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,

















Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburgh  (1862), the Nanking Massacre (1938), New Zealand was first spotted by Europeans (1642) and the war between North and South Koreas ended (1991-hostilities actually ended in 1953).  Birth anniversaries include First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (1818), pugilist Archie Moore (1913), German poet & critic Heinrich Heine (1797) and my sister Diane, we’ll omit the date here.

The only person that makes money off Face Book is Face Book, but you can use Face Book to your advantage.  Ty came up with the idea of offering a free night on a Face Book contest several months ago.  Our first campaign we had something like 500 likes.  The second one we had over 17,000 likes, can you believe that?  We just did it again and we had over 7,000 likes, not as huge as the last, but pretty darn significant.  Ty’s latest challenge is to get The Parador Inn’s Face Book page likes up to 1,000.  We currently have about 800, so it’s doable.  If we don’t get up to the 1,000 mark by the end of the year, Ty will be fired.  So get all your friends to like The Parador Inn and save Ty’s job.  :)

Uniontown native Shawn Christopher and his wife were staying in New York City on their honeymoon.  Where they were staying was on the side of Gramercy Park, the most exclusive park in NYC.  Only people living adjacent to it are permitted to pay the membership to the private park and receive a key to admit them.  The park was founded in 1831 and the people that have had keys are a real A-list of past and present notables.  Shawn didn’t know he violated many of the park rules, like guests can only enter with a member and absolutely no photography.  Shawn did one of those Google 360 degree photographs and posted it on Google Earth, that’s how he got outed.  /arekebe Garrison, the president of Gramercy Park Block Association while acknowledging that it was against the rules to take the picture, they would not ask Google to remove it.

We just don’t seem to learn.  It’s estimated that it will take $4.7B to clean up the mess left from all the abandoned coal mines, that has to be more money than the coal barons and current coal executives have made from extracting coal from under us.  Did you know the first recognized coal mine in Pennsylvania was a drift mine on Coal Hill (now Mt Washington) in 1760?  The first reported problem with coal mining was at that same mine in 1765 where it caught fire and collapsed part of Mt Washington.  Pennsylvania has the largest abandoned mine problem of any state.  It’s estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 miles of our waterways suffer from mine discharge pollution.  Another problem is High Walling, where mine operators dug the coal out and left these cliffs on all sides of the pit they dug.  Of course, there’s the old mines (many of which aren’t even on any maps) collapsing as their roof supports rot away after all those years.  When that happens, houses are damaged, destroyed; roads get sink holes and the list goes on.  Of course this subsidence is even worse when the collapse comes from Long Wall Mining where there dig below the mine seam, let it collapse and then pick the coal out and load it on conveyers that bring it to the surface.  Maybe just as bad as Mountain Top Mining where they explode the entire top of a mountain, remove the coal and take the earth the mining company doesn’t want and fill nearby valleys wrecking havoc on the local environment.  Why do we still let them do this?  I guess for the same reason we let them Frack for oil and gas using unnamed chemicals in the process and then pump the waste water into injection wells.  Who knows what price our grandchildren will pay for this.

Speaking of pollution, they are estimating there’s about 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, with a population of 7.2B persons on the planet, that’s 700 pieces of plastic per person!  Marcus Eriksen of the Five Gyres Institute in Los Angeles published his study in the journal PLOS said they were using conservative numbers, they estimate it’s much larger.  Besides the obvious we’ve all heard about fish trying to eat plastic bags, etc these plastic pieces are deteriorating to smaller and smaller pieces.  Fish are eating these tiny pieces and obviously they don’t digest.  So it is predicted that will be a problem for us eating fish!  Careful what you do with that plastic bottle, it washes down the creek and right out to the ocean.

Pittsburgh Technical Institute has holiday light and sound display at their North Fayette for the past several years.  They upped the ante this year.  They have 10,000 lights choreographed with music.  The display is built each year by the students under the direction of their instructor.  The shows run about an hour and there’s a morning performance (6 – 8 am) and evening from 4 – 11 pm.  You can tune to 98.5 FM to hear the music choreographed to the light display.

I’m a big fan of small theaters and love seeing them adapt to survive in the world of Walmart and super Cinemax theaters.  I talk about the Hollywood Theater in Dormont on a regular basis of things they are doing.  Add to this list is the Oaks Theater in Oakmont.  It closed this past summer and has gone through some extensive renovations and is reopening this weekend (December 13 & 14) with Jimmy Steward’s classic It’s a Wonderful Life with a brunch.  They hope to have their liquor license by January and will add alcohol sales to their events at that point.  Next weekend the movie will be White Christmas.  Marc Serrao has owned the theater (as well as the Oakmont Bakery) for several years and realized he needed to go in a new direction than just being a movie house.  He intends to do cult films, concerts, comedy and many other events.

