Tomorrow is the anniversary of Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732), Iowa being admitted to the Union (1846), the enactment of The Endangered Species Act (1973), the Pledge of Allegiance was Recognized and encouraged to be recited in all public schools (1945) and tomorrow is The Cold Moon, a tradition amount Native Americans of the north east recognizing the full moon during the longest nights of the year (and shortest days, darn it).  ):

The NRA finally came out with a statement on the Sandy Hook tragedy.  They want to place armed guards in all schools in America!  Believe it or not, that totally leaves me speechless.  :)

Most comments I receive on my posts, people send them directly to me.  This one is from a regular guest and obviously more knowledgeable than I.  So I’m including his unedited comments:

“As a retired police officer I’m in pretty much agreement with your views.

Where you propose buy-back I propose trade-in for a bolt action or lever action .30-.30 .30-.06 or.270 all of which is adequate for hunting anything in North America.

What gets me is the gun nuts who say they like to “plink” with an assault rifle.  Hello! you plink with a .22.  Probably the most practical approach is to limit the capacity of a clip with rigorous enforcement but the gun nuts would still have access to so many existing ones.”

There’s an art exhibit at the Artists Image Resource over here on the Northside at 518 Foreland Street.  The theme is creative printing using various textural, metallic elements and other resources.  Twenty-two artists (out of 150 applicants) from around the country have fifty works on display.  Troy Hill resident, Katie Kaplan,  is included through the “resident artists project” and has some quite detailed works.  A number of artists teach art a various colleges like Kay Campbell, a professor at Oregon State University.  Michael Hegedus has several works on display that have quite the depth that you don’t notice at first.  The exhibit was created by Nicholas Chambers, the new Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Warhol.  (Speaking of The Warhol, I saw the most interesting stat.  The Warhol Museum here on the Northside averages around 120,000 visitors per year.  They have a traveling show over in the Orient, scheduled over 26 months through various cities, it had an attendance of over 170,000 at it’s exhibition in Singapore).

There’s an interesting group that are a part of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, the Society of Tavern Seekers seek out historic businesses of libation around the city to re-discover their history.  Places they visited this year include The Original Oyster House (established 1870), the Pittsburgh Athletic Association (established 1908), Teutonia Mannerchor (established 1854), the Allegheny HYP Club that is in what was workers’ row housing Downtown (built in 1894), the Gandy Dancer Saloon in the Grand Concourse (Joshua Rhodes train station built at the turn of the century-the previous owner of the mansion that became The Parador Inn), Penn Brewery (founded in 1848) and the Omni William Penn’s famous Art Deco Urban Room ballroom on the 17th floor.  In the three years Tavern Seekers has grown and are always looking for  new members.

There’s all kinds of options for counting down to the New Year on December 31.  Possibly the most unique option is at the Crowne Plaza on Fort Couch Road in Bethel Park (across from South Hills Village).  They are hosting New Year’s Undead Eve presented by Horror Realm.  This zombie themed celebration from ten until midnight and costs $25 or $45 per couple.  Admission includes a nacho bar, snacks and a midnight champagne toast.  A cash bar will be available.  Although no dress code, they will be having a ghoul dress contest with prizes (think more in terms of glam and less of gore).  The Gateway Clipper fleet is offering several options.  They will be hosting several dinner cruises that will have you back on land by 8 pm and cost $50.  For those interested in a later night cruise option, there’s two.  A dancing and hors d’ oeuvres cruise will be departing at 8:30 for $70 (with a champagne toast and favors) and at the same time a dancing sans hors d’ oeuvres for $50 (with a  champagne toast and favors).  Both will have a cash bar available and you must be 21 to participate.  If you want to really swank it up a bit, at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, Pittsburgh Opera is offering a number of packages.  The high end black tie event starts at 6:30, runs $500 and includes VIP cocktail hour, dinner, the concert, party and valet parking.  Or for $350 arrive at 7:15 arrive for  dinner, the concert, party and valet parking starting at 7:15.  The final tiers starts at 9:15 and for $125 for the concert and party option or $75 for just the concert option, also arriving at 9:15.  More info on all events at their web sites.

Of course you can’t talk about New Years Eve without including Downtown’s First Night.  Parade, fireworks, jazz, magic, comedy, dance, theater and child centered activities are just the tip of the iceberg.  Their official schedule of events covers 80 events, surely you can find something to appeal to you in that.  So I’m not going to even try and cover highlights.  If you think you may be interested, please go to their web site.  The event is family friendly, but stronger libations are available throughout Downtown watering holes.

