The Happiest of Birthdays for a Very Special Grandma

5 Mar

No, I haven’t disappeared from the internet.  I’ve spent the last few days with my family, celebrating the 80th birthday of my wonderful Grandma.  I grew up in Southern California, but my family has long dispersed throughout the country.  Our chances to see one another are few and very very very far between.  Upon hearing that a surprise 80th birthday party was in the works, the Beez family eagerly packed up for the trip!

Flying with kids is not easy.  It’s not so bad when they are tiny infants and don’t do anything but sleep, eat and poop.  The worst flight we had was when Baby Beez was about 18 months old, walking and full of energy, and we were too foolish to get her her own seat.  She spent the whole flight squirming and screaming.  Once the kid is walking age, get them their own seat.  Sure, you can keep them on your lap til their 2, but it will be awful and you will hate everything.  It’s nice to be out of that time where forgetting something at home is a total crisis.  I still need to bring diapers and sippy cups and everything, but if I forget something, replacements are usually easy enough to pick up or I can improvise.  It’s nice to be out of that zone where forgetting a bottle or a binkie or whatever means complete crisis.

This isn’t to say that flying with a toddler is a joy. It’s certainly not.  But it has toned down from complete torture to annoying inconvenience, and future travels look to get better and better.

Grandma was shocked by all the excited guests. She and Grandpa were crying so many happy tears.

We had her party at The Castaway, a restaurant high up in the hills surrounding Burbank.  They serve a generous, delicious buffet style bunch, with bottomless mimosas to boot! I have a taste for the fine things as well as life’s basic pleasures.  Few things can make me happier than a plate full of mini corndogs and a glass of green champagne (for St. Pat’s of course)

The more refined offerings on the menu included osso buco and oysters on the half shell.  They were all delicious, and the variety of options is perfect for a party.

One of The Castaway’s signature features is its beautiful view.  It was a little cloudy when we arrived, but it cleared up beautifully.

And we took the opportunity to gather together for family photos.

Baby Beez stole my iPhone for a bit, and showed off her artistic side.  She knows how to activate Siri, but all she keeps telling Siri is “iPhone,” and then Siri keeps directing her to the online Apple Store.  Baby Beez is better with the camera than with the Siri.

Grandma and Grandpa were so happy to see all their beloved family and friends.  It was so sad to have to part ways at the end of the weekend, not knowing when we’ll gather back together, but it was wonderful getting to spend a little time together.

Adventures in Fire and Glass at .@pghglasscenter

1 Mar

I’ve been intending to take a workshop at the Pittsburgh Glass Center for ages and ages and ages (it was on my 30 before 30 list), and finally got around to it a couple weeks ago.  Sandy and I signed up for the paperweights class.  We were very excited about it, and then I got there and realized I had no idea what I was doing, and there was lots of fire, so I made lots of nervous faces like this:

See, lots of hot fiery things.

The class was very basic.  If you can follow basic instructions like “do not put your hand on molten glass” and have reasonable impulse control, you can successfully complete this workshop.  The class begins with a demonstration of how to make a paperweight.  Even though paperweights are very pretty and complex looking, they take only about 10 minutes to make.  The class is scheduled for 2 hours because the instructors take the care to walk each student through the steps individually.  This results in all students successfully making a pretty paperweight, and all students not being horribly burned to a crisp.  Everybody wins. 

The Glass Center offers all kinds of different glass workshops, including glassblowing, mosaics, etc, and these classes vary in skill level from the most basic beginner to advanced techniques.  The classes are a little pricy (our 2 hour workshop was $70), but the Glass Center opens its doors for FREE during “Hot Jam” on the first Friday of every month (as part of Penn Ave Unblurred). 

The Glass Center is a perfect venue to go on a date or out with friends for an event that’s just a little different than the usual dinner or happy hour.  I’m definitely glad we went and would love to take more classes.  I wish I had the time to take their classes that run over multiple sessions, but since I don’t have the time for that, I am very thankful that they offer one-off workshops that I can plug into my schedule here and there when I have a little time for some creativity.

