Happy Easter,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first modern Olympics (1896), Mohandas Gandhi made salt (1930), the first Tony Awards (1947), the North Pole was discovered (1909), the Church of the Later Day Saints was founded (1830), the Battle of Shiloh (1862), the US entered WWI (1917), the Scottsboro Trial (1931) and Thailand’s Chakri Day is celebrated.

May 22 & 23, PyroFest will be in a new location (it’s been in Hartwood Acres for the past couple of years).  They needed a larger venue, so they are moving to Cooper’s Lake Campground up by Slippery Rock.  (They’ve also made it a two day event this year).  They are looking for amateur pyro enthusiasts to enter a contest to apply to be the winner of Fantasy in the Sky.  Follow the link if you want to apply, you can also get more info on this year’s festivities from there as well.  The winner will get to help choreograph this year’s event and have their display in this year’s fest as well.

Finally, Spring has sprung.  The gardens are all cleaned up, mulch arriving soon and the water feature is cleaned and running.  If you are into roses, The Pittsburgh Rose Society is having a free “hands on” pruning class at McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park Arboretum Saturday, April 11 (Saturday, April 18 in case of rain) at 1 pm.  The will also discuss fertilizing, pest control and other pertinent rose growing tips.  More info at their website.

It’s time for spring cleaning and for the hard to dispose of items, e-waste, compact fluorescent bulbs, polystyrene packing materials and cell phone will be accepted at Pittsburgh Mills April 11 and 25, the Washington Mall May 9, the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin April 22, Heinz Field August 29 and the Mall at Robinson October 3.  Household cleaners, paints, pesticides, paint and such will be collected at the North Park Swimming Pool May 2, Concurrent Technologies in Cambria County May 16, Washington Mall July 18, Boyce Park August 15 South Park September 12 and Brady’s Run Park in Beaver October 10.  There will be a “reuse it fest” June 13 at UPMC Passavant Hospital June 13 to find new uses for medical equipment, building materials and furniture.  These events are sponsored by The Pennsylvania Resource Council and more details are at their website.

Looking for ideas for home projects, there’s three home and garden shows coming up.  The Butler County Home Show runs from April 10 – 12 at the Family Sports Center in Connoquenessing.  More than 100 exhibits and lots of hands on demonstrations.  More info at their website.  The South Hills Home Show will run April 17 – 19 at the Iceoplex at South Pointe.  Also, more than 100 exhibits will be there for creative ideas.  More info at their website.  Finally, the Westmoreland County Home Show will be at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds April 18 & 19 and they anticipate more than 150 exhibits.  More info at their website.

There’s one of those surprise boxes through the mail companies that may (or may not) be worth looking into.  Instead of surprise boxes containing hokey “gourmet” snacks, cleaning products, Try the World sends food boxes with specialties from specific countries like Morocco, Paris and Tokyo.  For $39 for one box or $198 for six boxes, they will bring the world eating to your door.

The Pittsburgh Glass Center over in Friendship has brought Seattle artists Jen Elek & Jeremy Bert‘s show ABC@PGC in through June 7 at their Hodge Gallery 5472 Penn Avenue.  Both artists, Jeremy is also a sign man, he creates and repairs commercial signs.  They’ve taken letters from discarded signs, retrofitted them with LED lighting and strong them on cords so you can actually wear many of the letters.  There’s also hand blown glass creations.  Go with a group of friends and spell out words.  🙂  More info at their websites.

This it for this post, enjoy spring,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of Niagara Falls running dry because of an ice jam (1848), the first comic strip Mutt & Jeff to  run in a syndicated newspaper  (1908), the Knights of Columbus was first chartered (1882) and it’s National Mom & Pop Business Owner’s Day.  Birth anniversaries include Karen Ann Quinlan (1954), President John Yyler (1790), politician Eugene McCarthy (1916) and the Evil Empire founder of Walmart Sam Walton (1918).