Roughly 1,000 years ago, the Normans conquered Britain and with the conquest, introduced cider to the English.  In England, what we refer to as hard cider is just called cider (do they not have non-alcoholic apple juice?  Maybe they just call it apple juice).  :)  Cider has been popular over there forever, while we just dabble in it during the fall.  The raise in popularity of craft beer and wine combined with the fall in the mass produced main stream American beer market has caught some international companies attention.  The coveted young adult woman’s market seems to have a preference to cider and the fact that cider has a higher profit margin seems to foretell a boom in the near future of imported craft cider products.  Nielsen estimates 38% of cider drinkers are younger than 35, where as 17% beer drinkers are beer drinkers.  Also, 50% cider drinkers earn $70,000 versus 38% beer drinkers.  The past year alone, cider consumption jumped 75% over last year.

The Penguins Pond is open to the public over at Station Square.  This is at the new Highmark Stadium at the far west end of the complex where Pittsburgh’s pro soccer Riverhounds will call home next spring.  It is open 11 am until 5 pm Mondays through Thursdays, 3 pm until 11 pm Fridays and Saturdays and 3 pm until 7 pm Sundays.  It costs $7 to enter and I assume they will be renting skates as well.

A few months back I talked about Rusted Root and how they were working on a new album and they were financing it with local contributions by fans.  Well they are having their debut tonight at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millville tonight.  The album, The Movement, will have a lot of the tribal rhythms they are famous for and a lot of new sounds as well.  I really hate stupid people trying to make me do things.  As I’ve said in the past, other than adult orientated web sites (I get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about alcohol, nor porn) :), why do I have to “Click Here” to enter a web site I just spent time looking for?  Mr. Smalls has this stupid thing to enter their web site, you first have to either sign up for their mailing list or decline.  So I won’t place a hyperlink from my Blog to them.  If you want to go there, you’ll have to find it yourself.  :)  You loose Mr. Smalls.

Well, it’s cold outside and I need to tidy up the front sidewalk before it gets trampled into ice. Lost a number of reservations this week due to the snow storm.  So I can be sloven for the next two days.  :)  Take care,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of the founding of the Federal Reserve (1913), the first non-stop flight around the world by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager (1987), Japan’s prime minister during World War II, Jojo Hideki had been convicted of war crimes and was executed tomorrow in 1948 and it is the fortieth anniversary of Franco Harris’s “Immaculate Reception”.

Good news on the fountain.  They plan on completing the renovations and turning it on again on June 7, in conjunction with the opening of the 2013 Three Rivers Arts Festival.  The $35M renovation of Point State Park ($9.6M for the fountain) was accomplished with $30M from the state and the remaining $5M from Riverlife.  Upgrades to the park include handicapped accessibility, river front promenades, woodland areas, conversion of the space in front of the Wyndham from a foot print of the original fort to a Great Lawn, improved lighting and a cafe.  The fountain has had it’s guts totally rebuilt, LED lighting has been added, the outer ring has been restored, a “disappearing edge waterfall” has been added and a new blue stone deck has been added.  In conjunction with the grand opening, Riverlife is planning a decorative lighting display throughout Point State Park.  They are looking for suggestions from architects, artists, lighting designers and students.  You can see the details at Riverlife’s web site or Point State Park’s web site.  Deadline for proposals is February 1.

OK, I’m tired of hearing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, not that it wasn’t horrific.  But stop beating a dead horse and let those poor people grapple with their loses on their own.  But I do want to weight in on a couple of points.  Not that anyone that follows my blog or knows me would be surprised.  (You can’t change the stripes on a tiger, or my general outlook on life either.  :) )  As I see it, we have three things that need addressed.  #1 mental health.  The vast majority of people with mental health issues are deemed no threat to themselves or society.  I’m at a loss here, I have no idea how to identify ones that may be a threat to society and separate them from the rest.  I think this is best left up to the mental health professionals and it will not have a quick answer.  #2 violence in our society needs to be addressed.  Violence in our neighborhoods, mainly between gang members but also between dads at kids sporting events being violent as well.  The inability of our leaders (and ourselves) of being able to have civil conversations without resorting to un-civility and half truths.  The proliferation of cut and slash movies and the other extremely violent genres.  And finally the violent nature of  the video games children and teens seem so addicted to probably have a lot to do with our violent nature these days.  #3 and this is pretty big with me, assault weapons and extended clips need to be immediately removed from the market and those buy back programs should be initiated to start reducing the amount of them in society.  I’m a HUGE gun proponent and the right to bear arms.  You don’t need an AK-47 to hunt a deer or defend your house from a burglar.  I’m posting this for two reasons.  #1 I would like more people talking about this and identify what their beliefs are among us.  And #2 they do have those spiders/robots that search the web looking for public opinion, I want my vote counted.