Speaking of innovation, give that man a raise!  I don’t know who at PennDot is responsible, but they have come up with a new idea.  Believe it or not!  Instead of all the time and expense of designing each bridge individually, with so many structurally deficient it would take years and years to replace them all.  Someone at PennDot came up with the idea of coming up with several designs that will accommodate over 550 bridges.  They can pre-pour the concrete supports and pre-order much of structural components of the bridges and throw them up in half the time.

Keep warm,











Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the founding of the National Grange (1786), Santa Barbara Mission was founded (1786 as well), the last American hostage was released from Lebanon (1991) and Chase’s Calendar of Events book was first published (1957 the book where I find these tidbits).  Birth anniversaries include chronicler Helen Chase (the co-founder of Chase’s Calendar of Events-1924), Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795) and English author Samuel Butler (1835).

Last post I showed pictures of the interior of the Mansion with the holiday decorations.  Here’s the the night time view welcoming you to The Parador:


And here’s a picture from the side:


I need to get Roy Engelbrecht up to take new pictures, here’s the pictures he took of the holiday trees.

That blue glow in the Dining Room bay window is my Caribbean tree that’s all hand painted fish, nautical ornaments and the garland is actual fish netting I cut into strips and spray painted red.  Very fun:

bluetree 7752lr (2)

And here’s a re-print of the Parlor tree Roy took:

tree 7767lr (2)

On Sunday, December 6, Saint Anthony’s Chapel on Troy Hill is hosting a visit with the real Saint Nick!  They will be removing several relics of the fourth century bishop of Myra (which became Turkey) for closer inspection.  In case you aren’t aware of St Anthony’s, has the largest collection of relics outside the Vatican (more than 5,000).  The collection was acquired by Reverend Suitbert Mollinger who used his family fortune to acquire the relics in the latter part of 1800’s when political turmoil was dissolving many churches and monasteries in Europe.  When the parish couldn’t come up with the money to build the grand church he had envisioned, he used his own money to build the current chapel that holds the collection.  They have pieces pieces of bones, cloth fragments and artifacts including several from the “crib” Christ used as well as relics of the three Wise Men.  The church is located at 1704 Harpster Street, more info at their website.

I know I was recently complaining about our state judiciary, here’s another nail.  That attorney and ex-Allegheny County commissioner Charles McCullough that has been charged with stealing from the estate of an elderly client suffering from dementia has successfully has delayed his trial for over five years. The two dozen counts, nine felony include siphoning money from her estate for his personal use, that of his sister and some to a Republican campaigns run by his wife a COMMONWEALTH COURT JUDGE!  Is there no honor left?

I found this really cute toy store in Lawrenceville, Dragonfly Castle Toys.  It’s at 4747 Hatfield Street, down towards the river obviously up around 47th Street.  It’s a little store front with a nice selection of environmentally friendly and many made in the USA toys.  She has a website under construction and I’m including the link for future reference, but it’s not up yet (she’s only been open a month or so).  She’s open 11 am – 7 pm Tuesday through Fridays, 10 am –  6pm Saturdays and 1 – 5 pm Sundays.  More info will be available at her website or by calling 412-478-7009.  Insider tip, she’s hosting a Last Minute Shopping Party on Dlecember 18 from 7 – 9:30 pm with her famous spiked punch.  That’s one way to be sure to get that “perfect” gift you may live to regret.  :)

There’s a free show at the 937 Gallery on Liberty Avenue that showcases The Landscape Architecture of Dan Kiley, one of the premier 20th century landscape architects.  He’s the guy that did that modernist gardens outside US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, the Jefferson Nation Expansion Memorial, St Louis that has the Arch as the back drop and locally the the Carnegie Museum of Art Outdoor Sculpture Garden and the Agnes Katz Plaza0 adjacent to the Pittsburgh Public Theater (you know that little garden with the sort of free form water fall that kind of looks like a castle and has those eye shaped seats designed by Louise Bourgeois).

Need a break from this dreary winter weather?  Phipps Conservatory just opened it’s Winter Flower show to the theme of the song A Winter Wonderland.  25,000 lights and 36 varieties of poinsettias should buoy your spirits. They have a sleigh filled with wrapped presents, a bear family made out of tree bark and all the rooms are themed from different lines in that classic holiday song. They have visits from Santa, the Sugar Plum Fairy, family fun days and a New Year’s celebration.  It runs through January 11 with more info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.

