomed Earth is such a lovely little book. It’s a collection of 8 short stories, each of them a glimpse into someone’s life. Lahiri stays within her comfort zone– most of the stories concern an adult child of Bengali parents, living in (or with connections to) Massachusetts, who is involved in a relationship with a non-Bengali. The stories are heavy with the themes of culture, family, guilt, trust, and independence, but balance those broader themes with an incredibly personal focus on the stories.

Although Lahiri’s characters have very specific characteristics, their decisions and struggles have many universal qualities. There was one story in particular that rang incredibly true to me. Without getting into the details (the story hit home on an incredibly personal and painful issue), reading that story provided me with kinship, feeling like there was someone else who has really been there and really knows how I felt.

This was my first Lahiri book, but I did see the movie based on her novel The Namesake. I’m typically not much of a crier with movies. OH BOY DID I CRY. Did I EVER cry. That movie will make turnips cry. They aren’t tears of sadness, it’s not an incredibly sad story. The struggles were just so personal and intricate and there was not one clear answer on how to sort through them and make everything better. And I cried and I cried and I cried.

Unaccustomed Earth is a perfect book for curling up in the cold winter, drinking tea, and feeling a little sad. Pick this one up for sure, just don’t take it to the beach with you. I’m really glad that my book club picked this book for January. It’s a book I ordinarily would not have chosen on my own, and I really loved it.

HBD to Lilly and Happy Ninth Blogaversary to Me!

25 Jan

carrot babyYou guys, I got so wrapped up in all the excitement of yesterday, that I forgot to share that excitement with the internets! Yesterday was a very exciting day in the Beez household. First off, my brother became a dad to little Lillian Mara! They live across the country, so it will be a couple months before we will get to meet the little one. But soon enough, Baby Beez and Little Lilly will begin their shenanigans! Happy Birthday Little Lilly! And happy sleepless nights, Little Lilly’s parents!

The other excitement of yesterday was that it was my NINTH BLOGAVERSARY!! I started blogging on January 24, 2004, and have now blogged almost daily for nine whole years! At the time I started I was using LiveJournal, and that blog is now under a password because it was so ridiculous and immature. I considered re-posting my very first post to commemorate the event, but I looked back at my first post and it was so ridiculous and immature and embarassing that I could not bear to subject the internet to it.

Blogging has seen me through:
-Whining about work and homework and other silly college things
-My college graduation
-The tumultous and heartbreaking dating life of a grad student
-My inability to be a functional, mature roommate
-Getting crazy about exercise and running two marathons
-Law school, start to finish
-My inability to say “no” to an opportunity, and spending a summer working three simultaneous law-related jobs
-My first publications of articles
-Mr. Beez’ sweet proposal
-Buying a house
-Getting incredibly frustrated because the house we bought is old and needs lots of work
-Marriage to my best pal Mr. Beez
-Lots o’ awesome vacations
-Introducing Baby Beez to this world, and all the awesome adventures we’ve had together
and of COURSE
-Adventures, adventures, adventures in Pittsburgh!!

Wow, nine whole years. It’s crazy. I’m going to have toget something BIG together when next year comes around!

PS- Celebratory cupcakes accepted.

31 before 31: A New Workout Experience

24 Jan

aerobicsI finally ended the hemming and hawwing and excuses and I did it.  I had a lunchtime workout.  Well not exactly lunchtime, it was closer to 2pm. But it was still during the workday.

I know tons of people who swear by working out during lunchtime, and swear it’s the only time they can fit in a good workout, and they report it gets them energized for the second half of the workday.

Until now, I’ve used the following excuses to avoid working out during lunchtime:  I don’t want to get sweaty.  I don’t have time.  I like to eat.  It’s too disruptive in my day.  My gym is too far away.

But this week I bit the bullet and had a lunchtime workout.  It was a very light workout, I walked slowly for 30 minutes on the treadmill.  It wasn’t even really a “workout” but it did get me up and moving and was better than what I would have otherwise been doing when the 2pm snoozies hit:  drinking coffee, eating cookies, and struggling to keep my eyes open.

garfield and scaleWell, now I switched to a gym that’s closer to my office, I realized that I can do a light workout that doesn’t get me all gross, I can keep the workout short to minimize disruption, and yes it did help me feel energized throughout the afternoon.  It’s shocking to take a chunk of personal time in the middle of the day when I usually don’t even take a break for lunch, but I do think I had a more effective afternoon, and in the evening I was able to make up that billable time.

I really liked that the gym was quiet by the time I got there.  I do hope to get myself to the gym for an afternoon workout at least once per week.  It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, I’d be perfectly happy just cruising along on the treadmill.  I need to get over the guilt of feeling like I’m playing hooky by being out of the office during the workday.  Even though it is perfectly acceptable to go work out or run a personal errand during the workday as long as you get your work done and you can be reached, I always feel like I’m breaking some rule by going “off campus.”

Do you work out during lunchtime?

MLK Day QT at The Dor-Stop and Potomac Bakery

22 Jan

Baby Beez’ daycare was closed yesterday for MLK day.  I have been avoiding restaurants with her lately because she is 2, and she acts like she is 2, and that’s just a recipe for misery for everyone.  Yesterday seemed like a good day to test the waters at a loud, fast diner so we went to the Dor-Stop.  And there is hope! She was so well behaved, that I’ve got a little spark of hope that maybe we’re coming out of the too-destructive-for-restaurants phase!

