Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Dred Scott Decision (1857), the fall of the Alamo (1836) and it’s Ghana’s Independence Day.  Birth anniversaries include comedian Lou Costello (1906), artist Michelangelo (1475), poet Elizabeth Browning (1806) and artist Anna Claypoole Peale (1791).

What an inspiring person, Amy Brooks.  Born with congenital tetraphocelia, abandoned by her birth mother at birth and loosing her extremities due to her disease as an infant, she has the most positive attitude you can imagine.  Nothing in her life is easy and she maintains the most positive attitude towards life as she gave a presentation to eighth grade art students at Hampton Middle School on her artistic abilities.

East Ohio Street here on the Northside recently picked up a new tea shop called Arnold’s Tea Shop.  It has quite the inventory of teas and serves some meals and pastries.  It also has quite the assortment of tea accessories.  Verna Arnold is a retired school teacher and principle and decided to open a tea shop she had seen in much of her foreign travels.   She serves afternoon tea and cafe menu from 2 – 4 pm and high tea from 5 – 7 pm, but opens 7:30 am (9 on Saturdays and Sundays).

The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and Just Harvest are having their annual Empty Bowls dinner March 2 pm to 6 pm at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland.  For $22 you get homemade soup and bread served in a hand made ceramic bowl specific for this event.  The bowls are hand crafted by local artisans and not such artisans, just normal people trying to help out making a bowl or twelve.  A great cause and souvenir  They anticipate over 1,000 people to attend and they do sell out every year, so if you are thinking of attending, I suggest visiting either of their websites or call the Food Bank at 412-460-3663 or Just Harvest at 412-431-8960.

Toyota’s premiering a new green vehicle, the Mirai.  They are using revolutionary hydrogen fuel cells and plan on competing directly with Tesla’s battery electric vehicles (BEV).  The amazing thing about the Mirai is it can go 300 miles on one charge and recharges in just 5 minutes!  Comparable to Tesla’s S Model’s distance, but the Tesla S retails for $80,000 and the Mirai’s list price is $45,000.  The only exhaust from the Mirai is water vapor.  Toyota plans to start selling them in Japan next year and expand from there.  $45,000 is a lot for a car, but I remember when the Tesla first came out well over $100,000.  Toyota have the finances and engineering that if this vehicle works out as planned, they should be able to bring the price of this technology down where the masses could buy one.

Terra Sherry-Torres’ Cafe Con Leche is a Pittsburgh based non-profit whose goal is to bring together members of our Latino community and those non Latinos that want to experience their rich culture (and food).  :)  Terra organizes events featuring music, food and dancing.  I saw Terra’s performance at The Arts Festival last year (or was it the year before) and they are very talented and uplifting.  They will be performing Yo Soy Latina at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater  at 5941 Penn Avenue on March 14 at 7:30 pm.  They play will focus on challenges Latino women face and help people understand that Latinos are multi-layered.  Tickets are $15 and more info can be had at their website or by calling 412-626-7350.

No rush, the new exhibit at The Carnegie Science Center called H2Oh: Why Our Rivers Matter is expected to run for the next five years.  But it seems to be a pretty powerful exhibit.  Did you know the earth is cover by 71% water and of that, only 3.5% is freshwater and of that, only .02% is in rivers and lakes.  That .02% is where we get most of our drinking water, makes you appreciate efforts to clean up our waterways. The exhibit will also focus on fauna and flora dependent on our rivers as well as things like physics of water like water tension, dynamics of rain, sewage treatment as well as treatment of water drawn from our rivers.  A very educational and interesting exhibit.  More info at their website or by calling 412-237-3400.

The art exhibit at The Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip has a new and fun twist, Bridge 13 is featuring works by Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Keith Lo Bue and Jason Walker.  California native Elisabeth makes these larger than life animal figures whimsically created with 2 x 4 and anything she can lay her hands on.  When the creature is just about finished, she adds the arms that signify if the creature is angry, upset, happy, etc.  On a not so massive scale, Australian Keith Lo Bue makes his creations also from great finds at thrift stores and other rummaging forays.  He has 20 pieces on display and Jason eight pieces of his fanciful ceramic pieces.  Mt Lebanon city council should check out his Stranding in the Grass, it’s an image of a deer standing in a city.  (In case you haven’t been following events in Mt Lebanon, their city council decided there are too many deer in the borough causing havoc.  So they authorized a culling program in this densely populated community by luring deer into pens and then shooting them.  Many residents are up in arms over this-pun intended).  :)

How does he do it?  Braddock Mayor John Fetterman has lured Barebones Productions theater company to occupy the part of Superior Motors chef Kevin Sousa isn’t occupying.  Bearbones Productions has been producing their shows around the city as one of our many homeless arts troupes.  May 14 they roll out their new production American Falls.   In case you missed my past post about Kevin, he’s turning part of the Superior Motors building into his latest restaurant venue featuring about as local as you can get vegetables from across the street in a small farm he’s building.  Braddock is a fairly depressed area, Kevin is planning a job training program for culinary arts at this restaurant to teach locals the culinary skills so they are employable.  And because of the economic profiles of many of his neighbors, he plans on having a neighbor price for the entrees that will be much more affordable than we would pay.


It’s been a very cold and very busy month at The Parador, we sold way more rooms than any February!  And we have a lot more advanced reservations for 2015 than we ever had in the past.  It’s going to be a banner year.  :)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Cassius Clay becoming the the heavy weight champion (1964), it’s Kuwait’s National Day, the first national bank was authorized in Philadelphia (1791) and the Hebron Massacre (1994).  Birth anniversaries include Beatles George Harrison (1943), Impressionist painter Pierre Renoir (1841), author Anthony Burgess (1917) and opera tenor Enrico Caruso (1873).

I put peanuts out for the squirrels right outside my office window so I can watch them scamper around (to RJ’s dismay).  The birds frequent the stash as well.  I just watched this blue jay shove a whole peanut in his little mouth so he could grab a second and flew away.

Speaking of animals, the Humane Society of Western PA is having a $24 spay or neutering event for the next 24 hours.  If you are interested, call them quickly to set up an appointment.

Last year it is estimated $3.8B was stolen in credit and debit card fraud.  Besides stealing your personal info and creating a new account, crooks have card readers the nefarious underworld attach to current card readers like ATM’s that steal your info and then put your information on blank cards.  Finally, we seem to be moving to the much more secure system with chips embedded in the cards that can’t be compromised.  Instead of swiping a card, you insert your card into the reader for a few seconds for it to transfer the info, you’ll actually hear and feel a bit of a click.  Unfortunately, there’s a second line of defense that renders the card useless if lost of stolen that is used in many other countries that Visa & MasterCard are not adopting for some reason.

It seems the Hay’s eagles laid their first egg of the year last Tuesday.  It’s difficult to tell because mom doesn’t move much right after giving birth.  Last year she laid three eggs and all three were successful.  Book mark the Eagle Cam page and watch them grow.

