Hi,

Some cool things happening around the City this weekend (besides my wedding which is RSVP).  :)

Venture Outdoors is having their last Family Outdoor Festival of the season over in Allegheny Commons Park (right down the street from me).  It’s from noon until four tomorrow and is FREE.  They’re going to have kayak rides, rock wall climbing, bicycling, etc.

Over at Soldiers & Sailors Hall in Oakland they’re having the Pittsburgh Craft Collective for it’s second year.  This is from noon until five on Sunday.  The event Crafts N’At will showcase 100 local artists and craftspeople featuring hand made indie crafts.  There is a cover, I don’t know what it is, but part of the cover goes to Animal Friends.

Also, Obscure Games Pittsburgh are having another event this weekend.  They’re a group that tries to get adults out to play games and have some fairly traditional games like ultimate frisbee to things like human pinball and Vikingball.  They don’t seem to have a clear listing of the games this weekend on their web site.  There’s a good article in today’s Tribune Review in the Living Section, page 3.  I tried to do a link to it, but Explorer won’t load the page for some reason.  You’re on your own here.

EZ.  I am so together this weekend, I can’t stand myself.  Melissa & Eric are getting married here, I have all my errands done, all the plants (inside and out) are watered, Betty spent a couple of days visiting and she weeded, I straightened up the beach and raked it, took the recycling out, Derronda’s coming in this afternoon and she’s going to do all the b’fast prep for tomorrow.  (I’m training her to be able to take manager responsibilities of running the Inn in the evenings doing the check-ins and b’fast prep.  And running the Inn in the mornings actually doing the b’fasts.)  I wish I could take credit for being so good, but actually the Inn was very slow the past couple of days that gave me a head start on everything.

We lost another housekeeper last week.  So I ran an ad on Craig’s List and got some very good applicants.  I’ll be calling four of them back next week for a second interview with Derronda and myself.

OMG, Razor is an Olympian.  I’ve gotten over my fear of him and other dogs and broke down and am taking da boiz over to the dog park section of the Commons.  Lake Elizabeth is over in that section and there’s an island with a gradual cobble stone slope into the water (the rest of the lake has a cement lip that he’d have trouble climbing with his arthritis).  And, there’s only two bridges onto the island, so I can monitor when other dogs are coming and going.  Razor has taken to the water like there’s no tomorrow.  I used to sneak him down to the ocean when we lived down in Florida, but I guess the waves bothered him because he really wasn’t in to it then.  He’s like a little kid out there just swimming and swimming.  And Mr Pushover that lets RJ walk all over him with toys on dry land adamantly won’t give an inch with toys in the water.  THEY ARE RAZOR’S, AND HE DOESN’T SHARE.  :)

Well, everyone’s checked in, D’s making bread and doing the rest for b’fast and I’m taking da boiz down to the park, have a great weekend,

ed

Hi,

Productive week.  Fairly busy with guests, but I still got around to painting the Ballroom.  I had to do a couple of patches and decided it was time for a fresh coat of paint.  It’s amazing how you (rather what I’ve missed) when you don’t look closely at the walls.  Particularly in a “party” room where you have events.  It looks so much fresher now, I’m happy.

I had my first Bar Mitzvah this Saturday and a wedding next Saturday, so the Ballroom paint job will be put to good use.  I was a little nervous about having thirty to forty 13 year old kids.  They were very enthusiastic in the Ballroom with dancing and stuff.  But there were well behaved.  Jay, from Catered Elegance did a real nice job with the food and Steve Lebo did a nice DJ’ing and getting the kids moving and grooving.

Guess what?  My blog has a fan club!!!!!!!!!!!!  Ron & Rosa from Kentucky visited last week.  He belongs to a creative writing club there and liked my blog and has his other club members following me.  I better start watching my grammar closer.  :)  Ron and Rosa went to Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, one of the restaurants I recommend.  They ran into Marcella & Mike (visiting from Connecticut after dropping their youngest son off at college in Melbourne).  Then, the next day, Ron and Rosa were touring the Cathedral of Learning and who’d they run into?  None less than Marcella and Mike.  Too small of a world.  The next morning at breakfast, Rosa said her camera broke, so Marcella offered to E-mail her the pictures she took of the Cathedral.  The Cathedral is very cool space for anyone coming to visit.

