Obviously, tomorrow is All Fools Day, also the anniversary of the first large bridge built over the Neponset River in 1634, Lon Chaney’s birth anniversary (1883), cigarette advertising was banned in 1970, William Harvey’s birth anniversary (1578-he was the first to discover the mechanics of blood flow), Iran commemorates the approval of their Islamic constitution, and the US Air Force Academy was established in 1954.

The Whole Foods store on Perry Highway in McCandless is now scheduled to open in May.  They’ve had several planning and land-use issue that needed to be cleared up that caused the delay in opening.  This 33,000 square foot store will be in the Wexford Plaza.

What’s up with Penn Hills High School?  They expelled a student for having school issued blunt scissors in his backpack.  The administration was changing it from a three day suspension to a week before they decided enough was enough.

Gallery 709 Penn Avenue is featuring Caravan:Paintings by Melissa Kuntz.  This chair of Clarion University’s art department uses the mid twentieth century style known as precision ism, in which the real world is transcribed into flat planes of cool color and solid, sometimes overwhelming shapes.  This works great with her subject matter, old time RV’s and classic mid century signs.  I love that retro 50′s and 60′s look.  (Don’t get nervous, even though I love it, I won’t be working it into The Parador).  :)  The Ohio River Antique Mall on route 65 is a frequent stop of mine and they have a room dedicated to Formica tables, vinyl covered chairs, lava lamps, etc.  I always check it out.  The gallery is open 11 a. until 6 pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. until 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays and 11 am until 5 Sundays.  More info at Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, there web site or 412.456.6666.

I plead guilty.  I was pulled over by a Virginia State Trooper for going 80 mph in a 70 mph zone.  Mildly in my defense, it was five in the morning and it was just me and the big truckers on I77, but I was wrong-I admit it.  That is my first moving violation in years.  Since then, I have received five solicitations from different Virginia attorneys.  I called them all and they all had the same spiel.  They could get my moving violation down graded to an equipment malfunction violation.  I had nothing wrong with my car.  I admitted to them and the officer that I was speeding.  The law firms all say it doesn’t matter.  They will keep me from getting the four points.  All five attorneys charge a $135 fee and the traffic ticket goes up from $121 to $189.  What a racket.  The attorney’s have easy money and the state of Virginia gets an extra $68 in ticket fees.  Yes, I’m guilty twice, because I went for the non moving violation.  :)

As I’ve said, I’m getting addicted to Mexico’s Day of the Dead.  This is a blend of the Mayan festival celebrating past loved ones and the Spanish/Catholic All Souls Day.  Mary J Andrade wrote several books on Dia de los Muertos and I ordered one on line.  I waited and waited and then sent her an E-mail asking about it.  She asked where I had ordered it and I forwarded my confirmation.  She told me she would mail it the next day.  When it arrived, there were two books.  She sent another book of hers because she felt bad about the mix up.  I love businesses doing “the right thing.”  By the way, I’m looking for a book with a lot of images of Dia de los Muertos art.  Mary’s book has great pictures and narrative, but very few pictures of the artwork famous for this holiday.

Speaking of doing the right thing, that contractor that cemented my Veranda bid the work to include a footer.  When they did the demo, they found a footer right where it should be.  So Rich DiBucci pointed that out (many contractors would pretend they didn’t see it and try and get away with the original bid).  He offered to reduce the bid, add the flagstone accents or other options we may have.  I love businesses doing “the right thing”.  If I double book a room and have to have a guest move, I take care of it.  If there’s no water because of a main break, I take care of their bill.

I’ve complained about big oil and the record profits they consistently post year after year.  We’re talking PROFITS in the BILLIONS of dollars.  The senate just blocked an effort by the Obama administration to cancel their tax breaks by a 51 – 47 vote.  I just spent time on line trying to find out which senators voted against this effort to no avail.  I don’t know if it’s too early for the votes to be published or if it’s part of them somehow hiding the shameful thing they did.  If any of you fine the roll call and see how our Pennsylvania senators voted, please let me know.  I would love to publish their names and I definitely would never vote for those persons again.

Kayak Pittsburgh, a division of Venture Outdoors is adding kayak and bike rentals at the Millvale Riverfront Park (It already rents these at North Park and under the 6th Street Bridge, here on the Northside).  Starting May 26, from 11 a.m. until dusk weekdays (an hour earlier on weekends) single kayaks will be $15 an hour, double kayaks $20 and $8 for bicycles.