Last year at Rostock Zoo in Germany, baby polar bear Knut was a sensation both as an attraction at the zoo as well as an internet celebrity.  His half brother (as yet unnamed) seems to be following in his foot steps.  Born December 3, the new guy made his debut recently and is very photogenic.

Pittsburgh will be hosting a bunch of young scientists showing their stuff from May 10 through 15 at the Convention Center.  These are a bunch of amazing high school students that are chosen from local science fairs and they expect 1,700 students from 70 countries and total of 5,000 attending the functions.  There will be around 1,000 scientists coming to be judges. This is the second time we’ve hosted it (2012 was the last) and will host it again in 2018.  One of the reasons it keeps coming here is all the science and technology we have, particularly associated with our universities.   This event is being coordinated by The Society for Science and the Public, who’s been around since 1921.  Should be a pretty interesting event.

Long time friend of Kurt Vonnegut, director Robert Weide, has a Kickstarter campaign to finish a documentary on the famed author called Unstuck in Time about Kurt’s life and work.  Robert has already raised over $175,000 of his needed goal of $250,000 with 15 days left.  Robert has done many documentaries on funny people like Lenny Bruce, the Marx Brothers, etc and is best know for his film Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The documentary will showcase their friendship, Kurt’s like, views on life and where he came up with ideas on such classics as Slaughter House Five.

Here’s a turn, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to change their plans.  The trail has become so popular that times are becoming over crowded!  Last year 2,500 hikers started their trip between March 1 and April 15 to complete their trek before the heat of the summer.  As many as 100 people would begin their walk during a weekend in these times causing unsustainable conditions such as trampled vegetation, sanitary issues and over crowding camp sites.  They are asking hikers to start mid-weeks to alleviate this.  Not necessarily a bad problem to be so popular.  :)

Allegheny County judge Kathleen Durkin has scheduled a hearing on April 2 on whether trustees for the Dick Scaife should have disclosed the greedy children of Mr. Scaife already had trust funds of of $560M earning them $12M a year.  Jeannie Scaife of Palm Beach and David Scaife from Shadyside don’t think the trust funds set up by their grandmother should be brought into the court case because it “might” slant a juror against them recouping money their father spent on his business ventures and charities.  They want to recoup money their father in sane mind decided to invest in his passion The Tribune Review and charities.  They want to take back dad donated to food pantries so they can enjoy more than $12M a year they both receive.  The reason I bring this up is The Trib continues to quote their net worth and yearly income in each article they publish.  I worked on Palm Beach Island for a number of years at a restaurant and as a waiter saw many Trust Fund Babies and even though I don’t know if I ever waited on Jeannie, I know her ilk.  Disgusting.  All Germans don’t eat sauerkraut (me), not all black people eat fried chicken, not all trust fund babies are useless, but indeed some are.

Beechview resident Steve Tolin isn’t just Doctor Gore, though that’s what he’s famous for.  Through his company Tolin Fx, Steve has credits for special effects in such well known films as The Dark Knight Rises, Warrior,  She’s Out of My League, Adventureland, Zak, Jack Reacher & Miri Make a Porno, The Walking Dead to name a few.  He also was a contestant on SyFy’s Face Off.  A fellow film industry person here in Pittsburgh’s brother has ALS and she contacted Steve to see if he could design a devise that could help him stay upright, and Steve came up with something that helps a lot.  A subsidiary of Tolin Fx is Squib Fx, it’s small explosive devises that makes it look like a bullet hits a person and they’re selling world wide.  I bet he throws one amazing Halloween party.  :)

We all have pictures on our cell phones, we all have pictures from cameras, the ART of photography has a long history and there’s an exhibit at the Frick that’s pretty interesting.  Invented in the 1820’s photography has had many lives.  Around the turn of the last century, a number of photographers became Photo-Secessionists that utilized labor intensive processes to develop their images.  They turned to platinum, gum-bichromate, bromiol and gelatin silver to create photographs that almost look painted.  Some of these pioneers include Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Kasebier, Paul Burty Haviland and Heinrich Kuhn.  This show runs through April 19 and is Free to the public.  :)

Well, that’s it for now.  Ty’s back next week, yea!



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the ENIAC computer being introduced (1946), James Polk was the first president to have photograph made of him (1849), the League of Woman Voters was formed (1920) and The Maltese Falcon was published (1930).  Birth anniversaries include comedian Jack Benny (1894), Pittsburgh native and inventor of the Ferris Wheel George Ferris (1859) and tap dancer Gregory Hines (1946).

The annual National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend.  It’s one of several bird censuses sponsored by the Audubon Society nationally throughout the year.  Over 7,600 people participated last year.  It is the most laid back count of all the censuses, just spend 15 minutes in your backyard and count what you see.  Many people are intimidated by the bird counts because they don’t know a lot of different species, you don’t need to worry about correctly identifying species, if you know it’s a blue jay, great.  All you really need to do is count the birds you see and enter the data at their website.

Getting married or having a special soiree?  Want a famous entertainer to headline?  John Legend has a contest on Omaze that for a $10 donation, you are entered to win a private performance by this legend (pun intended).  All proceeds go to his charity to rebuild his high school’s auditorium in Springfield Ohio.

Since Phipps Conservatory opened the huge enclosed garden in 2006, it’s had several make overs.  First they featured Thailand, then Amazon, then India.  The new exhibit that just opened is the jungles of Congo.  They switched out more than 60% of the plants from the India exhibit.  They’ve installed large trees like the sausage trees (with fragrant red flowers), shrubs like the Napoleon hat plant (with blooms that look like passion flowers) and many smaller plants.  In addition to all the flora, there’s African tribal masks, residential huts made of thatch, bamboo leaves and other indigenous materials.  Staff from the Phipps traveled to Cameroon to ensure the exhibit is a true as possible.  A nice break from our winter doldrums, if you want to travel without getting on an airplane.

The movie based on Point Breeze native Jesse Andrews book Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was quite the hit at the Sundance Film Festival.  It won the Grand Jury Prize of Dramatic Winner and Audience Award of best US Drama.  Its about a high school couple that befriend a classmate dying of cancer.  A real tear jerker that has a lot of fun mixed in with the serious theme of the movie.  The film was shot around Pittsburgh last summer to include shots in the closed Schenley High School where Andrews went to high school.  Fox is already working on releasing the film.

Also shot in Pittsburgh last summer was Southpaw staring Jake Gyllendaal abut a troubled boxer, Bill “the great” Hope whose life was spiraling out of control when a washed up former boxer (Forest Whitaker) takes him under his wing.  The movie was directed by Pittsburgh native Antoine Fuqua and is set to be released July 31.

