Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Kent State student demonstrations that left four students dead (1970), Rhode Island declared it’s independence from England (1776), Haymarket Square Riot (1886), the Freedom Riders started (1961), Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus (1494) and the first female British Prime Minister was elected (1979).  Birth anniversaries include actress Audrey Hepburn (1929) and American author, educator, public servant Horace Mann (1796).

It was the Pittsburgh Marathon this morning, quite the turn out.  There were about 30,000 runners again this year, but during the surge, it was a lot more crowded than last year.  There were people running on both sidewalks because the street was so crowded:


And there wasn’t as many people in costume as last year.  There was one person in some brown thing I across the street I couldn’t see what they were, one drag queen and Charlie the tuna:


There also was a runner juggling three deflated footballs (I couldn’t tell if it actually was Tom Brady from where I was standing).  🙂

If you are an Innkeeper, beware of the organization inspectedinns.org, they also own BnBstar and All American Bed and Breakfasts.  I used to pay to advertise on BnBStar and got very little traffic through that site, so I cancelled in 2013.  A charge showed up on my 2014 credit card statement from them and they no longer answer their phones, I left a message (no one returned my call) and disputed the charge.  The charge again showed up on my credit card statement this year.  Again they don’t answer their phones and I am disputing it.  The payment was never made, but I have to go through the hassle of formally writing the dispute and mailing to my credit card company.  A minor PIA, but one I shouldn’t have to do.  This will be the last time they will be able to pull this because USAA Credit Cards will be issuing a new credit card to me this year.

Western PA might not always be on the cutting edge, but we’re never too far from it.  Rent the Chicken in Butler is taking on the chicken rental craze sweeping the country and has been renting chickens for about two years now.  Chicken rental is feeding on the eat local and healthy.  Chicken rental prices vary based on the company, location, length of lease, etc.  Generally they include two hens, feed, help line and a wheeled cage (so you can move the cage around the year so the chickens get to eat all the bugs spread around the yard).  The two chickens will generally lay about a dozen eggs each week.  To show how much this is growing, Rent a Coop started in 2012 renting five or six coops per month and they are now renting 25 to 30 coops each month.  If you’re considering chicken renting, there’s an on-line resource Back Yard Chickens that started eight years ago with 50 members.  They now boast 325,000 members and has a wealth of information for the chicken enthusiast.

Cinco de Mayo is coming up Tuesday.  You can do your boring old toast it with a Corona beer at your favorite watering hole and have their boring interpretation of what Spanish food’s supposed to be, or try something a bit different.  If you are planning on celebrating at home, one good choice for authentic groceries is Reyna Foods in the Strip.  I was in there one time looking for a product and the clerk I was talking to gave some misinformation and Reyna herself was in the next aisle and came around and politely corrected him.  Brookline/Beachview are home to our Little Havana.  Las Palmas, in Brookline also has great selections of authentic Spanish groceries as does the Market on Broadway IGA in Beechview.   Right down the street, El Milagro is a restaurant and small grocery store.  Farther south on Broadway is probably my favorite Caribbean restaurant Casa Rasta, they’ve been so successful that they moved from the little storefront location up a few doors next to where Davio’s used to be with as a full service restaurant with a full liquor license.  Big Burrito has two great Mexican/Caribbean themed restaurants Mad Mex and Kaya.  Mendoza Express is like the Spanish highway diners you find all over South Florida.  Two walk ups on Federal Street here on the Northside that do a nice job are Casa Rasta (unrelated to the original Casa Rasta in Beechview) and El Burrito.

MeadowCroft Rockshelter is opening for it’s 46th season to the public this weekend.  It is believed to be the oldest site with proof of human habitation in North America dating back 16,000 years ago.  It’s located in Avella in Washington County.  In 1973 a group of archaeologists started digging around out there and found recent fire pits, empty beer cans and other recent debris.  They dug down deeper and found older beer cans, and trash.  The kept digging and found evidence of continued human habitation going way back.  And these people even had shells from the Atlantic ocean showing how well traveled they were.  A truly amazing field trip for you, it’s part of the Heinz History Center in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute.

