Tomorrow is the anniversary of the worst disaster of an American steamboat, the unexplained explosion of the Sultana cause the loss of an estimated 1,800 mainly union soldiers returning home in 1865.  It is the Independence Day for both Togo and Sierra Leone.  It is the death anniversary of Portuguese explorer Ferinand Magellan (1521) and the birth anniversaries of Coretta Scott King (1927), Ulysses S Grant (1822), creator of Woody Wood Pecker Walter Lantz (1900) and Samuel Morse (1898).

Heads up for Butler events this summer.  We’ll start with the Butler County Chainsaw Carving Invitational occurs May 10 – 12. Next up, the annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival June 14 – 16, a Father’s Day tradition at the birthplace of the iconic Jeep.  And then at the end of June, the 158th Annual Big Butler Fair will be the event  will be held June 28 through July 6.  The other July event (21 – 27) will be the 2013 National Unicycle Convention.  August 3 & 4  will be the 15th Annual Regatta at Lake Arthur.  The lastscheduled summer Butler event will be the 65th Annual Butler Farm Show.

Architect Paolo Soleri would design futuristic cities where people/cities/manufacturing/business was put in tight quarters leaving the balance for parks/recreation/agriculture.  Though extensively studied in architectural school, very little of his designs were ever actually built.  So to support his family and the apprentices working for him, he made bronze and ceramic bells and wind chimes.  Mercy Hospital has two of them, the big one is suspended over the main stair case and the other is outside the chapel.

There’s a contest to name to pair of Bald Eagles nesting out in Harmar.  If you would like to make a suggestion, go to the Audubon Society and make your suggestions.

This summer is the 150th anniversary of the July 1 through July 3 Battle of Gettysburg.  The Gettysburg Foundation has activities planned from June 28th through July 7th.  Lots going on, they are expecting in excess of 200,000 visitors for the festivities.  Lots of activities are planned, the time line is at the Foundation’s website. Gettysburg is not a day trip from here, if you are going out, a good friend had a wonderful Inn, The Stone Manse Inn.  Myra, Phil & Alex’s in is the oldest occupied structure in York county.  The summer house was built in 1737 (I think).  Random plank floors, huge stone hearth with a bread oven and swivel iron rod for cooking the pot of stew over the flames.  :)  Very cool, great breakfast and hosts.

Speaking of Inns, we had the Pittsburgh Bed and Breakfast Association meeting last week at Doone’s Inn at Oakmont.  Innkeeper Lorna was a gracious hostess at this beautiful Inn.  You can see the world renown golf course from the Inn just across the street.  So if you have any golfers coming into town (or your a golfer and want to make a weekend of it), give her a call.  It’s always nice to meet up with other Innkeepers to see what they’re up to and swap tips and tidbits.  In a couple of weeks (May 8th), I’ll be hosting the fairly new Pennsylvania Association of Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers.  PABBI has been around just over a year and they are holding meetings around the state to get input from Innkeepers that are PABBI membrs and non-members.  In less than a year, I think PABBI has about half the bed and breakfasts in the state signed up.

Phipps is starting one of my favorite combinations they do, Glass in the Gardens.  Somehow glass artwork and flowers just seem to compliment each other.  When Dale Chihuly had his exhibit at the Phipps several years ago, I had a number of Chihuly groupies stay at my Inn that plan their vacations around Chihuly exhibits and they all said it was the most spectacular they had ever seen.  I’m not a major fan of his, I do like a lot of what he does, but I’m more into smaller local artists like Gary Guydosh’s 8′ glass sunflower that’s in the visitor’s center.  Daviea Davis created a mosaic pillar for the Serpentine Room that’s very cool.  You don’t have to break your neck to get over to see it, the show runs through October 6.  More info at the Phipps website or by calling 412-622-6914.

Speaking of me not being a fan, then there’s always Justin Bieber.  Last week his grandfather did an expose interview somewhere about being destitute and going to loose his house, gramps complains Da Biebs doesn’t talk to him.  Justin travels with a 17 week old capuchin monkey?  When he entered Germany Tuesday, the customs agents seized the monkey.    And I think it was his concert this week in London the the police searched his bus and confiscated a yet to be identified “controlled substance”.  I have no details on any of this, I just have noticed the last week snippets on NPR and in the newspaper. Sounds like he may be traveling down the road of Lindsay Lohan.  :)

The Cultural Trust‘s galleries at 707 and 709 Penn Avenue have two very different looks.  One of the Trust’s installers has his own exhibit he calling Adult Arcade in the 707 gallery.  It’s kind of a dark showing (illumination wise) that’s lit by the glow of red lasers on his paintings.  It is accompanied with a futuristic sound scape.  In 709, curators Vicky Clark and Cindy Lisica pulled works of 6 artists that all had used characters or character identity in their art.  Mark Newport of Detroit made four life sized super-hero suits made out of macrame, while former Pittsburgh resident Jeff Schwarz did some whimsical ceramic busts that blend some self portrait characteristics and those of the original inspiration.  My favorite is Mexican artist Mr. Glaubitz from Tijuana’s “Punk” portrait.  Punk is not on his website, but you can get a feel for his graffiti style influence.  As always, admission is free and these both run through May 17.  More info at their websites or by calling 412-456-6666.

