Hi,

Yes, I’m still alive.  June is going to be my second highest grossing month since opening, and I did it without a weekday housekeeper.  That will be changing shortly, but a past guest motivated me to talk about composting some more.  Now remember, I am not an expert, but the results I’m seeing this year (my second) compared to last year is amazingly better.  First of all, the best way to compost is in a manufactured composting bin.  Things will compost out in the open, it is nature for things to rot when dead.  But with a bin you can control things that make the process more efficient.  A problem with composting is it can draw rodents.  The bin’s are designed with air vents to let lots of air in, but keep rodents out.  If you live somewhere with raccoons, the lid can twist to secure the contents (raccoons are pretty clever and know how to lift the lid from your trash can or compost bin).  When you first set your compost bin up, it needs to be placed on open dirt so the worms and microbes can get in.  Rodents burrow, so you need to place a wire mesh down so the little guys can get in and the big guys can’t.  (It takes a little while for the microbes to find your bin.  You can buy an additive from a home and garden store, or just stop out in the woods and collect a pile of moldy leaves in a trash bag).  When I harvested my first load of compost this spring, it was all muck.  My good friend (and the editor of my manuscript), Myra is an avid composter and told me my percentage of green to brown was wrong, I had way to much green.  Green are your kitchen scraps.  Things like apple peelings and cores, potato peelings, celery trimmings, etc.  Remember if you are going to compost something large like melon rinds, you should cut them up into smaller pieces so our little friends can be more efficient.  The browns are your leaves, thatch, etc.  I have a pile of leaves from last fall, but they won’t last this whole season, so as I weed and trim, I have a pile next to what is already brown and will use them up next.  Composting is the exact opposite of sanitation.  Basically, in sanitation harmful bacteria need food (so you keep your kitchen clean), water (our ancestors dried food for storage), temperature (we refrigerate perishable food until use) and air (we don’t leave perishable food sitting on the counter). (The other factor in sanitation is Ph, with composting the only thing you need to be concerned with here is be careful not to over load with a ton of citrus).  When composting we now provide food (green and brown), keep it damp, the composting bin helps hold the warmth when it gets cold and is well ventilated (besides the air slots, you need to turn you concoction regularly and mix it all up).  A rough analogy, but I thought it was relevant.  What I did wrong my first season, was I used way too much green to brown.  Myra said I should do 1/4 green to 3/4 brown and really seems to be working much better this year. Never compost meat and bones.  I don’t compost vegetable matter that’s coated with fat (butter, oil, etc) after cooking.  When I make quiche, frattata, etc, I just blanch the vegetables with steam, I don’t think a little salt & pepper will hurt.  :)  I have never noticed an offensive odor, even at the compost bin.  There are a ton of fruit flies and such in and right around the bin, but my gecko swing is only about five feet from the bin and I’ve never had a guest complain about bugs, nor have I seen them there.  I do have a problem here with slugs (I go out late at night with a flash light and stomp on them, rather disgusting, but better than putting chemicals down) and I have found them (and their babies) in the bin, which I just swat.  Last year I added my egg shells and when I harvested the compost this spring, they were fairly intact.  Myra says they are hard to compost and can take up to two years.  I’m thinking if I get my little factory over there in that black bin working efficiently this year, I may try adding some egg shells next year and see how it works.  A final note, there’s all kinds of bins out there that you can buy at home and garden stores or on line with all kinds of prices.   The state has a program to encourage composting and they send people out to hold composting classes.  Included is the compost bin, so for about $40 bucks, you get classes and a very sturdy bin.  I’m sorry I don’t still have the info on this, it’s from last year, but I’m sure you can find it by Googling it.

I had a visit by the blood suckers last week.  Allegheny County has a budget deficit and so they seem to have hired these young, just out of college people to canvass small lodging establishments trying to make some money for the county.  I am in no position to comment on my fellow small businesses, but I don’t have the time or inclination to steal from the County.  I have been giving tax exempt non profits the benefit of not having to pay the bed tax.  Apparently non profits aren’t worthy of their tax exempt status by the County and I have to pay $300  for the four years I have been in operation.  I’m OK with that (me paying, not their refusal to grant non profits tax exempt status).  In four years, the County thinks I underpaid $300 in bed tax also.  (Actually, I’m quite impressed that there’s only $300 in dispute in four years of operation).  I’m OK with that also, mistakes happen and maybe I did.  What I have a problem with is they are only giving my CPA four days to counter what they planned for three weeks, spent four days mulling over all my books.  They want his rebuttal in my Thursday so they can enjoy their extended holiday weekend.  What BS, maybe if the County worked as hard as small businesses, they might be able to provide services at a reasonable tax rate. OK OK, enough of my whining.