My neighborhood association is always upset with the Steelers and all the disruptions caused by the 8 home games they play in the stadium.  The Steelers have been here way before these people moved in (Three Rivers Stadium was built in 1970), the neighbors new this when they decided to purchase their houses.  McConway & Torley foundry has been in Lawrenceville since 1868, way before any Lawrenceville residents were even born.  It was well established before any Lawrenceville resident purchased their home.  So why are they trying to shudder this business that not only was there long before any residents, but also pays good wages and benefits to over 400 Pittsburgh residents?  Did something happen that all of a sudden there’s annoying sounds, truck traffic, etc?  I don’t get it, where do people get off choosing to move to a location knowing what’s in the neighborhood and then once they live there for awhile think they have to right do do this?

Phipps Conservatory’s new Summer Flower Show is taking a new twist, they are featuring Weird and Wonderful plants.  Several highlights include the Chenille plant (one of my guest rooms is named for this intriguing plant with it’s long fuzzy flowers that look like red caterpillars), Australia’s kangaroo paws, bromeliads (also a namesake for one of my rooms with their waxy leaves in brilliant colors that look plastic), a ceiba tree cover with large thorns, an elephant’s foot, brain flowers, purple and orange cauliflower bottle plants and trees known for their storage devices to hold water during dry seasons.  We again reached out to Phipps to partner with us, but they only offered tickets at a 10% discount.  We sell more Warhol tickets than any hotel in the city and are #2 in the city with our River’s Casino package.  Maybe next year they’ll quit being penny wise and pound foolish.  🙂

Mark your calendars, Bellevue’s having their summer tour next Saturday, May 9 from 1 – 5 pm.  John Hermann inherited his father’s leather business wealth (and business) back when this was Allegheny City.  John was a prolific artist (over 1,000 pieces) that he never sold.  Being a Bellevue native, he donated his collection to the city and that will be one of the highlights of the tour.  There also will be several houses and churches that showcase the grandeur of this bygone era.  Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 the day of the tour.  This is a self guided tour, so you can take your time and enjoy all there is to see.  Details on their website.

Well, that’s it for today, I’m sure there’s a lot of sore and tired people in Pittsburgh after running, walking and biking 27 miles today, rest up folks,


New lighting projects include a reading light over Allamanda’s bedroom heated seating bench:


Another that’s not so obvious, but we changed the fluorescent lights over the dining room buffet to LED:


The look is similar, a little more golden, but since these lights are on 24/7, switching to LED will effect our energy consumption.

You know Pittsburgh’s Taco Truck?  James Rich, the owner is looking into a new endeavor, The Taco Boat!  He’s currently exploring the idea checking out the health codes, appropriate water craft, etc.  He’s hoping to launch it this summer (pun intended).  🙂

A new study out of Duke University found there were 79,000 new jobs created in the solar and wind industries, both direct and spinoff in the last four years.  There was 95,000 direct and spinoff new jobs created in the natural gas industry in the same time period, mainly for electric generation.  The coal industry lost 49,000 jobs during that time period.  A large part of this growth has been driven by the federal push for cleaner energy through incentives that may or may not continue.  Another contributing factor is some state mandates that a percentage of renewables be included the power grid.  Unfortunately for Appalachia, where most of the lost coal jobs are don’t have state mandates and the terrain and weather aren’t conducive for wind or solar generation.   So there’s very little green generation projects there and in the south where they also don’t have state mandates for renewables in their system either.  So the job growth is all in the west and northeast.

Phillip Roth’s book American Pastoral is the basis of a new film probably being shot in Ligonier by actor/director (his first) Ewan McGregor this summer.  Add that to Cinemax’s 4th season of Banshee that moved filming from North Carolina and the made for TV Sony production of The Outsiders.  Films shot in the area being released this year include Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Southpaw, The Last Witch Hunter, Fathers and Daughters, Love the Coopers and Concussions.

Before the Boiler Makers had their program Guns for a Trade where residents could turn in guns and no questions asked and they would offer to train those that turned in guns the Boiler Makers trade, Stephen Selton started The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh seven years ago training disadvantaged how to be bricklayers.  He did this himself in a 20 foot by 50 foot empty boiler room in Wilkinsburg.  He’s just moved his program to an old Westinghouse factory in Homewood that is ten times the size.  He’s taken around 200 since starting with 100 graduating and 76 with full time bricklaying jobs.  With the added space, he intends to expand his 10 week classes of 12 students to 16 students.  A few years ago, the Heinz, RK Mellon and Pittsburgh foundations realized the importance of grass roots creation of skills that could give the opportunity to earn living wages and started subsidizing him.  He specializes in training ex-cons so they can enter society as an asset.

