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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep warm,











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

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


And here’s a picture from the side:


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

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

bluetree 7752lr (2)

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

tree 7767lr (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

xmas par tree

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


And to enjoy a little holiday spirit while having breakfast:


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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





Tomorrow’s the anniversary of Lewis & Clark reaching the Pacific Ocean (1805), Oklahoma Admission Day (1907), the Roman Catholic Catechism was revised for the first time since 1563 (1992) and Canadian Louis Riel was hung for rebellion for equal rights of French/Indian equal rights (1885).  Birth anniversaries include American composer William Handy (1873) and Of Mice and Men author Burgess Meredith (1907).

Millvale’s trying to become the new Lawrenceville.  I believe they have two microbrews and Panza Gallery has had several interesting exhibits.  Meta/Morphoses‘ runs through November 29.  It features Charleroi artists Brian Lang and Susan Sparks.  Susan uses a process using duct tape made of aluminum on a foam core backing and a process of etching the tape to give it texture and then adding her colors.  She has a whole series on Luna moths she became infatuated with when she found one outside her door.  Brian creates abstract drawings on standard business envelopes using lots of color.

Read more: http://triblive.com/aande/museums/7134205-74/sparks-says-lang#ixzz3JBOEKZcI
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OK you healthy people.  Last post I talked about the Dirty Dozen bike race scheduled later this month.  Here’s a couple more to consider-Annual Washington’s Trail 1753 Hike is set for November 29 beginning at Harmony Musuem at 10 am, 10:45 am and 11:30 am.  This commemorates the first shots fired at Washington in Butler County that started the French and Indian war.  It’s just $3.  More info at their website or by calling 724-452-7341.

Venture Outdoors has three different Fall hikes planned, one with beer!  All are scheduled November 22.  The Hot Tea Hike runs (or walks) between 10 am and 1 pm for 3 – 4 miles around Squirrel Hill and ends at a local cafe and cost $10 for members and $15 for non members.  Then there’s the Microbrewery Hike that goes through Frick Park and ends at East End Brewery where you will receive a growler. These run from 11 am – 2 pm and cost $30 for members, $40 for non members.  Then there’s the evening New Moon Hike that runs (or walks) :) from 6 – 8:30 pm up in Riverview Park and it’s a 4 – 5 mile hike.  This star lit hike costs $6 for members and $10 for non members. More info at their website.

The Ohio River Trail Council plans a memorial bicycle ride to honor 23 year old cyclist Taylor Banks who was killed just October 31 on Route 51.  The ride starts at 2 pm at 1726 Pennsylvania Avenue in Monaca and the riders will be followed by a van for protection.  Cyclists will stop and meet Taylor’s family and there will be a silent roll past the site Taylor was killed on the West Aliquippa Bridge.  More info at the Council’s blog.

Speaking of Route 51 (which is pretty much closed until next year between the West End Bridge and McKees Rocks), they reopened Chartiers Street, the main street through McKees Rocks business district to two way traffic this week.  It’s about time that lame brained “urban renewal” project was laid to rest.  (Chartiers Street is a part of Route 51).  In case you aren’t aware of it, north bound went through the business district while south bound went down the scary looking road that ran behind all the businesses.  I frequent that area because that’s where Grimes Interiors is located, they’re the highly skill furniture repair shop that’s done a fair amount of restoration on some of my pieces.  And it’s on the way to Pirogi’s Plus, I run out there sometimes to get some of their great pirogi’s.  (You can order pirogi’s from their website to be delivered anywhere in the US.

What a wonderful start of the week, perfect weather to put the Courtyard to sleep for the winter:


Those great people at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy had my back.  A lot of my vegetation, like the elephant ears, are to large and dense for me to compost and I’ve always borrowed the dumpster at my friend Jeff’s Peppi’s.  But that puts them in a landfill and I’ve always had a problem with that.  I know the Conservancy had to do something with all the plants they pull out of their gardens all over Western PA, and by their very nature, I was sure it wasn’t a landfill.  So I called them and they allowed me to take my vegetation and add it to their compost heap.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that I’m a corporate sponsor:


The Conservancy put their gardens to bed for the winter as well.