Old style typewriters are making a come back.  Royals, Remingtons, IBM Selectrics are all in hot demand these days.  A lot of people are just buying them for nostalgia, but many are being used as they were meant to be, writing letters, books, anything of the written word.  Some areas, they are really hard to find and bringing premium prices.  The problem is finding someone that can repair them (and ribbons).  :)

As you may or may not know, we sit over ocean beds that were here millions of years age (hence The Marcellus Shale oil).  Uranium would settle to the bottoms of these oceans and in it’s decay, become the radioactive gas Radon.  This gas percolates through the soil upward and can cause serious health issues.  Building houses and buildings over this old seabed disturbs the containment that has held it in place for millennia, we act as a chimney.  This can be exasperated by adding sump pumps to our basements, building additions, Marcellus drilling and anything that disturbs the natural protection blanket of soil.  It is estimated that between 15,000 and 22,000 American deaths are attributed to Radon.  Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 53 fall into DEP’s most dangerous categories!  Western PA has one of the highest rates of Radon in the country.  And it is extremely random, your neighbor can have high levels and you none.  Radon is a colorless odorless gas and there’s no way to know you are being affected by it without a test. A Radon test by a professional costs about $140, but you can get a kit from the DEP for a nominal amount, take the test yourself and send it to the DEP for results.  If it turns out that you do have Radon, a system to remove it costs around $880 – $1,200.  Kits and more info are at the DEP website.

What a great idea, Raymond Ventrone, Business Manager for Boiler Makers Local 154 announced a new gun buy back program.  The first Guns for Opportunity will be in Braddock, with the first collection on February 24.  Instead of getting a gift card from Giant Eagle or some such, he’s offering job training for a job that the person surrendering a gun can earn a living wage.  The course in welding (both classroom and on-hands) takes six month to a year to complete and get certified as a welder.  Mr. Ventrone would like to move the program to other violent prone areas in the city.  With all the publicity he’s receiving, maybe some other trade unions will step up to the plate.

After collecting $104,383 he with drew from his state pension, disgraced AND convicted ex-Turnpike CEO will be drawing a $43,027 yearly pension.  Joe Brimmeier did a plea deal in his accused bid-rigging and influence peddling scheme before it went to trial.  Now that we will never find out for sure exactly what went on, he’s claiming he did the plea deal for his wife and family.  $2B shortfall in our state budgets and crooks and criminals get to collect pensions we paid for.  Totally unacceptable.  (As a side note, he’s the guy Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgarld nominated to run PORT Authority.  Hmmmm).

I’ve always love the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, such rich history there.  I just learned that E Maxine Bruhns has been it’s director for 50 years!  She has lived and worked in some many interesting places and jobs in her prior 41 years (yes, you added correctly, this dynamic lady is 91 years old.)  She has traveled to at least 83 countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Austria, Germany, Greece, Iran (while the shah was still there), Lebanon and the Jordanian section of Jerusalem.  She has met such notables as the Dalai Lama, Dag Hammarskjold and Albert Schweitzer to name a few.  Read the entire article on this amazing woman in Sunday’s Trib.

Well it looks like it’s going to be a bitterly cold Valentine’s Day Weekend.  Be smart, take appropriate safety measures for yourself, watch out for your elderly neighbors and report animals that are being left outside for extended periods of time.  Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Day to you,











Tomorrow is the anniversary of the end of the world’s longest war, The Third Punic War (1985), the Family Leave Act was enacted (1993), it is Mexico’s Constitution Day and England’s Grimnaldi Memorial Service/Clown Church Service.  Birth anniversaries include actor Alan Ladd (1947), actress Barbara Hershey (1948), actor John Carradine (1906), statesman Adlai Stevenson (100) and English statesman Robert Peel (1788).

I had a wonderful time in Florida, saw some good friends, enjoyed some great food and had wonderful weather.  The drive down and back I actually find relaxing and the old grey matter actually gets some distraction free time to work.  One of the ideas I came up with is how to sound proof the bathroom between Bird of Paradise’s bathroom and the guest room African Tulip.  When the idea hit me, it was like Dah, why didn’t I think of this before.  There’s one of the many interconnecting doors between those two rooms and because of the brick construction, there’s a lot of space between the door and the trim in Bird of Paradise’s side.  I’m going to frame it out, put sound muffling Styrofoam and then drywall and just paint it blue like the rest of the bathroom.  It will be obvious there’s a door behind, but who cares, it’s never used anyway.  And if for some reason it needs to be re-opened it, it will be very easy to change. While in Florida I visited Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) where my first Inn was, went to the Keys and finally visited with my good friend Jeff that owns The Inn on The Mexican War Streets at his condo in Tampa.  While in  Lake Worth, I stayed at a very nice B & B, The Mano Inn, which was walking distance to the Lake Worth beach.  Since I get up so early, I’d buy a cup of coffee, get the newspaper and walk over to the beach to watch the sunrise before breakfast:


Well, Dee was off for January and now Ty’s off for February, but getting (or got) some well deserved R & R.

Co-founder of City of Asylum Henry Reese has announced they are buying the old Masonic Hall on North Avenue after years of delay.  Originally they were going to lease the first floor space for their Alphabet City coffee shop and performance center.  Frustrated by the delays of the revolving door of various developers  they’ve come to terms with the URA to purchase the building and develop it themselves.  In case you are not aware of CoA’s mission, they provide safe housing for dissident authors, frequently of Asian backgrounds, where they can live and create.   They own several houses on Sampsonia Way (one has a poem in Chinese written on the front outside of the home).  Also in this artistic area of the Northside is The Mattress Factory and Randyland.

The Northside is becoming quite the entertainment venue, and I don’t mean those big box locations like Consol, Stage AE, etc.  The Elk’s Club on Cedar had banjo Wednesdays and frequently host jazz nights on Thursdays.  Right around the corner on East Ohio Street, the Park House has a blue grass night every Wednesday.  And if you want to hear some of the best jazz in the city, you can’t beat James Street Gastropub on the corner of James Street and Foreland Avenue.  They always have live jazz in their Speakeasy Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes surprise you with live jazz on other days.  Insider tips, they charge a nominal fee for shows, but if you have dinner (and it’s very good), there’s no charge.  Second insider tip, if you stay at The Parador Inn and present your copy of your registration, you get a free dessert.  They also use there ballroom for dancing classes for various classic forms.  Check their website for details.

When I went to PICA (Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts), part of the program was a restaurant run by the students.  The menu was created by the students and overseen by the teaching staff.  Both front of the house and back of the house tasks were done by the students and was a very affordable and memorable lunch option.  The Art Institute on the Blvd of the Allies has a similar program.  It’s cyclical, depending on where the students are at the time, when they are open, it’s from 11:15 until 12:30 Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  You can’t beat an average $8 lunch.  There’s not much on their website, I recommend calling them to get details if you are thinking of having lunch there.  412-291-6532, reservations are recommended.

The featured artist at The Warhol through April 10 is Corita Kent.  Corita was a Catholic nun that taught art at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and was inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop style.  She’s done many creative things like 1985 Love Stamp and Rainbow Swash, the largest copywrited work of art in the world located on a gas tank in Boston. Insider tip, stay at The Parador Inn and we have $9 admission tickets, instead of the normal $20.  Second insider tip, if you’re a past guest of The Parador, just call first to be sure we’re here to get the tickets to you.

