Tomorrow is the anniversary of the plane crash that took baseballer/humanitarian Roberto Clemente (1972), the first modern bank opened by Robert Morris in Philadelphia (1781), Japan’s Namahage is tonight where men costumed as devils go door to door growling “Any good-for-nothing fellow hereabout?”  giving sluggards the opportunity to change their ways and Panama assumed control of the Panama Canal.  Birth anniversaries include singer John Denver (1943), Uniontown’s general George Marshall (1880) and French painter Henri Matisse (1869).

If you’ve read my blogs, you know I try and be as “green” as I can in life.  Besides the obvious newspapers, plastic, aluminum and tin; I also keep a box in the basement for thrift store items, one for Construction Junction building materials and one for Spring Board Kitchen’s culinary equipment-I keep a trash bag for Styrofoam “peanuts” that I give to various shipping companies.  Something that’s always stumped me is the Styrofoam packaging that comes with electronics, ceiling fans, etc.  Styrofoam is a man made product that is extremely efficient product that because of it’s light weight and strength makes it ideal for safeguarding these product during shipment.  But because of it’s man made properties, it basically sits in landfills forever.  Did you know 100% of Styrofoam is recyclable?  Only 15% of Styrofoam is currently recycled (that’s only 93.7 million pounds-considering that this represents, Styrofoam is extremely light, so the amount of this product we throw away is HUGE).  NOVA Chemicals recycles all Styrofoam into all kinds of products, 100%.  You can drop off the “peanuts” or hard formed Styrofoam at one of NOVA’s local offices in Moon Township or at Appliance Warehouse in the 500 block of Bingham Street on the Southside (down towards the 10ths Street Bridge).  The Warehouse is open 9 am until 5 pm Mondays through Saturdays.  It’s recommended to call them first, they also accept freon infused products as well like refrigerators.

Is our city council getting as dysfunctional as our federal congress?  For the third time (maybe fourth) they’ve delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic.  Once again, Buncher’s Thomas Balestrieri showed his colors at the latest council meeting when they didn’t give him what he wanted, he said “Kick it down the road and vote on it whenever you want to.  In the meantime, we’ll keep sending our rain checks to the URA.”  He left with a sarcastic  “Merry Christmas”.  And walked out of the chambers.  What a pompous  ass.  Do exactly what I want, or I’ll be a sarcastic SOB.  I’m surprised the council members don’t take offense at his rudeness.  And, by the way, as I predicted he admitted that they weren’t going to “walk away” from their plans to develop 55 riverfront acres they own.  In another of his child like tirades, he threatened to scuttle the entire development.  As I said awhile back, what developer is going to walk away from 55 riverfront acres they already own.  In the latest Trib article, he’s now claiming that they are going to do this commercial development without government subsidies, I’m sure that will change as well.  If any of you on city council (most of which never gave me the courtesy of even acknowledging my formal presentation to you through the council website) can’t see what a slime Buncher is, this latest tirade should start to click some buttons, I would think.

Big things are afoot in and around Pittsburgh in the next two years.  Already under construction is PNC’s $400M Tower at PNC Plaza between Fifth and Forbes Avenues down at Wood Street with an opening scheduled 2015.  Shovel ready and approved is Piatt’s $104M Gardens at Market Square between Forbes and Third Avenues behind the old Aiken’s Restaurant.  In the planning stages is $500M development the Penguins is planning on the old Igloo site.  Also, in East Liberty, the $100M Bakery Square 2.0 is about ready to get started and ALMONO‘s $1B plan to develop the old J & L Steel location in Hazelwood/South Oakland  has finished up the pollution abatement and site leveling is finishing up and next year they plan on starting to install the basic roads and infrastructure (water, sewers, utilities).  Outside the city, Consol fracking plans at the airport intend to commence $500M infrastructure works so they can start drilling in about a year.  The big daddy of the region is looking more and more as if it may get off the ground, the $3B Shell Cracker may take roots soon.  Coal Valley‘s $1B mixed use development in Cecil is making progress and UPMC’s Mario Lemieux Sports Complex $72M complex in Cranberry has broken ground as has the new Chevron headquarters in Moon (they have already did the ground work and the building is actually under construction at the old K-Mart site past Robinson).