Spring has sprung and the spring garden sales are all over.  Phipps Conservatory is having their 79th annual May Market May 8 & 9 on their front lawn.  More info on their website or by calling 412-622-6914.  The Greensburg Garden Center is having their annual May Mart May 1 and 2 inside and out their center on Old Salem Road.  More info on their website or by calling 724-837-0245.  Sewickly’s May Mart will be held May 9 on Broad Street.  More info on their website.  The Audubon Center for Native Plants will have their sale May 2 at the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel.  More info at their website or by calling 412-963-6100.  The Indiana Garden Club will have their sale May 15 & 16 at the S & T Bank Arena in White Township.  More info at their website or by calling 724-349-8763.  West Overton Garden Society’s May Mart will be held May 9 at the West Overton Distillery Museum in Scottdale.  More info at their website or by calling 724-640-4180. Dry Ridge Garden Club will have their annual plant sale May 2 in Hempfield.  More info at their website or by calling 724-5583457.  Penn State Master Gardeners will be hosting sales in Allegheny County, Armstrong County, Butler County, Fayette County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County early May.  So anywhere you live in Western Pennsylvania there’s a gardening event to help you gussy up your home.

Speaking of flowers, the tulips I planted last fall are adding a welcome splash of color:


That’s it for day, pretty cool and overcast today, supposed to start clearing up and warming up tomorrow, I’m more than ready.  🙂





Tomorrow is the anniversary of Brasilia’s Inauguration (1960), the birth of Rome (753), the Red Baron was shot down (1918), holidays include Brazil’s Tiradentes Day, Baha’s Festival of Ridvan, Indonesia’s Kartini Day and Texas’ San Jacinto Day.  Birth anniversaries include naturalist John Muir (1838), actor Anthony Quinn (1915), German educator Friedrich Froebel (1782) and author Charlotte Bronte (1816).

Wilkinsbug is hosting a unique house tour on May 9 called The Vacant Home Tour.  In conjunction with a group of CMU grad students, they’ve selected five vacant houses they will highlight that could be available to purchase.  They’ve done their homework figuring out the history of the house and even will have some pictures of the homes in their happier days.  After the tour, Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will hold workshops talking about programs and financing options for people that tackle bringing vacant houses back to the tax rolls.  They have the expertise to handle the acquisition of the property and can lead the way in guiding you through the process.   If nothing else, you should consider the tour just to learn from the experts how this can be accomplished.  And maybe you’ll fall in love with a property and start the process for your new home!

Slide the City is coming to South Park on June 6.  It’s a touring company visiting 150 US and Canadian cities.  The 1,000 foot slide will come down one of South Park’s hills.  You need to bring your own inflatable to ride the slide, or you can buy one from them at the site.  The cost is $20 for one ride, $30 for three rides and $50 for an all day pass.  There are discounts for buying your tickets early and premiums for buying the day of the event (and that will be based on availability).  More info and tickets are on their website.

Joylette Portlock, founder of Communitopia thinks environmentalism could use a lighter side.  She has a series of videos on the environment, some are kind of cute like her take on Gangnam Style with her version Climate Dennier Style.  Her tag line is Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something.  She not looking for people to take radical action, not chain themselves to trees, but maybe washing in cold water to save energy.  She says big steps are best, but if you only want to take little steps, they add up also.  Communitopia is joining up with Phipps, the Carnegie Museums and other partners to to host Futurefest 2015 on the lawn of Phipps on Saturday, April 25.  It’s going to be a fun day of cooking demonstrations, tours of the new Phipps labs & classrooms, composting demos, hands on activities, an eco minded market, scavenger hunts, even 1/2 Phipps admission that day.