Even with being closed for two full weeks in February for a wonderful trip to Costa Rica and the Steelers AGAIN not making the playoffs, The Parador has gone over last years sales, year to date.  And we’re just coming into “season”.  Yeah!  Enjoy your weekend,



Tomorrow is Earth Day, so something appropriate please.  It is also the anniversary of Babe Ruth’s pitching debut (1914), the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvarez Cabral (1500), the first solo trip to the North Pole by Norwegian Borge Ausland (1994), the Oklahoma Land Rush started (1889) and the birth anniversary of Nikolai Lenin (1870).

Here’s a post from the trade group PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers Internation) that’s pretty funny.  Just click on the image of the hotel clerk to watch the video.  Obviously, owning a Bed and Breakfast, I laugh at the “big guys” (hotels) that feel so threatened by us “little guys” (Bed and Breakfasts) that they need to offer “Bed and Breakfast Packages”.  I’ve been watching this trend grow for years.  It started with the economy chains offering “free breakfast” about ten years ago with was actually just a continental (which I admit many Bed and Breakfasts do).  Then to out do each other, they then added frozen waffles which they heated up.  Finally, the mid-priced chains started adding Bed and Breakfast Specials to their “specials”.  Coming from a hotel background, I have found it amusing (and disconcerting) how they offer half the truths.  Yes, you can get water from hotels-minibars was one of my largest sources of profit.  :)  I could go on for hours on how hotels are expert on “up selling”.  “Oh, you want a bed in the room, that will be an additional $50.”    Just watch the video and think of me, I’ve probably seen it seven times (from various sources) and laughed each time.

I have battled slugs since I moved here.  I saw one over six inches (I swear) a number of years ago.  Since starting composting several years ago, I haven’t seen them or their slimy trails in the mornings, except in the composting bin.  I’ve murdered them one by one, but they have always come back.  Most days I’d find at least a few.  Jessica Walliser writes a gardening column for the Trib and she takes questions.  I asked her about the slugs and she recommended any product with Iron phosphate in it.  I bought a container of Bonide Slug Magic at one of the big box Lowe’s or Home Depot and oh my.  I sprinkled it in the compost bin and haven’t seen a slug in a week.  It’s safe around pets & wild life (RJ’s squirrel’s safe :) ).

Here’s one for you, China overtook the United States as the global leader in clean energy investment last year.  They’ve had such a huge push to be the leading exporter over the past several decades that their environment really took a beating.  Now that their economy is changing and they are seeing the effects of all this pollution, their leaders are have invested $65B last year in clean energy while the US dropped our investment 40%.  To keep things in perspective, we started figuring out that we need to clean up the mess we made during the early industrial revolution decades ago and started our “clean up”.  We still have a long way to go, but China is just starting to take their environment seriously.  Also, with the fall in orders for solar panels in particular (which the Chinese where the world’s largest producer), someone had to buy the panels.  I’m not knocking them, I wish them the best and hope they put the effort they put into being the world’s largest exporter into being the world’s greenest country.  They have a loooong way to go to beat out the Scandinavian countries.  Sweden recycles 96% of it’s trash, which pretty amazing.  They had built a trash to energy plant that they can’t keep supplied with trash to burn.  Norway is currently paying Sweden to burn their trash and the Swedes are currently looking at contracting with other European governments to burn their trash.  :)

If you want to “get your game on”, there’s options in Pittsburgh other the the big box national chains of Dave & Busters and Chuck E Cheese.  Just of 18th Street on the Southside is Games N’at at 2010 Josephine Street, they are celebrating their 10th anniversary.  They have all kinds of old school and new school games and naturally prices vary according to the game you choose.  More info at their website or by calling 412-481-2002.  West View has Pinball Perfection at 231 Perry Highway which is part museum, part store, part pinball restoration and part game room.  It hosts 220 games including many rare, classic and vintage.  More info at their website or by calling 412-931-4425.  If you are into pinball, the Mecca of pinballing is quite possibly located Scott Township, PAPA (The Professional and Amateur Pinball Association ).  Generally, this facility with over 450 games is not open to the public.  But they are sponsoring the World Pinball Championships August 8 through 11 and will be open to the public for this charity fundraising event.  More info at their web site.  In North Fayette near Robinson is Latitude 40.  This huge entertainment complex has about 70 games, movies, restaurants and bars.  More info at their website or by calling 412-693-5555.  In North Park is Wildwood Highlands has many seasonal activities like miniature golf and snow tubing; but they also have an arcade with several video games.  More info at their website or by calling 412-487-5517.