And of course, Baron Von RJ is surveying his estate to make sure there’s no danger or squirrels there:


Is your manuscript ready to publish?  There’s the big guys in New York and a ton of on-line self publishing options, but there’s also small Pittsburgh publishers as well.  There’s our big guys University of Pittsburgh Press was founded in 1936, Carnegie Mellon University has a printing press founded in 1972, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation  (this link just takes you to their store that carries books they’ve already published, you’ll need to contact them directly for specific info on publishing a history book you’ve written) has been publishing history books about local history since it was founded in 1964.  Then there’s also Autumn House Press that has published poetry and literary fiction since 1998.  With all the advances in computer technology, a lot of the tedious work associated with creating a printed book is now much easier and there’s a number of even small printers springing up around the city.  Kristofer Collins started Low Ghost Press four years ago.  He leans toward small runs (maybe 100 books) of poetry and frequently only publishes one book a year.  Another small publisher is Braddock Avenue Books founded by Robert Peluso and Jeffrey Condran.  Lee Gutkind founded Creative Nonfiction, a literary magazine in 1993.  Nathan Kukulski is the editor at Six Gallery Press has been specializing in avant-garde books and CD’s since 2000.  Margaret Bashaar is the editor of Hyacinth Girl Press a micro press that concentrates on feminist poetry and publishes up to six chapbooks per year.

Speaking of small books, I’m currently reading Out of the Impossible by Paul (Deng) Kur, one of Sudan’s lost boys that came to Pittsburgh to get his Masters Degree in leadership at Duquesne University.  Deng, as I know him, lived in my sister and husband’s house for years before recently moving in with some of the approximately 25 lost boys that have settled in Pittsburgh.  He really has an interesting view on how we do weddings, funerals and holidays.  The book is haunting.  Mankind can be really inhumane.

Close to Home is is an exhibit of photography at Silver Eye Center for Photography at 1015 E Carson Street, Southside that runs through January 10.  Works of Jake Reinhart of Greenfield, Justin Visnesky of Brighton Heights and Elizabeth Rudnick of Highland Park are the Pittsburgh connections.  Also works by Boston based Andrew Hammerand, Chicago based Martha Fleming-Ives and Lisa Lindvay round out the themed photographic images on these artists views on family and home.  Finally a twenty minute film collage by Chicago based film maker Cameron Gibson finishes out the show.  More info on the artists on their individual websites, the show on Silver Eye’s or by calling 412-431-1810.

I’ve had the busiest past couple of weeks.  We had two days with no scheduled guests in the end of October, so I closed and we did the annual holiday deep cleaning of the public space on the first floor.  Everything was pulled out and cleaned, the floors washed and paste polished.  The holiday decorations probably go up next week.  I had the Fall meeting of the Pittsburgh Bed and Breakfast Association out at Doone’s Inn in Oakmont on October 23 and enjoyed the company of other local InnKeepers.  Lorna was a gracious host as always and I’m the new secretary of the organization.  A great thing about the PGH Association’s website is you can check availability of any of the member Inns from that website, you don’t have to go from Inn to Inn to see who has availability.  I frequently refer to that site when I’m sold our for that reason.  Then PABBI (the Pennsylvania Association of Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers) had our annual conference November 4, 5 and 6.  Being a board member, I was very much involved in planning and executing this event.  We had 20 more Innkeeping participants this year than last, this year’s Aspiring Innkeeper session (an all day event run by Bushnell and Bushnell) had 28 participants compared to just 8 last year.  We also had twice as many vendors this year and had to find more space for them.  We had excellent sessions on web design by Nick Smerter (the gentleman that redid my site), Alley from Google gave a presentation on the future of Google and Innkeeping, a presentation from Trip Advisor, and various others including creative breakfasts, breathing fresh air into our Inns and Quick Books accounting software.  It was quite the success and we already have lots of plans for next year.  Finally, earlier this week we had the annual Fall Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Bed and Breakfast Association, I’m the current president and we held it a Peggy’s lovely Three Gables Bed and Breakfast in Corry, PA.  Peggy’s such a gracious host and been running her Inn for 20 years!  Corry’s east of Erie and over a two hour drive from here (both ways!)  :), but well worth seeing my fellow Innkeepers and sharing ideas with them is always  a treat.  Western PA is the first association I joined when moving up here and I do love that group.  In my rush to get out of the Parador after serving breakfast, I forgot my turkey chilli in the oven.  :)  So guess what I’ve had for dinner the last several nights?  It’s a good thing I like my turkey chilli.  :)

Well, I think I’m going to call it a day.  Have a great one and keep warm,
























Tomorrow’s the anniversary of Boston Fire (1872), the Berlin Wall was opened (1989), the East Coast blackout of 1965, Kristallnacht (Crystal Night-thousand of Jewish shops were destroyed 1938), Wilhelm II abdicated (1918), the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened (1984) and the Links Inc was founded to better the lives of African Americans (1946).  Birth anniversaries include astronomer, biologist, author Carl Sagan (1934), senator William Fulbright (1905) and vice president Spiro Agnew (1918).