Remember I spoke about that door between Bird of Paradise’s bathroom and African Tulip?  Well I did the construction a week or so ago framing it out, putting sound proofing insulation in and then dry walling it:


And April from No Good Riding Hood created a faux door for me:


Pretty cool?  🙂

There’s an interesting free exhibit at the top floor of the Hunt Library on CMU’s campus through June 30.  Photographer Sue Abramson has a black and white photo collection of nests and their building materials she has taken in Frick Park.  Images done in colored pencil by David Morrison feature detailed images of nests in their natural environment with details like spring buds and new leaves gracing the drawings. Wendy Brockman uses water colors to create her nests on calfskin vellum.  Kate Nessler uses water color to make images of her nests.  All this is enhanced with real bird nests on loan from The Carnegie Museum of Natural History which pretty much rounds out the show.  The show follows the Library’s normal operating hours of 9 am to noon and 1 to 5 pm Mondays through Fridays and from 1 to 4 pm Saturdays.  More info at Hunt Library’s website or by calling 412-268-2434.

Last year, Open Streets Pittsburgh had a  route from Roberto Clemente Bridge, down Sixth Avenue to Market Square.  This year the route is mainly from the Strip District out to Lawrenceville.  They close the main streets to vehicle traffic and they are open to pedestrians, cyclists, skate boarders, dancers (the side streets are still open to vehicles).  It’s the last Sundays of May, June and July and the hours are from 8 am until noon.  More info on Bike Pittsburgh’s website.

You know, I complain a lot about a lot of things in America, we have our problems.  But when you take a minute and  look around the world, even at our worst, we’re still pretty good.  There’s a group of the Lost Boys of Sudan living in Pittsburgh.  I met one through my sister, Deng (his birth name) published a book under his baptismal name Paul Kur called “Out of The Impossible” about his struggles as one of the Lost Boys fleeing ethnic violence in Sudan as a small child. The book chronicles Deng’s struggles as a child just to survive genocide, starvation, even being eaten by lions.

Out in Latrobe, Matthew Stein Woodworker and Hand Crafted Furniture makes Windsor chairs, tables, toys and other items using 18th century wood working techniques and tools used back then.  Although he doesn’t use all antique tools, he makes tools that mimic what they used back then.  Besides making these new old pieces, he also restores furniture.  On some projects he’s partnered with another Latrobe craftsman Dave Horner of Dave Horner Carpentry and Millwork.

Join Ann, the resident shelter dog at Northside Common Ministries, at this year’s Walk for a Healthy Community as she and other Food Pantry supporters raise funds to stock the shelves at the food pantry.  It’s easy – just click on the Walk for a Healthy Community to sign up to the team or make a donation to the team on line–then join the festivities at stage AE on the Northshore on Saturday, May 16th at 9am.  All proceeds go right to the purchase of food for distribution in the food pantry.

The Northside Common Ministries is having an Old Fashioned Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday April 25th at Northmont Presbyterian Church at 8169 Perry Highway for an Old Fashioned Spaghetti Dinner from 4pm-7pm.  Carry out available—bring the whole family!  More info at the Common Ministry’s website or by calling 412-323-1163.

Well, that’s it for now.  I have an electrician doing some repairs, some you’d never notice, a couple I’ll talk about next time.  Enjoy this spring weather, we earned it,





Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Batraan Death March (1942), the break up of The Beatles (1970), Brahms Requiem first premiered (1868), the first PGA championship (1916), Odessa was retaken from the Nazis by the Russians (1944), the Safety Pin was patented (1849) and it’s the Salvation Army’s Founder’s Day.  Birth anniversaries include journalist Joseph Pulitzer (1847), the first woman member of a US President’s Cabinet Frances Perkins (1880) and Dores Huerta, co-founder of the Farm Workers Union with Cesar Chavez (1930).

Wanna be a movie star?  Banshee, the Cinemax series set to start filming here is looking for extras.  Extras, stand-ins and photo doubles are being sought for the Season 4, you must be 18 or older.  Casting call will be at the Casino Theatre in Vandergrift on April 13 from 4 – 8 pm.  More info at Mosser Casting’s website.

Carrie Pavlik is starting a unique business, Steel City Grazers.  She will rent out goats to clear weeds and vegetation around the city starting next month.  Beside being quieter than weed whackers and more environmentally friendly, they work great on challenging hillsides and other hard to reach areas.  She’s working to get at least ten goats to start this project.  Carrie has partnered with the Allegheny County Conservation District and they will be holding a question and answer secession on Tuesday, April 14 from 8:30 – 10 pm at the District’s headquarters River Walk Corporate Centre, 33 Terminal Way, Suite 325B on the Southside, basically under the Liberty Bridge.  More info at their websites.

