Hi,

Yes, I’m still alive.  June is going to be my second highest grossing month since opening, and I did it without a weekday housekeeper.  That will be changing shortly, but a past guest motivated me to talk about composting some more.  Now remember, I am not an expert, but the results I’m seeing this year (my second) compared to last year is amazingly better.  First of all, the best way to compost is in a manufactured composting bin.  Things will compost out in the open, it is nature for things to rot when dead.  But with a bin you can control things that make the process more efficient.  A problem with composting is it can draw rodents.  The bin’s are designed with air vents to let lots of air in, but keep rodents out.  If you live somewhere with raccoons, the lid can twist to secure the contents (raccoons are pretty clever and know how to lift the lid from your trash can or compost bin).  When you first set your compost bin up, it needs to be placed on open dirt so the worms and microbes can get in.  Rodents burrow, so you need to place a wire mesh down so the little guys can get in and the big guys can’t.  (It takes a little while for the microbes to find your bin.  You can buy an additive from a home and garden store, or just stop out in the woods and collect a pile of moldy leaves in a trash bag).  When I harvested my first load of compost this spring, it was all muck.  My good friend (and the editor of my manuscript), Myra is an avid composter and told me my percentage of green to brown was wrong, I had way to much green.  Green are your kitchen scraps.  Things like apple peelings and cores, potato peelings, celery trimmings, etc.  Remember if you are going to compost something large like melon rinds, you should cut them up into smaller pieces so our little friends can be more efficient.  The browns are your leaves, thatch, etc.  I have a pile of leaves from last fall, but they won’t last this whole season, so as I weed and trim, I have a pile next to what is already brown and will use them up next.  Composting is the exact opposite of sanitation.  Basically, in sanitation harmful bacteria need food (so you keep your kitchen clean), water (our ancestors dried food for storage), temperature (we refrigerate perishable food until use) and air (we don’t leave perishable food sitting on the counter). (The other factor in sanitation is Ph, with composting the only thing you need to be concerned with here is be careful not to over load with a ton of citrus).  When composting we now provide food (green and brown), keep it damp, the composting bin helps hold the warmth when it gets cold and is well ventilated (besides the air slots, you need to turn you concoction regularly and mix it all up).  A rough analogy, but I thought it was relevant.  What I did wrong my first season, was I used way too much green to brown.  Myra said I should do 1/4 green to 3/4 brown and really seems to be working much better this year. Never compost meat and bones.  I don’t compost vegetable matter that’s coated with fat (butter, oil, etc) after cooking.  When I make quiche, frattata, etc, I just blanch the vegetables with steam, I don’t think a little salt & pepper will hurt.  :)  I have never noticed an offensive odor, even at the compost bin.  There are a ton of fruit flies and such in and right around the bin, but my gecko swing is only about five feet from the bin and I’ve never had a guest complain about bugs, nor have I seen them there.  I do have a problem here with slugs (I go out late at night with a flash light and stomp on them, rather disgusting, but better than putting chemicals down) and I have found them (and their babies) in the bin, which I just swat.  Last year I added my egg shells and when I harvested the compost this spring, they were fairly intact.  Myra says they are hard to compost and can take up to two years.  I’m thinking if I get my little factory over there in that black bin working efficiently this year, I may try adding some egg shells next year and see how it works.  A final note, there’s all kinds of bins out there that you can buy at home and garden stores or on line with all kinds of prices.   The state has a program to encourage composting and they send people out to hold composting classes.  Included is the compost bin, so for about $40 bucks, you get classes and a very sturdy bin.  I’m sorry I don’t still have the info on this, it’s from last year, but I’m sure you can find it by Googling it.

I had a visit by the blood suckers last week.  Allegheny County has a budget deficit and so they seem to have hired these young, just out of college people to canvass small lodging establishments trying to make some money for the county.  I am in no position to comment on my fellow small businesses, but I don’t have the time or inclination to steal from the County.  I have been giving tax exempt non profits the benefit of not having to pay the bed tax.  Apparently non profits aren’t worthy of their tax exempt status by the County and I have to pay $300  for the four years I have been in operation.  I’m OK with that (me paying, not their refusal to grant non profits tax exempt status).  In four years, the County thinks I underpaid $300 in bed tax also.  (Actually, I’m quite impressed that there’s only $300 in dispute in four years of operation).  I’m OK with that also, mistakes happen and maybe I did.  What I have a problem with is they are only giving my CPA four days to counter what they planned for three weeks, spent four days mulling over all my books.  They want his rebuttal in my Thursday so they can enjoy their extended holiday weekend.  What BS, maybe if the County worked as hard as small businesses, they might be able to provide services at a reasonable tax rate. OK OK, enough of my whining.

