Hi,

You may ask, “Why did ed put the time in today?”  Well, that’s because I just finished the breakfast dishes.  No, I haven’t been sloven (I love that word and have been wanting to use it forever).  The notoriously inept Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority had a water main break outside my Inn yesterday afternoon and we didn’t have water until mid afternoon.  My poor guests were real troupers, I kept them as informed as I could about the situation, offered the limited options they had and got each room a gallon of bottled water.  I ended up flushing the powder room toilet with water I scooped out of the water feature in the elephant ear garden.  PWSA has a special place in my heart, any of you that have listened to my tirade about them costing me $42,000 when I was trying to open know why, (if your interested, just ask me next visit).  PWSA almost put me out of business before I even opened.  This summer has had a rash of water main breaks.  They have no capital plan to replace our aging system and it’s only going to get worse.  They need to develop a plan for all water and sewer line replacement.  Survey the system and prioritize the areas with the oldest and most unreliable lines and put a dollar figure on it and a ten to twenty year plan to replace these ancient pipes (I hear that some are still wooden logs, I don’t know if that’s true).  PWSA missed the boat with the stimulus package.  If they had this in place a year ago, I bet with some effort, they could have gotten this kick started.  For this reason alone, heads should roll.  $42k, I’d be happy to start the head rolling.  :)

Speaking of heads rolling, let me rant on one more of my favorite topics, Port Authority of Allegheny County.  Steven Bland, the head of it should get the boot.  His way of dealing with financial crisis is to whine about not having enough money and threatening to cut services and staff until someone bails him out.  They built that white elephant parking garage at South Hills Village Mall at the end of the T, for a fortune, that sits empty.  They missed the boat several years ago when the Ft Pitt Tunnels had to close for a major renovation and there was federal money set aside to alleviate the traffic problems that was going to create.  The money ended up going to a very nice fly over interchange at the mouth of the Liberty Tubes instead of a high speed or light rail system servicing the west hills (and airport).  Now they’re extending the T system to the Northshore  that is way over budget and they keep asking for more money.  Instead, they should have run the T out to Oakland.  If Oakland wasn’t part of the City of Pittsburgh, it would be the third largest city in the state.  Don’t get me wrong, I like having the T over here, when it opens, it will be a nice amenity for my guests.  But from a practical stand point, the money should have gone to an Oakland line.  Now they’re looking into spending more money on an automated payment system.  Why not look into expenses and live within their means.  Number one, move their offices from their Ivory Tower Downtown into one of the many empty buildings they own over here on the Northside.  Another way to save money is to get rid of all those big buses that run half full or empty so much of the time.  They know how many passengers ride on any given route, on the slower routes, replace the big  buses with little ones.  The smaller buses would be cheaper to buy and operate.  They would also pollute less. They would lessen congestion and they could pay the drivers less.  No, I’m not anti-union, I’m anti-waste.  Unions have fought hard to raise wages of the common man.  But big unions are like big businesses, set in their way and inflexible.  Look what happened to GM.  To respect seniority and the unions, I feel the new smaller buses should be purchased and the pay rate should be set appropriately less than the drive of a big bus.  Staff these buses with tenured drivers at the higher rate.  Through attrition, when Port Authority needs to hirer new drivers, they get the lower rate driving the smaller buses.  They can work their way up to the higher rate that the big buses warrant.  To me, this is a win win across the board.  They unions win by granting concessions in financial troubling times, the Port Authority wins because they lower costs and most of all, the riders win because they are not facing continued raising fares and cutting services.  Most of the bus  ridership are people struggling to make ends meet, many juggling two or more jobs and cutting service and raising rates are the worst thing you can do for this people.   One final and shocking quote from the Port Authority, when I first moved back to PGH and the T extension hadn’t started yet, the newspaper asked them if they were going to expand the service for game days and special events over here on the Northside.  The spokesperson said “No, we can’t pay overtime”.  65,000 people attending a Steeler’s home game and they’re going to run on a traditional slow Sunday schedule.  In the next newspaper, the quickly changed their story on that.  :)

OK, I promise not to rant again for at least a week.  Any of you looking for a last minute thing to do this weekend, “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” is playing at the Melwood Screening Room out in Oakland.  Shows are 7:30 and 9:30 on Friday and Saturday and then Sunday in the afternoon at 3 and 5.  This is one of those campy movies that has drawn huge crowds across the country, mainly from word of mouth.  It’s like the old SciFi movie “Plan from Planet 9″.