My favorite piece in the Inn, the Sheppard boy by French Victorian artist Auguste Moreau, was knocked off his pedestal and broken.


The screw holding the light fixture sheared off.  I got my nephew to tap the remainder of the screw out and took the remnants of the screw and the Sheppard boy up to Rollier’s Hardware in Mt. Lebanon to get a new screw.  The gentleman assisting me found the proper sized screw, but it still wouldn’t go in the hole.  He then got a self tapping screw to clear out the threads on the inside.  It works perfectly now.  All this for a twenty-three cent sale.  Rolliers really go above and beyond in their customer service.  Wouldn’t find this a Lowe’s or Home Depot.  🙂

The non-profit Good Jobs First just released their report on government subsidies since 2000, it’s pretty shocking.  Banking and energy companies were the biggest winners in receiving grants and tax credit.  Bank of America recieved $3.5T (yes, TRILLION) in loan guarantees and bailout assistance!  According to government records, the feds have doled out $68B in grants and tax credits since 2000, six companies received $1B or more and twenty-one recieved $500M or more!  And children go to bed hungry in this country.

A friend is in the process of purchasing his first home and it reminded me I hadn’t talked about this in awhile.  If you are thinking of making what frequently is largest single purchase of a person’s life, start your homework now!  Your first step is to pull all three credit reports from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.  Check these reports for anything that’s incorrect.  If it’s a negative like a late payment (over 90 days), is it actually you?  Some times they place someone else’s problem on the wrong account.  If it’s a negative entry with someone you actually deal with and don’t remember it, ask for clarification.  They need to be able to justify giving you a negative comment.  Back when I had a pretty questionable score, I had two late payments by banks that had been bought up by bigger banks and I knew these reporting banks no longer existed.  When I questioned the validity of these the banks had to retract the negative comments because they no longer had the records or the effort to find them wasn’t worth it to these big banks.  My two “get out of jail for free cards.”  🙂  Do you still have those Gap credit cards and haven’t shopped in Gap in a long time?  Contact them to cancel the cards.  One of the things they look at is how much credit you have available and compare it to your income.  If you have a zillion credit cards, you could potentially go out tomorrow and max them all out.  So get rid of the cards you don’t anticipate using again.  Obviously, pay your bills on time. Back when I was first trying to clean up my credit score, I went over 90 days on a Discover card.  My fault, when the bill came in, it was for something like $10 and I thought I’d pay it the following month after putting some more on that card.  Well, it got lost in the shuffle and I went over the 90 days (huge with your score).  I contacted Discover to see if they would remove it since it was five years old and I had paid my Discover bills on time since.  The customer service agent I spoke with said there was nothing she could do since I was guilty.  I stewed over this for a month and then called Discover to cancel my card over this.  This agent I spoke with pleaded with me not to cancel the card, she could remove it.  She did, I canceled my Discover card a month later and have never dealt with them since.  When you get your credit score as clean as you can, then talk to banks about getting a loan for your new house.  You should have at least two banks making an offer for your business and compare rates, fees and other terms.  The interest rate is just one of the factors you should be looking at.  Fixed term, variable rate, down payment required are a start.  Be careful of what some banks call “Loan Origination Fee”, this is sometimes a catchall for all kinds of hidden fees.  They want to charge for a survey, appraisal, credit reports title insurance, notary service, they even will try and charge you for making copies.  Much of this is negotiable.  The last time I refinanced, my banker at Slovak Savings Bank viewed my loan amount to the assessed value and because the loan was a certain percentage below  the assessed value, she was able to to waive the appraisal saving me $5,000!  I strongly recommend having at least one credit union or small savings and loan bank bid on your loan, they are a lot more flexible (and honest) than the big banks and their quotas and set in stone requirements.

The Northside Food Pantry is hosting a spaghetti dinner fund raiser at Northmont Presbyterian Church (8169 Perry Highway, 15237) on Saturday, April 25 from 4 – 7 pm.  There are few things that evoke comfort food than church sponsored fish fry Fridays, spaghetti dinners, etc.  More info at their website, by calling 412-323-1170 or e-mailing Jay at jay.poliziani@ncmin.org.