Amy Morgan is teaming up with artists to have her ninth annual Teapots Invitational at her gallery Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery at 5833 Ellsworth Avenue, Shadyside.  They will be displaying more than 60 creations using traditional clay pots, but also made from nontraditional materials and all made in various adaptations.  It runs through June 13 and is free.  More info at her website or by calling 412-441-5200.

With over 300 events, this year’s Craft Beer Week shows the momentum the craft brewing industry has.  Some of the events like the river cruise are already sold out.  One – Bikes, Brews and Oyster Fest still has availability at Blue Dust in Homestead. Blue Dust is a family owned restaurant on Amity Street (right next to the tracks) that has the best smoked brisket sandwiches in the city, way to go Jerry.  🙂  Blue Dust has always been a great source for craft brewed beers and their support of this isn’t surprising.  It runs from 2 – 10 pm on April 25 and will feature four types of oysters, oyster po-boys, food trucks, live music and food trucks.  More info on the various events on the Craft Beer’s website or info on Blue Dust’s event is on their website.

The Friends of the Killbuck Lodge are getting a big assist from the DIY network Barnwood Builders series.  The log cabin (almost 200 years old) is in really terrible shape and they need to tear it down and rebuild it.  Barnwood will start filming in June when they plan on tearing the cabin down, replacing rotted pieces from a log structure in Mt. Pleasant and re-creating the shell.  Once that’s done, the Boy Scouts and Friends of Killbuck will finish the interior with all the needed updates.

Looking to start a restaurant but don’t know how to go about it?  There’s a start-up in the Strip called Smallman Galley that’s there for you.  Ben Mantica & Tyler Benson have set up a business incubator that trains culinarians on the things many chefs lack and is the major cause of restaurant failures, the lack of a solid business plan.  People that want to open a restaurant generally have a passion for food, but many lack the critical aspect of actually running the business.  So Ben & Tyler will set up four chefs in open kitchens for the first twelve months where customers come in for lunch or dinner and order directly from the chef.  You can wait on the food and watch it be prepared, or shop the Strip and they will electronically notify you when it’s ready.  In addition to the professional oversight of the culinary aspect of starting a restaurant, the chef trainees will actually start building a customer base through this process.  The last six months, Ben & Tyler will work with the chefs creating a business plan, finding funding, etc to get the restaurant off the ground to a healthy start.  They are also looking for established chefs to help guide these newbies through the process.

Uber has skyrocketed with business travelers as noted in a recent survey at airports the Uber shot up to 47% of ground transportation.  I’ve been complaining about the poor service, surly attitudes and lack of reliability of our local cab service for years.  This is across the board from the people that answer the phone, supervisors and drivers.  We have had instructions on how to download the Uber app for a year now and every guest that used it are now converts.  Yellow Cab has recently rolled out their “version” of Uber and typical of Yellow Cab, the attitude was “we know what we’re doing, we don’t need your input”.  I know someone that was at their roll out and he offered suggestions, observations about the things Uber does compared to what Yellow Cab was rolling out and to say it fell on deaf ears would be a understatement.  I’m not in favor of unregulated anything, Air BnN, Uber, or other alternatives to the traditional way of doing things.  But Uber & Lyft, in Pennsylvania has agreed to our PUC’s instructions on criminal background checks, insurances, etc.  So they have my support.

Pittsburgh’s having it’s first Dinner in White this year.  Diner en Blanc started in Paris 27 years ago by Francois Pasquier who invited some friends to meet at a secret location for dinner.  Guests need to be dressed in white from head to feet, bring a portable table with a white table cloth and napkins, white chairs and a dinner packed in a basket as well as beverage of choice.  The reason for the white attire is so other folks participating recognize each other and to make it special.  The event in Paris last year drew 15,000 people!   The yearly event has spread to 50 cities (21 in the US) on six continents. The location is kept secret until the last minute, in fact some Diner en Blancs have you travel to several locations before finding the dinner spot.  The admission and other details are in the initial planning stage, if you are interested, you can sign up on the Pittsburgh Dinner en Blanc website.

Well, that’s it for today.  Enjoy this Spring weekend with cooler temps but lots of sun,







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.