For their second installation of the Market Square Art Program, artist Jennifer Wen Ma will be creating a small forest that will change over time showing the coming of spring.  The trees will be painted with black ink and she will periodically update them to signify the approach of spring.  The exhibit opens February 19 and runs through the spring.  I personally didn’t care for the multimedia installation they had last year, this  will be fun to watch evolve.

Popular during the Victorian times and through the early 20th century, Garden Gazing Globes are making a come back.  First noted in the 13th century Italy, predominately around Venice, they were used for decorations, to bring happiness,or  ward off evil spirits and attackers.  Mirrored globes are put on pedestals, hung from trees and other means of display, generally in the garden.

Are you interested in doing some minor home repairs, but intimidated by a lack of experience?  CCAC is offering a class on Mondays from 6:30 to 9 pm at the Northside campus starting February 16 and the West Mifflin campus on Tuesdays starting February 24 (same hours).  They will be covering basic electric like hanging a ceiling fan and changing out a light switch, basic plumbing like repairing a leak, basic carpentry, painting and drywall.  They will talk about supplies, tools, even how to pick out a contractor for larger projects.  The cost is $99.  I didn’t find information on their website, but you could call their registration office and I’m sure someone could direct you to the right place 412-237-2700.

When I took RJ down to the dog park in the Commons yesterday, he met a new friend:


How appropriate, someone made a snowdawg in the dawg park.  :)

Well, I’m all caught up from my travels, busy couple of days coming up because of the Groupon campaign.  Lot’s of one night visits, lots of room turns Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Dee’s going to earn her stripes this weekend.  :)

Take care and keep warm,









Well this is my last day in Florida.  Instead leaving Monday, I’m going to leave tomorrow morning hoping to avoid some of the winter storm they are predicting for Monday.  By the way, if you’re going to be a mooch, pick a chef to mooch from.  I’ve been staying in Tampa with Jeff that owns The Inn on the Mexican War Streets and used to teach culinary arts.  Not only do I get a free bed, Jeff makes a gourmet dinner every day.  :)

You shouldn’t be prejudiced.  When I first moved down to Florida, I went to Key West several times and had a great time.  I remember when they started allowing cruise ships to dock and what a change.  Thousands of people disgorged into the streets, all of a sudden all the gift shops were owned by the same people and just had those cheesy items made of little sea shells, logo’d mugs, shot glasses, etc.  I did this twice and gave up on Key West and have trashed it since.  Finished up early while in Key Largo and thought, why not take a spin down and see what it’s like.  I must say I was impressed.  First of all, access down the Overseas Highway has been amazingly improved.  There were so many vehicles entering Key West that I was thinking they don’t even need the cruise ships to make the place obnoxious.  And true to my MO, I turned left instead of right and ended up going the wrong way through north Key West.  What a change, this massive highway winding around the edge of the island up there and all the traffic as well as all the big development continued my negative attitude of what to expect when I got down to Duval Street.  It’s great to have low expectations because I was really impressed that Duval has returned.  There’s a number of major developments on or around Duval, but overall, it’s pretty much the same with a lot of unique restaurants and shops again.  Mallory Square has definitely change with two other big resorts joining the Marriott that’s been there forever, but over all I really enjoyed the evening in Key West.  I’m no longer prejudiced and Key West has my stamp of approval.  I’m sure the Conch Republic will sleep well tonight.  :)

While in Key Largo, I did pick up a few things, but mainly came up with several pretty exciting ideas.  Any of you that have visited The Parador over the holidays would have seen the coconuts I spray painted and the painted holiday scenes on them:


This artist I met, John Smith, does these in tribute to the AMC series The Walking Dead, I’m thinking about doing a Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead.  I love those whimsical creations:


Also, he had an interesting take on the palm frond creations I’ve made in the past:

Lady Palm Decor

Original Haitian art

He cuts the fronds into shapes he plans on using and then soaks them in water until they soften.  Then he puts weight on them until they dry flat and then paints them:


Well, I will back at The Parador Inn soon and will have lots to do getting caught up with bills, mail, etc.  I’ll write again soon,









Having a great time, very relaxed.  Saw a bunch of old friends, had a bunch of great food, read books uninterrupted :), hung at the beach (they did a great job renovating Lake Worth’s beach) and we the movie Bird Man.  A little odd here and there, but a great movie and I love Michael Keaton (besides being a Pittsburgh native, I loved him in Beetle Juice, one of my favorite movies).  Left Lake Worth Monday morning after a great stay at The Mango Inn.  Deb didn’t have room for me Sunday night (or was it she threw me out?)  :) and so I ended stay at The Holiday House Motel.   I knew the previous owners when I had The Parador of the Palm Beaches and they were very nice.  It was cheap, I was only spending the night and I really hate supporting chain hotels and motels.  Well, there’s new owners, apparently it had been empty for four years and all the copper, etc had been stripped by thieves.  It took Lance and his wife a year to be able to open and I must say, I was impressed with what they are doing.  It reminds me of when I first opened, tackling the large required projects and then coming back to fine tune things. All though no where near  as nice as The Mango was, the room was bigger, the bath was much bigger, lots more on cable (I just watch the morning news when I get up).  They must have spent a fortune on the mechanicals, even pretty much state of the art door locks.  If they can keep the momentum up, it will never be a Bed and Breakfast, but a well priced and well appointed motel would be a fine choice in Lake Worth.  I’m now in Key Largo, no there isn’t nor was there ever a Hotel Large, I still love the Humphrey and Lauren classic.  I’ve had coffee and my book both mornings on the Bay Beach with Charlie:


There’s been some great shopping here and up in Lake Worth.  Greeting you at one of the artists’ malls is this ridiculous huge crab:


So here’s picture of the beach at Lake Worth, Florida where the first Parador was:


And here’s a picture I woke up to each morning at the lovely Mango Inn in Lake Worth:



Google Street View has re-shot my street I think I saw them last Fall.  For those of you that saw me sitting on my porch reading a book, that image is gone.  Somewhat related to that is  Google’s Street View Art Project.  They are in the process of creating 360 degree views of some of the most iconic museums in the world.  The Frick and Museum of Modern Art in New York are already ready for view, in all, they currently have 630 partners in 60 countries.  Though seeing an image on your computer is no match for the real thing (I still remember walking into Accademia Gallery Museum in Florence and seeing Michelangelo’s David-it took my breath away). As most things in life, the Art Project has many good reasons to visit, you are going to a museum and want a great preview, you’ve been to the museum and want a refresh, you want a closer look at a piece than security would normally let you, etc.

At a time that the world seems to be falling apart, who would have thought a pope would be a superstar?  I was raised Catholic but have fallen by the wayside over the years.  The church’s rigidness, inflexibility, concentration of wealth when there was  so much need.  Then along comes Pope Francis, what a breath of fresh air.  I don’t know if he still does, but he used to sneak out the gates and walk the streets outside the Vatican to “tend his flock”.  He has taken on the Vatican bureaucracy on several occasions, the most recent was possibly his harshest in December.  And his most recent expressed opinion of the French terrorist attack I think is something the world should take note.  He strongly agrees with the inalienable human rights of free speech, but tempered it with the need for respect.  Just because you can publish or say something, doesn’t mean you should.  Just because I could walk down the street telling overweight people they are too fat, doesn’t mean I should do that.  The Muslim religion doesn’t believe in images of their prophet and so we should respect that.  This doesn’t give them the right to kill and maim, nor does it give the overweight person the right to pull a gun and shoot me.