Lastly, there’s a new brew your own beer place opening in Greenfield.  These places have risen in popularity and lost popularity over the years.  This will be PGH’s only.  It’s an adjunct to Hough’s bar and restaurant in an old hardware store.  They have all the equipment and you pick from thirty some recipes and they supply the ingredients.  They’re opening with six kettles, each one makes about five cases of beer and they range in price from $100 to $180 for everything, even the expertise on how to do it.  They plan on opening this fall.

Now that the breakfast dishes are done, I’ve blogged and have water, I’m going to go out and water my thirst plants in the parking lot and sidewalk.  Have a great one,

ed

Hi,

Holy cow, I don’t blog for two weeks, now I’m blogging again in two days!

The sea oats days are definitely numbered now.  (The sea oats are the plants that I swear very seed sprouted new ones and I must have thousands I need to weed out).  I went out to the nursery by Hartwood Acres I’ve been going to lately and picked up this very cool Kopper King Hibiscus.  It starts with pink on the outside of the flower to deep red in the center.  But that’s not why I got it, it has these really cool copper colored leaves.  They’re the traditional size and shape of hibiscus leaves, just that cool color.  Then I got a Crocosmia Lucifer, it reminds me of the Hawaiian Heliconia.  I had heliconias in Florida and miss them.  In fact, now that I’m thinking of them, maybe I’ll look around for one to place in the Sun Room.  I’ve never been real successful with getting them to bloom, maybe I’ll have better luck up here in a controlled environment.  Finally, I got an Amsonia bubrectii.  They get some nice blue flowers in the spring, but what I liked about this plant was the foliage.  It has these long narrow leaves that fill each stalk kind of like a pencil cactus, but much softer and bushier.

Speaking of Hartwood Acres, they’re having the annual Blues Festival this Saturday.  I believe it benefits the Pittsburgh Food Bank if anyone is interested in going to it.  Click on the link to go to Hartwood Acres web site for details.

I finally experimented with essential oils for scents in the rooms.  You can either fill a small decorative bottle with cheap vodka & a few drops of an essential oil or with mineral oil and the essential oil.  Then you place a couple of reed defusers in the mixture for about fifteen minutes, then reverse them and the wick sends the scents up and out into the room.  You can get the defusers from Save on Crafts, they sell about 100 for about $10.  My first one I did with baby oil, but it has the fragrance of the baby oil in addition to the lavender.  So I need to find plain mineral oil, I imagine if I can’t get it at Home Depot or Lowes, probably a craft store or beauty supply shop should carry plain mineral oil.  This evening I’m going to try the recipe for vodka and essential oil and see how I like that.

There’s three small local museums I’ve been meaning to talk about.  Photo Antiquities right over on East Ohio Street is an interesting place.  On display is quite the collection of Victorian, Civil War, the aftermath of various disasters and other interesting pictures.  He only has room to display a small portion of all the pictures he has.  The fee is only $6.50, but a caution, don’t go there on a really hot day, the A/C struggles.  If you don’t know Bernie’s Photo’s (which most non Pittsburghers wouldn’t), it is a camera institution here in Pittsburgh that’s been around for years and Photo Antiquities is an off shoot.

An other small museum is just up by Sharpsburg, Bayernhof Museum.  The rambling mansion is the creation of an eccentric business man, Charles Brown that was very interested in the odd.  There’s quite the collection of automatons and other mechanically operated displays like “bird boxes” from the early 1900′s which use tiny slide whistles, organ pipes and turn of the century technology that brings the displays to life.  There’s even a subterranean cave with waterfalls, pools, stalactites and stalagmites.  It’s a very odd and interesting place.