In the 1920’s, the chancellor of the college of Pittsburgh wanted to get kids interested in education.  Back then, as today, many kids don’t want to go to school, they want to quit and do what daddy does.  Well, particularly back then, daddy did very dangerous things like working in steel mills or in coal mines.  So the chancellor decided to build the tallest educational structure in the world, which the Cathedral was for many years, it still is the tallest educational structure in the US.  This way, anywhere in the City kids looked up, they would see this structure and it may inspire them to pursue education.  He then got the kids involved by collecting pennies to actually buy bricks.  He then decided to create the Nationality Rooms.  Pittsburgh was originally settled by the French and British, but when industry came in, the Germanic’s came over.  So the kids could relate more, the chancellor got the German club of America to buy German building materials and use German craftsman to create the German classroom.  The Poles, Czechs and other second wave immigrants did the same.  These first nationality rooms are on the first floor, the third floor has the newer immigrants like the Indians, the Chinese, etc.  These rooms are particularly interesting during the holidays when they have their ethnic holiday trees and decorations.

I only have three passes to the Warhol left, what a popular special that is.  I have to buy more passes, I think that will be the fourth time since I started this.  I can buy passes to the Warhol and the Carnegie in Oakland at basically half price.  Instead of creating a “package” and working that into the price, I just offer the tickets to anyone that want them.  A lot of people miss this special on my Specials Page, always take a peak around web sites when visiting, you never know what you may find.

Something pretty interesting is coming to Pittsburgh, an LST 325 (Landing Ship Tank).  It’s one of the few left from World War II, they were the work horses of the invasion at Normandy.  It’s big enough for two helicopters to land on it’s deck at the same time, and it can hold 20 Sherman tanks and 30 trucks at the same time.  Tours and cruises will be offered September 2 through 7.  Something I didn’t know, Pittsburgh had two shipyards that produced 269 ships during the war, more than any other city.  The LST 325 was actually built in Philly and is permanently docked in Evansville, IL and will be going back after the Pittsburgh stop.

One more thing, I periodically check my page ranking with the major search engines and how many people have visited my web site.  Lately, I’ve been having 55-65 visits a day.  My current average daily hits have been 71 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ya Ho!  :)

Early b’fasts tomorrow, my UK friends are taking a gray hound to Fallingwater and need an early meal,

ed

Hi,

Well, I’m back from the Jersey shore.  Had a great time, visited family and friends, had a nice and relaxing time.  The funniest thing happened on the way to the shore and coming back home.  For any of you not familiar with the Philadelphia area, the Schuylkill Expressway is interstate 76 from the PA Turnpike to Center City Philly.  It’s a two to eight lane high way with right and left entrances and exits, no one goes under 70 miles an hour and everyone goes from lane to lane with no warning.  Basically, it’s legalized bumper cars.  I was driving east with my drivers side window open and I hear “Ed” and there in the next lane was Mark & Denny.  They are regulars that live in Philly.  What are the odds of that?

I got home a couple of hours before my first check-ins.  I got everything together and they arrived.  While giving John & Juliet a tour upon arrival, Juliet said “We saw one of your trucks in Donegal”.  I said “What?” and John said Juliet saw a white Toyota truck with palm trees on it and the name The Parador Inn and said they should follow it.  That was me coming back from Jersey.  Too funny.

OK, I’ve been using those air scents I spoke of a couple of weeks ago.  There’s two ways to go, one is distilled water and vodka with the essential oil and the other is mineral oil with the essential oil.  When I first set them up, I used Johnson’s baby oil (which is mineral oil), but it has that baby oil smell, so I didn’t like it.  Actually, the one I made up with baby oil has sort of dissipated the baby oil smell and just has the lavender scent at this point and the bottle is still full with the fluid.  The one I did with distilled water and vodka totally evaporated.  So my $’s on the mineral oil and essential oil.  I went to Pat Catans, a local craft store that’s probably the biggest and local and they had unscented mineral oil.  Fairly pricey, but what I want.  I’ll go on line and see if I can buy larger bottles at a more reasonable price.  Even if I don’t find mineral oil on line at a better price, I’ll be OK with Pat Catan’s price.