Robert Pounds has been cared for in group homes since his brother passed away, who took over caring for the functional, but mentally disabled 62 year old after their parents both passed away.  William and Jaylee Trzyna were empty nesters who “adopted” Robert in 2009 through the Lifesharing program.  Lifesharing, founded in 1982 to help find alternatives to group housing, is coordinated by county agencies and regulated by the state Department of Public Welfare.  Of the approximately 2,000 mentally disabled eligible persons, only about 70 have been placed with host families.  It can be a scarey commitment, but you are not in it alone.  The county has staff that work with you and the Lifesharer has regular engagement with mental health professionals.  Robert goes to an ACHIEVA training center four days a week and the  Trzyna’s get a monthly stipend from the state.  As with anything, it’s what you are willing and able to put into it what you will get out of it.

There are so many caring people out there.  One of my guests in Florida, Joyce Cummings, will always be remembered.  She’s from central Pennsylvania and was coming to Florida to pick up “her latest” adopted daughter.  Joyce and husband grew their family and when they became empty nesters, had a discussion about what they wanted to do.  They decided they had so much and there are so many handicapped children in need, they should share with them.  When I met Joyce and one of her 7 adopted special needs kids Trista, they came down meet the 8th child they were adopting.  This new little girl from Haiti was confined to a wheel chair and the sweetest little kid.  The generosity in some people’s hearts is just beyond words.

Paris is famous for it’s portrayal in Impressionist art, but Pittsburgh has it’s share of being portrayed in the Impressionist style.  Point Park University currently has an exhibit in their Lawrence Hall Gallery Pittsburgh Impressionism, Past, Present, Future. Point Park has put together the works of three Pittsburgh area artists Philip Salvato, Kim Curinga and Frank DeAndrea, all impressionist painters of Pittsburgh’s landscapes.  The show runs through March 15, admission is free and is on the corner of Wood Street and the Blvd of the Allies.  More info on Point Park’s website or by calling 412-392-8008.

Here’s something I hadn’t thought too much about fracking, most land over potential wells in Pennsylvania is owned by farmers.  It makes sense.  The wind fall from fracking is giving small farmers something they haven’t had in years, excess cash.  The big agribusinesses don’t need it, they have all of their economies of scare and tax benefits, it’s the small guys that have been in such a bind, as of late.  Many farmers are choosing to take this $ and retire, but many are taking it and investing in what they do.  They are re-building crumbling barns and out buildings, buying new equipment (it’s amazing how much new farm machinery cost) and over all improving their lot.  This may be a major turning point in small farming in our state that can make it more competitive with the big guys and have long lasting effects.  Case in point, friends of mine own Armstrong Farms, a farm stay Inn and working farm has purchased a grist mill to process their organic wheat and be able to sell it adding to their income stream.

Did you know the term Speakeasy is credited as originating here in Pittsburgh?  According to a New York Times article a McKeesport saloon keeper would go through the crowd and caution them to “speak easy” to keep the police from being aware people were in there.  :)  Last year there was a big jump in “Speakeasy” busts in Pennsylvania, a 22% increase over the year before!  (This year it’s down again).  These busts include college kids selling cases of beer out of the back of trucks at college football games (one of them actually was carding the purchasers to be sure they were of age),  :)   as well as that lady out in Shadyside (?) that was charging a cover at the door for “free” alcohol, but charging for the “labor of serving” the booze at the Irish Centre.  You can be busted for running a Speakeasy for any unlicensed sale of alcohol.

They will be having the 32nd annual Dirty Dozen bike race on November 29.  The Dirty Dozen is a race up twelve of Pittsburgh’s steepest streets, including Canton, actually the steepest paved street in the world in Beechview.  Baldwin Street in New Zealand holds the title because of it’s length, it actually has less of grade than Canton (35% vs 37%).  So if you are enough of a xtreme biking enthusiast, go to the Dirty Dozen’s website to register and get details (you even have to sign a waiver of liability to participate).  :)

Light Up Night is just around the corner, November 21.  Macy’s is again doing animated window displays, the ethnic market will return for it’s third year in Market Square, live music, fireworks, the ginger bread houses will return to PPG Place, the lighting of Christmas trees and much more.  The full slate is at Light Up Nights website.

Speaking of the holidays, I Made It Markets are springing up around town this month.  They are a great place to find one of a kind gifts by these Indie crafts persons.  Check out their website.

If you see a tripped up Ford Flex with BBC Pop UP, don’t panic, it’s not another British invasion.  BBC is sending a crew around America to get a feel for the streets, as opposed to covering news stories.  (Did you know BBC and the Brits were heavily interested in our mid-term elections?  They had tons of coverage and commentary on it).  Matt Danzico (originally from Scranton), Benjamin Zand from England and Colm O’Molloy from Ireland round out the group. They started their tour in Boulder followed that up with Baton Rouge.  Delayed by a car accident and repairs, they are now here through the end of the month.  They are looking for crowd sourced stories and you can connect with them at www.bbc.com/popup, bbcpopup.tumblr.com or twitter.com/bbcpopup.