The international Computer Sciences Corporation, based out of Virginia is expanding into the Strip and plan on hiring up to 500 persons.  We won out out of 400 potential sites for their newest site.  CSC specializes in next generation of cyber security, data analytics, cloud computing and system modernization services for businesses.  The Strip is their initial location, they are planning to build a $14M, 120,000 square foot facility somewhere in the city.  They selected Pittsburgh because of the “livability” of the city in addition to the affordable cost of living and largely because of the qualified pool of potential employees our local universities are churning out.   CSC has locations Australia, India, South America and Canada.  Pretty good coup for da ‘burg.

Move over Dia de Muertos, Noche de Rabanas is the Christmas Mexican festival.  It’s officially celebrated on December 23, but does carry over to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It began in 1897 in Oaxaca city by Jesuit priests and the displays are by far carved radishes.  Local radish farmers leave some radishes in the ground long after normal harvesting to generate mega radishes, some reaching over six pounds.  These carvings frequently have a religious theme, but they also represent real buildings and many other themes.  Check out the images on Google.

I enjoy following food trends, that’s one of the few things I miss by being out of the corporate restaurant scene.  And though I’m no where near a vegetarian or vegan, I do limit my red meat consumption and try and watch my diet.  Though I haven’t tried it yet, there’s a start up company just outside San Francisco Just Mayo that’s making a plant based egg substitute that’s getting pretty positive reviews.   With the cholesterol concerns and the way much of the poultry industry treats the egg layers, I think this may be something to watch.

I have concerns about fracking, I’m not against it, but I’m not for the process until I’m sure we aren’t creating a legacy for our children like old style mining is still polluting our streams after the mine operators made their millions and walked away.  Another issue I have with fracking in Pennsylvania is Act 13, the state mandate trying to standardize the laws governing fracking so all the frackers have the same rules to abide by.  I’m not against standardized standards, I’m against the way Harrisburg forced this down our throats, it was a one way street.  I don’t recall a real public comment period, I just remember Governor Corbett battling the legislature to force this through like he’s been trying to do with trying to privatize the state lottery.  With out public comment (citizens as well as local governments), Corbett really alienated a large segment of our state.  Local municipalities have the right and obligation to decide where fracking can occur.  I don’t want one right next to a church, synagogue, mosque, school or library and that’s one of the things he tried to railroad.  If Corbett would have engaged locals before deciding “what we need”, maybe the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may have not struck down Act 13.  Thank you Supreme Court Justices.  Maybe Corbett will learn a lesson that he’s representing his citizens.  :)

To end 2013 on a positive note, as a nation, we have reduced our electric consumption to the lowest level since 2001.  All this while we have added central A/C to more homes, electronics out the kazoo, more and more in-home washers & dryers, upgraded kitchens using much more electrical appliances etc. It’s predicted that we will drop electrical consumption another 1% in 1014.  Could be better, but I love the direction we are going.

I hope you had great holiday and enjoy your New Years Eve safely,





Tomorrow is It’s a Wonderful Life premier (1946-see below), the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended (1956), the Clinton impeachment by the House (1998), the US invasion of Panama (1989), the Virginia Company departed England and settled Jamestown, VA (1606-the first English settlement in the New World), South Carolina seceded from the US (1860-the first state to do so) and the cathode-ray tube was first patented (1938).  Birth anniversaries include baseballer Branch Rickey (1881) and industrialist Harvey Firestone (1868).