For those of you out in Westmoreland County, Westmoreland Cleanways are offering a backyard composting workshop at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St Vincent College on April 14 from 10 am until noon.  Also from 9 am until 11:30 am on May 12 at Oak Hollow Park in North Huntingdon and June 9 at the Westmoreland Conservation District headquarters on Donohoe Road in Greensburg.  Cost is $10.  Registration deadline is one week prior to each workshop, or until it is filled.  More info at their web site or by calling 724.836.4129.  By the way, my composting turned out great this year.  As I compost throughout the year, I don’t get much heat in my bin.  It’s fairly warm down deep, but no heat anywhere close to the surface.  I understand that if you can get more heat, it breaks everything down quicker.  If anyone has a suggestion, let me know.  The bottom line, my gardens are happy.  Two years ago, it was the sea oats that tried taking my gardens over.  That spring I had tons of seedlings I had to weed before spreading my compost and then remulching.  (I got rid of the sea oats).  This year it was the scallions.  And they were a real PIA.  The seedlings’ stalk gets real thin before the bulb.  So it took a concerted effort to dig them up.  This year I’m going with container herbs.  :)

The above picture shows the newly planted elephant ears.  As usual, I had a lot of extra elephant ear tubers.  So I put them in cardboard boxes on my front steps with a sign “Free Elephant Ears” and they were gone in the morning.  This year I had to divide the maiden hair grasses by the water feature (I need to do this every three years) and did the same thing.  They also were gone in the morning.

The above picture is the scene of the scallion carnage :)  Also, missing are the pygmy bamboo.  There are two types of bamboo, trailers and bunchers.  The bunchers are non invasive, they grow outward in a bunch.  The trailers grow by sending their roots out and new bamboo sprout everywhere from their roots.  I had the pygmies in five gallon containers buried in the garden.  They escaped from the containers, so before they got out of hand, I removed them.  I pulled the pygmy bamboo out yesterday and put them on my front step.  They are still there this morning.  I don’t know if the rain last night kept people in, or if others are scared of the bamboo also.

And finally the beach.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation has a series of tours.  The first is a bus tour on April 14 of Glenshaw highlighting the recently renovated 1883 Isaac Lightner House with summer kitchen and spring house, the 1885 Glenshaw Presbyterian Church, the public library and the 127 year old former train station turned private home, the Joseph L Kirk house (I think he was James Kirk’s grandfather :) ).  Future tours are May 5 Historic Waynesburg Bus Tour, the May 19 Modernism Downtown Walking Tour, the June 24 Shadyside Walking Tour, the September 8 Dormont Walking Tour, the September 15 Behind the Scenes Heinz History Center Tour and finally the October 20 tour will be the Brierly/Berndtson House Tour.  More info at their web site or by calling Mary Lu at 412.471.5808, ext 527.

Finally, Pittsburgh is getting the compressed natural gas vehicle, the Honda Civic Natural Gas (formerly called the Civi GX).  Washington Honda will be carrying them starting later this spring.  This vehicle has been around since 1989 and is mainly used as a commercial fleet vehicle.  It is expected to cost about $26k as compared to the regular Civic’s price of $20k.  At $1.85 per gallon equivalent (compare to gasoline I saw today at $3.99 on McKnight Road), it may be a wise investment.  The Natural Gas version gets similar mileage (38 mpg vs 39 mpg).  There’s already an EQT station on Smallman in the Strip and at Giant Eagle in Crafton.  Waste Management is building a station out in Chartiers.  So the stations are slowly coming around.

Well, that’s about it for today,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Knights of Columbus founding (the first charter was given in Connecticut in 1882-a chapter of them owned my Inn from about 1930 until 1990), National Mom & Pop Business Owners Day (can’t get much smaller business than that) and coincidentally, the anti-Christ to small business Sam Walton’s birth anniversary (1918), Karen Ann Quinlan was born tomorrow in 1954, even after being taken off the ventilator, she survived another decade in a coma.  Also, in 1848, a huge ice blockage stop all water from flowing over all three falls up at Niagara until April 1.  Must have been pretty impressive to see.

West Phily Dective Joseph Murray has been pioneering social media.  For the past two years, he’s used his Twitter account @thefuzz9143 to send out Tweets about activities in the neighborhood he patrols.  The locals love it.  This third generation police officer has about 700 followers.  He says “My goal was for people to actually know me-a detective they could pick up th phone and call”.  His Tweets add a little color to the sterility of your normal police reports.  He not only reports on issues in the neighborhood, he also incorporates advice like this Tweet “We caught the shot gun robber. Still try and use caution when pumping gas.  Don’t watch those annoying TV’s”  :)  He’s so far ahead of the rest of the force, that his supervisors asked him to stop Tweeting until they formed department wide rules for all the officers.  When he agreed to stop Tweeting, his followers didn’t know why, figured it was bureaucracy and started an on-line petition “I want my Fuzz9143″.  9143 is his badge number, by the way.  He’s back to Tweeting and building bridges between the police force and the residents they serve.

Speaking of Philly, someone on their election board has asked for clarification from our illustrious leaders.  They passed a bill requiring voters to produce a valid ID.  Besides driver’s licenses and other PennDot photo ID’s, one of the items acceptable by this bill is college ID’s with a valid expiration date.  No one in Harrisburg must be a graduate from Penn State (our largest college) because Penn State ID’s don’t have an expiration date and never have.  :)