I think in my last blog, I talked about moving one of the hibiscus, which I did.  He’s mad at me, but surviving.  A little stunted (actually a lot stunted), but living and I’m sure will be happier in his new home.  I hope to take out the sea grasses this week.  I think I probably have another two weeks before their seeds ripen.  OMG, I swear every seed from last year sprouted.  I think I will have time to run out to that greenhouse in Allison Park, LMS Greenhouse & Nursery and get some replacement plants tomorrow.  The Arondo donex along the front fence (the plants that everyone thinks are corn) are as tall as I am already.  The elephant ears, my favorite, are waist high looking quite nice.  The new banana plants seem quite happy and are growing above all their surrounding cousins (ferns and claira belles).  The Veronica’s have their mildew again, I’m spraying them with an anti fungal, but I hate using any chemicals other than food and they have a limited life here.  Guess what, I have a zucchini.  It’s from a seed from last year.  I wasn’t going to grow them again because they are prone to that mildew also.  I guess I’ll see what happens this year.  I have a problem with aphids in the oak tree in the “Beach”.  Last year I got lady bugs and they really helped.  I noticed the aphid poop on the deck under the tree a couple of weeks ago and finally remembered to the the lady bugs.  But even without getting them in the early spring, the poop is a lot less than last year.  Way to go lady bugs, you go for it.  :)

Tricia & Kirk got married here last weekend.  I think it was my first wedding this year that it didn’t rain.  :)  They did a first, they actually had the ceremony “on the beach”.  It worked quite well and a little different.  Usually the couple’s back is to the guests and the officiant is facing the guests.  Tricia wanted to actually get married in the sand and they faced the Courtyard with the officiant standing on the deck.  I personally really liked looking the officiant’s back the the bridal couple.  You know, maybe I have no memory, but I swear each bride looks like the most beautiful bride ever.  Tricia was gorgeous.  It was a nice event, Jay’s group from Catered Elegance did a real nice job great food and service and poor Elaine, the Captain, had to take some grief from one of the guests before I stepped in.  She handled herself very well.  We had two temp bar tenders and they recycled so well that I only have one beer case that’s missing maybe three bottles.  The guests were some beer drinkers.  Chris from Wilkensburg Beer Distributors didn’t have to come back to pick up any full cases.  That also was a first.  Chris’s daughter got married here two years ago and we have an arrangement that he takes the credit card number, delivers what ever is ordered (he’ll advise you on how much to order), pick up the full cases after the event and only charge on consumption.  His prices are competitive and a very nice service for my brides.

OK, I lied.  I’m going to whine a little one more time.  When I’m at the desk, I usually have the TV on low as back ground.  For the past while back, I’ve had the Reggae station on and I actually get to see the name of the artist, song and CD and have been writing it down on a tablet when a song comes on I really like.  Itunes doesn’t seem to be very interested in Reggae, I haven’t found one of them on they list.  I’m far from an expert, but they should hire me as a consultant to beef up their offerings.  :)

Well, the linen should be finished in the dryer by now.  I’m going to finish my last two rooms and then play in the garden some.  No check-ins today, so da boiz are guaranteed a run in the park.  They don’t know this yet, but I assure you it will make their day.

Have a great day and I’ll be back sooner than the last time,

ed

Hi,

I started this post a week ago and am just now getting back to it.  Last week was quite the week, I was fairly busy during the week with no week day housekeeper and then Meghan & Mark’s wedding for 130 guests on Saturday and then breakfast for 24 on Sunday (more on this later).  I had Derronda detail the five rooms she did on Sunday and so I just finished my three and am free to get back to my blog.

Food for thought, the new hockey arena, the Consul Energy Center will be opening for the new hockey season (two concerts first) and they are going to tear down the 50+ year old Pittsburgh icon.  I love Da Igloo, it is such an Iconic building.  So unique.  The City and County “fathers” are obsessed with tearing down this wonderful and unique structure.  Is there anyone in America that sees a picture of da Igloo that doesn’t know it’s Pittsburgh?  There is a group of local preservation’s fighting it, I hope they win.  Anyway, I digress, this building has been around for over fifty years, and when they tear it down, there’s a NINE MILLION DOLLAR MORTGAGE that needs to be settled.  OMG, could you imagine owning your house and after fifty some years, still owing a ton of money on it?  I think banks, credit reporting agencies and your neighbors would have some pretty unpleasant things to say about you and your irresponsible behavior.

I have absolutely the nicest guests.  As anyone that’s read my past couple of blogs, I no longer have a weekday housekeeper.  So I’ve been busy cleaning rooms.  I have this guest that’s been here for a bit and I’ve been refreshing/cleaning his room.  I haven’t found any trash in his trash can  or room since he checked in.  Then I noticed yesterday he was carrying out the debris from a fast food dinner he must have had the night before. I assume he was carrying it down the street towards where he’s working and dropping his trash in one of the sidewalk trashcans.   It’s not uncommon for me to see guests carrying in their dirty dishes into the kitchen, I’ve actually caught guests trying to wash their own dishes if I wasn’t in the kitchen to catch them.

I was on the deck in the beach this weekend and realized I had not ordered ladybugs this year.  (How could I tell, aphid secrete a sticky poop).  My neighborhood has an aphid infestation and last year I bought 4,500 ladybugs and it certainly dropped the number of aphids in my oak tree.  (How could I tell, a reduced amount of aphid poop & stickiness).  So I ordered another 4,500 tonight.  By the way, ladybugs aren’t the most intelligent creature on earth.  By instinct, they move up.  So as directed, when they arrived last year, I ripped the top of the plastic bag open and nailed the the bag up about ten feet from the ground on the oak tree.  A week later, I still had a ton of ladybugs hanging out in the bag.  So I upended it and made them all fall out into the sand and I let them fend for themselves.