While we’re talking about holiday highlights, there’s always The Carnegie Museums annual holiday decorations.  The link doesn’t show pictures of their amazing holiday trees that are decorated each year with a theme and I don’t recall this year’s theme, but it’s always worth a visit to see what these amazing ladies come up with each year.  There’s also the Neapolitan presepio, their wold famous collection of figurines handcrafted between 1700 and 1830 by Neapolitan artisians, there’s more than 100 of these works of art.

While you are in the area, you can’t miss the holiday trees in the Cathedral of Learning’s Nationality Rooms.  In case you aren’t aware of the history of the Cathedral, in the 1920’s the chancellor of Pitt decided to build the tallest educational structure in the world in the hopes that city children would look up and be inspired to stay in school.  Then in the 1930’s he decided to create the Nationality Rooms.  Pittsburgh was originally settled by the French and British, then when industry started the Germanics came over first.  He got the German club of America to pay for, bring German craftsmen and materials and build a German classroom.  The Czechs did that, the Poles, etc.  The first floor has the original immigrants, the third floor has the newer immigrants, the Turks and Swiss opened their rooms last year on the third floor.  In all, there’s around 40 International Rooms.  The interesting thing about them is they had to be built circa when Pitt was founded (around 1787).  Not all cultures have a fir tree with lights and balls, but all cultures have a holiday around Christmas/Hanukkah and all have traditional decorations.  It’s a very  interesting display.

The Handmade Arcade is back at the Convention Center this Saturday from 11 am until 7 pm.  In it’s eleventh year, Handmade Arcade has earned BuzzFeed.com’s list of 35 Craft Fairs Every Creative Person Needs to Visit in the WORLD!  About half the 150 vendors are from the Pittsburgh area.  When they open they will have Colonel Eagleburger’s Highstepping Goodtime Band performing with life sized puppets worn by Girl Scouts.  A ten foot puppet will be working the crowd as will pop up performance by Continuum Dance Theater.  I’ve gone to it for the past several years and always find something.

Everyone I know loves cheese.  Most people love local connections.  Marry the two and you have to have a winner.  I love going to Penn Mac in the winter  and walking up to the counter and asking them to give me four of their favorite cheeses of the day (they are too busy “in season” to do this).  But finding a good local cheese is so cool (and enjoyable).  :)  There are several sources for good local cheeses.  A number of local restaurants use local cheeses in their cooking, but you can also find some good local cheeses.  The nice thing about this is these sources are also small businesses and take the time to talk you through the selection process.  Possibly the largest selection is the East End Food Coop.  Located real close to Construction Junction, one of the few places I like to take time and peruse the many items available and get ideas on re-using past treasures (soon to be mine). :)    More info at their website or by calling 412-242-3598.  In Lawrenceville there’s Wild Purveyor’s Market at 5308 Butler Street.  They carry a large selection of cheeses and other local products.  Finally in the Strip at the Pittsburgh Public Market (2401 Penn Avenue) is Wheel and Wedge.  They don’t have a website, but you can visit them on Face Book.  I will never understand why businesses don’t have a website.  Face Book, Twitter, Instagram, etc are great tools and you don’t have a super website, but all businesses need a website.  I’ve gained exposure through Face Book, but never sold a room through them.

That’s it for now, take care and keep warm,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first face transplant (2005).  Birth anniversaries include musician Jimi Hendrix (1942), martial arts professional and actor Bruce Lee (1940) and American West gambler, saloon keeper, lawman Bat Masterson (1853).

The Parador is ready for the holidays, we’re all decked out.  Check out the more traditional Parlor tree:

xmas par tree

And in the Dining Room is the Caribbean tree that’s all hand painted fishes, ocean themed ornaments and the red garland is actual fish netting I cut into strips and spray painted red:


And to enjoy a little holiday spirit while having breakfast:


It’s hard to see in my terrible picture, but the basket on the table is filled with baby coconuts that I’ve spray painted and painted holiday images like the full sized coconuts I hang in the front windows:


Summer Tissue (her real name) :) founded her non-profit Military Connections in 2007, but has been sending holiday packages overseas to our troops after sending one to her brother serving overseas and he asked her to send some to his friends 11 years ago.  They hope to send 9,000 stuffed stockings this year.  According to Tissue, 90% of the soldiers she sends to either have no family or are estranged from them. Trinity Methodist Church in Penn Hills has been a big supporter for several years now.  Tissue is always looking for donations or volunteers to help out stuffing, packing and mailing.  If you would like to partake, you can donate directly from her website, mail a check to 312 Auburn Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15235 or call her at 412-496-8941.