He’s something way cool for you small businesses or small business wanta bees.  :)  Many, maybe most, small businesses don’t have the capital or the credit to get them off the ground. Also, for those of you with some extra bucks and either don’t have the minimum required to start an investment portfolio, or don’t want to do that “wall street thing”, there’s on-line sites to match you up.  You can invest in a particular idea, or even narrow it down to your hometown.  Some examples of these ”crowd funded websites” are Kickstarter, Peerbackers and IndieGoGo.  According to Jerry Ross, executive director of the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando, FL, ninety-tree percent of the businesses in Florida have ten employees or less.  He says that’s true for the whole country.  [For any of my loyal followers, you've heard that from me several times].  Currently there are twenty-one projects in Pittsburgh using Kickstart to either start or expand their business.  The different sites have different rules.  They all seem to run some sort of thing like you need to explain who you are and what you need the money for.  You then put out how much you are looking for.  When you place the amount of capital you are looking for, you have 30 days to raise it, if you don’t make it on Kickstarter, the offer is closed down and you get nothing (you can re-file).  Peerbackers gives you the amount you raised after the thirty days.  I may not be accurate here, but I’m pretty close to the ideas.  Some examples of Kickstarter in Pittsburgh: the BurgBees in Homewood in May 2010 wanted to raise $3,500 and they achieved $3,695 with 66 backers.  Conflict Kitchen in East Liberty wanted to raise $4,00 in September, 2010 and their 129 supporters raised $4,178.  GoPano, Pittsburgh maker of a lens you snap on you iPhone to make a 360 degree panoramic video sought $20,000 to get off the ground last May and ended up raising $169,209 with their 2,685 backers.  Pretty impressive.  Another restaurant, this one in Oakland, Legume Bistro wanted to raise $8,000 last June.  With their 89 backers they raised $17,195.

I had a guest this past winter that loved the place.  Penny’s an artist and took a ton of pictures.  She painted my Parlor from one of her pictures and sent me the image.  I in-tern sent it to Giclee Factory, very nice people to deal with to be reproduced on canvass.  That good friend of mine that owns The Stone Manse outside Harrisburg had given me this very cool frame and the image fit right inside, even didn’t have to get it re matted.  See:

Doesn’t that look great?  :)

Well, that’s if for this chapter, be well,



Tomorrow is Gloria Steinem’s birthday (1935), sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s birth anniversary (1867-he created the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore), Pecan Day, the anniversary of George Washington planting at Mt. Vernon-some are still living (1775), Greek Independence Day (from the Ottoman Empire in 1829) and the Rome Executions anniversary where the Nazi’s executed 300 priests, woman, Jews and two fourteen year old boys (1944) in retaliation for 33 German soldiers killed by Italian partisans.

The Western Pennsyvlvania Conservancy is quite the organization.  We all see the signs around town in the gardens they maintain, but there’s a lot behind the scenes.  A staff of six coordinate the planting and upkeep of around 140 public gardens as far east as Harrisburg.  They organize around 13,000 volunteers to help beautify the public space.  They design gardens based on the natural conditions, some areas have a lot of road salt like along major highways, some locations are more windy or drier than others.    They also need to assign tasks based on the volunteers.  The planters right outside the Squirrel Hill Tunnels are considered too dangerous for volunteers, so staff plant those areas.  Apparently begonias, though hearty, break easily and the are considered off  limits for volunteer children.  Lynn McGuire-Olzak says she doesn’t want children frustrated with their first stint at volunteerism.  Last year they had 214 school groups and 201 corporate groups.  36 corporate sponsors, the Regional Asset District, the city of Pittsburgh and various foundations fund their $400,000 effort.  More info at their web site, by calling 412.586.2324 or e-mailing Lynn at lolzak@paconserve.org.

Well, we have a bit of a reprieve.  The FAA has postponed ruling on permitting the use of cell phone on airplanes.  OMG, what a nightmare that could be.  Can you imagine being stuck between two gabbers?  Only in my worst nightmare.

I’m becoming obsessive with the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.  I really am becoming a fan of their art. Myra asked for a close of my Día de los Muertos Senoras.

There’s a exhibit The Gallery on 43rd Street in Lawrenceville through April 28 by Mike Egan.  Although there’s no reference to Day of the Dead, his artwork certainly is reminiscent of some of the images I’ve seen.  I just bought a book on line for images of various Mexican artists featuring these themes.  The gallery is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.  As anyone that’s seen my tissue boxes, I’m no artist.  But I find painting rudimentary images of fishes on one, birds on another, etc to be fun.  I need images that are not too complex (some may call my “artwork” cartoons and I’m fine with that).  Day of the Dead is going to be my next tissue box.

The famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band is playing at Manchester Craftsman’s Guild  one show tonight at 8 p.m. and one Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Tickets are $57.50 for Saturday and $52.50 for Sunday.  I didn’t know they were founded in 1961 by a couple from Pottstown that moved to New Orleans after Allen and Sandra Jaffe fell in love with the city while serving in the Navy.  In 1961 they moved to New Orleans and opened Preservation Hall, as a gallery, music and social site.  Because they have been around for fifty years, their musicians range in age from their 30′s to their 80′s.  Well worth the trip to see them if you have the time.  More info at Manchester’s web site or by calling 412.322.0800.