The National Aviary is celebrating the arrival of their newest, a Eurasian eagle owlet.  The staff brings the baby out occasionally on a daily basis for visitors to see.  It is the cutest thing.

Dormont’s Hollywood Theater’s latest fundraising program is a Secret Santa, or more appropriately a Secret Cinema.  The next one will be Friday, April 26.  Of course, Hollywood Theater knows what the movie is going to be ahead of time and they commission local artists to create an original movie poster for this screening.  The event starts with music, micro-brewed Latrobe based Flat Rock Brewing beer, new pieces of art from local artists with a 1980′s horror theme of the movie and a booth by Lawrenceville based House of the Dead.  After the film, if you bought a “poster pass”, “date night” or “VIP date night” package you get a copy of the film’s poster.  You can buy any extra posters after the three packages get theirs, if any’s left.  Proceeds are split between the Hollywood and co-sponsor Toonseum.  More info at Secret Cinema website.

Point Park Project 1: Kaleidoscope is a collaboration between the Warhol and Point Park University and it runs through May 12.  Nicholas Chambers, Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Warhol worked with four art students from Pitt to create this exhibit.  Chambers worked with the emerging artists for four months viewing other exhibits, talking about their strengths and weaknesses and deciding how to proceed with their own ideas.  Although these four artists use various styles, they worked together to create a cohesive whole. The exhibit is on the ground floor of Lawrence Hall on the corner of Wood Street and Blvd of the Allies and some of it is even visible from the street.

Finally, did you know how much of America is protected by volunteer firemen?  69% of all firefighters are volunteers, of the 30,145 fire departments in the US, 20,200 are all-volunteer and 5,530 are mostly volunteer.  It is estimated that these volunteers save the overall economy $130B annually. Risking their lives, taking on risks that aren’t clear cut, time spend training and responding really adds up.  Next time you pass one of there “boot” collections at an intersection, remember this.  We owe them.  :)

Enjoy our unfolding spring,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s Ride (1775), the first time Japan’s mainland was bombed in WWII (1942), San Fransisco’s earthquake (1906), Zimbabwe’s Independence Day (1980), the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 which replaced the the British North American Act of 1867 created by the British and the failure of the 34-D Titan Rocket failure (1986).

I have been very busy and it looks like I will be for the foreseeable future.  There was the Frozen Four last week, this weekend I’m pretty much sold out already and next weekend is Pitt’s graduation.  I have a bunch of rooms sold for three or more nights.  And I’m pretty slow early in the week and this week I journeyed up to Leesburg and went antiquing.  I like to play with my Victorian/Caribbean thing and I had this old Victorian picture I put in a tropical picture frame when I first started this project.

I’ve been looking for more old Victorian photo’s for a couple of years now without success.  Well, guess what I found at Leesburg Station Antique Shop?

Here’s one of the new pictures in a frame I’ve had for awhile:

And then I found this incredibly tacky, but I love it at the Leesburg School House Antique Shop:

I don’t know how I’m going to use this, but I’m sure I’ll find the right spot.  :)

The 43rd Earth Day is this coming Monday.  Lots of family friendly events coming up over this weekend.  Citiparks, teaming with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, will be hosting a community campfire at the Frick Environmental Center (2005 Beechwood Blvd) from 6 pm until 9 pm on Friday.  This event is free, they are providing the fire, sticks and warm cider-you supply marshmallows, cups for the cider and your own fireside stories.  :)     On Saturday, also at Frick Park there will be a tree planting event you can volunteer for.  This is from 9 am until 1 pm and includes a lunch after your toils.  Registration is required for this event and you can do this at Pittsburgh Parks website.  On Sunday guided Nature Walks  will take place from noon until 3 pm through Frick Park’s 151 acres, weather permitting.  On site registration is required for this walk that will show edible berries, birds, squirrels (RJ won’t be invited)  :) wildflowers and trees.  More info on all events at CitiParks website.  Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is also hosting Earth Day festivities on Saturday from 11 am until 3 pm.  They will have eco-friendly crafts, the zoo’s mascot will be hanging around, recycling games and representatives of various local non-profits will be showing how you can help mother earth.  More info by calling 412-665-3640 or by visiting the zoo’s web site.  Westmoreland Earth Day 2013 will celebrate earth on Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.  This free event will have a petting zoo, green cars, kid’s energy activities, energy companies and representatives of various green non-profits giving tips and advice.  The college will also be offering free tours of it’s campus.  More info at the their web site.