Way to go Pittsburgh!  I take no credit for it, but in my last post (I think) I talked about the Pittsburgh Foundation offering to match donations up to $100,000 to the food bank.  That challenge was met within 24 hours, so they made the same challenge, which was also met.  I guess their running out of money, :)  the latest challenge is they will match up to $50,000 (which is almost maxed out already also).  You see all this negative stuff in the news and then you see this, warms the heart.

Beware!  And you thought the stink bug invasion was bad, wait until we get hit with kudzu bug.  Smaller with a more rounded top, instead of that shield shaped top the stink bugs have.  Of Asian origin, they were first found devouring the Kudzu plant (that could be a good thing) but have branched out to other plants wreaking havoc on soy bean crops.  They made it to Maryland this year and are expected to reach us next fall.  Though smaller than the stink bug, when crushed they have a more intense small and actually can stain objects.

Did you notice Arch disappeared from that little parklet on the corner of  7th Street and Ft Duquesne Blvd a year ago.  Arch is that bright yellow “transformers” looking piece of sculpture that’s been there since 2008.  The twenty foot sculpture of steel and fiberglass that was commissioned for our 250th birthday is moving to the airport to greet arriving travelers.  I don’t know  where in the airport he’s going to be installed, but if you don’t remember him, parts of his body look just like many of our bridges.

The Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad and Village has 250,000 hand made trees.  They take copper wire and twist it to create the trunks and branches and then glue multicolored pieces of wild dried hydrangea flowers.  Each a unique tree.  That’s a lot of trees.   :)  The display has lots of Pittsburgh themes running through it with steel mills, our rivers and clippers as well as noted buildings like Emanuel Episcopal Church right down the Allegheny Avenue from me designed by HH Richardson (he also did out Courthouse and jail.)

Actor Jimmy Stewart, from Indiana, PA was an amazing person.  A descendant from Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War veterns,  He was both a World War II and Vietnam veteran that rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.  A very laid back kind of guy initially balked at the idea of creating a museum dedicated to him in his hometown.  He felt it would be self-aggrandizement.  Eventually, family and friends convinced him to give it his stamp of approval.  The Jimmy Steward Museum is housed over the library right across the street from where his father’s hardware store was.  And it’s recently had it’s own “Christmas story” like his movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  It gets very little government funding and has been struggling for years to survive.  Last year, a retired San Diego couple donated $25,000 to keep the museum afloat and they now will match the Stewart family’s yearly donation.  The Schultz’s are from Western PA, but have no link either to Jimmy Stewart or Indiana.  He was just one of their favorite actors and when they heard of the financial difficulties decided it was a good cause.  Admission’s just $6 and Indiana is just over an hour out route 22 if you’re looking for a day trip.

Ouch.  Former chief Penn State Counsel Cynthia Baldwin said “I can’t get inside his mind, but the fact is that there is not doubt the he lied to me” in her recently released secret testimony last year to the grand jury probe of PSU ex-president Graham Spanier.  She added that he is “not a person of integrity” and that he misled school trustees and the public.  Ouch again.  :)

I’m sure you all saw that blind guy in New York that fainted in a subway as a train approached and his 11 year old lab jumped down onto the tracks to protect him.  The train ran over them, luckily the conductor was able to slow the train down due to people shouting at him about the danger.  They were able to back the train up and both human and canine were rescued with minor injuries.  Cecil, the blind man, stated his regrets, but Orlando, the lab, was retiring and he couldn’t afford to keep him since he needs a new guide dog and Guiding Eyes can only support one animal.  Needless to say, there’s been a major outpouring of support.  The people that raised and trained Orlando said they would be elated to take him back for his retirement.  Others are offering adoption and some are looking into setting up a fund so Orlando can live out his retirement with Cecil.  How sweet.  :)  (Orlando really looks like Razor, just not quite as much grey).

The SBA has finally denied Battalion LLC’s attempt to be accredited as a disabled veteran owned small business.  It’s a front for Sota Construction who’s office is in a Sota owned building with one employee, a disabled veteran named Jason Harris.  They beat out a legitimate small business owned by a disabled veteran on a project at the airport.  P Fleming LLC of Connecticut suspected the sham and filed a claim last year with the SBA.  It’s a shame it took a year and there’s no word if the Air Force is going to again put the project out to bid.