HUGE, the Veranda is a central part of The Parador.  During decent weather, everyone loves to hang out there (I spend most of my free time there).  The shabby contractor that did a lot of the work when I bought this place did a shabby job installing the composite decking, surprise surprise.  He talked me into buying TimberTrex, a Trex knockoff.  Right after it was installed, I dropped a potato chip on it and the grease from the chip stained the deck.  He talked me into running the boards lengthwise to cut down on costs.  The water didn’t run off the sides of the deck, every time I cleaned it, I had to push the dirty water the length of the deck.  The structure below the decking was not done properly and the posts were pushing the decking down and cracking it.  I could go on…..  So I hired DiBucci and Sons to concrete it.  Typical me, they weren’t the cheapest, nor the most expensive.  (He was close to half the highest bid).   I feel  they  definitely gave me the best work I could have gotten.  I wanted the durability of cement, but not the look of a new sidewalk.  Options had been stamping or staining.  Although I really like both techniques, I didn’t feel they would be right.  Rick suggested “exposed aggregate”.  A process where they pour and work the concrete and then take a power washer and hose off loose cement exposing the aggregate.  Awesome.  The cement looks like it’s fifty years old (I say that in a nice way).  He also suggested placing random flag stone in it.  I can’t be happier with their workmanship AND their professional attitude and attention to detail.

This picture really doesn’t do it justice.  You can see several of the random placement of flagstone Rich worked into the concrete.  The picture below is a close up of the exposed agregate finish he suggested.  The Veranda floor looks like it’s been there fifty years.  I love it:

Mark your calendars, The Pittsburgh Marathon is scheduled for Sunday May 6, the early runners usually come past my front porch around 8.  More info at their web site.  On May 11, Three Rivers Rowing Association is having a free learn to row in their indoor tanks at their Millvale Boathouse from 6-7:30 pm and from 7:30-9 pm.  Space it limited.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.231.8772.  Then on May 19, The Venture Outdoors Festival will run from 11 am until 6 pm at Point State Park.  There will be a climbing wall, fishing, kayaking, dragon boating, yoga, biking and more.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.255.0564.

Lets take a walk, The North Shore Trail.  This one of the most used trails in the city and right down from me.  It is shared by bikers, joggers, walkers, runners, skaters and anyother form on on land movement.  :)  Currently it runs from Washington Landing on the Allegheny down to the River’s Casino.  Besides great architectural and city views, when the weather’s nice you see all the boaters and kayakers enjoying the river.  You also walk, run, bike, etc past the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, Mr. Rogers’ statue among other points of interest.  If you are interested in kayaking, Kayak Pittsburgh is located under the 6th Street Bridge (Roberto Clemente Bridge).

Let’s take a walk, next up is Riverview Park on top of the hill behind me.  The park was donated to the City of Allegheny in 1894 and is around 287 acres, it is also home to Pitt’s Observatory.  The park was designed to be walked around.  The easiest trail is the Observatory Trail that pretty much stays on top of the hill and about a half mile loop through the park.  The Riverview Trail loop is about two miles and it does some small grades up and down.  The biggest challenge is the Wissahickton Trail, also two miles up and down the hills.  This trail includes Archery Trail, Riverview Drive and the Bob Harvey Trail.

My final walk (and this may be a final walk) the the FIVE mile walk up Fineview Stairs.  Yes, these stairs wander FIVE miles up to Fineview from behind Allegheny General Hospital.  The Raising Main is the final and steepest of the assortment of stairs in the climb.  The Raising Main is the equivalent of climbing a 17 story building.  I’m exhausted just writing about this.

Well, that’s it for today, enjoy your weekend,



Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of William Jennings Bryan (1860), Wyatt Earp (1848), David Livingstone (1813-”Doctor Livingstone I presume”), Supreme Court Justices John Sirica (1904-Watergate judge) and Earl Warren (1891).  Also, the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano since 1776.

Here’s some of my pet peeves:  Talking on the phone.  I stood and waited yesterday for quite sometime yesterday while a guest was on the phone.  He’s girlfriend apologized, said he does that all the time.  I guess his time is the only one that’s valuable.  Parking straddling two spaces.  I don’t know if they think it would confuse the meter reader or they just can’t park their car (more than likely, they just don’t care).  Throwing food on the street, sidewalk, park.  I know it’s biodegradable and it’s not really the appearance that bothers me, it’s walking my dogs.  My biggest fear is that some sicko tainted it.  OK, I’ll lighten up.  :)

OK, your career counselor is back at work.  I found a job for all of you, Workampers.  Workampers are people that travel around the country full time and park some kind of an camper and work from this temporary location.  These aren’t gypsies or migrant farmers either.  Most Workampers are retirees or people nearing retirement and are just supplementing their pensions.   This group also includes people that have lost their homes and/or jobs.  Some are just trying to make ends meet, others are looking for a more adventuresome lifestyle.  Some will work summers in the North and then travel to the Sunbelt for the winter, some do just the opposite.  The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association estimates a half a million people live full time in their recreational vehicles and the number grows each year.  More info at workcamper.com, workersonwheels.com and workampingtoday.com.  Happy trails and send me a post card.  :)

Pittsburgh’s alternative hip-hop artist Mac Miller was a double winner at mtvU’s Woodie Awards for emerging artists at the South by South West Conference in Austin last Thursday.  The Woodies will air on MTV Sunday at 8 p.m.