Sometimes I seem to be so out of it.  Northside resident, tattoo artist Sarah Miller came in second in Spike TV’s Ink Master series.  I didn’t even know that a Pittsburgher was competing.  Sarah’s shop, Wyld Chyld Tattoo parlor is right over in Brookline.  13,000 tattoo artists applied for a spot on the show and Sarah was one of the sixteen selected.  She then came out #2 of that sixteen.  Needless to say, she’s booked solid through July with people coming from as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom.  Do you think they need a place to stay?  :)  The Parador Inn is always looking for new guests.  :)

I admit, I’m not an Audi kind of guy.  I’m more of a Prius or maybe a Jeep kind of guy.  So maybe their advertising attracts their targeted market.  But every time I see that tired ad (second year) with mom and dad doing finish holiday touches in their house when their son pulls up in his new Audi and toots his horn “I’ve made it home safe”.  They sneak out the back door because he’s coming in the front.  As they pull out in his car dad says “He’ll be OK”.  I think how rude.  If my parents ever did something like that, it would have been the last Christmas I was home.  :)

Did you know there are 1,300 mistletoe species world wide and more than 30 in the continental United States?  The most common mistletoe in the United States is Phoradendron, Greek for tree thief.  All mistletoes are parasites than when they are a healthy bunch, kill the host trees.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Many birds and animals find the hollowed out trees ideal for nesting.  Mistletoe seeds are sticky, attach themselves to traveling animals to find new homes and then adhere to trees while their roots take hold.  Mature growths turn into a thick, sometimes rounded mass of branches and stems that can look like baskets and are sometimes called witches brooms.  The seeds of some species of mistletoe “explode” shooting their seeds up to fifty feet away to sprout.    Although the white berries are toxic to humans, many other animal species depend on them when food is scarce.  The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe goes back to the 1500′s and to do it properly, each time a couple kisses under the mistletoe, they should remove one of the white berries.  When there’s no more berries, the mistletoe has lost it’s kissing power.

My good friend and owner of The Stone Manse Inn outside of Harrisburg returned my manuscript this week.  She did a wonderful job translating my rambling into a cohesive text.  With winter closing in on us, I wanted to get started on it again.  I have roughly 55,000 words and need 75,000 for a publisher to even consider it.  I gave it to Myra about two years ago as she was opening her Inn to giver her pointers on things she may not have thought of.  I started it when I sold my bed and breakfast in Florida and had lots of time on my hands waiting for closing.  Since they were going to bulldoze my property and build townhouses, the only work I was doing was basic maintenance.  I had wanted to write a book for sometime and that seemed like a good time to start.  I buzzed through about 25,000 words and hit a brick wall.  Someone suggested I buy a book on how to open and run a bed and breakfast to get ideas on things I missed.  Which I did and added about another 15,000 words.  I bought another book and add probably another 10,000 and Myra’s editing added the remaining 5,000.  The book I’m reading now is How to Start and Run Your Own Bed and Breakfast Inn by Ripley Hotch and Carl Glassman.  I’ve picked up a lot of ideas from them and not complaining, but they miss a bunch that I already cover.  They have a different approach which is giving me a lot to think about and then put in my book (and of course acknowledge their contributions).  So between the influence they will have and experiences I’ve had the last seven years, I think we can make it up to the magic number, 75,000.  One of the things I have in my book are life stories of mine.  They either give good examples of what I am talking about at the time or a humorous story related to the current topic.  I had them spread throughout my manuscript.  Before each one, Myra calls them Ed Mania, I love it.

At least we’ve past the solstice, the shortest day of the year was yesterday.  It’s all better from now on.  Have a great holiday and be safe,



One week until Christmas, are you finished with all your shopping and decorating?  Remember, it’s not the expense of the gift or the height of the tree, it’s what’s in the heart.  :)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the release of, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced Titanic was released in 1997 and The Music Man made it’s debut on Broadway in 1957.  Birth anniversaries include arctic explorer Sir William Parry (1790), Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev (1906), suffragette Mary Ashton Livermore (1821) and American black historian Carter Godwin Woodson (1875).

I have a question.  I keep seeing all these penalties the federal government is getting in the millions of dollars, BP in in the billions.  I mean this is constant, I can’t remember how many in just the past year was awarded.  This covers all bases, accounting, banking, environmental, etc.  Where does all this money go?

It was bound to happen.  They’ve had those posters around for years that look like a window with a view behind it.  Well Sky View has come up with framed faux windows with a high definition LED changing scene behind it.  It can also come with sound.  There’s about three dozen scenes to pick from and lots of options.  Needless to say, this Christmas gift ain’t cheap.  :)