The iconic Sloppy Joe’s has just reopened for the first time since the Cuban revolution closed it in 1965.  Some thought it had deteriorated too much to be saved, but through a lot of work and effort, it has been restored to it’s original appearance that drew the jet set, before there were jets.  :)  From photographs, they reproduced the plaster moldings, dark wood paneling, brightly colored bottles of alcohol behind the bar.  Original photographs of the bar’s heydays adorn the walls and they have brought back the bar’s signature drink of a cool refreshing blend of brandy, port, Cointreau and pineapple juice.  The location is ideal for success, it’s right in the midst of the new hotels and renovated area of touristy bars and restaurants.

In life, accidents happen.  No one is perfect, including you, me and big companies.  It’s how you step up to the plate when an unforeseen incident occurs.  The oil industry isn’t known for stepping up to the plate when something happens.  Back in 1989, the Exon Valdez tanker grounded in Alaska by a drunk pilot and and spilled a lot of oil.  It cause massive environmental damage. Exon used every tactic in the book to delay doing ANYTHING.  I believe there are law suites still in courts over that.  There was the pipe line spill in Arkansas on March 29 this year. Exxon had a 12″ pipe rupture and 63,000 gallons of oil escaped and much ended up in the Yellowstone River .  And now the talk about the Keystone Pipeline, TransCanada wants to expand the size of the existing pipeline from 30″ to 36″ and create new routes.  That’s a lot of oil if there’s an accident.  Again, accidents happen, but #1 who’s going to IMMEDIATELY pay the price?  Us.  By immediately we don’t have drinking water in almost an entire state (Nebraska’s  Ogallala Aquifer is right under it’s path).  #2 IF we have the economic wherewithal to fight the big lawyers representing the oil companies in the courts to get our “just dues”, that’s one thing. But how many years and how much money do we have to expend?  #3 I don’t trust TransCanda.  They are already taking property through eminent domain along the path they want to create in Texas and elsewhere.  I thought eminent domain was created for public projects that benefit the public good.  Some mega foreign company that has the wherewithal to underhandedly use eminent domain, spend huge amounts of money lobbying our government and litigate all over the place is not someone to be trusted.  Typical of Exxon, they have been fighting a New Hampshire law suite for groundwater contamination because of the additive MTBE for decades.  It took the jury just 90 minutes to find Exxon guilty and just 20 minutes to settle on a fine of $236M.   My point here is I think America is getting fed up with the big corporate BS, cover ups, litigation, etc.  Ninety minutes and twenty minutes speaks volumes about America’s attitude these days.  ):

Lets talk prisons.  For one, a number of them have been turned into upscale hotels and hostels.  At one point in history, they were a major statement for cities.  Like the county jail Downtown designed by HH Richardson, which is currently siting pretty much empty.  Wouldn’t that make a fabulous hotel.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my 9 guest rooms).  :)

Speaking of prisons, photographer Mark Perrott has chronicled the Western Pennsylvania Penitentiary when it closed with photographs.  Back in the 1980′s, he chronicled the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia and that turned into the book Hope Abandoned.  This new project, developed over several years is spawning his latest book, E Block.  A lot of what caught his attention is the graffiti he found in many of the cells like one he found in the in-processing block for new inmates that says Welcome Home Convict.  He focuses on the messages in the graffiti that are raw, mainly rage, longing, hurt and remorse.  Many of the original photographs of our prison are on display at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Galleries at 477 Melwood Avenue in Oakland through June 15.  Admission is free and there’s more info at Filmmaker’s web site and by calling 412-681-5449.

Starting Friday, we have the Second Annual Craft Beer Fest through April 27.  There are over 200 events on their schedule.  A big thing this year the organizers are excited about is Collaboration Beers, this is where one brewer goes to another brewers facility and they brew together learning from each other.  (Kind of like an Innkeeper staying at another Bed and Breakfast).  :)  There’s something like 14 independent craft brewers in the Pittsburgh area.  Check out their schedule you beer drinks support local.

Well, that’s about it for now, have a great week/weekend,





Tomorrow’s birth anniversaries include one of the three founders of the NY MOMA (1929), first black woman to graduate from Yale law school Jane Matilda Bolin (1908), Brenda Starr creator Dale Messick (1906) and pharmaceutical pioneer Percy Julian (1899).  Other anniversaries include the Ugandan’s Independence Day (1979), Spellman College was founded (1881), Liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp (1945) and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, exactly one week after the assassination of Rev Martin Luther King.

If you come to visit me, it should not be a surprise that I will answer the door when you arrive, please hang up the phone.  I am giving you my undivided attention for more time than any hotel and most Inns.  If you don’t want the tour or directions/recommendations, I’m fine with that.  Just tell me you would rather be on the phone.  It saves at least twenty minutes in my life.  Obviously, I had a recent arrival and the gentleman was on the phone the entire time I gave his wife the tour and check-in.  At least this guest acknowledged his rudeness and apologized.  I admit, I am on the phone at times when I should be devoting all my attention to my guests at check-in.  When the phone rings, I always look at my caller ID and if I am anticipating another check-in that may be lost or experiencing other problems, I will excuse myself, accept the call.  Most times it’s not an anticipated check-in and I inform the caller that I am with a guest will will return their call as soon as I can.  And I am guilty of sometimes answering my phone in a check-out line.  I try and minimize this and cut it as short as I can without being rude to the caller (unless it’s a telemarketer).  :) I truly hate telemarketers.