The final museum is the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in West Homestead.  It tells the story of the growth of the steel industry in Pittsburgh including the the deadly Homestead Strike where unions really got their start.  (Pittsburghers have a history of being cantankerous, we were the home of the whiskey rebellion back in the 1700′s, Mingo Church was right down the street from where I grew up).  If you go to Rivers of Steel, be sure to stop at one of my favorite restaurants, Blue Dust.  There’s not much on their web site, but hours and address, I need to speak to them about that.  But if you go to their web site, note the hours of operation.  Just a hint of how they are.  We’re keeping a theme here, blue dust was a by product of the steel making process and Jerry, Rose & Sarah have kept the theme going with air brushed murals of the steel mills by the local artist that did the oil brushed murals in my Inn, Kathleen Flaherty.   and be sure to ask about the mosaic on the bar the depicts the Homestead Steelworks created by Sarah.  They absolutely have the best smoked brisket sandwich anywhere.  And for you vegans, Sarah is a vegan (or vegetarian, depending on the day :) ) and there’s items on the menu that if they aren’t vegan, can be made so for you.  I have always hated artichoke dip (that nasty stuff made by using that prepackaged Knorr seasoning mix.  I can inhale the entire portion of Sarah’s homemade artichoke dip.

Well, that’s it for today, have a great evening and we’ll talk again soon,

ed

Hi,

Two posts in just four days, I must have a new housekeeper.  :)  How else would I have the time to do this.  Yes, Rick started just over a week ago and is working out great.  When I inspected the three rooms he cleaned yesterday I only find a few very minor issues.  He was a referral from Derronda, the housekeeper I’ve been lucky enough to have for three years now.  Referrals from proven employees are just about always a sure thing.

For you antique-rs, here’s some leads for you.  Artifacts is a shop just across the West End Bridge from here.  The gentleman that opened it several years ago was interviewed in the paper about a year ago and said he wasn’t from Pittsburgh, but chose the location because we are basically half way between New York and Chicago, his major markets.  Many of his pieces puts mine to shame, really high end items.  He’s been so successful that he bought an old church just down the block from his showroom and that now holds his rug collection.

Dargate Auction Galleries just moved their auction house from the East End to McKees Rocks (just down the Ohio river from Artifacts).  They are having their first sale August 28 and 29.  The old social hall is going to be a pre-view room for up coming items to be auctioned.  There’s on site parking and the facility is wheel chair accessible.

Constantine & Pletcher auction house are having a sale this weekend up in Cheswick (about 30 minutes up the Allegheny River from here).  Viewing Friday from noon to five and Sunday from nine until ten in the morning with sales directly after.

Margaret Mutschler who had an antique shop in Leetsdale, is retiring and offering the remainder of her antiques through JS Dill Auctions on July 29 in Zelienople (about an hour north of here).

Finally, Royal York Auction Gallery is auctioning off items from the Mary Phillips estate and more this Saturday at nine in the morning.  Previews are this Thursday from five until eight and Friday, from nine thirty until three in the afternoon.  It is right up Baum Blvd in East Liberty (about twenty minutes from here).

For you vinyl collectors, Charles and Joan just checked out from a four night stay and they collect old records, mainly jazz.  They are always perusing old record shops and where thoroughly impressed with Jerry’s Records in Oakland.  Rooms after rooms filled with old vinyl separated by genre.  They person at the register was a bit colorful, but they had a good time anyway.

Now for a garden update.  My neighbor’s finally embarrassed me enough to plant flowers in the tree pits (that don’t have trees yet) from the reconstruction of my street.  About half of the street’s residents have taken the initiative to plant flowers and I finally broke down and followed suite.  It definitely looks much nicer.

I found the most amazing watering tool.  I’ve seen it around for awhile, but never pursued it.  It’s that wand you attach to your hose and it puts out a ton of water without a lot of pressure (that would damage the plants).  I know, I’m a late bloomer (pun intended), these things have been around for quite awhile and I’m finally catching on.

Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors has taken up residence here.  I had zucchini (an annual) in my garden last year.  I had lots of problems with a mold/fungus on the zucchini as well as on my Veronica’s.  Since the Veronica’s are a perennial I didn’t remove yet (I hate using chemicals, so I’ll replace them with something more durable once I use up the anti fungal chemical left over from last year).  The Veronica’s again have this fungus/mold.   I didn’t replant the zucchini this year, but saw these things growing up where I had planted some nicotiana from my Mom’s house and thought that was them.  Lo and behold, it was zucchini plants.  One of them I swear is growing a foot a day.  I have it trailing along the top of the fence and it doesn’t have any diseases, yet.  The elephant ears are up to my shoulders, the hibiscus I only transplanted once is chest high and ready to bloom (the one I transplanted twice is still mad at me, but hanging in there).  The Arrondo donex along the front fence are all over my head (the plants everyone thinks are corn).  It’s high and dense enough now, that there’s nice privacy from the street and Charles and Joan spent time each afternoon enjoying my “beach”.  It’s great to see guests relaxing and enjoying the various areas I created for them to relax and enjoy.

Have a great day and it won’t be a week before I post another blog, life is good.  :)

ed

Hi,

Sold out last Saturday night, thank you Dave Matthews.  :)  Three of my five check-ins arrived before 1:30.  All very nice people, but as my good friend Kerry would say “I’m gong to blow my brains out”.  :)

I finished “Three Cups of Tea”, by Greg Mortenson the other day.  (I read his second book “Stones to Schools” a while back).  An amazing story about a normal guy taking on educating children in Afghanistan, particularly girls.  An amazing man and story, I highly recommend it.  He started CAI about ten years ago after failing to climb one of the Himalayan mountains.  They are now competing with my favorite charity, Brothers Brother.  Brother’s Brother is an amazing organization.  They have been around for about 50 years and are consistently rated as one of the best charities in that like 95 cents of every dollar donated goes to the people they help.  I’ve been to their headquarters (right around the corner from me) and you can tell all the money goes to the people that need it.  Not that their offices are shabby, but they definitely don’t splurge on mahogany desks.  :)

I recently read an article in the paper about how this recession is changing people’s lives for the better.  More and more people are getting laid off and eventually taking the plunge and starting there own business after getting laid off.  Often with phenomenal results.  A regular guest and good friend, Julie Walker has started her own business (not that she got laid off, she just decided to take the plunge into working for herself).  Like Myra (another regular) is my mentor on my manuscript, Julie is my marketing mentor.  She started a marketing company and is so happy.  Her daughter Devon is starting school at Duquesne this fall and they were in last night because Devon had an orientation today.  Julie says her business is really taking off, even though she just started it a few months ago.  Although her web site isn’t active yet, it will be shortly and it’s address will be www.jwalkersolutions.com.  If you want a marketing person, I highly recommend her.  Her phone number is 717.697.5511.  With so much marketing on the web, you don’t need a marketing partner down the street anymore.

Speaking of the paper, I read an article on a garden I’ve heard of, but haven’t actually been there yet.  Rodef Shalom’s garden out at 4905 Fifth Avenue in Oakland sounds pretty interesting.  And it’s free.  I’ve included a link to their web site, but there’s not much on their site about their gardens.  Their hours are 10-2 Sundays through Thursday, except Wednesdays they are open 7-9 and Saturdays they are open noon – 1.  The will be having guided tours from 12:15-1 p.m. August 6 and September 3.  Their theme this years is wearable green and there are a lot of aromatics like patchouli, rosemary, chamomile, etc and for clothing they have cotton and flax.

Funny RJ story, as I was preparing breakfast on Tuesday, I had the back kitchen door open and I heard a robin chirping.  I walked out the door and RJ was sniffing at a chick and mom was up in the tree hollering at him.   He wasn’t being aggressive, just curious.  So I brought him in the kitchen and closed the door.  An hour or so later, I opened the door and watched him.  He went to where the chick was before and the chick was gone.  So I go about my business and then I hear this commotion out in the Courtyard.  When I came out, the chick was now behind the gecko swing and RJ was again sniffing at it and mom was really PO’d.    And she had reinforcements.  There was three robins dive bombing him and Mr Courageous was ducking and running.  It was too funny.