Have you been invited to, or organized your own Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and not been able to locate an ugly sweater?  This time of year, thrift stores can’t keep them in stock, the ugly Christmas sweaters are becoming quite the rage.  Some people are resorting to buying a regular holiday sweater and then finding tacky embellishments at thrift stores or craft stores and applying them to the sweaters themselves.  Andrew Sutton is organizing to have a national ugly Christmas sweater party day on December 21 and has over 3,500 likes on his Facebook page.  You can find ugly sweaters at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party web site,  ugly Christmas t-shirts can be found at Vardagen, the ugly Christmas, or travel to the virtual Dr Frankenstein of ugly Christmas sweaters, Gail Tavernaris who sells her wares on Esty and in The Trading Post in New Brighton.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the American Studio-Glass movement.  It started when Dominick Labino a Carnegie Mellon University engineer and inventor joined teams with Harvey Littleton.  They developed a small portable furnace and low-temperature melting point glass giving studio artists get into what had been restricted to those with access to large industrial furnaces.  Celebrating this at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery at 5833 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside is Cheers, Salute, L’Chaim to the Next 50.  Eight national artists are showing a wide array of various applications of this art form.  It runs through January 30 and there’s more information at their web site or by calling 412-441-5200.

For the seventh year in a row, Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is at The Mall at Robinson doing free gift wrapping all the way up to Christmas Eve.  WPHS brings adoptable pets with them as well as service animals which are quite a hit with the young and old.  They pared up with Panera Bread who donated the boxes and wrapping paper.  As I said, the gift wrapping is free although WPHS is asking for donations to help with the care for 12,000 animals they service each year.  I was there today and they have the cutest pet themed holiday wrapping paper.  Any donations go directly to WPHS.  By the way, on Charity Navigator WPHS comes up 4 out of 4, an excellent rating.  More below.

With government funding being cut more and more, charitable organizations need our help more and more.  And Americans are stepping up to the plate.  The National Day of Giving had a 53% spike in donations this year over last (it grew up to $10M).  And it’s more important than ever to donate wisely.  Particularly at this time of year, you get a ton of requests through snail mail, e-mail and on the phone.  The most dangerous are the requests on the phone.  NEVER give credit card information to these people.  NEVER give cash.  NEVER make a check out in the name of an individual, ALWAYS in the name of the charity.  If you buy into what the phone call is plugging, insist on mailing a check and double check the address given to you that it is legitimate.  The most common scammed charities identify the recipient is a police, fire or veteran’s organization.  Generally, even if it is legitimate, they generally source the collection out to a company that charge outrageous fees, most of the donated money goes to the soliciting company.  If you would like to donate to one of these three, contact your local organization and ask how you can donate directly to them.  When giving to a charity, be sure you are actually donating to the charity you want to receive your donation.  For example, the Children’s Defense Fund sounds a lot like the Children’s Charity Fund.  Both are legitimate charities, but which do you want to donate to?  And of course, there’s the obvious scam where some nefarious person or group creates a web site that looks a lot like the legitimate one and re-directs you to their site.  A big thing these days is texting to a charitable organization.  Be careful here as well.  If you are not 100% comfortable with texting to a charity, check them out at the Mobile Giving Foundation.  Remember, any donation over $250 has to have a receipt to be tax deductible (depending on your income level, there’s a certain amount of charitable donations you can make with no real documentation, when you go over that thresh hold, you need receipts for anything over that).  One  thing to consider, everyone has their hand in the pie.  (And I’m not talking scamming here.  There are “legitimate” costs like credit card processing fees the charity has to pay to redeem your donation, if you do it by credit card).  It may be more cost effective to donate to one charity $100 instead of donating to four charities $25 each.  Finally, make a “wish list” of what tugs at your heart.  Do children’s charities move you more than environmental?  Did a police officer give you a ticket and a fireman saved your child when your house caught on fire?  Then do your homework.  What charities are out there that service needs that appeal to you and make a list.  Then find out which charities are most effective, don’t believe what they have to say, go to the TripAdvisor of the charity world.  In addition to Charity Navigator,  there’s Great Non Profits, Guide Star and finally  Wise Giving Alliance  (Wise Giving is a division of the Better Business Bureau and I’m not a big fan of the BBB.  They’re not evil, but they very actively solicit sponsorship for a fee).

Yuengling , America’s oldest brewery, took the title of the largest American-owned beer maker from Sam Adams.  Dick Yuengling, great, great grandson of German immigrant David Yuengling still brews beer in Pottsville, PA.  Dick attributes his success to several things.  #1, let quality speak for itself.  #2, keep with the nuts and bolts of your industry.  #3, push profitable products, they sell a lot more of the highly profitable kegs than Sam Adams and finally, #4, don’t waste advertising dollars.  As beer sales continues to slip in the US, craft beers continue to grow.  Which means one thing, small business craft beers are steeling market share from the huge internationals Anheuser-Bush, SABMiller and Miller Coors Brewing company.  Yeah!  :)

Have a great day, keep warm and dry on this dreary day,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the premiere of the film Gone With the Wind (1939), the anniversary of Sitting Bull’s death (1890), the anniversary of the Battle of San Pietro (1943) and effective date of the Bill of Rights (1791) MASSIVE.  Birth anniversary of Alexandre Eiffel (engineer Eiffel Tower 1832), sub machine gun inventor Uzi Gal and Polish oculist Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof (1859).