Two local artists are teaming up for a show at Christine Frechard Gallery at 5871 Forbes Avenue, Squirrel Hill.  Laura Jean McLaughlin, has her own gallery in Garfield.  She works in ceramics and creates lighthearted whimsical figures.  While Jane Ogren, of Pleasant Hills is known for masks and figures that seem to have a tribal influence and maybe somewhat of a spooky in appearance.  The show runs through May 2 and admission is free.  More info at their websites or by calling 412-421-8888.

What began as a Tongue in Check campaign has become a major component of the CDC’s outreach for disaster preparedness.The Zombie Apocalypse Campaign has been quite the hit and according to CDC director Dr. Ali Khan said “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake or terrorist attack.”  Pretty much makes sense.  :)

There’s a couple of spring home and garden shows coming up just outside Pittsburgh.  The 18th Annual Westmoreland County Home Show will be held this coming weekend (April 13 & 14) at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds in Mt Pleasant Township.  they anticipate around 150 vendors spread over the six buildings.  In addition to the expected home and garden vendors, they will have an antiques appraiser, a Pennsylvania wine pavilion that will have 75 PA wines to sample.  Admission is just $5, but bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the food bank and they will give you a BOGOF admission.  The show is from 10 am until 5 pm and more information is at their website.  The other is at the Butler County Home Show also this coming weekend.  It’s being held at the Family Sports Center from 4 pm until 9 pm Friday, 10 am until 9 pm Saturday and 10 am until 5 pm Sunday.  Admission is free on Friday and $5 on Saturday and Sunday.  They will be featuring hands on demonstrations, organic gardening, and remodeling advice with more than 100 vendors.  More info by calling 724-482-2199 or by visiting their web site.

Clive Cussler’s latest collaboration with Justin Scott is the book Striker.  It is set in Pittsburgh during the turn of the century and is pretty accurate as he talks about landmarks.  The story is based on the coal miners effort to unionize and the owners attempts to curtail it.  Pittsburgh’s singing sweet heart Jackie Evancho turned 13 on April 9 and is in a new movie as Robert Redford’s daughter in the move The Company You Keep due out April 26.  Finally, in my little Pittsburgh blurb (or is it burg here?), there’s a video game that uses Pittsburgh as a back drop as Joel & Elle make their way across the country battling zombie like creatures.  Rated M for Mature, the Naughty Dog game The Last of Us is due out on June 14.

Great American Country Network (GAC) has Butler County King Family featured as season 2 kicks off Thursday at 9 pm of Farm Kings.  It is, hands down, the biggest hit on this country music station of non music entertainment.  GAC signed them up for 13 episodes featuring the nine twenty something brothers and one sister.  It is supposedly a non-scripted reality show and it showcases the challenges of farming and the bro’s are pretty naturally hams, so they have fun doing it.

I attended the Western Pennsylvania Bed and Breakfast Association meeting yesterday at Wester Farm Bed and Breakfast Cottages up in Mercer.  I was using my Garvin going down a basically dirt road when Garvin said “In .4 miles turn left to destination.”  I was literally passing the sign for Al and Betty’s Inn at the same time.  I jammed on the breaks and as I start backing up, the Prius ends up in a very deep drainage ditch.  Al does his bed and breakfast concierge thing and gets me a tow truck that promptly saved the day.  A very nice farm stay up there and not far from Volant, such a cute little town.  It’s just past the Grove City Outlet Mall (which I hate) and just an hour north of Pittsburgh, well worth the trip. Make it an overnight adventure and stay at Al & Betty’s which is about twenty minutes away.  Ryan and Molly’s Terra Nova House and Howard and Carolyn’s Candleford Inn Bed and Breakfast are both just minutes away.  As always, talk to the Innkeeper for suggestions.  There’s a lot of small shops and interesting things up there.