The Christmas Day Meal for the City is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary at Beaver Falls High School cafeteria at 1701 Eighth Avenue Christmas Day from 11:30 until 3 pm.  They are expecting 1,500 guests for this event.  They have no requirements who can attend and try to make it as much of a family meal as apposed to a soup kitchen.  Last year, the 260 volunteers from sixty churches pulled this off.  Expenses are covered by donations to the Christian Assembly of Beaver Falls, 814 Lincoln Place, BF, PA 15010.  They also distribute clothing and toys to the kids they collect throughout the year.  Co-founder Rebecca Ficca-Salopek’s employer, Clearview Federal Credit Union, was the largest donor after honoring her with their their Joseph C Cirelli Community Service Award.  They donated $2,500.  This turkey, ham and fixings are all prepared by the volunteers.  Many local elderly attend not so much that they are in need as for the social contact on Christmas Day.

Rick Fosbrink, executive director of the Chicago based Theater Historical Society of America is planning a tour of about 30 neighborhood theaters in Western PA in June (he’s originally from Connellsville) and they expect about 150 to attend.  Some of the theaters have been turned into non-profits, some are in the planning stages and some just sit vacant.  Neighborhood theaters were a backbone of small towns’ social fabric in the past and they are trying to do the same thing now with classic films, themed events, small concerts and other performing arts.  In the past, I’ve talked about the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, the Denis Theater in Mt Lebanon and the Roxian Theater in McKees Rocks.  All three are in various stages of rejuvenation.  These are such beautiful buildings (a bit shabby these days, but so was The Parador Inn when I bought it).  :)  All it takes  is a lot of love and a lot of money, I know.  It’s worth every penny, trust me.

In case I don’t get a chance for another post before, I wish all a very happy holiday and great new years,







Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the discovery of the South Pole by Ronald Amundsen (1911-Robert Scott was there the following year), Alabama was admitted as a state (1819), the national bird count has begun 7 days before the Solstice and 7 days after since 1900 and it is the death anniversary of George Washington (1799).  Birth anniversaries include running back Ernie Davis (1939), aviator James Doolittle (1896) and Nostradamus ( 1503).

In the past, I’ve talked about the food trucks that are cruising our streets.  There’s a newer one, the Lomito Truck, they serve Paraguayan food.  Folks in Paraguay, like their neighbors the Argentinians, are huge carnivores.  (I used to work parties thrown by John Goodman, from the Amana appliance fame, he was huge into polo and his entire staff was Argentinians.  You have never seen parties with so much meat).  One of the co-owner’s wife is originally from Paraguay and traveling there, they decided to start a food truck based on street food down there.  Rocio’s husband, Damon is a graduate of NE Culinary Institute and a recognized chef.  A lomito completo is sirloin steak with ham, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, chimichurri sauce and a runny egg on a roll.  Not surprisingly, one of their regular haunts is late at night outside Harris’ Grill in a Shadyside neighborhood with a number of popular bars.  They also offer a vegetarian Feijoada which is black beans & rice topped with tomato, Chori Panne an Argentinian sausage with tomato and a vinaigrette on an Italian roll and corn served Havana style (cheese, sour cream and chilli pepper).  A better option than going to Denny’s after closing a bar.  :)  More info at their website or by calling 412-555-5555.

The housing market has been showing signs of growth for the past while back.  Did you know a big factor in this is?  Investors, large and small.  Investors make up about 1/3 of pre-owned home sales.  And these investors are very strong here in the Pittsburgh market.  Being priced out of the big markets like San Fransisco, New York and Atlantic, they like our more modest prices.  Some of these investors are local companies buying and flipping houses, some are actual out of state investment companies!