It’s nice to see a local mega bank has the spirit of Christmas.  PNC seems to be making a big deal about they are starting a moratorium on throwing people out of their homes for two weeks over Christmas.  I think a bigger Christmas gift would be where a bank straightens out their foreclosure process so it’s fair and just.  #1  I acknowledge there’s a lot of people that should have never received a mortgage because either they are irresponsible or don’t have the income to afford it.  #2  I also acknowledge a lot of properties are “underwater” (I’m not referring to Super Storm Sandy aftermaths).  :)    As far as #1 goes, banks have no responsibility for these folks.  #2 I think the attitude should be if the bank forecloses on the property because the owners paid too much for it before the bottom fell out on real estate, a different attitude towards this situation is a lot different than #1.  The bank is not going to be able to sell the property for what the current owners owe, so since the property is going to be sold for less, why not re-negotiate what the value of the house is and create an appropriate mortgage?  I know why, because the banks have the legal recourse to take over the property through foreclosure, write off their expenses, steal (my opinion) the equity the current owners have built up in it and then sell it for a profit.  Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right or moral.

The warmest story from the Western PA Humane Society.  A passerby found an abandoned dog along the side of the road that was in really rough shape.  He took her to a local shelter and was turned down because the shelter was full.


She had a severe case of mange, open sores, malnutrition and was terrified of everything and everyone.  They named her Hope.  Because the passerby and the Humane Society didn’t not give up on Hope, here she is today:

What an amazing transformation.  Just look at her eyes before and after.  An amazing side story, Hope doesn’t have a home yet, but her foster mom is being treated for cancer and they are both growing their hair back together.  :)  Thank you Humane Society for all you do.

Speaking of life’s creatures, I talked about this awhile back, Audubon Society is looking for people to take part in their national Christmas Bird Count.  You don’t have to be a professional birder or any such.  Just some free time and a desire to step outside in some fresh air.  This is the 113th year of the count and they expect 60,000 people to participate.  Each count is done in 24 hours and are in a 15 mile radius that each team covers.  In addition to long term trends, these counts show season blips like the Canadian finches that are migrating farther than normal because weather conditions kept their natural food supply of pine cones depleted.  Don’t fret, the Christmas Counts aren’t done on Christmas day.  :)  Most of it is done this weekend or the weekend of December 29 & 30.  More info at their web site or by calling 412-963-6100.

I was filled with hope recently about the proposed Buncher project down in the Strip.  Mayor Murphy addressed City Council last week and expressed his displeasure with the proposal.  (Mayor Murphy was a huge proponent for re-developing the river fronts).  He said the proposal on the table was overall very boring and the planned development along the river was a best very needing.  He tactfully expressed concern about the demise of 1/4 of the Terminal Building.  A week ago, John Conti, the architectural contributor to the Tribune Review bashed the project as well.  He’s pointed out the shortcomings of the proposal twice, so I’m adding a second link here Trib .  Well, this morning I read that City Council voted to approve the project.  Council President Darlene Harris voted in favor of the project, when questioned about the set back from the river, she said City Council has no authority to make Buncher use a larger set back than is required by code.  When I read that, I send her a comment through her web site that maybe not, but City Council sure does have a say so in whether Buncher can get $50MILLION in city money and City Council does have a say so in whether Buncher can tear down 1/4 of the historic/iconic Terminal Building.  Of course, once again I received the automated response acknowledging that a citizen made a comment to Council President, nothing else.  I guess my votes doesn’t count.

This week, Paris celebrated a special birthday.  Notre Dame turned 850 years old.  It was pointed out that Notre Dame out lasted 80 kings, 2 emperors and 5 republics.  I don’t recall the name, but I read a very interesting book about how the architects back then figured out how to build these grand edifices.  I did a web search and nothing came up that I recalled.  And I did a in my past postings and nothing came up there either.

Ricky Dick’s creation Castle Blood in Monessen is open this weekend for a Spooky Little Cryptmas.  He’s the guy that that converted and old multi-plex into a horror themed venue.  Obviously, it’s huge around Halloween, but he does other holidays like if February he does My Bloody Valentine.  He has toned down the the show and added lots of poinsettias, Santa hats, etc.  He also rents the venue out for special occasions.  Admission is $10 and it runs Saturday from 11 until 7 and Sunday from 2 until 5.  More info at his web site or by calling 724-314-3563.

Have a great weekend,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in favor GW Bush over Al Gore in the Florida recount (2000), it is Frank Sinatra’s birth anniversary (1915), it is the 225 anniversary of Pennsylvania ratifying the US Constitution and it is the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major Mexican holiday.