I guess by now you have all heard Goldman-Sachs executive Greg Smith quit last week after working for his soulless company for twelve years.  Many are questioning the motives behind his resignation and more importantly why he resigned through an editorial with the New York Times.  What I like is the parody relating him to Star Wars.  You have to scroll down a bit, it’s about halfway down on your left.  You can’t miss Darth Vader.

Phipps Spring Garden Show opened yesterday.  With the mild winter, it may not have as much pull as it traditionally does after three months of frigid weather and snow storm after snow storm.  But it’s always a pleasure to spend a day  strolling through Phipps.  This year’s theme is The World’s Gardens.  The show begins at the welcome center with a giant green topiary of earth that sets the tone for the exhibit.  The famed Palm Court has human images of different colors with linked hands under international flags.  The South Conservatory is a hold over from the Cultural Trust Dutch Festival last month.  The Serpentine Room has a Polynesian theme, the Sunken Garden  has the UK flag in red salvia, white tulips and blue senetti.

Picture time.  My good friend Don Berger was in a week ago.  Don was my boss at the William Penn when I worked there.  He was there when Servico (the previous owner) was in bankruptcy.  He made all of the ornaments that decorated that huge tree they put in the lobby because there was no money for new ornaments.  He took wall paper remnants, Styrofoam balls, anything and everything.  When I started, two months before Christmas, his office was an assembly line of last year’s ornaments that needed re glued, glitter, tinsel or ribbons.  It was pretty funny.  Suffice to say, he’s one of the most creative persons I know.

I have all these pieces of lace the previous owner left behind, here’s his suggestion for Bird of Paradise:

Do you know the story behind the wooden focal point above the bed?  The last guest room I created at The Parador of the Palm Beaches was African Tulip.  One of the salvage yards I frequented was Ellison’s on Georgia Avenue.  I found this really cool pecky cypress door at Ellison’s (which is currently over Bird of Paradise’s bed) and built the closet to fit the door.  When I sold that property, the new owner was planning on bulldozing everything to build townhouses, so I took everything like my door that I liked (those tropical windows in my current pantry is a story I’ll tell in a future post).  I brought the door up from Florida and it was leaning on a wall in the Ballroom.  The door’s way too narrow for anything that would need a door here.  One day, Bird of Paradise was finished.  Crown molding repaired and painted, wall paper removed and the walls primed and painted, furniture in place and I’m standing in the room thinking that’s a big empty wall behind the bed.  I thought hmmm…………….

Speaking of salvage yards, my last trip down to Florida, I spoke of Adam and Eve’s place and that I bought some architecturals from a hotel they tore down in Miami.  Here’s Don’s suggestion:

I’m not sure how much I like Carlos’s Mexican picture next to them, but I think the architecturals look pretty cool. (Carlos was my chef at the Palm Beach Oceanfront Hilton, which was my last corporate job).

And I’ve had this screen thing in the basement since I bought this place.  It’s like three large wooden picture frames on double hinges.  It was obviously made to be a screen, but it was all funky and nothing was in the middle of the three panels.  So I cleaned it up and attached three pieces of lace on dowels for each panel:

In the same room, I found a permanent home for my Dia de Muertos ladies from Karin’s down in West Palm that I spoke about during my visit:

I just love those two ladies.

Enjoy the sunshine between the clouds and pouring rain this afternoon,



For those of you living under a rock, tomorrow is St Patrick’s day.  I think Pittsburgh has the second or third largest parade in the country, VP Joe Biden will be in attendance.  It is the birth anniversary of Howard Shemp (of The Three Stooges fame-1895), it is the 20th anniversary of the white vote in South Africa to end minority rule and it is Birkebeinerrennet day in Norway (don’t ask me to pronounce it).  The Norwegians have had this cross country race since 1932 to is based on an escape in 1205 of an infant prince that was transported this route to save his life, he later went on to become King Hakon Hakonasson IV that unified the country.

What a pleasant experience.  I spoke with the new (not brand new, but she hasn’t held the position that long) lady in charge of the City Historic Review.  I left her a message yesterday afternoon and she called me back this morning.  When I thanked her for calling back so promptly, she said she felt bad.  Normally she calls back the same day.  She was pleasant to speak with, clear, concise, knowledgeable and where she could be, flexible.  Sometimes when you speak with a city employee, it can be so trying.

Do you remember that on March 12, 1993 we received twenty-six inches of snow?  I don’t know about you, but I prefer the seventy degree days we are enjoying.

One of the first things I learned about recycling was that recycling starts at the point of purchase.  The construction of the product, one time use or multiple uses, packaging are just the starting points in my purchasing decision.  Heinz ketchup (or is it catsup) :) is rolling out mini ketchup containers that are totally unrecyclable.  They are cute and convenient, but a terrible thing for the environment.  Not only that, Campbells Soups are coming out with a similar package for single serve soups.  Speaking of recycling, I’m either frugal, cheap or recycling suave.  I save welcome letters after guests leave, as I do with guest comments cards and correspondence that comes in the mail.  I then use the blank backs of these and do all my office printing on this.  I also use this paper by cutting them up in quarters and use it as scrap paper on my desk and in the pantry.  I haven’t used new paper in my printer (for in-house documents) in probably three years.  I just ran out and had to use new paper for a couple of days.  I’m already back to my old ways :) of reusing paper.