Speaking of food, The National Aviary is having an Easter Brunch on April 5, Mother’s Day Brunch on May 10 and a Father’s Day Brunch on June 21.  With just two seatings (10:30 and 12:30), space is limited and if you want to celebrate with our avian friends, I’d call soon.  Aviary admission is included in the $35 adult, $17.50  children (under 3 it’s free).  Food is by Atria’s that has an exclusive arrangement with the Aviary.  I’ve eaten at Atria’s a number of times and actually was invited to an open house last night at the Aviary with Atria’s catering the event and I can vouch for their food.  🙂  The menu is much more than I care to type, just click the link to see what they’ll be serving.  More info at the Aviary’s website or by calling 412-258-9445.

In North Fayette, the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden had a soft opening last August and is opening year round next week.  This garden is 460 acres of abandoned mining land next to Settler’s Ridge Park.  It will be one of the largest botanical gardens in the United States.  It’s hours will be 9 am – 5 pm daily (until dusk on Saturdays) and admission is $9, $8 for seniors and $6 for children. They have several gardens already open and more in the works.  One of the first new projects will be an orangery.  The concept started in Renaissance Italy to show the wealth of individuals.  They build basically green houses where they could move orange trees in to protect them  from winter weather and then pull them out during warm summer weather.

That’s it for today, I’m enjoying the visiting company of an old college friend Jennifer that runs The Copper Whale Inn in Anchorage, Alaska.  Enjoy, this cold has to leave us soon,








For those of you that don’t follow The Parador on Face Book, Razor passed away yesterday.


He’s been suffering from arthritis for some time and it’s been getting worse.  He was developing other issues and on Wednesday he seemed to just give up. He stopped eating, didn’t want to come inside, just wanted to lay outside.  He was a great friend and host at my Inn and had worked hard with RJ training his replacement from when RJ was a puppy:


Actually, Razor didn’t start as my dog.  While living in South Florida, a friend of mine in the Glades had two Lab puppies left and wanted to know if I was interested in one of them.  I knew both of the parents and they were great dogs.  So I took them both, JJ for me and Razor for my best friend Dino.  JJ was stolen from my yard and I was heart broken.  Dino went back up to Minnesota for a bit and asked me to look in on Razor since his daughter wasn’t the most reliable.  🙂  I came up one day and Razor was very lethargic.  I took him to the vet and he had parvo.  Had that treated and when Dino returned, he had decided to move back to Minnesota and asked if I wanted Razor.  I jumped at the offer and he’s been with me since.  I took Razor to the vet for a check-up and he then had heart worm.  The treatment for heart worm is a carefully induced amount of cyanide.  It had to be extremely accurate to kill the heart worm and not the pet.

Razor has always been the most obedient guy, while Dino owned him, Dino would leave a basket of biscuits on a floor level shelf.  When Razor wanted one, he would go over by the basket and sit there looking at Dino.  Dino would say “OK” and Razor would take one biscuit and lay down on the floor to enjoy it.

There have been over 2,000 page views of the post on Face Book about Razor’s passing and well over 100 personal condolences.  It makes his passing more manageable knowing he was so well loved.

Thank you all,


You heard it here first.  The Rolling Stones are coming to Heinz Field June 20.  Get your room quick at the closest Inn to the stadium.  🙂


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first electric razor (1931), the New London, TX school explosion (1937), it’s Bretzelsonndeg Day in Luxembourg, Aruba’s Flag Day and England’s Mothering Sunday.  Birth anniversaries include president Grover Cleveland (1837), journalist George Plimpton (1927), author John Updike (1932) and American statesman John Calhoun (1782).