Several new birds of prey have been added to The National Aviary.  The new cast members include a four year old Bald Eagle, a Snowy Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk.  The Aviary’s collection contains 600 specimens of 200 species.  Like Phipps, it’s always a nice place to pretend you’re not in Pittsburgh in the winter.

Not surprising, the film industry is phasing out 35 mm and Blu-ray discs and are adopting Digital Cinema Packages (DCP’s as they are known in the industry).  DCP is portable hard drives which download movies into computers at the theater.  This format gives a higher quality film and is a safe guard against pirating.  Unfortunately, it is quite costly, $35K to $50K per screen which quite possibly will make it inaccessible to the small theaters around the country.

I found a cool site, Mom and Pop Motels is an internet directory of non-franchised, independently owned and operated hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns, and vacation rentals. No chains are allowed!  And a convenient and easy way for travelers to find a cool place to stay.  First of all, Mom and Pop Motels are most likely less expensive. Go ahead, call around. If you are traveling on a budget or like to watch what you spend, a Mom and Pop will suit your needs much more comfortably. Plus, staying at Mom and Pop motels contributes directly to family-run businesses and their local economies.  I need to add my listing to their site.

Another small business advocate site I found is vintage roadside attractions.  They talk about roadside diners, attractions, motor courts, etc, but you have to work to find things.  The way it’s set up is you go to their gift shop (and you can do this by category) and click on the tee shirt of the location that caught your interest.  Below the retro shirt is the history from where it came from.  Some attractions are still open, some are closed.  If you are into retro, a very good find for you.  They also talk about trips they’ve taken in their blog and look for stories from their followers that they post as well.  The thing I didn’t like is they don’t have a search feature.  You can’t type in Pittsburgh, PA somewhere and see what vintage attractions are in a location.  They do have some excellent links on their links page.  I’m not overly whining about this, it’s still definitely a worthwhile site to visit.

If you want to take a road trip, Koziar’s Christmas Village over in Bernville, PA (about four or five hours east of here) is a family farm creation of 500,000 lights on ten acres.  The tradition, began in 1948, was William Koziar’s idea of decorating his farm for the holidays for his wife and two small children.  Each year, William would add new displays.  The family has continued this tradition and you can image what they have created in sixty-four years.  The farm is still owned by the family and they get started in August, open in early November and close right after the holidays.  It really is a sight to see.

I got two of the nicest e-mails today.  Several years ago Patrick and his family relocated here from New England to take over the Mon Valley Initiative, a non profit like Pittsburgh’s URA trying to foster growth and job in the Mon Valley.  Initially, when they bought their first house and was remodeling it, his parents Bob and Monica would stay with me.  This is their recent e-mail:

“Ed-Monica and I just received your Christmas card today and enjoyed seeing the picture of you and your “family” as well as reading what you’ve been up to. It then made us go to your web site and begin reading your blog. The City of Pittsburgh should have you do their public announcements for them. Now when we come to visit Pat and his family, we’ll know where to look to see what’s going on. We’ve always enjoyed our stays at the Parador but hope you understand that we enjoy too, being able to stay right with Pat and his family. Should he ever run out of room, we would certainly return. Hope you continue your success with the Parador and have a great holiday season-and I hope you can get the Steelers back to winning.”

The second e-mail was from Norma from Aletier, a company out of Philly that specializes in moving higher end objects, the founder Hal Jones worked for the Philadelphia Museum Art Museum and saw a need for a specialized company for this.  Norma arranges all the details and about a week ago, called and wanted to do something a little special for her guys instead of the normal Motel 6.  The guys stayed with me last night and here’s what she wrote:

“Hello Ed!

Big thanks from Atelier for taking care of our guys.  They seemed to really enjoy the decor and said they were very comfortable.  It was a very special treat for them to get away from the usual roadside motel. One of them even hugged me in happiness when they got back to the office.   I hope to book with you again next time our guys are out that way.”

In the 1960′s, Joyce Byers decided to make her own Christmas decorations because she couldn’t find ones that reflected her taste.  She started creating decorations on her kitchen table using coat hangers as the base skeleton and then adding paper mache, paper scraps, pieces of cloth, ribbons and other scrap items lying around.  She kind of settled on her more iconic rounded mouth carolers that she is so famous for.  At friends’ requests, she started making them as gifts and occasionally for sale.  She started selling them full time at the Woman’s Craft Exchange in Wayne, PA.  When her husband’s construction business went bust in the 1970, the whole family moved into the garage “factory” and started Byer’s Choice LTD.  They now have a real factory in Chalfont, PA cranking out hundreds of thousands of the carolers that are carried in 2,500 gift shops nationwide.  They still use coat hangers at the basic skeleton and employ 120 local artists to complete the figurines.  Although some of the pieces are generated in bulk, each figurine is finished by one of the 120 and so each are unique.  If you want to tour the factory, they are located in just outside State College and the factory tour takes you over the factory and you can look down that the artists creating their pieces.  One collector has over 4,000 figurines.  The price has gone up from the $12 back in the 1970′s, most are in the $70 range.  Not bad.