 

A Kid Friendly Visit to the HBH .@HofbrauhausPitt

28 Feb

Pittsburgh’s Hofbrauhaus (yes, a sister outpost of the Munich original) has been a happy hour hot spot since it’s opening.  It’s plenty loud, it’s got plenty of beer, and it’s cleaner than Hemingways, so what’s not to like?  Mr. Beez loves Oktoberfest and the HBH.  I typically run lukewarm with it.  I won’t refuse to go there, but it’s not where we’re going when it’s my turn to pick.

We had a groupon to burn there (because I am a sucker and buy every single groupon that comes on sale), and since it is not valid for Saturday use, we decided to try it out on a weeknight.  Feeling adventurous, or perhaps foolish, or perhaps tired and just wanting someone else to cook our dinners, we strolled in around 6pm on a Monday.  Who would have thought that early weeknight dinner at the HBH is actually kid friendly?  Not me. It was a pleasant surprise.

Baby Beez loved the oompah music and the pretzels. She loves pretzels.  Since patrons are encouraged to sing and dance and stand on benches, it was a perfect setting for a toddler.  She sang around loudly and dancy-danced and didn’t disturb a soul, since everyone was dancing along.

Mr. Beez ordered a schnitzel dish and was very happy with it.  The HBH, unsurprisingly, offers Bavarian-type fare.  Of the three German restaurants I’ve been to in Pittsburgh (HBH, Max’s Allegheny Tavern, and Penn Brewery), HBH is my least favorite of the three.  The food isn’t bad, but I think most people are really there to enjoy the atmosphere.

I forewent the meat-and-potatoes Bavarian offerings and instead opted for a (meat topped) steak salad.  Virtually unheard of in Pittsburgh, this steak salad actually did not come smothered in fries.  This suited me very well because I actually did not want french fries.  The veggies were fresh and the salad generous.  It was a good meal.

Baby Beez was not the only little one in the dining room that night.  The HBH is apparently a popular place (on weekday evenings) for families with young children.  Everyone loves the fun and festivity! While I’ll only visit the HBH on a Friday or Saturday with exclusively grown up friends, it was a fun place for our family during the off hours.

 

Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh on Urbanspoon

Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

27 Feb

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I

26 Feb

The Attorney at Large has been a steady presence on my working-mom-lawyer blogroll for a while. Although she has traded in her traditional law practice for writing/editing/parenting, her observations in The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I are dead on.

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This is a helpful read for any newly-minted attorney.  I read the whole book in about 2 hours.  It was quick and light to read. The AAL has plenty of helpful insights about client relations and professionalism.  Although the first couple rocky years of practice are (finally) a memory for me, I would have been extremely comforted in knowing I was not alone in feeling lost, overwhelmed and stressed.

The AAL’s tips on professionalism were extremely helpful.  She wisely guides the reader through the often tricky balance between client’s expectations of assertiveness, zealous advocacy on behalf of your client and courtesies towards opposing counsel whom you’ll be working with time and time again.  That’s something you really have to learn through experience, but some helpful pointers may have made that road a little less bumpy along the way.

The book is even priced with starving new lawyers in mind, you can download it for $2.99, or if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free from the Kindle Lending Library.

A Romantic Evening at Brasserie 33

25 Feb

Brasserie 33 constantly runs Groupon specials for a price fixe dinner or lunch.  In general, I’ve found that restaurants begrudgingly accept Groupons.  Such is not the case with Brasserie 33.  They are thrilled to have their Groupon patrons! And don’t let the price fixe setup scare you away, either– the price fixe menu features the restaurants best loved dishes in ample portions.

I love that Brasserie 33 has a small wine list, but that you can also bring your own, with a small corkage fee.  You can’t have a French meal without wine, and our wine fridge has been overflowing lately (yes, we are wine fridge people…truth be told, we have two wine fridges!) so it was nice to have the luxury of a dinner out but also get to enjoy some of that wine that has been crowding up the house.

The price fixe menu includes the selection of a soup or salad, an appetizer to share, an entree and a dessert.  Each dish we tried was rich, flavorful and all around delicious.

I started my meal with the French Onion Soup.

This soup was perfect.  The only potential downside was that it was extremely filling.  In my typical style, I couldn’t bear to only eat some of it.  I ate it all, and as a result was already pretty full by the time we moved on to the starters.