Not surprising, banks are reporting record profits this year of $141.3B and the average chief executive pay is $552M.  My question is why is 1/3 of bank tellers are on some sort of public assistance?  That’s roughly 165,000 bank employees not being paid enough to support their families!  You and I are subsidizing their income so the banks executives can live lavish lives.  Way too out of control.  This was in an article I saw in the Trib quoting a Washington Post article.  At the time of these record bank profits, PNC Bank is working to do away with human bank tellers.  They eliminated 600 teller jobs this year and plan on starting an aggressive program to redesign their branches and replace tellers with branch concierge desks where they can advise you on investment, mortgage or retirement needs; oh and they can direct you how to use their upgraded ATM machines.  I guess this is one way to get out of the hot seat for underpaying their tellers.

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside is housed in two adjoining mansions, the Charles D Marshall mansion and the A.M. Scaife mansion.  The Center for the Arts is an umbrella organization representing the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Group A, Pittsburgh Print Group, Pittsburgh Society of Artist, Society of Sculptors and Women of Vision Inc.  (The Center was founded in 1945)  They have 70 works by members on display through January 19.  Artists on display include sculpture by Cydra Vaux, glass by Jeffrey Moyer, ceramic by Christy Culp, fiber art by Jane Orgren and print artist Sharon Wilcox.  They ask for a $5 donation and are open from 10 am – 5 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays (till 7 Thursdays) and noon – 5 pm Sundays.  More info on their website or by calling 412-361-0873.  Also, their holiday gift shop is open with handmade gifts from 200 local artists.

The Pittsburgh Foundation is offering to match $100,000 or more in donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Banks on donations made through December 31.  You can donate to the main food bank, or if you prefer one of the 15 local neighborhood food pantries by going to Pittsburgh Gives and the foundation will match your donation.  No one should go hungry in this country, particularly this time of year.

Nestle is cutting ties with a local Wisconsin farm after videos of their staff abusing the cows by being stabbed, beaten and dragged by tractors.  The video was provided by Mercy for Animals of the treatment at Wiese Brother’s Farm who said they were “shocked and saddened” when confronted with this video.  Thank you Nestle for doing the right thing and don’t watch the Mercy for Animals video unless you are ready to be terribly depressed.

Pittsburgh City Council again delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic until next week.  And the vote looks kind of iffy at this point.  I have written of my support numerous times here in my blog as well as contacting City Council.  My latest contact with City Council, I contacted each Council Person and after expressing my strong belief in the historic designation, I told them I would post how they vote in my blog.  Not that I expect my threat will have as much impact as the traditional city hall value of greased wheels.  You can contact any or all of the City Council members by going to their website and don’t need to be a city resident to express your concerns.  Just go to the website, click on the council member and below their picture is an Icon Feedback.  Click on that and it will take you to the form.

Pittsburgh’s own Sharif Bey has returned to his roots and has 33 ceramic works of his on display at the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild where he got his start in the 1980′s as a teenager.  Sharif, an assistant professor of art education at Syracuse University, has returned to the Guild for his show and to give a workshop.  His work includes:)  some of which are functional as in his pots and some of his jewelry could be functional but are of such a large scale they might be difficult to wear.  They are on display through January 3.  More info at the Guild’s website or by calling 412-322-1773.

Well, that’s about it for today, keep warm,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the last American hostage to be released from Lebanon (1991), the National Grange was founded (1786) and it’s St Barbara’s Day.  Birth anniversaries include entertainer Lillian Russel (1861), English author Samuel Butler (1835), Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795) and Helen Chase, founder of Chase’s Calendar of Events where I get all this trivia (1924).

The Parador Inn is all spruced up and decorated for the holidays.  It’s quite festive and just waiting for a visit from you.  :)

The bald eagles in Hays are building a new nest, looks like they are going to be permanent residents.  Their first nest was built by the Monongahela River and fell out of the tree last year during a storm.  The youngster in the nest survived the fall.  Mom and dad got smarter and built the new nest in a more sturdy tree in the same area.  Eagle nests can last up to 30 years, if you’ve ever seen one, they’re pretty massive and sturdy.