So back to this weekend’s wedding.  Everyone had a great time, Jay did a real nice job with the food and his staff were very accommodating as usual.  A couple of weeks ago, Meghan contacted me.  The center pieces she planned was a “nest” of twigs with a pineapple in the center with it’s spikey leaves on top spray painted gold (Meghan’s very much into peacocks and so she added the top of a peacock feather in each pineapple top).  She asked me if I could incorporate her pineapples into breakfast Sunday morning.  An easy one was pineapple parfaits.  But I wanted to use the pineapples as the entree also.  So I talked to my good friend Lisa from Fabled Table and she gave me some recipes and I did an on line search and came up with a Paula Dean recipe I found interesting.  So I blended several recipes basically baking pineapple, cheddar, flour and crackers.  Note to self, always try a new recipe before trying to cook it for the first time for twenty-four people.  The flavor was there, I didn’t like the consistency.  So I’ve changed the recipe in my mind and will be using my guests this weekend a guinea pigs for attempt #2.  Beware new people this weekend.  :)  (actually Lisa & Bill are regulars).

My friend Tony that runs a greenhouse at Penn State main campus (we went to college together up there) said I can move the hibiscus out of the shade this summer.  The plant will be stunted, and I’ll have to water it frequently, but it should survive.  I’m going to do this because the next time him and Sue come down to PGH, he’s going to bring a Meadow Rue that takes the shade better than the hibiscus.  I’ve looked it up on line and it seems like it will be a welcome addition to the gardens.  The Rondo donax are waist high, the new banana plants are rapidly growing, the elephant ears are thigh high.  One plant I’m going to remove are the sea grasses.  Even though I really like the look of the sea grasses, you have no idea how much they like me.  I have weeded hundreds of their off spring out at least six times.  My elk horn is still struggling, Tony told me what I was doing wrong and I’ve corrected it, but it may be too late.  Plants are like inertia, even though they are alive, at some point they just pretty much give up.  I’ll keep working with it for another week and if I don’t see it responding, I’ll go back to that nursery in Shaler I’ve talked about in the past and get a new one.

I’ve sent my good friend (and customer) Myra my 50k updated manuscript and she’s busy on editing it.  In fact, she just sent me a section that made absolutely no sense.  When I read it, I knew what I was trying to express, but as she pulled those words out of the manuscript, it was pretty funny.  Also, a couple of visits ago we talked about my “composting” and she gave me some tips on how to improve my composting.  When I turn the compost in my bin, it’s night and day over last year (mainly, I was using way too much compost to brown material [leaves, grass clippings, etc]).  Thanx twice Myra.

Good night,

ed

Hi,

Pretty impressive, making an entry just two days after my last.  :)  Pretty intense storms here last night.  I was on my way back from Betty’s when they hit.  Route 51 was down to one lane in both directions as we fished from passing to slow lanes to find the lowest water levels.  I didn’t have any damage here (other than the TVs in the Carriage House).  Denny from Global Satellite stopped by (this is the second time I called for service and he was working right down the street) and some how the storm fried the switch that splits the signal from the dish to the individual  TVs.

Remember my story a few blogs back about Mod Cloth?  I had some couples sitting at the breakfast table and we were all chatting.  I started telling my story about Mod Cloth naming a dress & skirt after The Parador and I noticed the couple from Canada start chatting among themselves.  Here she’s a fan of Mod Cloth.  How funny is that.  Also, Mod Cloth was in the newspaper last week, they just got a financing package for almost $20 million.  I had no idea they up in that level of play.  Remember, you heard about them here first.  :)

Speaking of past posts, in my May 2 blog I talked about the gentleman that set up The Urban Tree Forge out in the East End of the City.  He would take City trees that had to be cut down and bring them to his shop and create works of art out of them.  If he didn’t sculpt a statue kind of a thing, he may cut them into flooring, or boards to create furniture out of.  Very cool concept.  I read in the paper last week that he was outside his shop, wearing safety goggles, ear protection and running his chain saw when some people were returning a rented truck that was attached to another truck when it broke loose and struck him from behind.  My condolences to his family.  The main reason I am posting this is I hope people use my blog as a reference for things to do and I don’t want someone try and look him up and find out the hard way of this bizarre accident.

I found this really cool little shop at the entrance to South Park.  Any of you south hills locals, where Route 88 curves around in front of the park and starts up the hill towards Library, there’s Simply Divine.  Years ago it was an ice cream shop, then a pizza place and lastly a gyro shop.  Apparently they tore the gyro shop down to the cement pad and built this new building, when I drove past, I couldn’t imagine how they remodeled that old building to look as it does now.  Any way, they carry all hand made items either American made or fair trade from the third world.  Prices are pretty good also.

Meghan and Mark are getting married here next weekend.  She’s using pineapples as her center pieces and wants me to use them for breakfast.  So my good friend Lisa from Fabled Table is giving me a recipe for a dish similar to the mushroom strattata I make (but with pineapples instead of mushrooms) and we’ll also have pineapple parfaits.

Charles and Kelley visited from NYC a couple of days ago.  Kelley left me some vintage glass bottles.  What’s funny about this is one of the thousands of projects I have on “the back burner” is an idea I saw about natural air fresheners.  I hate those Glade plug in type of scents that smell so artificial.  I saw an idea where you take vintage bottles, fill them with water or oil, depending on the nature of the scent you are using and then place a reed diffuser stick in them to wick the aroma up.  I have the link to the source for the reed diffuser sticks and the recipes on how to set these up.  Now that I have bottles, I guess I better get the lead out.  :)  If anyone’s interested in the details, just send me an E-mail and I’ll get back to you.