The Dor-Stop is everything there is to love about a diner– greasy hearty food, fast service, good prices, and waitresses that call you “sweetie.”   That steak and eggs hit the spot. After stuffing ourselves with delicious diner food, we stopped across the street at the Potomac bakery for some sweets.  What a lovely morning.

Dinner with the In Laws at Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro

21 Jan

Boy do I love Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro. Mr. Beez and I visited here a few months ago with our friend Krista and fell in love with the hearty, rich Portuguese fare. Although the menu is full of exotic Portuguese dishes, their explanations were accessible. Lots of meat, fish, soups and salads in flavorful sauces and spices.

I started the evening off with a glass of Carmenere. I’ve been loving Carmenere recently. I’m not really sure why. I went through a Shiraz phase, then a Malbec phase, then a Pinot Noir phase and now I’m on to Carmenere. Of course, whatever phase I’m in, I’ll never turn down a nice glass of red wine.

I kicked off my meal with the hearts of palm salad. The salad is enormous. A vegetarian could select it as a full entree, or it could easily be shared as a starter by two or three people. The veggies were crisp and fresh. The green dressing complemented them nicely. The salad was lightly dressed- just enough for flavor, and not so much that it made it soggy. I am a glutton so I ate the whole darn thing, but it’s definitely a healthy salad– all vegetables, and not heavy cheeses or other fatty things.


Mr. Beez and his parents all had the mahi mahi special. The portions were generous and the fish, rice and vegetables all delightful. So much rich, complex flavor.


I ordered the shrimp with piri-piri sauce. It, too, was awesome. The sauce is a tiny bit spicy, but just enough to give it a little kick, not too much for my wimpy self.

The service at Marisqueira is paced at a European-style pace. The folks at the table next to us were whining that it was slow, but I did not agree with them. It’s paced so that you can savor your meal, chat comfortably, and not feel pushed out the door. That being said, make sure to have a couple of hours set aside for a dinner there, because they do take their time. Marisqueira is owned by the same folks who own Ibiza and Mallorca, and is by far my favorite of the three. Marisquiera’s menu is exotic enough to please adventurous eaters, but also accessible enough that less daring folk will feel comfortable with their selections.  It’s certainly a show-off kind of place,  the kind of place it’s a pleasure to bring out-of-town guests, to show off the deliciousness that this city has to offer.

Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro on Urbanspoon

Rejuvination, Relaxation and Shabbat with the wonderful women of Temple Sinai

20 Jan

Am I ever truly relaxed? With my life such as it is, the answer is pretty much no, but I did give a good try at it (and came as close as I’ll ever get) at my synagogue’s Women’s Retreat this weekend.

When I was in high school, I was a crazy active member of NFTY.  I was off at weekend retreats for or five times a year, I went to the annual national convention, I even spearheaded hosting a sub-regional event at my Temple.  I loved that stuff.  It certainly didn’t hurt, either, that our region’s retreats were held at a camp in Malibu, on cliffs overlooking the ocean.  My favorite of these retreats was the annual women’s retreat.  Every co-ed retreat was full of high school drama, angst and flirting.  At the women’s retreat, though, the hormones died down, a lot of the pretense subsided, the cliques loosened, and I found myself hanging out with a ton of really awesome women whose social circles I usually couldn’t crack.

The melodrama of the high school social hierarchy is long gone (well, it had a short resurgence in law school, but that’s gone too!), but I was still thrilled when I received a mailing that Temple Sinai was hosting its first ever (and hopefully annual) women’s retreat.

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We started the weekend off with Shabbat candles and song.  And after dinner we had a pajama party in one of the suites.  We had wine, cookies and popcorn and chatted til well past midnight.  I loved having the opportunity to get to know other women at my temple, many of whom I see time and time again, but haven’t gotten to know them because I’m busy minding my kid or too shy to strike up a conversation.

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The retreat was held at the Embassy Suites out by the airport, which is a very unique venue.  All the rooms there are suites, they all face into a lush green courtyard with a waterfall, and the hotel provides tons of hospitable amenities like complimentary cocktail hour and free breakfast (even an omelette bar!)

It’s not surprising that this hotel was very popular and we shared it with a number of other groups.  This meant that at times things were not as quiet as we’d like on a retreat focusing on rejuvenation and that there were a couple of logistical hiccups.  Those downsides were tiny, and such things are unavoidable in any event in any venue.  I thought that the Embassy Suites provided a great price and a great venue for our event.  It might be nice to have an event like this in a hotel with a full-service spa, but that would inflate the price.  I liked that the value of the Embassy Suites meant that the retreat was more widely accessible to participants because of the price.

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There were a couple of hours of unstructured time, and I took this rare opportunity to sit in front of the fire and read my book.  Ah, to read uninterrupted.  I love it.

The retreat programming had great variety.  There were programs for people who were more interested in a spiritual experience, and programs more directed toward discussion.  We also had an opportunity to get up and moving with exercise and yoga classes.  My favorite part of the programming was a writing circle, where I composed a piece of writing and stepped out of my comfort zone by reading it aloud and discussing it with the group.  Reading my words aloud is such a strange and different experience for me, and it was so comforting that this group was so trustworthy and open to hearing my words.

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It was relaxing to have a day to focus on myself, and not worrying about child and family care, but I was happy to have Baby Beez join us for Havdalah!

I’ve planned events before, and know how hard it is to put these kinds of events together, and how frustrating it can be to herd cats throughout the whole course of the event, but the women who planned this retreat did a phenomenal job (especially for this being the first ever).  Now the countdown to next year begins!