For our starter, we shared the escargot.  I can’t recall what all the options were, but Mr. Beez and I did have quite a time trying to decide between them.

The escargot was a bit heavy with garlic, but it was prepared well and very tasty.

For my entree, I had the blanquette de veau.

Oh wow was this amazing.  It is an absolutely perfect comfort food. The stew was creamy and the flavors subtle.  I was pretty full even by the time I started this, but the taste was so delicious that I ate it slowly, waiting for digestion to give me just a little more room in my belly to keep eating.  Slowly but surely, I finished the whole darn thing.  I needed a nap afterward, boy did I ever.

Mr. Beez opted for the cassoulet, and he was extremely pleased with his selection as well

Again, Brasserie 33 was right on the mark with a flavorful offering that warmed the belly.

Even though we hardly had room for dessert, we stubbornly refused to depart without indulging in sweets.  I went for my usual favorite of a creme brulee and a coffee.  The custard was cold and crust was sweet and crispy, so delicious.

The staff was friendly and attentive, quick to fill our glasses, and eager to make sure that we were enjoying our meal.  We had a truly lovely date.  I noticed that there were several negative reviews on UrbanSpoon, and found our experience was not at all like the bad customer service described.  Our visit was very early in the evening with all the olds, so we avoided the issue of a busy or overwhelmed staff.  I’m an old boring lady and like going to dinner early anyway.  I’m too hungry to wait til 8pm to eat!

Brasserie 33 on Urbanspoon

Some Sunday Sunshine

24 Feb

The gray gray sky, every single day. It’s too much. I need some sunshine. I’ve been turning my desk lamp on at work and that has helped a little, but I think I need to just go for it and buy one of those full-spectrum SAD lights that I’ve had my eye on for the last few years, but have never had the heart to plunk the cash down for.

The tipping point for me joining Weight Watchers and steeling my resolve to get to the darn gym was because a few months back, I hit an all time low with energy. It was like I was riding from coffee to coffee, just to keep myself functional.  I was getting enough sleep at night, but I wasn’t feeling rested in the day.  I knew that it would not get any better until I changed my habits.  I’ve still been fatigued, the short days and lack of sunlight do not help.  Yesterday, finally, I had a breakthrough!  I had energy! I was excited to get to the gym, and once there, I hopped on the treadmill and ran a whole 30 minutes!  The last time I ran was probably in October, and even then the longest stretch was about 12 minutes.  But yesterday, a whole 30 minutes! Victory!

I had a successful week at Weight Watchers, and I’m getting excited to hit my 10% goal in a few weeks and go SHOPPING!  I don’t have any specific ideas yet, but how cute are these:

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Mr. Beez says that no way no how do I need any more shoes, but how fun would it be to have some sunny kicks to up my energy at the gym?

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I’ve been grateful that work has been at the manageable end of the crazy-spectrum lately which has given me the flexibility and opportunity to focus on my health and well being.  I realized yesterday that March is going to be full-speed-ahead.  I’ve got an article, a significant brief,  a trial and a conference presentation all on my plate.  Feast or famine, folks. But I think that I am finally feeling refreshed from this somewhat quieter time, and I’m excited and ready to take on all these tasks.

Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscavage Hill (2013)

23 Feb

I love secrets. Boy oh boy do I love secrets.  That is one of my favorite parts of my job, that I get to learn all kinds of secrets.  I have to keep them all locked up in my head, but the fun part is knowing them in the first place.  In Beyond Belief: Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Jenna Miscavage Hill (niece of David Miscavage, the leader of the Church of Scientology) shares all the secrets.  She has escaped, she is mad, and she is not holding back.

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I went into this book with my sole source of education on Scientology being that South Park episode.  I expected there to be tons of strange religious ritual and extraterrestrial worship, but it turns out that life in the core of Scientology is more about manipulation, punishment and power.  What I found to be the most shocking is how families in the Sea Org (the core of the church, so to speak) were so often split up, with wives, husbands, and children each in separate states or countries, and how by that point Scientology was so embedded within them, that they did not question it.  I know if someone told me that I was being ordered to move away from my family for some undefined period of time, it would not go over too well.