They’ve been filming a movie right over on Beech Avenue, the one that runs parallel to Western, the most intact Victorian Street in the city.  I think it’s that movie staring that guy from the Twilight series, not the main character, one of the male supporting actors.  It’s about CIA, FBI and a hole assortment of covert operatives that are chasing him.  Equipment trucks everywhere.  They haven’t had the groupies they had when filming in Mt Lebanon two weeks ago, that got fairly mobbed from what I hear.P1000060

We didn’t see any dolphins, but it was a nice boat ride.  Have a great weekend.  I’m sold out tonight, Steelers first preseason game,

ed

Hi,

I learned a new trick, we’re going to start having some pictures in my blog.  Obviously, I need to work on cropping and presentation.  But for my first pictures, I’m not too unhappy.  This is a picture of Tony’s hibiscus that was next to the arbor, but was getting all crowded out by the clematis, so I moved it this past spring and it seems pretty happy with it’s new location.  (Actually, there are two hibiscus, I moved them both this spring and then removed the other and it’s been quite mad at me.  Most of it died off, but I have one strong branch that’s a healthy green and even has flower buds.  I think we’ll be friends again next spring).  The big hibiscus (pictured) started blooming two weeks ago and should bloom into September if I remember correctly.  Next to it is one of my new banana plants.  I bought two bananas when I first planted the gardens and they died as did half of the plants I got from the nursery I bought all my plants initially.  The nursery staff also advised me to plant the blue hastas in the sun and the others in the shade (or vice versa) which was the exact opposite of how they should be planted.  Luckily, Tony and Sue had stopped by about a month after the garden when in and we replanted the garden.  Obviously, this nameless nursery hasn’t seen me since.

P1000057

P1000059 This is one of my newest additions to the gardens.  It’s the Kopper King Hibiscus I talked about already.  The flowers go from pink on the outside to red in the center, which are nice, but I really like the foliage.  I think when it fills out (probably not until next year), it will really make a nice addition to the garden.

P1000058 And here’s a picture of my beach with the Arondo donex a few weeks past.  I love how they give me privacy without seclusion.  And I’m always getting questions from people about “that corn” I planted.  Obviously they aren’t farmers.  :)

The Phipps Conservatory, my favorite space in the City is having a free admission day on Monday, thanx to a grant from the Buncher Family Foundation.  While you’re at Phipps, be sure to check out the Agave americana, they actually had to take a panel of glass out of the ceiling for it to keep growing.  It’s over 33 feet tall at this point.  It’s blooming and dies back after the bloom.

Anyone looking for something to do tomorrow, Manchester’s having their summer Victorian house tour.  They’re real nice people over there.  They aren’t as restrictive as my neighborhood and you see more creative use of some of the properties, and some very traditional.  It’s well worth the price.

I have to buy more passes for the Carnegie Natural History, Art & Architecture Museums and the Andy Warhol, this will be the third time I’ve used them up (sold them).  A very popular amenity here.  I case you haven’t perused my  Specials Page, I have 1/2 price passes to both museums.

Finally, I’m leaving for the Jersey shore tomorrow for a few days.  Derronda’s babysitting the Inn and da boiz.  She’s also representing The Parador at a Pitt Panther football meet and greet Tuesday.  Hopefully we can get some parents and alumni aware of us for future visits.