Encyclopedia Britannica has gone out of print.  After 244 years of print, the final run of the thirty-two volume was run in 2010.  The set weights one hundred and twenty-nine pounds and of the 12,000 printed, 4,000 remain in inventory.  So I guess it shows the lack of demand.  Don’t get me wrong, I revere the Britannica and am a big advocate of reading books.  I always have a hard back book that I am currently reading.  But I would never buy a hard cover general reference source any more.  A reference books like a cook book and gardening basics I like.  But as a source of general information on many topics, why have a hard back book that was out of date the day it was published?  There’s way too much information that is more detailed and more current than something published in the past available on the Internet.

Are you looking for a job?  Come on, don’t get all excited, I don’t have an inside track on something.  But I do want to warn you, be careful if applying for a city job at New Jersey’s capital, Trenton.  Through budget issues, they’ve run out of toilet paper.  There does seem to be a few rolls left in the ladies rooms, that’s about it.  Sorry guys.  :)

On Sunday, at 4 p.m. The Spirit of Uganda takes stage at the Byham Theater.  These Ugandan performers are from age eleven to twenty-one.  Many of whom became orphans when their parents died of AIDS or lost in violence from Ugandan rebel forces.  When these kids put on their native cultural garb, get together on stage with authentic African music with singing, dancing and instrumentation, they become transformed.  The show highlights what a “hand up, not a hand out” can do even with kids that have lived through such tragedy.  Tickets are $13 – $45.  More info at the web sites or by calling 412.456.6666.

The latest craze with kids is Kendama.  Kendama is a ball tethered to a wooden shaft with three different sized cups.  Sort of like cup-and-ball games kids played generations ago.  Theories of it’s origin span the globe, from Greece, China, Japan even Peru.  There’s tons of You Tube videos of kids doing this.  It is also a competition sport.  Participants are given predetermined  maneuvers or tricks to do in a set amount of time.  The contestant completing all the maneuvers error free and in the shortest time wins.  Kendamas can be purchased from the USA web site (of which Jeremy Stephenson of Pittsburgh, is on the governing body) or at Learning Express.  Kendama runs from around $20 up to $200.

I like a trend I see more and more of in retail.  Up front sales.  For quite awhile, Costco automatically gives you the discount whether you have the coupon or not.  Lowes automatically gives you a discount when you spend a certain amount of money.  Now JC Penney’s seems to be trying to do the same thing.  They claim they are going to no longer increase prices so they can have them on ”sale” latter.  They say they are going to have lower prices all the time and get rid of those stupid “sales” like Levins Furniture always have.  I think consumers are totally fed up with the bs.

Enjoy another beautiful and and don’t be embarrassing tomorrow,





150 years ago today the first paper currency was issued in the United States.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs’founding  anniversary is tomorrow (1824), Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami was one year ago tomorrow, the first “Spanish” influenza pandemic was reported (1918), Lawrence Welk’s birth anniversary (1903), the signer of the Declaration of Independence, Robert Paine was born in (1731) and it is the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings killing 191 and injuring 1,800 (2004).

One of my favorite signs of spring is the Tribune Review’s annual Peeps Show.   If you are not followers, click on the Peeps Show link to see the contestants from 2011.  To enter the contest, click on the link to the Tribune Review.  If any of you do enter, please let me know so I can follow you (yes, sometimes I have too much time on my hands).  :)

How ironic both the Girl Scouts of American and Oreo Cookies are celebrating their 100th anniversary in the same year and the same month?  Here some fun trivia on Oreos:  The first Oreo cookie was embossed with a thin wreath on the outer edge with the name on the plain surface in the middle.  Now, the cookie consists of 12 flowers, 12 dots and 12 dashes on both sides.  Each cookie has 90 ridges and takes 59 minutes to make.  They are made in 21 bakeries around the world and sold in over 100 countries.  Annual sales top $1.5B and their Facebook page has 25 million fans (a few more than Fan The Parador) :).  Started in the original Nabisco factory in New York City and first sold in bulk tins in Hoboken, NJ.  Which makes them three years older than Hoboken’s other favorite son, Frank Sinatra.

We have another microbrew here in Pittsburgh, All Saints Brewing out of Hempfield.  Jeff Guidos, formerly the master brewer from the now closed Red Star Brewery in Greensburg has partnered with Beth Vreeland, an adjunct professor of education at Seton Hill University who is handling the marketing.  They’ve only been in business for about three months and already have expanded from selling just Growlers to supplying bars with kegs.  That’s huge for name recognition.  They are making an amber style ale, a dark German dunkel, an English style barleywine and an India Pale Ale in the abandoned bakery outlet they’ve converted into a brewery.  Another Westmoreland County microbrewery is Helltown Brewing.  Although beer sales has fallen 2.2% overall last year, craft beers has risen 11% last year.  Now to keep  it in context, craft brews only account for about 5% of the total of millions of barrels of beer consumed in America.  But I’m not looking to compete with Hilton either.  :)  Brad Brown writes about craft brewing in the Pittsburgh region in his blog shouldidrinkthat.com.