For those of you in the South Hills, Caste Village will be holding their annual Festival of Lights this weekend and Medical Rescue Team South Authority will be there Saturday from 4 – 8 pm for their Stuff an Ambulance event.  They are hoping to totally fill one of their ambulances with toys for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program (and they are prepared to bring in more ambulances if the turn out is great!

Lets move away from the holidays for a minute, Trundle Manor is currently the headquarters of the Secret Society of Odd Acquisition and is curated by the eccentric Mr Arm and Velda Von Minx. Built in 1910, Trundle Manor has become a place where a culmination of years of insane collecting and creating has found its niche.  They have jars of rat skins, organs and other parts in formaldehyde, coffins and coffin like things, murder weapons and many other bizarre items.  Viewing is by appointment only and it’s not just for Halloween anymore.  :)

Did you know the world’s oldest operating oil well is right over in Rouseville, Venango County?  McClintock No 1 has been pumping oil for 153 years!  It only produces about 1/10 of a barrel of oil per day (OPEC doesn’t need to worry about this one), but it’s still pumping.

“Think Small, Not Mall” is our slogan for Saturday, November 29, National Small Business Day.  Instead of getting crushed, pushed and shoved in some over priced mall, support your small business this Black Saturday.  All our local neighborhoods have a small business district with lots of options for holiday shopping.  If you don’t have a small business in your immediate neighborhood that can fill some need on your holiday list, consider Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Southside, Brookline, or any of our other small districts.

Out by Construction Junction in Point Breeze is XFactory, is a multi use building that was a grocery warehouse with more space than four football fields built in the 1920’s.  They have many small businesses in there from a winery, an embroidery company, cabinetmakers and with their close proximity to Bakery Square a number to tech firms.  Howard Eisner has owned the building since 1977 and to draw attention and some excitement to, he hired artists Jewels Despines and John Muldoon to create a graffiti based mural along the whole first floor.  It kind of blends with the old industrial look.

I am always looking for something unique that grabs my attention.  Here’s a thought for you, why not include a local artist for a future remodeling or redecorating project coming up?  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  Commissioned artwork is not just for the wealthy.  Artists are a lot like Innkeepers, we’re both always looking to make a sale.  :)  I had two empty rooms last night and was offering them for $100.  That fabulous artist Colleen Black contacted me last winter and we agreed to an exchange an original piece of artwork (the oil painting in Ruellia of a field of Ruellia flowers with a ghost hummingbird you can only see at night with the lights out)!  There’s two thoughts here, the first one is I was just trying to squirrel away some money before the depths of winter slowness sets in.  The second is a project Colleen and myself were interested in.  My “rack rate” is $150 plus tax, that’s the same as an artist’s asking price.  If they’re in a busy time in their career, they may not be as negotiable as during their slower time.  Also, artists by nature are creative (I know that’s pretty redundant, but bear with me for a moment) and if your project peaks their interest, you will probably get a better price than some boring repetitive project.  You don’t need the artist to make all the ceramic tile for the back splash for your kitchen remodel, they can do accent pieces, or maybe a central image that the store bought tiles surround.  You don’t need a eight foot wooden sculpture to center your new garden on, maybe a four foot sculpture on a four foot base your create.  You see where I’m going here?  If you don’t have a bevy of artists to select from, go on-line and look up local artists by item you are looking for, go to local galleries and talk to the owners, if you find an artist you like, but they are out of your price range, don’t be shy and ask them for a referral to an emerging artist.  Artists love supporting each other.  Another source here in Pittsburgh is the Office of Public Art.  I didn’t find the site overly friendly in easily finding what I was looking for, but spend some time and shop around and you might find inspiration.

There’s a bronze buck sculpture down in West Park by me.  You can always tell when winter is approaching, locals start dressing him to keep him warm:


A funny story on the buck, I was taking Razor for his walk a while ago down that way and a mom put a small child on the buck’s back to take a picture, which frequently happens down there.  In case you haven’t noticed, the buck is anatomically correct.  When she put the boy down on the ground after taking their picture, the boy grabbed the buck’s private parts.  Mom screamed and grabbed him away from the “offending body part”.  I just laughed.

That’s it for today.  Have a great Thanksgiving and travel safe,