Well, take care and we’ll chat again,

ed

Hi,

You may ask, “Why did ed put the time in today?”  Well, that’s because I just finished the breakfast dishes.  No, I haven’t been sloven (I love that word and have been wanting to use it forever).  The notoriously inept Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority had a water main break outside my Inn yesterday afternoon and we didn’t have water until mid afternoon.  My poor guests were real troupers, I kept them as informed as I could about the situation, offered the limited options they had and got each room a gallon of bottled water.  I ended up flushing the powder room toilet with water I scooped out of the water feature in the elephant ear garden.  PWSA has a special place in my heart, any of you that have listened to my tirade about them costing me $42,000 when I was trying to open know why, (if your interested, just ask me next visit).  PWSA almost put me out of business before I even opened.  This summer has had a rash of water main breaks.  They have no capital plan to replace our aging system and it’s only going to get worse.  They need to develop a plan for all water and sewer line replacement.  Survey the system and prioritize the areas with the oldest and most unreliable lines and put a dollar figure on it and a ten to twenty year plan to replace these ancient pipes (I hear that some are still wooden logs, I don’t know if that’s true).  PWSA missed the boat with the stimulus package.  If they had this in place a year ago, I bet with some effort, they could have gotten this kick started.  For this reason alone, heads should roll.  $42k, I’d be happy to start the head rolling.  :)

Speaking of heads rolling, let me rant on one more of my favorite topics, Port Authority of Allegheny County.  Steven Bland, the head of it should get the boot.  His way of dealing with financial crisis is to whine about not having enough money and threatening to cut services and staff until someone bails him out.  They built that white elephant parking garage at South Hills Village Mall at the end of the T, for a fortune, that sits empty.  They missed the boat several years ago when the Ft Pitt Tunnels had to close for a major renovation and there was federal money set aside to alleviate the traffic problems that was going to create.  The money ended up going to a very nice fly over interchange at the mouth of the Liberty Tubes instead of a high speed or light rail system servicing the west hills (and airport).  Now they’re extending the T system to the Northshore  that is way over budget and they keep asking for more money.  Instead, they should have run the T out to Oakland.  If Oakland wasn’t part of the City of Pittsburgh, it would be the third largest city in the state.  Don’t get me wrong, I like having the T over here, when it opens, it will be a nice amenity for my guests.  But from a practical stand point, the money should have gone to an Oakland line.  Now they’re looking into spending more money on an automated payment system.  Why not look into expenses and live within their means.  Number one, move their offices from their Ivory Tower Downtown into one of the many empty buildings they own over here on the Northside.  Another way to save money is to get rid of all those big buses that run half full or empty so much of the time.  They know how many passengers ride on any given route, on the slower routes, replace the big  buses with little ones.  The smaller buses would be cheaper to buy and operate.  They would also pollute less. They would lessen congestion and they could pay the drivers less.  No, I’m not anti-union, I’m anti-waste.  Unions have fought hard to raise wages of the common man.  But big unions are like big businesses, set in their way and inflexible.  Look what happened to GM.  To respect seniority and the unions, I feel the new smaller buses should be purchased and the pay rate should be set appropriately less than the drive of a big bus.  Staff these buses with tenured drivers at the higher rate.  Through attrition, when Port Authority needs to hirer new drivers, they get the lower rate driving the smaller buses.  They can work their way up to the higher rate that the big buses warrant.  To me, this is a win win across the board.  They unions win by granting concessions in financial troubling times, the Port Authority wins because they lower costs and most of all, the riders win because they are not facing continued raising fares and cutting services.  Most of the bus  ridership are people struggling to make ends meet, many juggling two or more jobs and cutting service and raising rates are the worst thing you can do for this people.   One final and shocking quote from the Port Authority, when I first moved back to PGH and the T extension hadn’t started yet, the newspaper asked them if they were going to expand the service for game days and special events over here on the Northside.  The spokesperson said “No, we can’t pay overtime”.  65,000 people attending a Steeler’s home game and they’re going to run on a traditional slow Sunday schedule.  In the next newspaper, the quickly changed their story on that.  :)

OK, I promise not to rant again for at least a week.  Any of you looking for a last minute thing to do this weekend, “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” is playing at the Melwood Screening Room out in Oakland.  Shows are 7:30 and 9:30 on Friday and Saturday and then Sunday in the afternoon at 3 and 5.  This is one of those campy movies that has drawn huge crowds across the country, mainly from word of mouth.  It’s like the old SciFi movie “Plan from Planet 9″.

