Hi,

I learned a new trick, we’re going to start having some pictures in my blog.  Obviously, I need to work on cropping and presentation.  But for my first pictures, I’m not too unhappy.  This is a picture of Tony’s hibiscus that was next to the arbor, but was getting all crowded out by the clematis, so I moved it this past spring and it seems pretty happy with it’s new location.  (Actually, there are two hibiscus, I moved them both this spring and then removed the other and it’s been quite mad at me.  Most of it died off, but I have one strong branch that’s a healthy green and even has flower buds.  I think we’ll be friends again next spring).  The big hibiscus (pictured) started blooming two weeks ago and should bloom into September if I remember correctly.  Next to it is one of my new banana plants.  I bought two bananas when I first planted the gardens and they died as did half of the plants I got from the nursery I bought all my plants initially.  The nursery staff also advised me to plant the blue hastas in the sun and the others in the shade (or vice versa) which was the exact opposite of how they should be planted.  Luckily, Tony and Sue had stopped by about a month after the garden when in and we replanted the garden.  Obviously, this nameless nursery hasn’t seen me since.

P1000057

P1000059 This is one of my newest additions to the gardens.  It’s the Kopper King Hibiscus I talked about already.  The flowers go from pink on the outside to red in the center, which are nice, but I really like the foliage.  I think when it fills out (probably not until next year), it will really make a nice addition to the garden.

P1000058 And here’s a picture of my beach with the Arondo donex a few weeks past.  I love how they give me privacy without seclusion.  And I’m always getting questions from people about “that corn” I planted.  Obviously they aren’t farmers.  :)

The Phipps Conservatory, my favorite space in the City is having a free admission day on Monday, thanx to a grant from the Buncher Family Foundation.  While you’re at Phipps, be sure to check out the Agave americana, they actually had to take a panel of glass out of the ceiling for it to keep growing.  It’s over 33 feet tall at this point.  It’s blooming and dies back after the bloom.

Anyone looking for something to do tomorrow, Manchester’s having their summer Victorian house tour.  They’re real nice people over there.  They aren’t as restrictive as my neighborhood and you see more creative use of some of the properties, and some very traditional.  It’s well worth the price.

I have to buy more passes for the Carnegie Natural History, Art & Architecture Museums and the Andy Warhol, this will be the third time I’ve used them up (sold them).  A very popular amenity here.  I case you haven’t perused my  Specials Page, I have 1/2 price passes to both museums.

Finally, I’m leaving for the Jersey shore tomorrow for a few days.  Derronda’s babysitting the Inn and da boiz.  She’s also representing The Parador at a Pitt Panther football meet and greet Tuesday.  Hopefully we can get some parents and alumni aware of us for future visits.

Well, take care and we’ll chat again,

ed

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

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

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