I think in my last blog, I talked about moving one of the hibiscus, which I did.  He’s mad at me, but surviving.  A little stunted (actually a lot stunted), but living and I’m sure will be happier in his new home.  I hope to take out the sea grasses this week.  I think I probably have another two weeks before their seeds ripen.  OMG, I swear every seed from last year sprouted.  I think I will have time to run out to that greenhouse in Allison Park, LMS Greenhouse & Nursery and get some replacement plants tomorrow.  The Arondo donex along the front fence (the plants that everyone thinks are corn) are as tall as I am already.  The elephant ears, my favorite, are waist high looking quite nice.  The new banana plants seem quite happy and are growing above all their surrounding cousins (ferns and claira belles).  The Veronica’s have their mildew again, I’m spraying them with an anti fungal, but I hate using any chemicals other than food and they have a limited life here.  Guess what, I have a zucchini.  It’s from a seed from last year.  I wasn’t going to grow them again because they are prone to that mildew also.  I guess I’ll see what happens this year.  I have a problem with aphids in the oak tree in the “Beach”.  Last year I got lady bugs and they really helped.  I noticed the aphid poop on the deck under the tree a couple of weeks ago and finally remembered to the the lady bugs.  But even without getting them in the early spring, the poop is a lot less than last year.  Way to go lady bugs, you go for it.  :)

Tricia & Kirk got married here last weekend.  I think it was my first wedding this year that it didn’t rain.  :)  They did a first, they actually had the ceremony “on the beach”.  It worked quite well and a little different.  Usually the couple’s back is to the guests and the officiant is facing the guests.  Tricia wanted to actually get married in the sand and they faced the Courtyard with the officiant standing on the deck.  I personally really liked looking the officiant’s back the the bridal couple.  You know, maybe I have no memory, but I swear each bride looks like the most beautiful bride ever.  Tricia was gorgeous.  It was a nice event, Jay’s group from Catered Elegance did a real nice job great food and service and poor Elaine, the Captain, had to take some grief from one of the guests before I stepped in.  She handled herself very well.  We had two temp bar tenders and they recycled so well that I only have one beer case that’s missing maybe three bottles.  The guests were some beer drinkers.  Chris from Wilkensburg Beer Distributors didn’t have to come back to pick up any full cases.  That also was a first.  Chris’s daughter got married here two years ago and we have an arrangement that he takes the credit card number, delivers what ever is ordered (he’ll advise you on how much to order), pick up the full cases after the event and only charge on consumption.  His prices are competitive and a very nice service for my brides.

OK, I lied.  I’m going to whine a little one more time.  When I’m at the desk, I usually have the TV on low as back ground.  For the past while back, I’ve had the Reggae station on and I actually get to see the name of the artist, song and CD and have been writing it down on a tablet when a song comes on I really like.  Itunes doesn’t seem to be very interested in Reggae, I haven’t found one of them on they list.  I’m far from an expert, but they should hire me as a consultant to beef up their offerings.  :)

Well, the linen should be finished in the dryer by now.  I’m going to finish my last two rooms and then play in the garden some.  No check-ins today, so da boiz are guaranteed a run in the park.  They don’t know this yet, but I assure you it will make their day.

Have a great day and I’ll be back sooner than the last time,

ed

Hi,

I started this post a week ago and am just now getting back to it.  Last week was quite the week, I was fairly busy during the week with no week day housekeeper and then Meghan & Mark’s wedding for 130 guests on Saturday and then breakfast for 24 on Sunday (more on this later).  I had Derronda detail the five rooms she did on Sunday and so I just finished my three and am free to get back to my blog.

Food for thought, the new hockey arena, the Consul Energy Center will be opening for the new hockey season (two concerts first) and they are going to tear down the 50+ year old Pittsburgh icon.  I love Da Igloo, it is such an Iconic building.  So unique.  The City and County “fathers” are obsessed with tearing down this wonderful and unique structure.  Is there anyone in America that sees a picture of da Igloo that doesn’t know it’s Pittsburgh?  There is a group of local preservation’s fighting it, I hope they win.  Anyway, I digress, this building has been around for over fifty years, and when they tear it down, there’s a NINE MILLION DOLLAR MORTGAGE that needs to be settled.  OMG, could you imagine owning your house and after fifty some years, still owing a ton of money on it?  I think banks, credit reporting agencies and your neighbors would have some pretty unpleasant things to say about you and your irresponsible behavior.