Lastly, there’s a new brew your own beer place opening in Greenfield.  These places have risen in popularity and lost popularity over the years.  This will be PGH’s only.  It’s an adjunct to Hough’s bar and restaurant in an old hardware store.  They have all the equipment and you pick from thirty some recipes and they supply the ingredients.  They’re opening with six kettles, each one makes about five cases of beer and they range in price from $100 to $180 for everything, even the expertise on how to do it.  They plan on opening this fall.

Now that the breakfast dishes are done, I’ve blogged and have water, I’m going to go out and water my thirst plants in the parking lot and sidewalk.  Have a great one,

ed

Hi,

Holy cow, I don’t blog for two weeks, now I’m blogging again in two days!

The sea oats days are definitely numbered now.  (The sea oats are the plants that I swear very seed sprouted new ones and I must have thousands I need to weed out).  I went out to the nursery by Hartwood Acres I’ve been going to lately and picked up this very cool Kopper King Hibiscus.  It starts with pink on the outside of the flower to deep red in the center.  But that’s not why I got it, it has these really cool copper colored leaves.  They’re the traditional size and shape of hibiscus leaves, just that cool color.  Then I got a Crocosmia Lucifer, it reminds me of the Hawaiian Heliconia.  I had heliconias in Florida and miss them.  In fact, now that I’m thinking of them, maybe I’ll look around for one to place in the Sun Room.  I’ve never been real successful with getting them to bloom, maybe I’ll have better luck up here in a controlled environment.  Finally, I got an Amsonia bubrectii.  They get some nice blue flowers in the spring, but what I liked about this plant was the foliage.  It has these long narrow leaves that fill each stalk kind of like a pencil cactus, but much softer and bushier.

Speaking of Hartwood Acres, they’re having the annual Blues Festival this Saturday.  I believe it benefits the Pittsburgh Food Bank if anyone is interested in going to it.  Click on the link to go to Hartwood Acres web site for details.

I finally experimented with essential oils for scents in the rooms.  You can either fill a small decorative bottle with cheap vodka & a few drops of an essential oil or with mineral oil and the essential oil.  Then you place a couple of reed defusers in the mixture for about fifteen minutes, then reverse them and the wick sends the scents up and out into the room.  You can get the defusers from Save on Crafts, they sell about 100 for about $10.  My first one I did with baby oil, but it has the fragrance of the baby oil in addition to the lavender.  So I need to find plain mineral oil, I imagine if I can’t get it at Home Depot or Lowes, probably a craft store or beauty supply shop should carry plain mineral oil.  This evening I’m going to try the recipe for vodka and essential oil and see how I like that.

There’s three small local museums I’ve been meaning to talk about.  Photo Antiquities right over on East Ohio Street is an interesting place.  On display is quite the collection of Victorian, Civil War, the aftermath of various disasters and other interesting pictures.  He only has room to display a small portion of all the pictures he has.  The fee is only $6.50, but a caution, don’t go there on a really hot day, the A/C struggles.  If you don’t know Bernie’s Photo’s (which most non Pittsburghers wouldn’t), it is a camera institution here in Pittsburgh that’s been around for years and Photo Antiquities is an off shoot.

An other small museum is just up by Sharpsburg, Bayernhof Museum.  The rambling mansion is the creation of an eccentric business man, Charles Brown that was very interested in the odd.  There’s quite the collection of automatons and other mechanically operated displays like “bird boxes” from the early 1900’s which use tiny slide whistles, organ pipes and turn of the century technology that brings the displays to life.  There’s even a subterranean cave with waterfalls, pools, stalactites and stalagmites.  It’s a very odd and interesting place.