Hunting season just opened.  Some hunters just hunt for the sport and aren’t interested in the venison.  If you are one of those from Allegheny County and want to donate it to feed the hungry, you can donate it to Kips Deer Processing.  If you are not from Allegheny County, but live in the state, Share the Deer is a statewide site that shows local processors that you can donate the deer to.  Although these processors do charge the food banks, they do so at a reduced rate.

Speaking of food banks and feeding the hungry, volunteers from eight United Methodist Churches in Armstrong County did a pretty amazing thing.  94 volunteers manned assembly lines and made packets to feed 27,000 people last weekend.  Coordinated and lead by Stop Hunger Now, these packets included enough rice, vitamins, dehydrated vegetables and soy to feed about six persons and only cost about twenty-five cents each.  These meals were packed into a truck and driven to Stop Hunger Now’s Philly headquarters and will be distributed based on previous commitments and need.

The Interim President (recently upgraded title from Acting President) of Cal U, Geraldine Jones is no stranger to the University.  She grew up a short distance from there, she graduated from there, her two daughters also graduated from there and other than a few years stint as a teacher, she has worked for the university all of her working life.  She took over after long time President Angelo Armenti was ousted for fiscal irresponsibility.  Armenti spearheaded a very costly unfunded building program that basically transformed the campus.  $97M in debt and a $11.5 deficit in the budget is what she inherited 18 months ago.  Through fiscal responsibility, this year’s budget not only is balanced, but it has a small surplus. Kudos to Geraldine.

Speaking of higher education, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education selected Frank Brogan as it’s new chancellor.  There was a recent article on Frank in the Trib.  Leaving a similiar position in Florida, where he faced similiar problems our system has.  Among them were declining enrollments, a shrinking college-age demographic, stagnant state support, a historically black university threatening court action over uneven support and tension among 14 universities seeking to maintain some autonomy.  When Frank took over Florida’s system, relationships between the educators and legislators was so bad they were suing each other in court.  Besides his experience as an educator and bureaucrat (I’m not saying that in a negative way), he is able to work with other groups by listening to them and sorting this information out making compromises.  With declining enrollments at state colleges, some programs no longer relevant to today’s  environment and new ones needed, we need someone to think outside the box, hopefully Frank’s the one to re-invent out system of higher education.  We can’t just keep spending money on things that don’t work and desperately need a better system to education our youth.

The Strip District certainly is becoming THE host spot in Pittsburgh for apartments.  Obviously well situated for shopping and close proximity to Downtown, there’s a huge growth in projects either shovel ready or in the planning stages.  Starting at the beginning of the Strip on the corner of 11th and Smallman Streets, that vacant building that’s had an “Available” sign on it since I came back to Pittsburgh eight years ago is now slated to become 59 apartments.  That huge building across from Lydia’s with the huge Wholey’s blinking fish was slated to become a hotel or office space.  Plans are now in the works to convert it into 144 apartments.  Next up is the development by the Evil Empire Buncher Group which plans to build 750 apartments in their mixed development along the Allegheny River.  (If you haven’t read my blog in the past, the Evil Empire wants to demolish 1/3 of the iconic Terminal Build for easy access to their government subsidized commercial development project.  Even though many residents have complained about their plans to destroy a landmark, the Buncher Group was “shocked” at the “last minute” move to designate the Terminal Building as historic.  What an idiot to be “shocked” that residents took this step after repeatedly refusing to look for alternatives to demolition and took this action).  Moving on, :)  there’s also Oxford Three Crossings’ 299 apartments being constructed between 26th and 27th down by Railroad Street. This is all happening due to the success of the Cork Factory that’s had 100% occupancy since opening (they even added Lot 24 next to it that has 96 units), the former owner of my Inn’s development of condos across from the Smallman Street Deli, the 31st Street condos on Smallman Street and the Otto Milk development on Smallman.  There’s even talk of high end condo’s down there STARTING at $1M.