I just became the #2 rated B & B on TripAdvisor.com, up from #3.  Thanx guys for making favorable comments on me.  :)

Well that’s it for today, have a great weekend.  I’m almost sold out tonight and tomorrow night.  :)

ed

Hi,

It’s been a bit, but you should see me more often soon.  I hope to have my housekeeping issues solved by next week.  Derronda’s picking up three weekday shifts (gotta luv her) and the other two I should have covered soon.  Great news and not so great news.  Great news, June was my third busiest month since opening here.  Not so great news, I’ve been the weekday housekeeper.  :)

There’s a free jazz concert and poetry readying on September 11 with sax star Oliver Lake on the street outside the Mattress Factory.  The poetry reading is sponsored by Asylum Pittsburgh, a very cool organization that has this house over by the Mattress Factory that sponsors dissident poets.  One of the poets will be Khet Mar from Burma.

Also, Phipps Conservatory, my favorite space in the City has added Friday night hours until September 12.  The Victorian greenhouse is featuring their gargoyle show  with Gargoyle Nights.  They are open from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. with guided tours at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  The $20 admission includes the tour, gargoyle bites (BBQ by Chef Joe Colantuono) and $4 fruit, lemonade and vodka cocktails.  For those of you that have been in Phipps during the day, the evening shows are spectacular.  It was the most popular tour during the Dale Chihuly exhibition two years ago.

There was a cool article in The Trib Sunday about drive in movies.  One of them, the Dependable on Moon Clinton Road (out toward the airport from here) is doing quite well.  It only has had two owners since it opened in 1960 and current owners bought it in the 60′s a few years after it opened.  In the 80′s it showed adult films, but switched back to general interest a while back and does quite well.  It has four screens now.  An amazing thing is it is open year round.  Other drive ins in the general area are the Twin Hi-Way in Robinson (close be the Dependable), the Riverside in Vandergrift, the Hi-Way in Latrobe, the Evergreen in in Mt Pleasant, the Kane Road in Beaver County and the Comet in Brownsville.

For a number of years, when I’ve taken long distance trips my left arm would fall asleep from having my elbow on the open window sill in the truck.  Frequently, when I sleep, I tuck one of my arms under my head.  Lately, that arm’s fallen asleep and it wakes me up from the pins and needles.  I went to see Dr Casey Phillips, a chiropractor across the street from me.  I’ve never considered going to a chiropractor, not that I’m one of those people that doubt their reliability, I just don’t go to doctors.  After my second visit to Dr Casey, my arms haven’t fallen asleep since.

There was an article that talked about Pittsburgh and me in the Lexington Herald-Leader last weekend.  Here’s the link if you want to see it Herald-Leader

A local carpenter did an amazing job repairing the termite damage under the powder room and in the Parlor under the piano last winter.  He made the quarter sawn oak flooring and actually recreated the decorative walnut boarder around the edges including the box design in the corner.  He’s back doing some other jobs for me.  I know no one ever noticed but me, but the door down the hallway from the front door that leads to the Veranda never had the molding on the left.  The carpenter couldn’t match the the molding already on the top and other side of the door.  So he bought the closest he could find and then made it match.  He used pine instead of walnut (five hundred dollars difference) and then faux stained it to match the other two pieces.  Amazing.

My check-in is from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., which is fairly standard in the industry.  Check-out in most hotels/inns is eleven or noon.  This gives at least three hours to get the rooms cleaned and ready for the new guests. Friday, four of my five check-ins arrived early, one as early as noon.  Saturday two of my four check-ins arrived early. With an Inn as apposed to a standard hotel, when we’re not actually cleaning rooms, we use the time between breakfast in check-in to run our errands, set appointments, have some quiet time to balance the check book, maybe even blog.  This past Friday, I didn’t have a housekeeper and so I had to keep stop cleaning rooms to check new guests in.  I’ve had problems with this a while back, so in my confirmation letter I send to all guests, I changed the text stating the check-in times to capital letters.  That pretty much resolved the issues until until this past weekend.  If an entire letter uses the standard use of capitals and small letters, except for one sentence, you should assume that’s pretty significant to the Inn keeper.  I understand how traveling guests think, “I just want to drop my luggage off”, “My flight arrived early and maybe the room’s ready”.  What they don’t realize is how this can really throw you off your stride.  And what am I going to do, come down and tell them to come back in three hours?  That would be pretty rude.  And I don’t want someone’s visit to start off on a negative note.  It’s just kind of frustrating and I feel better now that I’ve vented.

GREAT news, the new housekeeper starts tomorrow.  My torture is over.  :)

ed