OK, I was in an accident last June, I didn’t want to write about it until it was resolved.  I came down State Route 65 to Western Avenue.  There was a car stopped at the yield sign at the bottom of the ramp by the West End Bridge.  I pulled up behind him, stopped and looked to my left (as I could see him doing) to see if it was safe to proceed.  There was a mini van about half way across the bridge, plenty of time for us both to go.  I saw him pull forward and so I turned to my left again to double check to ensure that all was clear and it was.  So I hit the gas and apparently he decided to stop.  He couldn’t have been more than eight feet in front of me.  I love my Tacoma, but it’s not a monster truck.  It takes a bit to pick up speed.  So we pulled over and I got out, greeted him and looked at his car and my truck and saw no damage.  I asked him if he wanted my info and he said yes.  There’s a police processing station right up the hill from there and an unmarked car turned on his lights as he came down the hill and a plain clothes officer got out of that car.  He said “Hi Chris, are you alright?”  The driver of the other car said he was fine.  End of story, I thought.  Weeks later my insurance company contacts me and says he’s claiming serious injury and is suing.  I eagerly offer to testify, if they would like to take it to court, because this is obviously an insurance scam.  They would rather settle out of court and avoid all the assorted lawyer and court fees.  We speak several times and the USAA Insurance feels they will have it resolved soon.  Finally, about two months ago I get a sheriff’s deputy serve me a subpoena to appear in court, Chris is suing me!  Now I actually get to look at what he’s claiming.  The summons stated that I exited route 65 without slowing and slammed into his vehicle causing serious bodily injury forcing him to miss work, spinal issues, all kinds of ailments.  The only thing he didn’t claim was he was sexually impotent because of it, oh, maybe he already was.  :)  OMG, this is one of Pittsburgh’s finest that is responsible for people’s lives.  This liar and some may call him a thief for insurance fraud handles crime scene evidence, interviews victims and perps.  What a dirt bag.

I had dinner at Chef Sousa’s of Salt of the Earth’s new incarnation, Union Pig and Chicken on North Highland Avenue in East Liberty.  It has a sort of minimalist interior, which was fine and true to form, seating is family style.  The food was tasty and well presented.  The staff’s well trained and informative.  My friend had the St Louis Ribs, nice portion, dry  and well smoked and flavored.  I had the pork shoulder, which was very tender and tasty.  What I was disappointed in is that they cut the shoulder into basically bite sized chunks and included in it were chunks of pure sofa fat.  When you get pork shoulder and have to cut it up, you naturally cut that soft fat off and leave it on the side.  But when you are served a dish with everything cut in similar sizes, I assumed they were all pork meat.  The first one I bit into that was all fat really disappointed me.  But speaking of Union Pig and Chicken, I noticed they were carrying Wigle whiskey, very cool.  If you remember, I spoke of Wigle in the past, it is the whiskey distiller that finally opened in the Strip next to the Cork Factory apartments.  I was also in James Street recently and noticed they also were carrying Wigle.  In case you don’t remember, Wigle was named after a gentleman killed during the Whiskey Rebellion.  Speaking of Jame Street, in addition to having live jazz on Fridays and Saturdays, they’ve added Thursdays.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard, Legume has moved to a much larger space from Regent Square to 214 N Craig Street, North Oakland.  The husband and wife team, Trevett and Sarah Hooper, are still creating daily menus with the best local produce, meats and fish.  Their menu changes seasonally and daily and in the winter they feature meats and fishes more and in the summer they feature more local vegetarian fare.

Enjoy another beatiful day today,



Tomorrow is a full moon and the Worm Moon celebrated by Native Americans of the New England/upper New York regions.  The full moon causes activities among earthworms as a first sign of spring.  It is also the anniversary of the French classic Mirror of the World being translated into English in 1481.  This popular book on astronomy and other sciences  was translated and printed by England’s first printer, William Caxton complete with illustrations.  Purim, the Hebrew holiday dating from their calendar Adar 14, 5772 is a festive holiday celebrating Queen Ester’s intervention in the 6th century saving the Jews of ancient Persia.  Finally, tomorrow is the religious holiday of Holi in India.  Indians run through the streets throwing brightly colored and scented powers and waters on each other regardless of caste.  This spring festival also includes huge bonfires the evening before the main day.

There’s a 5K marathon coming to Pittsburgh on September 1, Run for Your Lives puts runners out in front of zombies on an obstacle course.  The first Run for Your Lives was held in Maryland last October.  There are nine zombie events scheduled for this year.  More info at their web site.  They are already fifty percent filled, you better not just “lie around” if you want in.

I guess I’m becoming your Hollywood insider.  :)  John Krasinski (from The Office) and Matt Damon (no credits needed) will be filming Promised Land starting next month (Originally titled Gold Dust).  The movie was written by Kransinski and directing it will be Gus Van Sant-who has worked with Damon four times so far, starting with Damon’s big break Good Will Hunting.  They have a $15M budget.