I really hate someone shoving something down my throat and the well greased, well funded and well organized NRA is really upsetting me.  They are the prime example of a vocal minority that knows how to get a grassroots minority out to make the most noise.  As I’ve said in the past, I very much support and demand out 2nd Amendment Rights.  This attitude of absolutely no compromise is for the birds.  I think the majority of Americans also think mentally dangerous persons shouldn’t be able to purchase arms.  Persons buying arms for a criminal should he held accountable.  Assault weapons and extended clips are not needed to go sport hunting.  I can see where some may want them “to be able to defend themselves from an overbearing government.”, but if we could have saved on of those kids in Sandy Hook, it would have been worth it.  I can’t make this any easier, here is the link to your senators, just scroll down even if you don’t know who represents you, there’s only two per state (in case you have totally forgot your high school civic’s class).  Tell him/her your feelings.  I don’t really care if you are for or against gun control/gun regulation/whatever you want to call it.  And this is actually easier, to find out who represents you in the House of Representatives, just follow this link and put your zip code in.  It can’t be any easier.  Seriously guys, you don’t have to write a lot, you don’t have to be eloquent, I don’t care what side you are on.  I just don’t want the NRA to keep thinking they are speaking for us.  I have.

Sorry for the rant, but they really drive me nuts.  I’ll stop now.  Isn’t it great winter is over?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :)  It was winter this past weekend and now it’s spring.  The yard’s cleaned up, the water feature’s working, I’m in short sleeves and sandals, I’m lovin it.  :)  I hope you are as well.




Tomorrow’s birth anniversaries include actress Bette Davis (1908), educator Booker Washington (1856), actor Gregory Peck (1916) and actor Spencer Tracy (1900).  It is also the anniversary of Anne Sullivan plunging a resistant Helen Keller’s hand under water and spelling out w-a-t-e-r in sign in 1887.  Helen grasped what Anne was doing and learned thirty more words that day.

It’ s been since Bill Clinton was president the last time we had a major “brood” of cicada’s hatch.  Like locusts, they go through cycles and some years there is more of them than others.  They have been know to top one billion per square mile during these large broods.  Their life cycle starts with the females laying about 600 eggs in the trees, about six weeks later the nymphs emerge (kind of look like ants) who drop to the ground and burrow beneath it.  They feed on sap from the roots for 13 to 17 years.  These basically harmless creatures emerge from the ground for only about three weeks to breed.   We have a bit to wait for the phenomena to occur, the ground temperature has to reach 64 degrees for them to become active.  Two web sites dedicated to cicadas are one run by entomologist Michael Raupp of U of Maryland and cicada enthusiast Dan Mozgai of Metuchen, NJ.

South Carolina ex-governor Mark Sanford received the GOP endorsement to run the that state’s House of Representatives.  It’s none of my business he had an affair, that’s between him and his wife.  I do care that he lied about it, repeatedly.  And that the GOP gave him the nod, this “conservative” party that’s always lecturing what’s moral and right and in just three years he’s “their man” says a lot.  :)  (I know this is twice I hammered the Republicans, believe me, I can do the same to the Democrats).

A trend that may or may not be growing (depending on who you listen to) is “on-shoring” or “re-shoring”.  A huge obvious advantage is transportation costs from Asia.  The time it takes for delivery is also talked about.  Another huge concern is theft of intellectual property rights.  It’s hard enough to keep a lid on it here with all our laws about property rights, it’s next to impossible in most Asian countries.  With the raise in wage rates in Asian countries and finally addressing pollution concerns is another factor leveling the playing field.  Locally MCC International out in Cecil has increased manufacturing jobs from 47 to 58 since 2008, not huge, but this is where America is strong, small business growth.  I have recently talked about DAWAR here on the Northside, they intend to add ten more jobs within the next year to their current forty-seven.  Over in York, Unilife Inc moved their production from China  back here and have gone from 35 employees in 2009 to more than 140 now.  They manufacture syringes.

Lawrenceville is becoming quite the gourmand destination.  There’s Piccola Forno, Pastitsio, Pusadee’s Garden, Coca Cafe , Barb’s Country KitchenMauramori Cafe, Cure, Tamari, Industry Public House, New Amsterdam, Round Corner Cantina, Remedy, Frankie’s Extra Long, Nied’s Hotel, Salud Cuban-American Restaurant and Lounge, Matteo’s, Tender Bar & Kitchen, Franktuary, Dozen Bake Shop, La Gourmandine and Wild Purveyors.  The list includes mainly restaurants, but also some bakeries and an upscale grocer.  Most are new, some have been around for a bit and some have relocated.   Some are excellent (I recently ate at Tamari-I recommend eating at the bar, we really enjoyed watching the kitchen staff prepare the food and talk about it).  Some are OK, I also recently ate at Round Corner and wasn’t too impressed.  What I like about it is Lawrenceville doesn’t seem to be fallowing in Southside’s foot steps with bars that serve food to restaurants that have a bar.  :)

The Night of the Living Dead fund raiser at Hollywood Theater last month brought in almost $17,000, towards the $70K they need to fulfill their Go Digital or Go Dark campaign.  It a nice start towards converting the projection system to digital so they can continue showing films.  (The film industry is switching from 8mm and DVD/Blu-Ray in an effort to curb pirating).  Up coming events include Annie on April 7 sponsored by the Girl Scouts, April 13 it will be Earth Girls are Easy, April 26 will be the Steel City Secret Cinema art show, May 3 will be the second anniversary celebration of the Hollywood’s move to non-profit and May 11 will be the Battle of the Bands.  These events are themed and the theater turns the evenings into special occasions.  Managing director of the Hollywood, Chad Hunter, feels between the special events and their drive for corporate sponsors they will meet their goal before this year is out.  What impressed Chad was the amount of small donations that raised this amount, over 300 donors.  With a donation (depending on the size I guess)  :) you get discounted admission, free concessions and invitations to special events.  If Chad reads this, maybe you should think about selling naming rights to chairs, like they do with bricks in many parks as a fund raiser.