The 56th Three Rivers Arts Festival is getting closer and they are looking for artist participants.  The Fest runs from June 5 through June 14 and this year’s theme will be Unseen/Unheard exploring those marginalized in some way (your contribution does not have to relate, but I imagine it would give you a leg up).  Applications have to be in by February 1 and more info can be found at Trust Arts or by calling 412-456-6666.

The Hays Eagles are starting their nesting routines.  Eggs aren’t expected for another month or so, but you can see them getting their home ready for this year’s event.  As far as I know, all three eaglets survived last year and are out on their own.  When you have a minute, it’s always cool to peak in on what’s  going on the Eaglecam.

Lets talk about credit scores.  Did you know 35% of your FICO is based on your payment history?  30% is based on how much you owe (compared to your income), 15% is the length of your credit history10% is the types of credit you use and the remaining 10% is the amount of new credit you request.  As I encourage about once a year, you should pull your credit report one a year to see if there’s erroneous information on it and see where your FICO score stands.  The range is from 300 to 850.  A FICO score of 720 to 740 is considered good.  Anything over 740 is what you should shoot for to obtain the best rates on mortgages, new car loans, etc.  The three credit reporting agencies are required by law to provide you with a free report once a year.  Don’t go to those on-line companies that offer a “free credit report”, there is usually strings attached.  So go to TransUnion’s website, Equifax and Experian and pull your credit report to see where you stand.

Well, another day in Key Largo and Islamorada then it’s up to Tampa to visit with my good friend Jeff that owns The Inn on the Mexican War Streets.Then it’s back to the frigid north.  The good thing is we’ll just have February to deal with, the days will be getting longer noticeably and the temperatures will be climbing.  Wishing you were all down here with me,











Well, there’s not going to be any cute anniversaries or dates of note out of Chase’s Almanac.  I just got into Florida and the book is in Pittsburgh.  I haven’t been blogging because we started a Groupon campaign and besides being busy with that and preparing The Parador for my absence, it’s  been a busy week.  I am leaving my realm in Ty’s very capable hands.  :)

OK, you’re not going to learn something here, I’m just musing. We’ve had all this hacking into computer systems of banks, entertainment companies, retailers, government anything and everything. There’s valuable things all over the place. I have various amounts of cash. The most insignificant daily cash I keep in my wallet. Something more substantial I may need in the short term I keep tucked away in the Office. Operating income for my business I keep in a bank. A very simple example. I don’t understand why Sony would keep such valuable information in their “wallet”. Cyber security should take a similar tiered approach, first line of defense. The American Military invented the Internet and now it’s run by a multinational organization. I don’t recall their name, but they recently opened up all kinds of new domains. Why can’t they create a .bank, a real .usgov, a .utilities, etc that are super secure and require super passwords? I don’t deal with big banks, but say I’m a Citibank customer, I enter their customer site and do my transactions, check my balance, pay a bill, etc. But I can’t get outside my account. The guts of the banking system is only accessible by the “super passwords”. I absolutely understand I don’t understand how the Internet works, but sometimes “from the mouth of babes” comes thoughts that those entrenched don’t see the forest for the trees. (Not that I’m saying I’m a “babe”) :)

This week is the annual Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. More than 60 restaurants are participating this year. That’s up from around 30 since it restarted in 2012. Typically participating restaurants have a special meal for the week at an affordable price of around $20 or specials geared toward showcasing their culinary expertise. It’s a great opportunity to sample new venues or just go back to an old favorite for something new. I had guests a while back that had recently retired and found themselves going to their favorite restaurants pretty much all the time. They were from a fairly good sized city in New York like Rochester or some place of a similar size that would have a lot of fine restaurants they figured they were missing. So they made a list of the restaurants in their city omitting fast food, fast casual, etc dining options. They started with A and worked their way down the list alphabetically, occasionally going back to one of their standbys, but started getting a lot more favorite restaurants. It’s always great to find something new and this is an opportunity to do just that.

I must say, I was surprised. Mayor Bill Peduto is a Miller Lite kind of guy. I do like a lot of things Mayor Peduto is doing and he seems so “with-it” being on top of emerging trends like Uber, Lyft, Tweeting, dedicated bike lanes, bringing 21st century technology into city government-I just assumed he would have been a fan of at least one of our great local beers. Micro beer connoisseur and Trib writer Chris Togneri seems to know Mayor Peduto and challenged him to a taste test at a local brew pub Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill. So Chris contacted his friend that owns the Independent to help with an intervention.

Looking for a bargain?  Try GovDeals, it’s a website that they sell confiscated airport items, airport items abandoned, government surplus, items confiscated in drug busts, etc.  Even if you’re not really looking for the deal of the century, it’s an interesting place to see what weird things the government ends up having.  :)

On a more serious note, Phipps’ Conservatory has teamed up with CMU students and RedHouse Communications to create a healthy food choice app you can take the the grocery store and really compare products and see how healthy (or unhealthy) products on the shelf are.  You scan the bar code and not only does it compare apples to apples (some products say they only have 15 calories, but it’s for six ounces of chips as opposed to twelve ounces that seems to have more calories on a competitor’s listing).  When you scan the code, if the product has a lot of bad things in it like fat, a red light flashes, if the product has a moderate amount of bad things, a yellow light flashes and if it’s healthy a green light flashes.  It also helps clear the air about the claims that a product is organic or all-natural.  The app is free and can be download for either iPhone or Android smart phones.  More information can be found at their website let’s move.

They will be having a celebration at the Allegheny Cemetery on June 13 on the 151th anniversary of Stephen Foster’s death in Lawrenceville.  the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association is putting it together with Pittsburgh’s Center for American Music and plans on concerts, lectures and more.  A free and fun excursion celebrating one of Pittsburgh’s own.  More info at their website or by calling 412-6821624.

Pittsburgh is home to a new small business, The Pittsburgh Pickle Company.  Three brothers Joey Robl, Will and John Patterson started with craft beer at their bar The BeerHive in the Strip and worked on perfecting the perfect pickle.  They are in production at a local church with a commercial kitchen and are producing 900 25 ounce jars of pickles a month that sell for $6.  Their pickles are only currently available at their bar and the 52nd Street Market in Lawrenceville.

My friends at ModCloth have taken a bold step, they’ve hired Matthew Kaness, Chief Strategist from  Urban Outfitters day to day control of their company.  My long time followers may recall that ModCloth had two photo shoots at The Parador.  They even named a summer dress after us (that pretty much immediately sold out).  Founded a few years ago by co-founder Susan & Eric Kroger as CMU students.  Susan’s passion for retro clothing took her to local thrift shops finding retro clothing she found appealing.  Demand from other students got so large that they embarked on creating their own retro style clothing lines.In 2010, it was ranked by Inc Magazine as the second fastest growing private company in the United States.  Their main distribution center is in Crafton, as is most of their staff.  They also have offices in LA and San Fransisco (where they now have their headquarters.  Freeing Susan and Eric from the day to day operations will give them move time for creativity and turn over retail operations to someone that has the expertise to take them to the next level.  Good luck guys!