So here’s some holiday pictures from The Parador Inn:

The exterior:

Coconut ornaments:

The colorful objects in the top panel of the windows are actual coconuts that I spray painted and then painted holiday images like the green one on the right with a snowman the red one on the left with Christmas trees.

My more formal tree in the Parlor:

Festive lights in the Library:

And what would a Caribbean Inn be without a Caribbean tree:

Some of it you can make out in the picture.  It is covered with hand painted tropical fish, ornaments made from various sea shells, nautically themed ornaments and the red garland is actual real commercial fish netting that I cut into strips and spray painted red.

Well, that’s about it for now, have a great one,





Busy day in history tomorrow. Birth anniversaries include cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney (1765), artist Diego Rivera (1886), musician Jim Morrison (1943), American humorist James Thurber (1894)  and entertainer Sammy Davis Jr (1925).  NAFT was signed (1993), John Lennon was shot (1980), the AFL was founded (1886) and the Soviet Union was dissolved (1991).

HModcloth had their second photo shoot here at The Parador Tuesday.  This photo shoot was to highlight their Christmas collection.  The last time they were here, they named a dress and matching skirt after me.  :)  The Parador collection quickly sold out, I don’t know if it was the name or the the style.  :)

The Fire Escape Coffee and Tea shop (so named because it’s next to the fire station) in Ben Avon has been open for three years now.  Melanie & David Holcomb (and daughter) moved to the neighborhood and saw a need for a neighborhood gathering place and opened up their coffee shop.  Besides a wide selection of coffee and teas, Melanie makes the pastries and other menu items.  (I have spoken of The Fire Escape in a past blog).  Besides being a coffee shop and meeting place for the neighborhood, they keep toys on the lower shelves for kids, paperback books on the upper shelves for the adults, open spaces for meetings (knitting ladies meet Friday mornings) and they have occasional performances. More info on their web site or by calling 412.772.8569.

It’s that time of year again.  Be sure to make time to visit holiday institutions that make Christmas Christmas here in Pittsburgh.  Phipps Conservatory has their annual holiday flower display in full bloom (pun intended).  The Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland has their annual Christmas tree displays up and their theme runs with their show highlighting the old World’s Fairs.  The show, “Inventing the Modern World:  Decorative Arts at the World’s Fair’s 1851-1939” runs through February 24. There’s the annual miniature train display at the Carnegie Science Center.  And a must see is the Cathedral of Learning’s annual nationality trees in their nationality rooms.  There’s about forty nationality rooms completed and around rooms ten pending.  In case you don’t know, all rooms have to represent a classroom in that country at the time Pitt was founded (1787).  The history behind the Nationality Rooms is in 1920 the Chancellor of Pitt decided to build the tallest educational structure in the world so anywhere in the city, kids could look up and see it and maybe be inspired to stay in school.  Then in the 1930′s, he recognized Pittsburgh was first settled by the French and British and when industry came to town, the Germanics came over first (the Germans, Slovaks, Poles, etc).  So he got the national club to pay for, bring ethnic craftsmen and materials to create a themed classroom.  The first floor has the original immigrants and the newer immigrants are up on the third floor.  As far as having holiday trees in the classroom, obviously the Chinese do not celebrate “Christmas” and don’t have an evergreen tree decorated with lights a bulbs.  But all groups of people have some kind of New Year’s holiday and their room boasts what would be a traditional tree in that culture.

Although the food crisis a few weeks ago has been adverted, the Greater Pittsburgh Food bank still struggles to meet the increasing needs of it’s customers while it’s government assistance wanes.  The Northside Common Ministries right down the street from me is where I usually donate.  If you want to help, it’s much better to set a regular routine, like sending them a check on the same day of the month for say $10, $20 or $100.  Or they are always looking for shelf stable foods (ie canned vegetables, dry cereals, etc).  Again, say once a month, go to any of your big box stores and spend $10, $20 or $100 and just drop it off.  Cynthia at NSCM’s phone number is 412.323.1170.

The Hand Made Arcade is coming to the convention center for the ninth straight year tomorrow.  Free admission, it runs from 11 am until 7 pm and is hosting 150 vendors.  This is not like that show at the Monroeville Expo Mart several weeks ago that had roofers, window replacement specialists, a chiropractor and shop keepers selling items made in China (the did have real crafters there, you just had to look a bit to find them).  The sponsors of the Hand Made Arcade weeded through 300 applicants to arrive at the 150.  Not only are these true crafts persons selling their own wares, there’s a huge green aspect to the vendors and the event.