I have absolutely the nicest guests.  As anyone that’s read my past couple of blogs, I no longer have a weekday housekeeper.  So I’ve been busy cleaning rooms.  I have this guest that’s been here for a bit and I’ve been refreshing/cleaning his room.  I haven’t found any trash in his trash can  or room since he checked in.  Then I noticed yesterday he was carrying out the debris from a fast food dinner he must have had the night before. I assume he was carrying it down the street towards where he’s working and dropping his trash in one of the sidewalk trashcans.   It’s not uncommon for me to see guests carrying in their dirty dishes into the kitchen, I’ve actually caught guests trying to wash their own dishes if I wasn’t in the kitchen to catch them.

I was on the deck in the beach this weekend and realized I had not ordered ladybugs this year.  (How could I tell, aphid secrete a sticky poop).  My neighborhood has an aphid infestation and last year I bought 4,500 ladybugs and it certainly dropped the number of aphids in my oak tree.  (How could I tell, a reduced amount of aphid poop & stickiness).  So I ordered another 4,500 tonight.  By the way, ladybugs aren’t the most intelligent creature on earth.  By instinct, they move up.  So as directed, when they arrived last year, I ripped the top of the plastic bag open and nailed the the bag up about ten feet from the ground on the oak tree.  A week later, I still had a ton of ladybugs hanging out in the bag.  So I upended it and made them all fall out into the sand and I let them fend for themselves.

So back to this weekend’s wedding.  Everyone had a great time, Jay did a real nice job with the food and his staff were very accommodating as usual.  A couple of weeks ago, Meghan contacted me.  The center pieces she planned was a “nest” of twigs with a pineapple in the center with it’s spikey leaves on top spray painted gold (Meghan’s very much into peacocks and so she added the top of a peacock feather in each pineapple top).  She asked me if I could incorporate her pineapples into breakfast Sunday morning.  An easy one was pineapple parfaits.  But I wanted to use the pineapples as the entree also.  So I talked to my good friend Lisa from Fabled Table and she gave me some recipes and I did an on line search and came up with a Paula Dean recipe I found interesting.  So I blended several recipes basically baking pineapple, cheddar, flour and crackers.  Note to self, always try a new recipe before trying to cook it for the first time for twenty-four people.  The flavor was there, I didn’t like the consistency.  So I’ve changed the recipe in my mind and will be using my guests this weekend a guinea pigs for attempt #2.  Beware new people this weekend.  :)  (actually Lisa & Bill are regulars).

My friend Tony that runs a greenhouse at Penn State main campus (we went to college together up there) said I can move the hibiscus out of the shade this summer.  The plant will be stunted, and I’ll have to water it frequently, but it should survive.  I’m going to do this because the next time him and Sue come down to PGH, he’s going to bring a Meadow Rue that takes the shade better than the hibiscus.  I’ve looked it up on line and it seems like it will be a welcome addition to the gardens.  The Rondo donax are waist high, the new banana plants are rapidly growing, the elephant ears are thigh high.  One plant I’m going to remove are the sea grasses.  Even though I really like the look of the sea grasses, you have no idea how much they like me.  I have weeded hundreds of their off spring out at least six times.  My elk horn is still struggling, Tony told me what I was doing wrong and I’ve corrected it, but it may be too late.  Plants are like inertia, even though they are alive, at some point they just pretty much give up.  I’ll keep working with it for another week and if I don’t see it responding, I’ll go back to that nursery in Shaler I’ve talked about in the past and get a new one.

I’ve sent my good friend (and customer) Myra my 50k updated manuscript and she’s busy on editing it.  In fact, she just sent me a section that made absolutely no sense.  When I read it, I knew what I was trying to express, but as she pulled those words out of the manuscript, it was pretty funny.  Also, a couple of visits ago we talked about my “composting” and she gave me some tips on how to improve my composting.  When I turn the compost in my bin, it’s night and day over last year (mainly, I was using way too much compost to brown material [leaves, grass clippings, etc]).  Thanx twice Myra.