For any of you from the south hills, as I was, the intersection of routes 51 and 88 has always been a nightmare, getting worse over the years.  They are finally starting on the upgrade this spring after all these years of talking about it.  The first couple of months most work won’t be that noticeable, moving utility lines, etc.  The earth moving starts in June and will continue for about two years.  At no time will there be less than two lanes in each direction during rush hours. The project will include rebuilding six deficient bridges, razing about 20 structures, building a jug handle behind the Rite Aid for left hand turns from 51 north bound onto 88.  Turning from 88 towards the north bound 51, traffic will have to turn south on 51 and go up to Fairhaven/Provost to make the  U-turn to go north.  Now the next step PennDot should start is no left turns along 51, unless there is a designated left turn lane.  At least during rush hour.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, of people with a disability at least 16 years old have a 20% labor participation rate compared to 68.8% of non-handicapped.  To offer educational options on post-secondary education, employment and training opportunities available, nine school districts have teamed up to sponsor the second annual Northern Area Transition Fair at  AW Beattie Career Center at 9600 Babcock Blvd in McCandless from6 to 8 pm on April 18.  This expo is not limited to high school kids of the nine sponsoring school.  More info by e-mailing  Beth Sipe as bsipie@pinerichland.org or Erin Rushe at erin.rushe@beattietech.com or by calling 412-847-1925.

Last fall, Sheila May-Stein went to Manchester K-8 school for what she thought was just a library rehab.  She was so shocked at what she saw that she posted pictures and a rant on her Facebook page.  It went viral and the school has received over 10,000 new and gently used books, computers, a world map, reading tables and even a flat screen TV.  Isn’t it great what potential social media has and good can come from it.

Trey’s Laundromat and Brighton Cafe is hosting Cheryl Capezzuti exhibit of lint sculptures.  Yes, you heard right, sculptures made out of dryer lint and paste.  Cheryl, who has moved on to puppet making and other artistic endeavors decided to a “lint project” to help her neighborhood laundry and cafe.  While attending Penn State for art, her and friends played in this medium.  This isn’t Cheryl’s first foray into lint exhibits in laundries.  She did one at Duds ‘N Suds on the Southside that ran through 2004 and was even featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2005.  This current exhibit is running through April 27 and if you want, on closing day between 10 am and noon, you purchase a sculpture for about $10.  They are flying creatures ranging from super heroes to flying creatures.

Finally, a fabulous week weather forecast, I can’t wait.

Enjoy it,




Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of novelist Emile Zola (1840), author Hans Christian Anersen (1805), librarian and philanderer Giovanni Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725), vaudeville & film star Buddy Epsen and actor Sir Alec Guinness.  It De Leon (1513).

Something very interesting came out of the Steubenville rape trial.  The police confiscated 13 mobile devises of teenagers associated with their investigation.  They found 396,270 text messages, 308, 586 photos and 940 videos.  These weren’t all related to the rape investigation, in fact by far most were not.  I’m just pointing out how kids today are using their mobile devises.  Parry Aftab, a New Jersey social media expert who teaches the repercussions of online actions says the average kid texts 4,000 messages a month!  Unless I’m whining about Port Authority, I don’t have that much to say in a month.  :)  Point Park’s associate professor Heather Starr-Fiedler says parents should have “the discussion” on what is appropriate and what is not in social media.  Much like the talks on sex, drugs and alcohol.  And this definitely should included one of my pet peeves, texting while driving.  I have recently read somewhere that adults are actually worse at this than teens.

This Saturday and Sunday, the 11th Banff Mountain Film Festival at Byham Theater will be offering a new service, bicycle valet!  :)  This is being coordinated by BikePGH with free valet parking for bikes inside the theater.  Pretty creative way to encourage less cars on the road.  More info at the festival’s web site or by calling 412-456-6666.