The City Paper, a local weekly newspaper that specializes in entertainment also came out with their summer edition.  The next time I blog, I’ll start covering info from them about summer concerts, etc.

Thanx and bye,

ed

Hi,

Wow, a week has gone by.  Remnants of last night’s storms are still hanging around.  It got pretty intense here, worse in other areas around Pittsburgh.  Over an inch fell and they had several feet rushing down some streets.  A good soaking for the plants.  The plants are all doing well (one hibiscus is struggling).  The Arrondo Donex along the front fence are already waist high already (the two foot tall wire fence Stephen put up to block da boiz from racing threw them has worked great and kept da boiz from trampling them).  Both new bananas have new leaves, so they’re settled in and I think they will like their location better than the last bananas I had.  The one hibiscus that gets the most sun is almost a foot tall (the shadier one is only about four inches).  The Angelica gigi (crack cocaine for bees), one of my favorite plants has a bunch of new shoots also.  My new elk horn fern that I planted on a piece of drift wood is struggling a good bit, I think I may have planted it incorrectly.  I’m going to shoot my friend Tony an E-mail for advise there.  And everyone’s favorites, the elephant ears are still short, but bunches of them are jumping up.  I mentioned that Maria & Frank (my first wedding here) spent their anniversary here two weeks ago.  Well, Maria brought here photo album and it’s amazing how much the gardens have matured and filled in.  One thing that I will be taking out are the sea grasses.  I swear every seed from their beards grew new ones, what a weeding chore.  I’ll let them hang out until right before they seed, then they’re out of here.  :)  Also, something’s eating my basil and cilantro, I think it’s slugs.  I’ve seen some of their trails on the sidewalks.  I’ll have to go out at night with a flash light and find the little buggers.

We had a wedding this past weekend.  Kate & Charlie had their ceremony here and then the reception.  They looked great, their florist did a real nice job with flowers, cake flower (out of icing) etc going well together.  Jay’s food was excellent as always.  We did have a few “back of the house” issues that were resolved and the guests were never aware of.  Then their Aunt Ann hosted a brunch for them, it was supposed to be about 40 guests, they ended up with fifty.  Bam, one of Jay’s chef’s did a great job keeping up with the omelets.

Apparently, my weekday housekeeper Stephen quit.  He was scheduled Friday and called to say he probably wouldn’t be in because of an issue with one of his knees.  I never heard from him again.  He was supposed to work Monday and never showed up.  When I called him, I got voice mail.  I left a message yesterday and never heard from him.  It’s shame to end a job like that.  He would have had such a glowing recommendation from me.  Now, if a future employer calls, I will say what a great employee he was, BUT that he quit with no notice.  In all my years as a manager and significant hirer, I would never hire someone that quit with no notice.

That’s one of the reasons for the lapse in blogging, besides getting ready for and running the wedding over the weekend, I had to do housekeeping duties Friday and Monday (in addition to what else I have to do).  OK, I’ll quit whining now.

Myra was in last night with her son Alex (she’s the one that runs a cyber school in Pennsylvania and she and her husband Phil are considering doing their own B & B out around Harrisburg).  I’m sure I’ve talked about Myra here in the past, she’s the one that gave me the baked oatmeal recipe (that of course I changed).  When she told me that her and Phil were considering buying that B & B out by where they live, I sent her a copy of my manuscript.  She found it to be very useful and offered to edit it, which I agreed to.  What she edited was AMAZING.  I have great ideas, and a lot of information to offer, but I am not real clear sometimes.  What she edited had such a better flow.  She’s finished with school this weekend and offered to edit the entire manuscript.   THANK YOU MYRA.  :)

The Northside Initiative is having a meeting here this afternoon.  They are mainly East Ohio Street merchants (East Ohio Street and Western Avenue are basically the same street, the names change several times and the old Allegheny Center Mall block direct access).  Since the day I moved here, I have supported the reconnecting of the two districts.  The old Allegheny Center Mall is the poster child of failed urban renewal that had all the wrong elements.  They destroyed the old market place that was historic and the center of the old Allegheny City.  They tore this and other historically significant buildings down in the 1960’s desire to bring the suburbs into the City.  Instead, they destroyed historic buildings, divided communities and created a useless piece of real estate on one of the most important pieces of real estate in the City.  They could relatively easily reconnect East Ohio to West Ohio Streets, there’s no buildings in the way.  They could even reconnect Federal Street back down to East/West Ohio (again there’s no buildings there).  That would be the biggest thing they could do to really kick start Northside’s renaissance.  As I’ve said in this blog, 90+% of the economy is fueled by small businesses.  In stead of spending millions subsidizing the Steeler’s stadium that has maybe twelve events in a year), PNC Park, the new amphitheater (which we are subsidizing), we should be directing funds to reconnecting these streets and I guarantee the business district of the Northside would explode (in a good way :) ).  At the very least, take down the stupid No Turn On Red signs all around the old Allegheny Center Mall and time the traffic lights so you can make it around that hulking piece of useless real estate without having to stop at each intersection.

The tickets I got from the Carnegie’s are quite the hit.  I’ve only had them for about a month and need to order more.  I don’t know if people that would normally be booking here are taking advantage of them or if I’m getting reservations because of their availability.  (I am a little corporate sponsor of the Carnegie and one of the benefits is I get tickets to the Warhol and the Carnegie at half price.  Most places work them into a special, instead I decided to offer them as a special in and of them selves.  This way anyone one visiting me can take advantage of them and they are not only for people signing up for a particular packaged special).