Good night,

ed

Hi,

Pretty impressive, making an entry just two days after my last.  :)  Pretty intense storms here last night.  I was on my way back from Betty’s when they hit.  Route 51 was down to one lane in both directions as we fished from passing to slow lanes to find the lowest water levels.  I didn’t have any damage here (other than the TVs in the Carriage House).  Denny from Global Satellite stopped by (this is the second time I called for service and he was working right down the street) and some how the storm fried the switch that splits the signal from the dish to the individual  TVs.

Remember my story a few blogs back about Mod Cloth?  I had some couples sitting at the breakfast table and we were all chatting.  I started telling my story about Mod Cloth naming a dress & skirt after The Parador and I noticed the couple from Canada start chatting among themselves.  Here she’s a fan of Mod Cloth.  How funny is that.  Also, Mod Cloth was in the newspaper last week, they just got a financing package for almost $20 million.  I had no idea they up in that level of play.  Remember, you heard about them here first.  :)

Speaking of past posts, in my May 2 blog I talked about the gentleman that set up The Urban Tree Forge out in the East End of the City.  He would take City trees that had to be cut down and bring them to his shop and create works of art out of them.  If he didn’t sculpt a statue kind of a thing, he may cut them into flooring, or boards to create furniture out of.  Very cool concept.  I read in the paper last week that he was outside his shop, wearing safety goggles, ear protection and running his chain saw when some people were returning a rented truck that was attached to another truck when it broke loose and struck him from behind.  My condolences to his family.  The main reason I am posting this is I hope people use my blog as a reference for things to do and I don’t want someone try and look him up and find out the hard way of this bizarre accident.

I found this really cool little shop at the entrance to South Park.  Any of you south hills locals, where Route 88 curves around in front of the park and starts up the hill towards Library, there’s Simply Divine.  Years ago it was an ice cream shop, then a pizza place and lastly a gyro shop.  Apparently they tore the gyro shop down to the cement pad and built this new building, when I drove past, I couldn’t imagine how they remodeled that old building to look as it does now.  Any way, they carry all hand made items either American made or fair trade from the third world.  Prices are pretty good also.

Meghan and Mark are getting married here next weekend.  She’s using pineapples as her center pieces and wants me to use them for breakfast.  So my good friend Lisa from Fabled Table is giving me a recipe for a dish similar to the mushroom strattata I make (but with pineapples instead of mushrooms) and we’ll also have pineapple parfaits.

Charles and Kelley visited from NYC a couple of days ago.  Kelley left me some vintage glass bottles.  What’s funny about this is one of the thousands of projects I have on “the back burner” is an idea I saw about natural air fresheners.  I hate those Glade plug in type of scents that smell so artificial.  I saw an idea where you take vintage bottles, fill them with water or oil, depending on the nature of the scent you are using and then place a reed diffuser stick in them to wick the aroma up.  I have the link to the source for the reed diffuser sticks and the recipes on how to set these up.  Now that I have bottles, I guess I better get the lead out.  :)  If anyone’s interested in the details, just send me an E-mail and I’ll get back to you.

The City Paper, a local weekly newspaper that specializes in entertainment also came out with their summer edition.  The next time I blog, I’ll start covering info from them about summer concerts, etc.

Thanx and bye,

ed

Hi,

Wow, a week has gone by.  Remnants of last night’s storms are still hanging around.  It got pretty intense here, worse in other areas around Pittsburgh.  Over an inch fell and they had several feet rushing down some streets.  A good soaking for the plants.  The plants are all doing well (one hibiscus is struggling).  The Arrondo Donex along the front fence are already waist high already (the two foot tall wire fence Stephen put up to block da boiz from racing threw them has worked great and kept da boiz from trampling them).  Both new bananas have new leaves, so they’re settled in and I think they will like their location better than the last bananas I had.  The one hibiscus that gets the most sun is almost a foot tall (the shadier one is only about four inches).  The Angelica gigi (crack cocaine for bees), one of my favorite plants has a bunch of new shoots also.  My new elk horn fern that I planted on a piece of drift wood is struggling a good bit, I think I may have planted it incorrectly.  I’m going to shoot my friend Tony an E-mail for advise there.  And everyone’s favorites, the elephant ears are still short, but bunches of them are jumping up.  I mentioned that Maria & Frank (my first wedding here) spent their anniversary here two weeks ago.  Well, Maria brought here photo album and it’s amazing how much the gardens have matured and filled in.  One thing that I will be taking out are the sea grasses.  I swear every seed from their beards grew new ones, what a weeding chore.  I’ll let them hang out until right before they seed, then they’re out of here.  :)  Also, something’s eating my basil and cilantro, I think it’s slugs.  I’ve seen some of their trails on the sidewalks.  I’ll have to go out at night with a flash light and find the little buggers.