Keeping the them going on Pittsburgh businesses (which pretty much what I try and do), Dynamic Inc in Harmar has developed a new credit card and it’s got the attention of MasterCard that just invested a ton of money in them.  Most current American credit cards have the numbers embossed on the card that are easy to make a copy of the numbers.  (Some newer cards have numbers not embossed).  CMU graduate Jeffrey Mullen is CEO of this company and four of the numbers are not visible on the card.  To activate the card, the card holder has to enter a PIN for those four numbers to be read by the credit card processing machine.  As soon as the transaction is processed, the four numbers are erased and don’t appear again until the card is used again and the PIN is re-inserted.  One of the objections to the microchip used in most other countries is retailers would have to purchase new processing machines and the cost of issue new cards to everyone.  This sort of addresses both issues.  Because of the size of our economy and our lack of more secure cards, nearly half of all credit card fraud happens in the US.  Worldwide, credit card fraud is an $11B industry!

Well guys, it’s been a long drive and I’m tired.  I should have time SITTING ON THE BEACH to have some time to talk to you while in vacation.  Have great night and we’ll talk again soon,






Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Panamanians taking control of the canal (1999), Scotland’s Hogmanay Day (a New Year’s tradition from pagan times), in Philadelphia, the first modern bank was opened by Robert Morris (1781), the Japanese tradition of Namahage is also on New Year’s Eve where men dress up as devils knocking on doors seeking “Any good for nothing fellow hereabout?” and it’s Samoa’s traditional Fire Dance. Birth anniversaries include French artist Henri Matisse (1869), Uniontown, PA’s General George Marshall (1880) and Jewish activist Simon Wiesenthal (1908).

First Night’s tomorrow. Many activities are free and totally open, others you need to purchase a $10 button others just require a pre-arranged voucher (free). If you are planning on attending, you may want to check their website to see if any of the limited attendance events. There will be a kids fireworks display at 6 pm and then one at midnight for the adults. Acts/Events include country western artists The Swon Brothers, one man variety show Chris Ruggiero, the robot interactive Lost Sound Search Engine, Pittsburgh’s River City Brass will have a show with River City Brass Ballet, jugglers and dancers from Steel Town Fire will perform with chain saw wielding ice sculpturers to choreographed music, the Arcade Comedy Theater and Player One will perform comedy skits, Pittsburgh Playwrights will showcase Kim El with a Kwanzaa them and Ray Werner an Iraqi War veteran piece, FJ Hartland’s comedy will perform Postcards from a Dead Dog, a CMU student’s will deliver a funk-rock-big band sound (complete with robots), the Puerto Rican themed band Machete Kisumontao will perform, folk-bluegrass band The Early Mays will be on stage, comedians Aaron Kleiber and T-Robe will deliver laughs, Pirates of the Mon will set sail on the Black and Gold Pearl in search of treasure at the Golden Triangle, magician Lee Terbosic will perform his feats of unbelief, Cello Fury will perform with Texture Contemporary Ballet and winding up the slate will be Pinball and Big Games (really large jenga, chess and checkers pieces. Whew, that was a mouthful. Check out First Night’s website for details.

For the second time in the past couple of months, the soul food restaurant Carmi’s had a nice review in the Trib Thursday. Carmi named for the owners CArleen and MIchael King is just down the street from me. Such great people, when they got married two years ago, I no longer do weddings so they insisted on having their rehearsal dinner here. They offer home cooked (and healthy portions) breakfasts, lunches, dinners and catering. If you are looking for a casual well prepared meal, check them out.

For those of you in the medical field, particularly EMT, don’t take this video to heart. This is not the way it’s done. In India, a monkey was walking along a commuter rail line and stepped on the hot rail. Knocked out! His buddy comes along and tries man handling him (or should it be monkey handling?) to awaken him. He bites him, trashes him around, even dunks him in water to revive him. It’s pretty funny and makes you think about the intelligence levels of monkeys.

Northside Common Ministries is hosting a “Chef-Off” Saturday, January 31 at the New Hazlett Theater from 11 am to 1 pm. They have invited 10 local chefs to create a brunch appetizer from items commonly found in their Food Pantry. Tickets are $25, they are also requesting a bag of non perishable food. You’ll have a chance to hob-nob with some culinarians, other foodies and other locals. (Maybe even sample some unique appetizers!) More info at their website, by calling 412-323-1163 or by e-mailing Jay at jay.poliziani@ncmin.org. Northside Common Ministries does a great job helping feed the less fortunate, a great cause.

I want everyone to have a very happy and safe New Year’s Eve and a great New Year,


I thought I hit publish last night and must have it save instead. Sorry I didn’t get the article out on NORAD tracking Santa on time.

Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the discovery of Radium (by the French couple Carrie), that devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific around Sumatra (2004) and Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion (1908). December 26 is the Bahama’s version of Marti Gras called Junkanoo, it’s Boxing Day in Great Britain and many former colonies and it is Independence Day for Slovenia. Birth anniversaries include Moa Tse-Tung (1893), entertainer Steve Allen (1921), controversial American author Henry Miller (1891) and signer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Nelson.

The Audubon Society put their webcam up for the Hay’s Eagles. They don’t expect to start their nesting activities until sometime in January, but you can see them hanging out defending their nest currently.

New York’s Central Park Arsenal is in the midst of their annual holiday wreath contest. More than 100 applied to have their wreaths, 55 were selected for the 32 year of the event. There are some strange ones, like the one titled Have You Been Naughty? made of black velvet with a whip, one made of rat traps, brightly painted fake finger nails to name a few. :)

Dick Scaife had his two kids pegged. When Jennie (51) and David (48) were born, Mr. Scaife had his mother, Sarah Scaife Mellon set up a trust fund for them in addition to the one she had already set up for him. During the later days of Mr. Scaife’s life, he used up his fortune and inheritance to support his passion, The Tribune Review and charities he believed in. The Trib expanded out of just a local Greensburg newspaper to one of the two dominate newspapers in Pittsburgh. The greedy trust fund babies are suing anyone they can to re-coup their father’s money. It’s estimated each of their trusts have a value of around $350M and they draw $12M annually. My heart goes out them trying to survive on a measly $12M a year. I dealt with quite a few trust fund babies when I worked on Palm Beach Island and lived in Lake Worth. One of them rented from me at my Inn and I ended up calling the police to remove the comatose woman from my property. One of the officers knew her when I identified her by name before they entered the room. He asked me if she was on cheap vodka, they had her MO.