Well, that’s about it for today, I promise it won’t be a week for me to add a new entry.

ed

Hi,

I’ve been working on a post, but it’s getting kind of long and I don’t want to rush it, so here’s another.

Christina & Jason had their afternoon garden wedding yesterday in my Courtyard.  The worst rain of any of my weddings, luckily it was real bad while we were setting up and not during their reception.  There was up to two inches of water and some areas of soft mud during set up.  The staff all had mud splattered over the back of their pants.  :)  But as I said, it rained a bit when the guests arrived and then basically held off until after wards.  Christina looked beautiful, I loved her dress.

I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life.  Dr Casey Philips is right across the street from me (his main office is in Bethel Park).  He’s always been a great neighbor since I moved back up here.   Lately, my arms have been falling asleep while I sleep and it wakes me up.  So I went over to see him and we had an initial consultation and he took some X-rays.  We met again on Wednesday for treatment and OMG, I’ve slept straight through the night since.  The range of motion in my neck is incredible, the best in years.  And this is after just one visit.  He showed me where my problems are generating from (I think it’s my fifth vertebrae) on the X-ray.  He did a couple of different treatments and then he cracked my neck.  That was a first and pretty scary, but I guess if I get the results he done, I don’t mind the neck cracking.

Visit Pittsburgh, our convention bureau had a meet and greet for Visit Pittsburgh Partners and their staff.  Many of their staff I have met over the years I have been a member, I did get to meet some new ones.  I also met some other members I hadn’t met before.  The Pittsburgh Irish Festival will be held this coming September 10, 11 & 12.  The will have four stages of continuous entertainment, authentic Irish food & beverages, an Irish marketplace, children’s activities and many other activities.

Also, RiverQuest was there.  They are a non profit who’s main mission is educating people about how important our waterways are.  They do a lot of research, they take school children out and they have scheduled tours for the general public.  You can even schedule private parties on their boat.

I also met Paul from Pittsburgh Pedicabs, very green and laid back way to travel around the City.  They’ve teamed up with a local lady that’s a font of information about the City and they partner on bicycle tours.

I met with Nina & Jeff after breakfast was all cleaned up.  They’re getting married in September and looking for a place to house their guests.  This evening, Ed Cyphers from Sounds Like Fun disc jockeys is meeting with one of my brides for next year.  He’s a great guy and great DJ if anyone is looking for one.

I think that’s about it for today,

ed

Hi,

Another nice weekend.  The dreary weather finally left us Friday and stayed spectacular all weekend. It’s a wonderful rain storm today, no heavy winds or massive down pours, just a nice steady soaking of the ground.  The plants are happy.

Maria booked her and Frank here for their third anniversary, they were my first wedding here.  Such a nice couple, she is due with their first in five weeks, she looks great.  Maria was too funny, they found my Inn while it was still under construction.  At that point, I hadn’t have an event, so I wasn’t sure how many guests I could host.  I asked them how many they figured for their guest list and they said about 200.  I figured I could host about 150 at most.  They said they’d cut the list.  Basically, that was the last time I talked to Maria before the wedding.  She kept Jay, from Catered Elegance informed and I spoke with Frank.  They couldn’t get the guest list below 180, so we ended up tenting “The West Event Space”, my parking lot!  :)  They had the dinner there and walked through the connecting door to the Ballroom and had the dancing and festivities there.  A great time was had by all.  Last year, Frank was in the Trib a few weeks before the Pittsburgh Marathon and I saw it.  The Marathon, last year went right past my Inn and who’d I see running but Maria.  I shouted that I saw her famous husband in the newspaper and she laughed and kept on running.  :)

I subscribe to Fine Cooking, I love that magazine.  Generally, most of their recipes don’t interest me, but when there’s one that grabs me it’s a winner (the other recipes are great, they don’t do a lot of breakfast items which is what I generally am looking for).  What I love about the magazine are the tidbits you find in there and then the easy to follow recipes when you find some thing you like.  But I digress, speaking of tidbits, they had an article on brides having cheese wedding cakes.  How great is that?  I’m not suggesting this is right for everyone, or even many.  But for those that are looking for something different and love cheese, this is right up your alley.  Since reading it, my mind has been in overdrive and coming up with all kinds of ideas for icings, etc.  Here’s a link to a picture of one of their “cakes“.  I’ m not  as knowledgeable about cheese as they are and a bit more of a traditionalist and can envision a really cool looking “traditional” wedding “cake” with an “icing” made from some complimentary or contrasting soft cheese.  Also, they have this massive store/website/etc that appears really cool right up in Ontario.   Their web site is very attractive, but I don’t find it very easy to navigate, for one thing, they don’t have a contact page, they do have an easy to find contact E-mail button.  Yesterday, I had a hard time finding a picture of their “cake” and so I used their contact E-mail button and sent them an E-mail assuming I would hear from them today, Monday.  Low and behold, Alex responded within a half an hour and told me the cake was hard to find and gave me a direct link to the picture above.  I love businesses that go the extra mile of providing service during non traditional hours.