I read a fair number of these terrible ordeal kinds of autobiographies, and it’s unfortunate that in terms of writing quality, they frequently have the same flat, conversational tone.  There are plenty of writers who pen autobiographies who are magnificently skilled and produce amazing work– Jeannette Walls, Cheryl Strayed, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs to name a few.  But when I see an autobiography on the shelf that is written “with the assistance of” some journalist or another, I know that the story itself better be full of gripping twists and turns, because the writing itself isn’t going to do much for me.  While this book likely will not win any literary awards, it was interesting to get a glimpse inside the strange and secretive world of Scientology.  I can’t imagine this book interesting everyone, but if you’ve got a nebby, gossipy, curious side to you, it wouldn’t hurt to pick it up.

Argo (2012)

21 Feb

I probably would have never bothered to see Argo at all if it weren’t for all those darn award nominations. And I fully intended to write this post about how Ben Affleck is all talk and no walk, and the movie is totally overrated, and the academies don’t know what they’re doing and give totally predictable nominations and bla bla bla.

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Then I saw the movie.  Argo is excellent.  Even though I am fully gung ho on the Beasts of the Southern Wild bandwagon, I would not fret one little bit if Argo swept the Oscars this weekend instead.

Although I love spy movies, I am consistently bored with movies focused on the retelling of historical events.  That’s a weird way to describe a genre, because isn’t almost every movie a retelling of a historical event in a way? But you know what I mean.  Telling me that a film is about the Iranian hostage crisis is a surefire way to get me to not care about it, hence my complete lack of interest up until award noms were handed out.

argo_ver7Argo is full of suspense. And it’s exciting. And it’s got a million actors I love in it (Alan Arkin! Brian Cranston! That woman who played the girlfriend of the reporter in American Horror Story:Asylum!) Even though you have a general idea of how the whole thing will play out since it already happened, I was on the edge of my seat and biting my nails every moment of the way.

Touche Ben Affleck, touche. You really can make a film.

Musings on Weight Watchers

20 Feb

I’m coming up on six months of participation in Weight Watchers.  At first I felt very proud about that, and then I realized how much (or little) weight I have lost in that time period, and I felt pretty crummy.  Weight Watchers is known for slow weight loss.  In my case, it has gone at a glacial pace.  When I feel down about it, I look at the big chart of my weight, and it does show a steady downward slope.  The first 5% of my weight loss came fairly easily, but I’ve had a heckuva time making it to 10%.  I just cashed in a ton of credit card points for an Athleta gift card, and I’ve promised myself some fancy workout gear when I make it to the 10%.

I cannot tie myself to the scale as my only measure.  I’ve noticed some big milestones in this slow journey.  Once tight clothes are fitting better, and clothes that once fit are entirely too loose.  I’ve become more enthusiastic about working out, and have gone from working out once a week (or once every two weeks) to a steady three times per week.  I’ve even put aside the excuses and worked out occasionally during lunchtime.

I’m most proud that the choices have started becoming easier.  It helps that Mr. Beez and I are trying to cut back on dining out, but even when we go to restaurants, it no longer feels like an epic battle between the entree I desperately want and the entree I think I should have.  This is not to say I always make the lowest calorie choice, but no longer does every selection have to be the most decadent plate available.  It is becoming easier for me to make the healthier selection when it’s a run of the mill dinner out, and save the over-the-top ridiculoso selections for special meals.  It’s becoming easier for me to grab (and be happy about) fruits and vegetables as a snack, instead of granola bar after granola bar after granola bar.  Gradually, the magnitude of my “blow it out of the water” days has lessened.  A bad day today is far less bad than a bad day six months ago.

My health generally has had some positive progress.  I wish I could say that I have more energy all the time, but at least I have more energy on the days that I’m working out.  As long as I eat regularly and balanced meals, I no longer have blood sugar crashes.

From my participation in meetings, I’ve learned some invaluable mantras:  A gain isn’t failure, it’s feedback.  Weight Watchers is forever, and if I didn’t do well this week, I’ve got next week to get it back on track.

Good lord I’ve got a long way to go, and it is taking forever to get there.  But with these little steps, there are little successes, and I need to keep moving.