There’s a new trend out there, Steampunk is a blend of Victorian and high tech like making iPhone covers out of leather, and other blending of newer technology with age old materials like wood, leather and metal.  An example is an iPhone docking station made of a 1910 phone box, a 1920′s gramophone to amplify the tinny sound of the iPhone.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald started what I hope will be a re-occurring Pittsburgh tradition.  He invited local high schools to make ornaments for the tree at the City/County Building.  Carlynton Junior Senior High School won the competition with four ornaments.  One made to represent each  of the three neighborhoods that make up the school district and one representing the entire district.  Last weekend they hung their ornaments and the other 100 submitted by other high schools on the tree.

Well, it is the holidays.  What holiday wouldn’t be complete without at least two of the attractions below?

The Carnegie has their traditional five huge trees decorated by the Museum of Art Woman’s Committee.  The theme this year is the international Santa.  They have St Nick as depicted in the Byzantine Empire, Mexico, Holland, Italy and America.   The centerpiece of the Christmas Tree Display is the Neapolitan Presepio. More than 100 figures, created between 1700 and 1830 by Italian craftsmen, represent the Neapolitan concept of the Nativity in a panorama of village life at the time.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-3131.

The Phipps has it’s annual Christmas flower show.   The South Conservatory has a miniature railroad with a whimsical miniature Jurassic Park theme.  The Palm Court has a large Christmas tree made out of poinsettias, two wooden carousel horses originally from Kennywood  and festive holiday flowers and gift boxes around.The Serpentine Room has glass snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and glass mushrooms that are lit at night created by Baltimore artists Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg.  The Victoria Room has an 18′ tree decorated with ribbons and fabric butterfly towers.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.

The Clayton at Frick is decorated with a fitting Victorian theme.  On display is a gift shopping list by Adelaide Frick, their children’s stockings are hung on a fireplace and toys the children enjoyed.  Remember to call if you want a tour (the classic autos, grounds and cafe are open to the public, tours of the mansion are guided.)  More info at their website or by calling 412-371-0600.

Due to budget cuts, Hartwood Acres does not have their drive through light display.  Not to dismay, there’s other options.  Since 1985, Oglebay Park has had a drive through lighting display.  Yahoo Travel rated it as one of the top seven displays in the country.  It’s a six mile drive featuring 80 lighting displays.  Suggested donation of $15 per car gets you in.  More info at their website or by calling 800-624-6988.  The Westmoreland Fair Grounds has a two mile drive through of 2M lights, a Christmas Village, C Edgar & Sons General Store with handmade seasonal gifts, sleigh rides and more.  The Harry Overly home is also open (a tradition since 1956) with festive decorations.  The admission is $12 per car and more info can be found at their website or by calling 724-423-1400.  Although not a drive thru, Kennywood Park has a lighting display throughout the park.  There’s an animated light show at the lagoon, holiday concerts, Toy Soldiers keeping the peace :) , concerts and many of the family friendly rides are open.  Admission is $13.99.  More info at their website or by calling 412-461-0500.

Completed last week, just in time for the holidays, Ambridge’s Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club finished their new facade last week.  The interior work isn’t completed, but the first floor has an HO-scale model railroad with a new addition, the City of Pittsburgh.  A Lionel Model train was added to the basement level.  Also in the basement an N-scale railroad is under construction.  Although not complete, the train lines are up and running.  They expect the scenery to take another ten years to finish.  Either these are extremely detailed people or slackers.  :)  It’s open from noon until 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays and a donation of $5 is requested.  Members will give away three train sets everyday at random, best of luck to you if you go.  More info at their website, warning, they site doesn’t always open at first click, try it again if it doesn’t work.

Enjoy this warm weather while we have it,