Fair Isaac Corp., the company that provides the software for lenders and credit reporting companies uses payment history as the most important fact in your score-35%.  The amount you owe comes in second at 30%, the length of your credit history comes in at 15% and 10% goes towards what kind of credit you have and another 10% goes to recently added credit.  TransUnion, Experian and Equifax all fine tune this software to what they are looking for.  This fine tuning explains the differences you’ll see when you pull all three.  Obviously, to get a great credit score, pay your bills on time.  But after that, pull your three reports (for free) each year and look into what they say.  I believe anything negative has to be off after seven years.  If the company that listed that negative activity doesn’t pull it, that information stays there and “doesn’t officially effect your score”.  But that’s up in the air, actually.  So pull your reports once year and don’t wait until you want a new mortgage.  Correcting the information on your credit score takes time.  You can get your free report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.  If you find a mistake, the FTC has found that four out of five people that report a mistake have it corrected (not all perceived mistakes are actually mistakes).  Once you report the mistake, the creditor that put it on your report has up to 45 days to respond.  If he/she doesn’t respond, it automatically comes off.  As I said above, credit reporting companies look at how much you owe.  A huge thing is how much of the line of credit you have on a particular card is used up.  If you have a $10K limit on a card and owe $9K, bad thing.  It doesn’t matter that you have another card with a $10K limit and it’s paid off.  If you want a quick fix to boost your rating, move maybe $4K from the card that’s mostly maxed out to the paid off one.  As a general rule, they like debt to be 30% or less of the maximum amount of credit available to you.  Another option is to call the credit card company and ask them to raise your limit.  If they agree to do this, it immediately gives you a better ratio of credit available to you versus actual debt.  When you look at your credit reports, make sure the credit limits on the cards are listed on the report.  Some credit agencies don’t automatically list you credit limit which obviously effects your score.  Collections reports are some of the most harmful to your credit score.  But, if it’s an old item, it may be better to let it just sit there.  As it ages, it becomes less important and making a partial payment brings it right back up to the forefront.  A final thing to keep in mind is the reporting agencies don’t know anything else about you.  They don’t know how much your earn or what your mortgage or rent payments are (unless they are late).  :)  They also don’t know if you go to church, volunteer at a local shelter, etc.  It’s a pretty objective system.

Our newest National Park is Pinnacles in California.  If you follow me, you know how green I am and how I think we should preserve this wonderful world we have.  But at this point in time, do we really want a new National Park when we are curtailing the operations of the ones we currently have?

If you are looking to increase your fish consumption for a healthier diet, but are concerned about the sustainability of the seafood, there’s several sites out there to help you.  One of them is the Seafood Savvy Guide.  There’s a label fish mongers can apply for that you can look for, the Marine Stewardship Label certifies that the seafood you are purchasing comes from sustainable sources.

Antiquing is a favorite of many people.  Here’s some options you may want to explore.  The Wexford General Store has been housed in an old Pony Express stop for more than fifty years.  With twenty-two dealers, you are sure to find something interesting.  More info at their web site or by calling 724-935-9959.  One that I frequent down the road a bit from me is the Antique Mall on Ohio River Boulevard.  Three floors of thirty-one vendors has something for everyone.  From retro lava lamps from the 60′s, stained glass, wicker, shaker, one of a kind architecturals you can find it here.  And you can’t miss the bright purple building.  Parking can be a challenge.   More info on Yelp or by calling 412-561-6331.  Leesburg Station Antiques is a collection of several “stations” with varied antiques in them.  Leesburgh Station is in this really cute town of Volant.  More info on their web site or by calling 724-748-3040.  T.J. Haaland & Company found a unique place for an antique mall, the Shenango Valley Mall.  The 15,000 square foot space houses the wares of twenty-six vendors.  It is a bit of a trip, it’s located just above I80, a little better than an hour’s drive.  More info at their web site or by calling 724-981-0870.  The Schoolhouse Shops at Leesburg is also in Volant.  Situated in the former Springfield Township School from 1920 to 1980, this store has an eclectic grouping of furniture with visions of the past poking through like an old chalk board behind a dresser or a metal locker still embedded in the wall.  More info at their web site or by calling 724-748-4005.  Down in the Strip is Mahla Antiques on the corner of Smallman and 17th Streets.  (Right by Costume World).  Some very fine pieces and prices to match, not over priced, but you won’t find a bargain here, just quality wares.  More info on the link or by calling 412-471-2090.  For the finest antiques in Pittsburgh, there’s no place like Artifacts over on the West End.  Seriously, some of their antiques make mine look pretty shabby.  The place is HUGE with quality from around the world.  The owner is not from Pittsburgh, he chose the location because Pittsburgh is basically half way between New York and Chicago, his two biggest markets.  More info on the link or by calling 412-921-655.  Down in Coraopolis is Off the Avenue Antiques.  Staffed by owner Jim Barricella and his two assistants Fred & Vickie (two pugs), this friendly shop is home to 18 different vendors.  More info on the link or by calling 412-299-0877.  You will find the Heidelberg Antique Mall just south of the city with a wide selection of antiques.  More info on their web site or by calling 412-429-9222.

Take care,