Port Authority finally fired those two bus drivers that were playing race cars on I279N, ruined a bus and the one driver was hospitalized for injuries when she lost control of her bus and it plummeted over a hill. One commuter that was behind them testified that she slowed down to let them stay in front of her because they were scaring her. The camera on one of the buses caught them making whipping motions like they were jockeying horses in a race. The union contends her bus had gross mechanical problems, which was never shown in the inspection after the wreck. Here’s where I have a problem with unions, they will unilaterally defend a guilty member no matter what. If the unions want support from the general population, they need to know how to represent responsible behavior. When I was a beverage manager at one of the Atlantic City casinos, I caught a bartender stealing. All my i’s weren’t dotted and t’s weren’t crossed. I admitted then and today that I did not have the proof required by contract. I spoke privately with the union rep in a hallway. He admitted the bartender admitted to him that he was stealing, but because I didn’t have the proof required by the contract, I was up a creek without a paddle. I suggested letting the bartender resign and the union could easily get him a job at another casino. Lesson learned? No, that was not acceptable. In the union reps eyes, theft was acceptable! I did eventually get the bartender and he was fired.

New to Pennsylvania, you can get a beer with your delivered pizza! The pizza shop has to already have a liquor license and they need to get what’s known as a “transporter-for-hire” license as well. Also, you will have to pay by credit or debit card when ordering. Not sure how they we ensure that the orderer is actually of legal age, but I think over all it’s a good idea. The article I read didn’t say when this was going to take effect.

Most of my life has been in the service industry, many times waiting tables and tending bar. I’m very aware of service when I go out to dine and am pretty generous when I receive exceptional service, you have to be pretty bad to receive just 15%. Mayor Peduto was on the TV show Under Cover Boss and after his stint camouflaged with a beard, long hair and fairly grubby cloths, part of the show was to reward exceptional employees he interacted with. Aware of his position as Mayor and ethics, all of the money was donated by individuals, at this point, they requested to be anonymous. There’s some criticism about him giving money to select employees and not all. It wasn’t a city bonus, the city didn’t fund the money, it was a tip provided by private citizens for a TV show. Back off all you Grinches. :)

Just up the road in Jeannette is Jensen Manufacturing. Founded by Tom Jensen who emigrated here for better opportunities from Denmark in 1931 during the Great Depression. He was a mechanical engineer and failed to find work with an existing firm, he started building miniature steam powered trains in his basement. His big break came when he delivered six samples to Kaufmann’s Department Store. A toy buyer from FAO Schwarz toy store in New York saw them and then Macy’s, Spiegel an other retailers all saw them and placed orders. Everything in the trains are manufactured at the Jeannette plant, no out-sourcing! And they do it by hand with just 4 employees. They make 2,000 to 3,000 trains each year. Highly prized by collectors, his engines are also sold to prestigious universities like CMU to teach engineering principles. Prices range from $133 to over $772.

Conflict Kitchen is in the running for the International Award for Public Art. They are one of the 32 finalists, the final seven will be announced in March. In case you are not aware of Conflict Kitchen, is a food venue that features food from areas the United States has a conflict with. It is meant to open a civilized dialogue on issues between that country and the US. It had to close for several days last month over death threats over it’s highlighting Palestinian food. Apparently someone didn’t get the memo on how to be civilized. ):

There’s an interesting exhibition at Space on Liberty Avenue called Obsessions that runs through January 25. It’s six artists that interpret obsessions in their works. One, by Jeremiah Johnson of Williamsport, is called The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He has a picture of a tree and among the roots sprout underground ideas and they “bloom” above ground. Laurie Trok of East Liberty works in paper and her exhibit A Cruel Country Where I Am No Longer Afraid is created on long rolls of Yupo paper where she spent hours cutting and removing the negative space to expose her drawings. The most dynamic exhibit is by Nathan Margoni called The Digestive System. a This Benton Harbor, MI artist sculptured a huge three D rendering from a face with a mouth all the way through the digestive system (completely to the butt end of the system). :) He relates it to how everything in life changes from the food we eat, through the nutrients absorbed to the detritus expelled. Becky Slemmons of Highland Park’s exhibit is called 9,331 Days We have Been Together … and Counting is a tribute to her husband. It is mauve colored additions to her tribute to her marriage. Jason Lockyer of Philadelphia/LA created a video where a fly flys through a landscape of his hand drawings. In No Matter Where You Go, There You Are he encourages you to notice the mundane you take for granted and miss in your every day life. The final video is by Mary Martin from Brooklyn, NY. In her project Face Faucet she nurtures a rosemary plant with the sweat from her face after working out. She also has two untitled sculptures in front of the video. It’s a free exhibit and more info can be found at their website.

At Space’s sister gallery 709 Penn is an exhibit by Colombian born artist Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer who now lives in Hempfield. Sheila chronicles the emigrant experience in her somewhat abstract paintings. This exhibit that runs through January 23, it is also free to the public. There’s a guest book in the gallery and Sheila will be in the gallery during First Night activities and will award an original piece of art to one of the signers of her guest book.

For any of you that aren’t aware of how NORAD started tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve, here’s my holiday story. In 1955, Sears ran an ad in the Colorado Springs newspaper with a phone number listed to call Santa. There was a typo (I don’t know if it was Sears or the newspaper’s fault) that listed the “red phone” at Colonel Shout’s desk. Colonel Shout, a very straight laced typical military commander, was the chief on NORAD and the “red phone” was ONLY used to alert him of an eminent attack. When he answered the red phone, imagine the trepidation he was feeling and a small boy’s voice said “Is this Santa”? Colonel Shout, assuming it was a prank got gruff with the boy and when the boy started to cry, Colonel Shout asked to speak with the boy’s mom. She said “Didn’t you see the Sears ad in today’s paper”? He then spoke very nicely to the boy and ended up assigning troupes to answer the phone as Santa. When he came in to work the next day, there was a picture of Santa in a sleigh on their big screen that tracks aircraft in the United States. When he questioned the unauthorized image, the troupes apologized and asked if he wanted it removed. He declined and they started the Santa Tracker that many people have followed since.

Well, that’s about it for this post. I wish you all the best holiday ever, you deserve it.



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the discovery of the Aztec Calendar Stone (1790), A Christmas Carol was published (1843), the Clean Air Act was passed (1967), TBS was launched (1976), the Wright Brothers first mechanized flight (1903) and it’s Saturnalia the beginning of of the Ancient Roman festival honoring Saturnus, the god of agriculture.  Birth anniversaries include indentured servant that dressed as a man so she could fight in the American Revolution (1760), American educator, atomic scientist, chemist Willard Libby (1908), South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar (1830), signer of the Declaration of Independence William Floyd and adult magazine publisher Bob Guccione (1930).

The National Aviary has a webcam set up to watch Bette & Sidney’s eggs hatch.  They just hatched and you can tune in anytime the next couple of weeks and watch them grow.  Last year’s baby penguins were cute to watch.