The final museum is the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in West Homestead.  It tells the story of the growth of the steel industry in Pittsburgh including the the deadly Homestead Strike where unions really got their start.  (Pittsburghers have a history of being cantankerous, we were the home of the whiskey rebellion back in the 1700’s, Mingo Church was right down the street from where I grew up).  If you go to Rivers of Steel, be sure to stop at one of my favorite restaurants, Blue Dust.  There’s not much on their web site, but hours and address, I need to speak to them about that.  But if you go to their web site, note the hours of operation.  Just a hint of how they are.  We’re keeping a theme here, blue dust was a by product of the steel making process and Jerry, Rose & Sarah have kept the theme going with air brushed murals of the steel mills by the local artist that did the oil brushed murals in my Inn, Kathleen Flaherty.   and be sure to ask about the mosaic on the bar the depicts the Homestead Steelworks created by Sarah.  They absolutely have the best smoked brisket sandwich anywhere.  And for you vegans, Sarah is a vegan (or vegetarian, depending on the day :) ) and there’s items on the menu that if they aren’t vegan, can be made so for you.  I have always hated artichoke dip (that nasty stuff made by using that prepackaged Knorr seasoning mix.  I can inhale the entire portion of Sarah’s homemade artichoke dip.

Well, that’s it for today, have a great evening and we’ll talk again soon,

ed

Hi,

Two posts in just four days, I must have a new housekeeper.  :)  How else would I have the time to do this.  Yes, Rick started just over a week ago and is working out great.  When I inspected the three rooms he cleaned yesterday I only find a few very minor issues.  He was a referral from Derronda, the housekeeper I’ve been lucky enough to have for three years now.  Referrals from proven employees are just about always a sure thing.

For you antique-rs, here’s some leads for you.  Artifacts is a shop just across the West End Bridge from here.  The gentleman that opened it several years ago was interviewed in the paper about a year ago and said he wasn’t from Pittsburgh, but chose the location because we are basically half way between New York and Chicago, his major markets.  Many of his pieces puts mine to shame, really high end items.  He’s been so successful that he bought an old church just down the block from his showroom and that now holds his rug collection.

Dargate Auction Galleries just moved their auction house from the East End to McKees Rocks (just down the Ohio river from Artifacts).  They are having their first sale August 28 and 29.  The old social hall is going to be a pre-view room for up coming items to be auctioned.  There’s on site parking and the facility is wheel chair accessible.

Constantine & Pletcher auction house are having a sale this weekend up in Cheswick (about 30 minutes up the Allegheny River from here).  Viewing Friday from noon to five and Sunday from nine until ten in the morning with sales directly after.

Margaret Mutschler who had an antique shop in Leetsdale, is retiring and offering the remainder of her antiques through JS Dill Auctions on July 29 in Zelienople (about an hour north of here).

Finally, Royal York Auction Gallery is auctioning off items from the Mary Phillips estate and more this Saturday at nine in the morning.  Previews are this Thursday from five until eight and Friday, from nine thirty until three in the afternoon.  It is right up Baum Blvd in East Liberty (about twenty minutes from here).

For you vinyl collectors, Charles and Joan just checked out from a four night stay and they collect old records, mainly jazz.  They are always perusing old record shops and where thoroughly impressed with Jerry’s Records in Oakland.  Rooms after rooms filled with old vinyl separated by genre.  They person at the register was a bit colorful, but they had a good time anyway.

Now for a garden update.  My neighbor’s finally embarrassed me enough to plant flowers in the tree pits (that don’t have trees yet) from the reconstruction of my street.  About half of the street’s residents have taken the initiative to plant flowers and I finally broke down and followed suite.  It definitely looks much nicer.

I found the most amazing watering tool.  I’ve seen it around for awhile, but never pursued it.  It’s that wand you attach to your hose and it puts out a ton of water without a lot of pressure (that would damage the plants).  I know, I’m a late bloomer (pun intended), these things have been around for quite awhile and I’m finally catching on.

Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors has taken up residence here.  I had zucchini (an annual) in my garden last year.  I had lots of problems with a mold/fungus on the zucchini as well as on my Veronica’s.  Since the Veronica’s are a perennial I didn’t remove yet (I hate using chemicals, so I’ll replace them with something more durable once I use up the anti fungal chemical left over from last year).  The Veronica’s again have this fungus/mold.   I didn’t replant the zucchini this year, but saw these things growing up where I had planted some nicotiana from my Mom’s house and thought that was them.  Lo and behold, it was zucchini plants.  One of them I swear is growing a foot a day.  I have it trailing along the top of the fence and it doesn’t have any diseases, yet.  The elephant ears are up to my shoulders, the hibiscus I only transplanted once is chest high and ready to bloom (the one I transplanted twice is still mad at me, but hanging in there).  The Arrondo donex along the front fence are all over my head (the plants everyone thinks are corn).  It’s high and dense enough now, that there’s nice privacy from the street and Charles and Joan spent time each afternoon enjoying my “beach”.  It’s great to see guests relaxing and enjoying the various areas I created for them to relax and enjoy.