Speaking of things a bit different, Kerry at KS Kennedy Floral has a strolling table for hors d oeuvres or desserts.  There’s a model (she can be in any costume to fit the occasion) with the table around her and it’s on wheels the the table looks like her dress.  Check it out.

My Chinese white lilac tree is about half open, it should be in full bloom for Christina and Jason’s wedding this weekend.  The Japanese Dog Wood also will be in full bloom for them.  The scent from the lilac is so strong, it will be real nice for this afternoon event.

That’s all for today, keep dry.

ed

Hi,

Businesses supporting businesses, what a novel concept.  :)  My new bank, Slovak Savings and Loan right here on the Northside, had a consultant that came in to do some work with them and she called me for a reservation.  The best part of the story is Donna called me while I was in my old bank, First Niagara (who never referred anyone) talking with the manager.  It takes a change in mindset for people to think like this.  And it’s not just one business  supporting one of their customer businesses, it’s all of us.  Of course this is prejudice on my part, but if we all are aware of small businesses and help send customers our way instead of to the big box stores, this country would be a hole lot better.  I was a business major at Penn State many years ago and one fact (maybe the only one :) ) stuck with me over the years.  93% of the United States Gross National Product (GNP) is generated by small businesses.  There was an article recently in the newspaper that said the exact same thing.  There is literally millions of us out there.  When a friend or coworker asks about an accountant, send them to Bould and Associates instead of HR Block, flower orders to KS Kennedy instead of Telafloral, stereo needs to Butch’s Sound and Audio instead of Best Buy, get your Jamiacan Ginger Root Beer, Red Ribbon Cherry Pop, Pennsylvania Punch from Natrona Bottling and send your out of town friends & business associates to The Parador Inn, you get my drift.

And related to that, is donations to non profits.  I donate to most non profits that request a get away (I never donate to ones that solicitate from distant states, etc.)  And I get a fair amount of redemption of these certificates.  What I don’t get is referral business.  Honestly, when I donate to a non profit, it is to help them raise money for their worthwhile causes, particularly in these times.  But I have never received a booking from someone saying I saw your donation at xyz fund raiser and thought I’d support you also.  Or better yet, I’m on the executive board of xyz non profit and I noticed your donation to our fund raiser.  I have some clients coming in for my regular business and would like to lodge them at your establishment.  I’ve donated to fund raisers and had guests use the gift certificate, never actually come back, but ask me to donate to another non profit they belong to.  Am I being greedy?  Maybe I actually get referrals from these donations and the guests never acknowledge where they found out about me (but this has never been listed on my Guest Comment Card that is in each guest room).  If you are reading this and patronize a small business because you saw them at a non profit fund raiser, please let the small business know so we feel appreciated.

I was making the cinnamon swirl quick bread for breakfast and I got everything mixed and layered in the baking pans when a guest came to the door.  I greeted them, gave them the tour and then checked them in.  When I went back to the kitchen, I put the two loaf pans in the oven.  When I pulled them out half way through baking, I noticed I neglected to swirl the cinnamon swirl batter.  ):.  So we had swirlless cinnamon swirl bread for breakfast.

It was supposed to rain and be cloudy all day today.  It never really rained (the first day in many) and actually got fairly sunny (the first in many).  Makes me very happy.  I got the grass cut and the beach raked.  All set for the weekend guests.

RJ was funny this evening.  Andrew left this morning.  He was from Canada, and had been here from Sunday and each morning would stop and greet both boiz and play with RJ before breakfast.  If he was around during the day, he’d spend some time playing with RJ.  And most evenings when I came down to turn the music off and do the final thing with the lights (RJ follows me down each evening for this ritual), Andrew would be in the Parlor reading.  RJ would run over to him and they would play one more time.  This evening when I came down to put the Inn to bed for the evening, RJ went running into the Parlor and kept looking around.  He couldn’t believe his buddy wasn’t there.  :)

The new Angelica giga hasn’t grown, but is sitting there looking healthy.  The bananas are already sprouting new leaves.  The hibiscus that gets more sun has tripled in size (the other is growing, but no where as fast).  The elephant ears are being sluggish, but with the warmer weather, they should really start shooting up.  I need to pull the clematis apart, it has exploded and I need to get it growing where I want it (on the arbor, not under).  Everyone else out there in the garden are either growing well or exploding.  It’s going to be a great year for the gardens.

Kevin and crew from Crested Duck was in working in my kitchens this afternoon.  He will have his first day of sales tomorrow at the Fire House.  So they were busy as all get out and when I came home from doing my errands there was no place in the cold kitchen to put my purchases down, so I went in the Pantry and tried getting all five cloth bags of groceries, etc on the counter.  As luck would have it, the one bag that didn’t make it had a bottle of port in it, of course it broke.  Later, after Kevin left, I decided to move the vase with extra flowers in it, the two bottles of mix for Pina Colodas and Margaritas and a bottle of white wine from the cooler we share to the one in the Pantry.  Guess what, Mr. Lazy Man’s Load tried carrying all three bottles and the white wine bottle slipped out of my grasp in the Pantry and broke.  Not a good day for me and alcohol.  :)

Brian, from Wall to Wall Productions called me yesterday.  They’re right down the street and had one of the people they work with come in to town back in January and they placed him here.  They’re bringing another one in for eleven days the end of the month and booked him here (he’s coming all the way from Hawaii).  So Brian came by this afternoon for a tour and did all the details for the booking.  Also this afternoon, Kristy who’s planning a wedding next September came by for a tour.  The Parador may be a perfect fit, her and her cousin seemed to enjoy the tour.  That would be the third wedding I have already booked for next year, way over where I was last year at this point.