Easter is just around the corner (and so is Spring, finally) :), so interest in the Eastern European art generally referred to as pysanky is peaking.  It’s the art of decorating hard boiled eggs by etching a design before dipping it in various colored dyes to create those dramatic creations.  This tradition of decorating eggs goes way back before Christianity to Pagan times.  As with any tradition, different areas profess different beliefs.  Some traditions blow the egg out before decorating, others say you are taking the life away; some traditions say eggs decorated for older people should be vividly colored and decorated to signify the life experiences they have had, while eggs decorated for younger people should be mostly white to signify the blank page their life is at this point.  An Ukrainian tradition is that young girls that decorate an egg for their boyfriend should be sure to decorate the top and the bottom of the egg lest he may go bald.  🙂  The Nationality Rooms in The Cathedral of  Learning recently had an egg decorating class sponsored by a joint effort of both the Lithuanian and Polish rooms that drew around 150 to learn the art.  The Peters Township Library will host a pysanky display and class on March 20 starting at 7 pm (more info at 724-941-9430).  St John the Baptist Byzantine Church in Uniontown is hosting an Eggstravaganza March 22 from noon to five pm with 25 artists (more info at 724-438-8412). And finally, St Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie will be hosting a workshop on March 29 starting at noon (registration is required) and a decorated egg sale from 11 am until 4 pm (more info at their website or by calling 412-279-2111).

Well, another indication that the seasons are changing, Phipps Spring Flower Show has just opened and runs through April 12.  What better way to shake off the winter doldrums than strolling through warm gardens bursting with bright colors?  They are sporting a rain theme this year with brightly colored watering cans, umbrellas and goulashes used as planters.  A fun way to welcome Spring!  More info on their website or by calling 412-622-6914.

Grove City College has recently unlocked a secret.  A drawer in a desk in the library has been locked for some reason since 1954 and no one knew what was in it or why it was locked.  Finally, through Grove City archivist persistence, she found a key that worked and found 175 almost pristine World Ward II war posters!  Some are of the Rosie the Riveter calling ladies to staff the factories, join the army posters and some politically incorrect for these days.  They are on display in the college’s Pew Fine Arts Building through just through March 23.  More info at their website.

Every have one of those uh-huh moments?  All the rooms on the second floor of The Parador were interconnected when I bought the Inn.  Most were in closets, etc, but the one between African Tulip and Bird of Paradise’s bathroom was just a door.


African Tulip’s side of the door:


Initially I wasn’t aware of the problem, but a couple of years ago a guest in African Tulip mentioned that they could hear the guests next door taking a shower.  I couldn’t come up with a solution and so just banked it like the creaky steps, a quirk in a Bed and Breakfast.  About a month ago I was in Bird of Paradise’s bathroom and a light bulb went off.  There was about eight inches between the actual door into African Tulip and the outer trim around the door frame.  So I framed it out to the trim, put sound proofing insulation and covered it with a sheet of drywall.  Absolutely no noise penetrates now.  So here’s it now:


Now I just need to find someone that can do a Trompe-l’oeil a faux door, know anyone?  That would work perfect.

Current project is finishing up the inside window shutters on the first floor.  All of the upper shutters I did last year.  This year, found a local company that dips & strips and I only have to sand, stain & polyurethane them.  Working on the the shutters that go on the front dining room windows facing the front porch.  They’re stripped & sanded, I hope to stain them tomorrow and put several coats of poly this weekend and hang them early next week.  The ones for the front bay window in the Parlor are ready for pick up and they will be next.

O’Hara Township’s Woodland Park is jumping on a new bandwagon, an edible trail.  They have applied for a state grant to design a new trail in a recently adjacent piece of property to create a trail with nut trees, elderberry bushes, fig trees, wild strawberries, etc that they will include around the new trail.  They will put up signs identifying edible foods that are safe to eat.  There are several around the country, like one in Irvine, CA that harvests any left over produce in the Fall and donate to the local food bank.  Nice twist on walking in nature.

Just a heads up, if you are planning a trip to Washington DC for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, they are predicting it to peak April 11 – 14.

Gotta run, take care and enjoy this improving weather,








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,