There’s thirty second ring tones of some of the Beatles most famous songs now available on iTunes.  They run from $1.29 to $12.99 for all twenty-seven.  I Want to Hold Your Hand, Ticket to Ride, Help and of course Hello Goodbye :) are some of them.

I’ve spoken about the new thirty-three story office tower for PNC’s new headquarters Downtown.  The demolition along Wood Street between Fifth and Forbes has already started.  I’ve also talked about One Grandview Avenue, the proposed 160 room hotel, condo, retail and restaurants.  One of the points on this project I find interesting is the developer is talking about putting a staircase from this development down to Carson Street.  So many issues here, but the over riding one in my head is how will he get insurance for this?  Imagine tripping on the top and you would surely die by the time you hit the bottom.  :)  This project seems to have secured their financing.  They’ve already cleared the land preparing for construction.  What I haven’t talked about is Millcraft’s latest venture on Forbes Avenue.  This is right behind the iconic George Aikens diner and will be a seventeen story office tower with condos and retail and a separate attached building housing a Hilton Garden Inn.  The Hilton will have meeting and public space above street level so there will be views of Market Square.  There was an article in the Trib with the latest renderings of the proposals.

The Cathedral of learning has just added it’s twenty-eighth nationality classroom, the Turkish room.  The $500,000 classroom was officially dedicated Sunday by the ambassador to the United States from Turkey.  The room is modeled after a traditional “main room” in a Turkish house with seating along the edges.  There are four ceramic panels depicting  Turkish life in the ninth, fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.  The room also has intricate native woodwork and a window designed by master Turkish artisans.  The window is embellished with stylized tulips, the royal flower of the Ottomans, who ruled Turkey from 1299 until 1923.  Rooms are required to represent designs prior to 1787, the year Pitt was founded.  Turkey will not be the new guy on the block for long, the Swiss room is scheduled to open in two months.

Charities hire fundraisers to help them raise money.  Not only do they pay exorbitant fees, it’s not uncommon for them to actually owe more in fees than the campaign actually brings in.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lost $1.9M on a fund raiser (enough cash to feed 68,078 animals for three weeks).  Some charities view this as an asset in that they get to build their data base of donors and it gives them added exposure to make their causes better known.  I view this as just plain stupid.  :)  They sign contracts up front, look for another fund raising company if you’re going to loose money.  The fund raisers generated $560,884 for the Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association, the fire fighters netted $85,741.  Amnesty International of the USA last an average of four cents for every dollar they raised last fiscal year.  There are small charities that don’t have the ability/expertise to run a fund raiser, but they should shop around and LEARN what the professionals do.  Give me a $475,143 and I will generate a much bigger return for the fire fighters and learn how to do this.  For that kind of money, why don’t they hire someone inside to “work with these professional fundraisers” and then keep this new person on payroll to be a full time fundraiser?  Those that got the lowest returns are the fire fighters, police, military and veterans.  I never donate to phone solicitations or TV campaigns for this reason.  I have select charities that I donate to throughout the year and just seek them out when I’m ready to donate.

Sorry for such a delay in posts, this time it’s really not me.  I have been having trouble posting pictures for awhile now.  I’ve been back and forth with my hoster (?) and getting kind of frustrated with him.  Anyone have any recommendations on a new hosting company?

Thank goodness for John Fetterman and the City of Braddock, as opposed to the City of Pittsburgh.  At least Braddock respects it’s past. (I’m still griping about Bruncher getting Pittsburgh approval to tear down 1/3 of the Terminal building because it’s more convenient for them).  The first library Carnegie built was in Braddock and twenty-five years after the front doors were chained shut, it has received a National historic landmark status.  This library was the beginning of the turn of the century “Internet”, with 1,679 free public libraries built by Carnegie for the dissemination of information and knowledge.

Did you know PNC has had their headquarters at the same place Downtown for 160 years?  I guess it’s PNC 1 on the corner of Wood Street and Fifth Avenue was the location of their old headquarters that was torn down for this new structure, what twenty years ago.  That’s kind of cool.  And in case you’ve noticed the old Liberty Travel building across Liberty from Heinz Hall’s renovations, PNC is doing that as well.  They totally gutted it and are bringing it up to energy efficiency standards.  The 800 square foot building is going to be called the Lantern Building and is set to open this May.  It is going to be an interactive museum on the regions past and future featuring artifacts and oral histories.  This is one of several PNC has built in their market cities and they are all feature free admission.

Finally, are you ready for Christmas?  :)  The Downtown Partnership has announced that starting next November 24 (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) and running through December 23, Christkindlesmarkt will open in Market Square.  This is a tradition from 1575 in Nuremberg, Germany where local crafters sell their wares in chalet like stalls.  That will make a nice addition to Market Square with what seems to be quite the successful change to a dining and entertainment center.  With the ice skating rink at PPG Plaza and the gingerbread houses displayed in PPG’s building connecting the skating rink and Market Square, this could become a new popular holiday destination.

It’s going to be a spectacular day, enjoy it,