Have a great day and it won’t be a week before I post another blog, life is good.  :)

ed

Hi,

Sold out last Saturday night, thank you Dave Matthews.  :)  Three of my five check-ins arrived before 1:30.  All very nice people, but as my good friend Kerry would say “I’m gong to blow my brains out”.  :)

I finished “Three Cups of Tea”, by Greg Mortenson the other day.  (I read his second book “Stones to Schools” a while back).  An amazing story about a normal guy taking on educating children in Afghanistan, particularly girls.  An amazing man and story, I highly recommend it.  He started CAI about ten years ago after failing to climb one of the Himalayan mountains.  They are now competing with my favorite charity, Brothers Brother.  Brother’s Brother is an amazing organization.  They have been around for about 50 years and are consistently rated as one of the best charities in that like 95 cents of every dollar donated goes to the people they help.  I’ve been to their headquarters (right around the corner from me) and you can tell all the money goes to the people that need it.  Not that their offices are shabby, but they definitely don’t splurge on mahogany desks.  :)

I recently read an article in the paper about how this recession is changing people’s lives for the better.  More and more people are getting laid off and eventually taking the plunge and starting there own business after getting laid off.  Often with phenomenal results.  A regular guest and good friend, Julie Walker has started her own business (not that she got laid off, she just decided to take the plunge into working for herself).  Like Myra (another regular) is my mentor on my manuscript, Julie is my marketing mentor.  She started a marketing company and is so happy.  Her daughter Devon is starting school at Duquesne this fall and they were in last night because Devon had an orientation today.  Julie says her business is really taking off, even though she just started it a few months ago.  Although her web site isn’t active yet, it will be shortly and it’s address will be www.jwalkersolutions.com.  If you want a marketing person, I highly recommend her.  Her phone number is 717.697.5511.  With so much marketing on the web, you don’t need a marketing partner down the street anymore.

Speaking of the paper, I read an article on a garden I’ve heard of, but haven’t actually been there yet.  Rodef Shalom’s garden out at 4905 Fifth Avenue in Oakland sounds pretty interesting.  And it’s free.  I’ve included a link to their web site, but there’s not much on their site about their gardens.  Their hours are 10-2 Sundays through Thursday, except Wednesdays they are open 7-9 and Saturdays they are open noon – 1.  The will be having guided tours from 12:15-1 p.m. August 6 and September 3.  Their theme this years is wearable green and there are a lot of aromatics like patchouli, rosemary, chamomile, etc and for clothing they have cotton and flax.

Funny RJ story, as I was preparing breakfast on Tuesday, I had the back kitchen door open and I heard a robin chirping.  I walked out the door and RJ was sniffing at a chick and mom was up in the tree hollering at him.   He wasn’t being aggressive, just curious.  So I brought him in the kitchen and closed the door.  An hour or so later, I opened the door and watched him.  He went to where the chick was before and the chick was gone.  So I go about my business and then I hear this commotion out in the Courtyard.  When I came out, the chick was now behind the gecko swing and RJ was again sniffing at it and mom was really PO’d.    And she had reinforcements.  There was three robins dive bombing him and Mr Courageous was ducking and running.  It was too funny.

I just became the #2 rated B & B on TripAdvisor.com, up from #3.  Thanx guys for making favorable comments on me.  :)

Well that’s it for today, have a great weekend.  I’m almost sold out tonight and tomorrow night.  :)

ed

Hi,

It’s been a bit, but you should see me more often soon.  I hope to have my housekeeping issues solved by next week.  Derronda’s picking up three weekday shifts (gotta luv her) and the other two I should have covered soon.  Great news and not so great news.  Great news, June was my third busiest month since opening here.  Not so great news, I’ve been the weekday housekeeper.  :)

There’s a free jazz concert and poetry readying on September 11 with sax star Oliver Lake on the street outside the Mattress Factory.  The poetry reading is sponsored by Asylum Pittsburgh, a very cool organization that has this house over by the Mattress Factory that sponsors dissident poets.  One of the poets will be Khet Mar from Burma.