I love the Darwin Awards,  I will periodically go to their site to see how dumb some people are.  For example there’s the terrorist that mailed a bomb and it was returned as undeliverable because of postage and he had then opened it.  :)  There’s the thief that was unbolting the clamp in an  elevator he was standing in, yes, he died also.  Then there was the guy using an electric sander to “pleasure himself” and he lost a testicle.  He got honorable mention for then using a staple gun to save the other testicle from falling out as well.  He didn’t get a Darwin Award because he survived, but they did give him an honorable mention.  :)  You see you have to actually die in your act of stupidity to qualify for a Darwin Award (or end up sterilized do to your action), otherwise your DNA could still end up in the gene pool.  :)  I hate adding this postscript but 88.7 Darwin recipients are male, honest I’ve never even come close to receiving one.  :)

Pittsburgh’s nonprofit  Brother’s Brother, received a 100% rating by Forbes Magazine for fundraising, efficiency and charitable commitment.  They’re little guys ($234M) compared to the only other non-profit to receive the 100% rating, Task Force for Global Health ($1.6B) headquartered in Georgia.  Every year Brother’s Brother are on the top of the pile of nonprofits getting nationally recognized for their good works and true commitment to their cause.  They are in a small industrial area of my neighborhood and if you didn’t walk down to where they are, you’d never know they are here.  Such low keyed people.  The first time I donated to them I think was after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  I walked down to their offices with a check and it was so unpretentious (less than 1% of the money they raise goes to administrative expenses).  Very dated furniture and “art” on the walls.  :)  ALL their money goes to help the less fortunate.  Luke Hingson is their current president and son of the founder Doctor Robert Hingson who founded Brother’s Brother in the late 1950’s.

Looking for those last minute gifts with a Pittsburgh taste?  I spoke about Primanti Brothers a post or so ago.  Their party pack comes with all you need for four of their sandwiches and a limited edited Primanti Brothers T-shirt for $109, shipping included.  Mineo’s Pizza suffered a pretty dramatic fire a couple of months ago at their production site in Robinson, but they are back up and running.  Besides their pizza shops, the plant in Robinson makes pizza and freezes if for sale at local retail locations as well as shipment.  Prices start at $30 plus shipping. From PennMac, you can order an Isaly’s gift box complete with two 1 pound packages of their chipped chopped ham and their famous BBQ Sauce as well as 2 dozen pierogis from Pierogi Plus for $32.85 plus shipping.  Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte can be ordered for $49 from Prantl’s.

Staying with the dining theme, but not edible, a few suggestions are over sized Heinz pickle or ketchup tree ornaments for $15 are available at the Heinz History Center.  Mr. D’s handmade plush pierogis are available at the History Center gift shop as are Sarris chocolate covered pickles that are edible.  Pint and tumbler glassware with a map of Pittsburgh are also available in the History Center Gift shop for $15 and $12 respectively. River’s of Steel National Heritage Site is offering their T-shirts for $15 that supports the non-profit.  The House of the Dead are offering their Brainz T-Shirt for $22, either at their store in Lawrenceville or you can order on-line.  A necklace in the shape of the City cut from cedar with the individual neighborhoods etched into it can be had for $29 on a brass chain at WildCard in Lawrenceville.  Landscapes and landmarks with a colorful comic interpretation can be ordered from Mario Zucca for $30 unframed.  A framed limited print recreating the Pittsburgh trolley routes from the 1950’s can ordered at Arrived Art or at Who Knew in Lawrenceville for $349.  Nicole Aquillano has designed ceramic bowls, platters and cups with Pittsburgh iconic buildings & bridges as well as quirky images like the Acme Banana Company.  They run from $20 to $350 either at her website or Society for Contemporary Crafts in the Strip.  WQED’s Rick Sebak has 37 DVD’s of specials run on the station for $19.95 at WQED’s website.  Rick has had specials on all things Pittsburgh and if you’re looking for a DVD, one should appeal to you.  a wooden Mr Roger’s Neighborhood Trolley is available at Fred Roger’s headquarters or at Visit Pittsburgh’s gift shop in Fifth Avenue Place Downtown for $60.  You can find a plush of Duke the Incline at the Duquesne Incline gift shop on top of the incline for $10.  Northside is not only famous for The Parador Inn,  :)  Wolverine Mechanical Toys was here for years.  Though they’ve been out of business for awhile, their toys are collectors items and if you’re lucky enough to have one, you can find the story behind it and it’s current worth with a book about the famous company for $49.95.  One of my favorite gifts is a duel purpose No Parking Chairs that you can use as extra seating of saving that special parking spot in front of your house.  They come in gold and black or black and gold for $35 at Commonwealth Press on the Southside.  Wild Card carries Over Three Rivers and Through the Woods greeting cards and Commonwealth Press carries Yinzer greeting cards.  Finally, to wrap things up, you can get Pittsburgh themed wrapping paper at the Heinz History Center gift shop.

There’s a huge show out at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside that runs through February 1.  It includes three of their Guilds, The Craftsman’s Guild, the Fiber Arts Guild and the Women of Visions.  The exhibits are completely filling both floors.  The Craftsman’s show features 46 pieces by 33 members and includes a rich use of various materials, fabric, handmade paper, glass, clay, wood and collage and many different uses and adaptations of them.  Fiber Arts has 57 works using all kinds of fibers and unique uses of them.  Women of Visions pieces inspired by traditional and non-traditional  art inspired by their African heritage.  Many different colors, textures, uses of the various mediums makes this show a feast for the eyes (and mind).  More info at their websites.

Wednesday, December 17 Pittsburgh Tours and More will give guided tours of both the First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Cathedral Downtown.  The Presbyterian Church will offer a light brunch at their Daily Bread Cafe and Trinity will host a small organ recital. The tour guides will give details and history of the iconic houses of worship that has influenced Pittsburgh since Victorian times.  In addition to the tour guides, representatives of both churches will be on hand to answer questions and give more details.  Tours start at Nicholas Coffee at Market Square around 10 am and end at PPG Winter Garden around 1 pm.  They will stop at the Creche at US Steel plaza.  There is a charge for these tours, but I was unable to find the price.   Pittsburgh Tours and More host many different kinds of tours throughout the year, it’s a good idea to bookmark their site to periodically see what they’re promoting.

Socially conscious businesses are a growing phenomenon, Thread headquartered in East Liberty is one.    In 2010, Ian Rosenberger went to Haiti to photograph the impact of Hurricane Sandy and saw the poverty in the country (and all the garbage strewn around).  He came up with the idea of hiring locals to collect recyclable bottles and ship them to America to be processed into fibers for clothing.  Founded Thread in 2011 and in 2012 the collected 200,000 pounds of plastic and last year he had 660,000 pounds collected and shipped to America.  Between Haiti and Honduras, they have collected 3.5M pounds of plastics!  The break the bottles down into flakes, melts them and spins them into thread (hence the name).  :)  The unique thing about Thread is you can track the process from the collection of the plastics through manufacturing.  And this isn’t a charity based organization.  It’s a business that makes money while empowering many folks in impoverished countries.  They are anticipating $19.8M in revenue next year already.  Quite the start-up.

Well, that’s it for today, be good and enjoy,