Well, it’s late and I need to make breakfast early, have a great evening,

ed

Hi,

Very nice weekend.  Mike & Joe were back and brought some family members for the weekend.  One of my many boring stories I subject my guests to was where the frog night light came from (a guest bought if for me after I told them how enamored I was with the cocci frog in the water feature).  They found a metal frog sculpture and bought if for the Inn.  Nicole & John were in for a get away while cheering their daughter on in her State gymnastics tournament in Western PA (she placed pretty high in the three categories she competed in).  My friends from Angola, Dave & Claire came in and are here for six days (their daughter and son will be joining them from NYC for the last two nights) and Tony & Sue from State College came in for one night.  It’s always nice to see old friends and great when times don’t change your relationship.

Tony’s pretty amazing.  He has made just about all the wooden  furniture in their house.  And he doesn’t just make stick furniture.  Each piece is a unique design with all kinds of inlayed wood and unique appointments.  He is friends with someone that owns a saw mill up in Centre County and any time they get unique logs in, they call Tony to see if he’d like it.  He has all this cool lumber stacked in his basement waiting for a project.  It’s always interesting to visit them and see what he’s up to.  He made their dining room set (eight foot table, six chairs and china closet), their bedroom set (bed, dresser, chest of drawers, side tables) and all kinds of furniture around the house.

I don’t like the middle table in the dining room and have been thinking about shopping around for one that would fit exact requirements I have.  When Tony & Sue said they’d be down to visit, a light bulb went off in my head.  So while they were here, I explained what I was looking for and what my budget was and asked if he’d be interested in making it and it seems he’s very keen on doing it.

Kevin from the Crested Duck has been working in my kitchen getting ready for the Terminal Shops opening later this month.  He’s the guy doing charcuterie.  I have several hundred pounds of various sausages aging in my basement.  :) He’s been invited to set up shop in the Firehouse Market down in the Strip and I think he’s going to start down there this weekend.  So he’s busy as a beaver making product.  He has a lot of short and long term aging recipes, luckily.  Also, we may have an arrangement.  Instead of serving bacon I have been at breakfast, we may partner together and I’ll serve his organic local sausage.  That’s pretty exciting.

I’m hooking up with Smartbox, they have a number of products, but the one I’m interested in is a presentation of various Inns and they sell these in bookstores and other outlets.  It’s kind of a nice idea, the price you pay for the box includes the price of staying at an Inn.  They make a nice purchase for someone themselves or a great gift. Lots of variety, pick an Inn you like in an area you like.   I more or less only get half price (this is how they make their money) and I get great exposure.  The pictures I sent didn’t have enough resolution, so I asked Stephen, my weekday housekeeper if he had a digital camera with high resolution.  He said his fiance has a camera, but didn’t know the resolution.  Allie was here waiting for him to get off work.  When Stephen asked her about the resolution, she didn’t have an answer.  She has a smart phone and so goes on line to look up the make & model camera she owns and then found out the resolution, which is more than adequate.  The point of this note, is I find the use of smart phones amazing.  To have that info available with a little work searching the web from your phone is just incredible.  I think I need to join the twenty first century and get one for myself.  I guess it’s about time.

Have a great one,

ed

Hi,

As a follow up to Sundays talk about the Pittsburgh Glass Center, there is a glass gallery in Shadyside.  Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery is located at 5833 Ellsworth Avenue.  They have an interesting web site, more of a retail outlet than PGC’s instructional, museum, gallery, etc approach.  But definitely worth checking out.

The Arondo Donax (the bamboo/grass along the front fence) are sprouting up all over the place.  When they grow up, (they reach over 13 feet tall) it’s going to be banner year for them.  The hybrid hibiscus are finally sprouting all over the place.  Very tiny sprouts, but lots of them are popping up.  The Angelica gigas finally arrived.  They are the coolest plants, they’re crack cocaine for bees.  Don’t worry, the bees swoop in to the plant, get filled up and leave.  They have very exotic leaves and the flowers are these spikes that jut up and look like fireworks.  One of my favorite plants.  The banana plants arrived (and were planted) yesterday.  They’re still pretty small, but will grow up to about eight feet tall and wide.  I’m excited.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have a strong preference to shop as local as I can.  Last year I had problems with my ice machine and called Allegheny Refrigeration, a company right around the corner.  The repairman showed up, fixed the ice machine and when he presented the bill, there was a $32 fuel charge (they’re right around the corner!).  I questioned it and the repairman said everyone is charged that.  I paid it.  The two door refrigerator in my kitchen wasn’t holding temperature and I again called Allegheny Refrigeration.  When I asked if I was going to be charged the fuel charge since I’m right around the corner, the lady on the phone got a distinct attitude towards me and said she doesn’t set the price.  I told her I don’t care who or why, I just need to know if Allegheny Refrigeration was going to charge me, because that would stop me from using them.  I then called Sicilia and his answering service couldn’t answer if they charged a fuel charge, someone would call me.  I then called Fugh and spoke with a real friendly receptionist.  Carol said they charge a $30 fuel charge, but she gave me a credit for a coupon they have out in circulation, so my fuel charge was $10.  I agreed to this and had no sooner hung the phone up than Jeff from Sicilia called.  They don’t charge a fuel charge and Jeff was a very personable tradesman.  Since I already agreed to Fugh, I told Jeff he’d have my next business.  I really hate that deceptive and greedy businesses.  The place that I used to get my oil changed started charging a $10 service charge.  Why not just raise your rate.  They advertise a price and then when you go to pay, there’s service fees, fuel charges, etc.  My guests would walk out the door if when they checked in all of a sudden I was charging extra fees over my advertised price. In case you haven’t noticed, I put hyperlinks in for businesses I think we should support and not for businesses that I think are not reputable (ie Allegheny Refrigeration).