Also, Phipps Conservatory, my favorite space in the City has added Friday night hours until September 12.  The Victorian greenhouse is featuring their gargoyle show  with Gargoyle Nights.  They are open from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. with guided tours at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  The $20 admission includes the tour, gargoyle bites (BBQ by Chef Joe Colantuono) and $4 fruit, lemonade and vodka cocktails.  For those of you that have been in Phipps during the day, the evening shows are spectacular.  It was the most popular tour during the Dale Chihuly exhibition two years ago.

There was a cool article in The Trib Sunday about drive in movies.  One of them, the Dependable on Moon Clinton Road (out toward the airport from here) is doing quite well.  It only has had two owners since it opened in 1960 and current owners bought it in the 60’s a few years after it opened.  In the 80’s it showed adult films, but switched back to general interest a while back and does quite well.  It has four screens now.  An amazing thing is it is open year round.  Other drive ins in the general area are the Twin Hi-Way in Robinson (close be the Dependable), the Riverside in Vandergrift, the Hi-Way in Latrobe, the Evergreen in in Mt Pleasant, the Kane Road in Beaver County and the Comet in Brownsville.

For a number of years, when I’ve taken long distance trips my left arm would fall asleep from having my elbow on the open window sill in the truck.  Frequently, when I sleep, I tuck one of my arms under my head.  Lately, that arm’s fallen asleep and it wakes me up from the pins and needles.  I went to see Dr Casey Phillips, a chiropractor across the street from me.  I’ve never considered going to a chiropractor, not that I’m one of those people that doubt their reliability, I just don’t go to doctors.  After my second visit to Dr Casey, my arms haven’t fallen asleep since.

There was an article that talked about Pittsburgh and me in the Lexington Herald-Leader last weekend.  Here’s the link if you want to see it Herald-Leader

A local carpenter did an amazing job repairing the termite damage under the powder room and in the Parlor under the piano last winter.  He made the quarter sawn oak flooring and actually recreated the decorative walnut boarder around the edges including the box design in the corner.  He’s back doing some other jobs for me.  I know no one ever noticed but me, but the door down the hallway from the front door that leads to the Veranda never had the molding on the left.  The carpenter couldn’t match the the molding already on the top and other side of the door.  So he bought the closest he could find and then made it match.  He used pine instead of walnut (five hundred dollars difference) and then faux stained it to match the other two pieces.  Amazing.

My check-in is from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., which is fairly standard in the industry.  Check-out in most hotels/inns is eleven or noon.  This gives at least three hours to get the rooms cleaned and ready for the new guests. Friday, four of my five check-ins arrived early, one as early as noon.  Saturday two of my four check-ins arrived early. With an Inn as apposed to a standard hotel, when we’re not actually cleaning rooms, we use the time between breakfast in check-in to run our errands, set appointments, have some quiet time to balance the check book, maybe even blog.  This past Friday, I didn’t have a housekeeper and so I had to keep stop cleaning rooms to check new guests in.  I’ve had problems with this a while back, so in my confirmation letter I send to all guests, I changed the text stating the check-in times to capital letters.  That pretty much resolved the issues until until this past weekend.  If an entire letter uses the standard use of capitals and small letters, except for one sentence, you should assume that’s pretty significant to the Inn keeper.  I understand how traveling guests think, “I just want to drop my luggage off”, “My flight arrived early and maybe the room’s ready”.  What they don’t realize is how this can really throw you off your stride.  And what am I going to do, come down and tell them to come back in three hours?  That would be pretty rude.  And I don’t want someone’s visit to start off on a negative note.  It’s just kind of frustrating and I feel better now that I’ve vented.

GREAT news, the new housekeeper starts tomorrow.  My torture is over.  :)

ed

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