Changin’ Time Laundry Services is expanding.  Maria, Christina, Michelle and Amanda have been running a home based diaper service and have just opened an eight washer, ten dryer storefront laundromat that also accepts drop off.  With their current thirty customers, they thought it was time to expand.  They are eyeing a grey water recovery system and other green options for their location at 405 W Eighth Avenue.

I know I promised pictures of my holiday decorations, but I need to take them at night and I wanted to get this posted so everyone knew about the Hand Made Arcade tomorrow.  Last year I found the cutest “monster hoodies” for my nieces and nephews.  I will take pictures and do a pictorial post this weekend.

Have a great weekend,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of AP correspondent and Lebanese hostage Terry Anderson was released (1991), it is the 55th anniversary of Chase’s Calendar of Events (where I pick up all this trivia), Mission Santa Barbara was founded in Santa Barbara, CA (1786) and the National Grange was founded (1786).  It is the birth anniversary of possibly the biggest entertainer of the 19th century, Lillian Russel and Chase Calendar chronicler Helen Chase (1924).

Cast iron skillets, the “original” non stick cooking pans, are experiencing a resurgence.  Lodge Manufacturing Company, the last remaining American maker of cast iron skillets, says the last few years have been the best in the company’s history (they were founded in 1896).  When seasoned properly, a  cast iron skillet is an ideal non stick cooking surface.  They hold heat the longest (so you need to pay attention when heating them up for when they get to the temperature you want), they have no hot or cold spots and are basically non stick.  The thing that intimidates most people are the achieving and maintaining the proper temperature (which is easily mastered with a little practice) and the seasoning of the skillet routine, which is incredibly easy.  After use, scrub out all left over food residue and pat dry.  Place on high heat to finish the drying process and add less than a tablespoon of canola oil (you can use any fat, I like canola).  Take a paper towel and spread the fat around and absorb any excess fat.  Over time, the fat hardens (polymerizes) to form a dense, slick layer on the surface.  And there’s no Teflon chips to worry about.  :)

They just re-released The Butler’s Guide to Running the Home and Other Graces.  Long time English butler Stanley Ager originally published the book in 1980, I think they should have updated it while releasing it.  Some of his advice is past due, like the amount of laundry detergent (too much for front loaders) and to not inform “the staff that a royal will be visiting” until the last possible moment.  There are a ton of useful tips like setting tables, properly packing cloths so they don’t wrinkle, leather shoe care and a lot of other tidbits you may find useful.  My hyperlink goes to snippets from his book, just type the title in a search and the book appears all over the place.

The evil corporate giant ConAgra bought Ralcorp that now makes it the largest maker of store brand labels.  Ralcorp makes cereals, crackers and other packaged foods under private labels.  These are the store brand labels that always under price name brand items.  ConAgra is huge in agriculture and they’re the ones that make mutant seeds and require the farmers that use their product to sign these extremely strict contracts.

Speaking of processed foods, I don’t understand the controversy over oversized passengers on airplanes.  I’m not a big fan of the airline industry, but if a passenger needs two seats to fit, they should pay for the second seat.  I know I’m not being overly politically correct here, but you don’t go into a McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger and fries and expect to get a quarter pounder because you’re over weight.

Well, I finished the deep cleaning on the first floor last week and have been busy decorating for the upcoming holidays.  Hopefully, it will be finished today.  As I’m doing all this, I’m also working on this year’s holiday cards.  Two huge undertakings.  (This year’s mailing list is 3,000).  Speaking of mailing things, just to get things started, I went to the Post Office and patiently waited my turn.  When I approached the postal clerk and requested 1,500 post card stamps, he looked at me with a straight face and said “You need to order them”.  I looked at him with an equally straight face and said “Postage is what you guys do here, right?”  After a few seconds of staring at each other, he said he’d look in the back.  He came back with probably 5,000 rolls of stamps.  Now I wonder why the Post Office is going out of business.  :)

Anyway, back to what I started this latest about, while deep cleaning I found the manufacturer’s stamp on the blue chandelier in the front dining room. It’s a Tiche, which may make me famous.  I haven’t had a lot of time to research it on the web, what I have found is it’s Italian from Monza in the Lombardia region and goes back at least into the mid 1800′s.  The only real references I have come across is the brand seems to be pretty big in England.  There’s a fair amount of Tiche lamps that are being sold over there on their version of E-bay.  Apparently Wikipedia doesn’t have anything on it.  So when I have more time to find out more about Tiche, I’ll make my first Wikipedia inclusion.

Here’s some pic’s of my chandelier:

Here’s a close up of the cherubs:

And here’s a close up of their logo:

If anyone has any info on Tiche or know where I can find more info, please let me know.

Well, that’s about it for today, once I have the holiday decorations done, I’ll do another post with pictures.

Take care and enjoy this warm, but dreary day,