We had a wedding this past weekend.  Kate & Charlie had their ceremony here and then the reception.  They looked great, their florist did a real nice job with flowers, cake flower (out of icing) etc going well together.  Jay’s food was excellent as always.  We did have a few “back of the house” issues that were resolved and the guests were never aware of.  Then their Aunt Ann hosted a brunch for them, it was supposed to be about 40 guests, they ended up with fifty.  Bam, one of Jay’s chef’s did a great job keeping up with the omelets.

Apparently, my weekday housekeeper Stephen quit.  He was scheduled Friday and called to say he probably wouldn’t be in because of an issue with one of his knees.  I never heard from him again.  He was supposed to work Monday and never showed up.  When I called him, I got voice mail.  I left a message yesterday and never heard from him.  It’s shame to end a job like that.  He would have had such a glowing recommendation from me.  Now, if a future employer calls, I will say what a great employee he was, BUT that he quit with no notice.  In all my years as a manager and significant hirer, I would never hire someone that quit with no notice.

That’s one of the reasons for the lapse in blogging, besides getting ready for and running the wedding over the weekend, I had to do housekeeping duties Friday and Monday (in addition to what else I have to do).  OK, I’ll quit whining now.

Myra was in last night with her son Alex (she’s the one that runs a cyber school in Pennsylvania and she and her husband Phil are considering doing their own B & B out around Harrisburg).  I’m sure I’ve talked about Myra here in the past, she’s the one that gave me the baked oatmeal recipe (that of course I changed).  When she told me that her and Phil were considering buying that B & B out by where they live, I sent her a copy of my manuscript.  She found it to be very useful and offered to edit it, which I agreed to.  What she edited was AMAZING.  I have great ideas, and a lot of information to offer, but I am not real clear sometimes.  What she edited had such a better flow.  She’s finished with school this weekend and offered to edit the entire manuscript.   THANK YOU MYRA.  :)

The Northside Initiative is having a meeting here this afternoon.  They are mainly East Ohio Street merchants (East Ohio Street and Western Avenue are basically the same street, the names change several times and the old Allegheny Center Mall block direct access).  Since the day I moved here, I have supported the reconnecting of the two districts.  The old Allegheny Center Mall is the poster child of failed urban renewal that had all the wrong elements.  They destroyed the old market place that was historic and the center of the old Allegheny City.  They tore this and other historically significant buildings down in the 1960’s desire to bring the suburbs into the City.  Instead, they destroyed historic buildings, divided communities and created a useless piece of real estate on one of the most important pieces of real estate in the City.  They could relatively easily reconnect East Ohio to West Ohio Streets, there’s no buildings in the way.  They could even reconnect Federal Street back down to East/West Ohio (again there’s no buildings there).  That would be the biggest thing they could do to really kick start Northside’s renaissance.  As I’ve said in this blog, 90+% of the economy is fueled by small businesses.  In stead of spending millions subsidizing the Steeler’s stadium that has maybe twelve events in a year), PNC Park, the new amphitheater (which we are subsidizing), we should be directing funds to reconnecting these streets and I guarantee the business district of the Northside would explode (in a good way :) ).  At the very least, take down the stupid No Turn On Red signs all around the old Allegheny Center Mall and time the traffic lights so you can make it around that hulking piece of useless real estate without having to stop at each intersection.

The tickets I got from the Carnegie’s are quite the hit.  I’ve only had them for about a month and need to order more.  I don’t know if people that would normally be booking here are taking advantage of them or if I’m getting reservations because of their availability.  (I am a little corporate sponsor of the Carnegie and one of the benefits is I get tickets to the Warhol and the Carnegie at half price.  Most places work them into a special, instead I decided to offer them as a special in and of them selves.  This way anyone one visiting me can take advantage of them and they are not only for people signing up for a particular packaged special).

Well, that’s about it for today, I promise it won’t be a week for me to add a new entry.

ed