I sent Kerry an E-mail about Allegheny Refrigeration and the next three paragraphs are his response:

Yes.. countless folks with the same opinions on this horrible monopoly..So inconsiderate of the little guys and know they are the only game around..

A great man, Harry Killen, had worked for them for countless years and was let go some time ago for no good reason except to cut costs..amazing how they don’t work with pricing but get rid of the folks who had been with them for generations!

Harry is now on his own and does loads of work for many around the Northside with very fair pricing and considerate service ..(He learned what NOT to do from those guys) If anyone is looking for an amazing refrigeration guy, Harry is the one I insist on every time! His number is 412 304 3255 !!

This is me again, for some reason Kerry’s font continued.  Tonight’s Soup Night at Calvary Methodist Church from 5 until 7 p.m., my very good friend Lisa does it as a fund raiser for the church.  They have a Cinco de Mayo theme tonight.  Good food served cafeteria style for a good cause (and if you’re just a little bit sneaky, you can peek in the sanctuary with the three huge Tiffany windows.)

Finally, some very good friends from college are coming in tomorrow.  Dave & Claire are coming in from Angola.  Dave’s worked for Exxon for years and they’ve been stationed over there for three years now.  They have lots of interesting stories.  And they know my Caribbean/tribal look I’m trying to achieve here and all four authentic African masks in the first floor are from them.  Tony and Sue are coming down from State College.  Tony has run a green house up at Penn State since graduating in Horticulture.  Tony always brings me wonderful plants (those hybrid hibiscus are from Tony).  He also got me that grow light in my sun room that the plants love so much.  I feel like such a slacker when they visit bearing gifts.  But I’m not too proud to accept them.  :)

Have a great one,

ed

Hi,

Other than getting stuck in the most bizarre detour the City set up around the Convention Center while going to Restaurant Depot, the weekend was great.  The Pirates played this weekend (no traffic there :) ), the Pittsburgh Marathon was this weekend, the Penn’s play off against the Canadiens and Pitt’s graduation all combined to grid lock the City.  The detour made you turn up tenth street under the Convention Center, down Penn Avenue, up eighth Avenue then down Liberty.  It was so convoluted, traffic was backed up to the Ft Duquesne Bridge (and there’s not way to turn around once you’ve gone this far).  Literally it took me an hour to get through it.  So for the way back, I hoped on the thirty-first street bridge and came down route 28 and was home in fifteen minutes.

The oddest thing happened yesterday.  The neighborhood was holding a spring clean up, they always hold these on Saturday mornings.  That’s my busiest day for breakfast, so instead of helping, I offer a location to gather and supply coffee.  The front door was open and there were several neighbors on the front porch, I was in the pantry working on breakfast when this Oriental woman walked in with two boxes of Krispie Creme donuts and said “These are for Jennifer”.  I had no Jennifer staying here and have no idea what that was all about.  Would anyone like a box or two of Krispie Creme donuts?  :)

Heather and Matt, from the War Streets, housed their musicians here.  They had five rooms.  The wedding went great over at the Mattress Factory, from what I hear.  The Musician were great guests.  We also hosted a number of parents coming for their kids from Pitt.  I even had my newspaper deliverer visit this weekend.  Ruth has always told her husband Greg what a cool looking place and so for their anniversary, he booked a get away weekend.  Very nice.

The Pittsburgh Glass Center is hosting a very cool exhibit to coincide with Pittsburgh hosting the North American United Nations World Environment Day, June 5.  All the exhibits have to be either using green or have a green theme.  For those of you not familiar with PGC, their mission to foster glass artistry.  They teach classes, mentor and foster glass in the arts.  They are located at 5472 Penn Avenue, just past Lawrenceville.  There was an article on the exhibit in the Trib this morning, here’s a link to the Trib, then type Glass artist look at our fragile world in the search box and it will take you to the article.  The sculptures look amazing.

Speaking of artists, there is a wood artist working out in Lincoln-Lemington (generally out past East Liberty).  The Urban Tree Forge is located at 1004 Washington Blvd in the old Elias Studios.  John Metzler takes trees that have been cut or blown down and recycles these into furniture and pieces of art.  John made a tables for the G-20 Summit from oak and sycamore here on the Northside and tables for the Carnegie Library’s historical collection also here on the Northside.  An associate, Joshua Space made the face on one of his gargoyles on display at Phipps Conservatory out of a piece of sycamore he found fallen in his neighbor’s yard.

It’s been raining all afternoon, seems to have quit for now.  I think I’ll try and take da boiz down the park, I don’t imagine the dog gestapo will be out.  We should be safe.  :)

The Penns were up one nothing first period, now after two periods Canada’s up two to one.  Lets go Penns,

ed