Have a great one,






Tomorrow is Turkey’s Republic Day (founded in 1923), the anniversary of Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Internet was created (1969).  Birth anniversaries include Nazi leader Josef Goebbels (1897), Scottish biographer James Boswell (1740), American writer and journalist Dominic Dunne(1925), baseball executive Charles Ebbets (1859) and the creator of song Dixie, Daniel Emmett (1815).

The latest exhibit at The Warhol is Pittsburgh native Chuck Connelly: My America. Chuck’s been working in Philadelphia for the last three decades and seldom sells his works.  He is so famous as a financial failure that HBO did a documentary on him, The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale in 2008.  He has something like 4,000 paintings in his Victorian home!  I like his whimsical art, kind of like Warhol with a sense of humor.  :)  The exhibit is included in the admission price and runs through January 4.  More info at the Warhol website or by calling 412-237-8300.

It’s been a good season for my compost.  Those darn worms really worked their butts off (do worms have butts?).  This is by far the best batch they’ve done yet.  I took the rest of the Arundo donax out from the front fence (those plants that everyone thinks are corn before they get 10′ tall).  They’ve been used in the South and Midwest as bio fuel crop and it turns out they’re pretty invasive.  So I decided to get rid of them and just finished digging their roots/tubers up and added this black gold to fortify the soil.  Here’s a look at the front with the fruits of my lovely worms labor:


I also had enough to spread over that small garden in the back of the parking lot. Look see:


With as busy as The Parador has been (at least 86% occupancy the last three months), we are only putting out one trash can a week for the trash collections.  A lot of that is my obsession with recycling and Dee & Ty’s buying into it.  Recycling starts at the point of purchase and goes from there.  I avoid heavily packaged products.  We dry out guest rooms bars of soap and when I have a box full, I run them over to the local YMCA that has a men’s program.  Metal goes into a box in the basement (coat hangers, etc) and I periodically go out the Construction Junction and donate any tools, building parts, etc and they have a dumpster you can put clean metal in.  Also, I save wine bottle corks and there’s a store adjacent to CJ that recycles art supplies and the corks go out there.  I’ve even found a place that recycles Styrofoam (the peanuts I’ve taken to pack and ship stores for years, The Appliance Warehouse takes all those packing Styrofoam and to-go containers).

I’ve talked about Natrona Bottling Company in a past post.  They are the makers of Red Ribbon Pop, Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer (what we use as vases here at The Parador) and Plantation Style Mint Julep (They also have a couple of smaller brands as well).  The 110 year old company had been family owned all those years.  A couple of years ago someone bought them and I thought it was going to be the end of them as they were.  Fortunately, Vito Gerasole, the self proclaimed sultan of soda, embraces the old style bottling.  They still use sugar cane for sweetener, instead of high-fructose corn syrup all the big guys now use.  The big guys have seen a decline in sales each year for a number of years now.  Now that Natrona has new leadership, they’ve grown 60%!  You can see them around like at stores like KS Kennedy Floral and Gourmet down the street from me and Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop in the Strip and out in Beaver.

I don’t know if will help, but the Allegheny Commons Bridge has been listed on the Young Preservationists Association top 10 list for 2014.  At YPA website, they only have the 2013 top ten, so I’m not sure if they selected the pedestrian bridge (which the span over the railroad tracks has  already been demolished, so I’m assuming not) or they are speaking of the West Ohio Street Bridge down near the National Aviary.  That bridge is structurally deficient and needs to be replaced.  The railroad is trying to force us to raise the bridge three feet to accommodate double stacked trains.  They want us to pay for it so they can make more money.  Doesn’t seem right to me.  Especially since the other option is for them to pay for lowering the tracks the three feet for them to be able to make more money from double stacking.  On top of the cost issue, raising the bridge three feet would seriously impact the Commons because they would have to regrade West Ohio Street to meet federal standards.  Many of those hundred year old linden trees lining West Ohio would have to be cut down!  The Commons is such an iconic park.  It started as a common grazing area in the 1800 for Allegheny City and grew into the park it is now.  There’s all kinds of visual treats for you when you walk around the park and take a minute to look around.  Besides being the oldest park in the City of Pittsburgh, it also is the largest.

Well, you don’t have to be in Pittsburgh (or Florida for that matter) anymore to get a Primanti’s sandwich.  The Pittsburgh iconic can be ordered through Goldbely.com.  For $109.00, the kit contains enough lunch meat, cheese, fries,cole slaw and Italian bread to make four sandwiches.  As a bonus, for a limited time you also get a limited edition T-shirt.

There’s a new hotel in a classic building in the planning stages Downtown.  The old German National Bank building on the corner of Sixth and Wood Streets is in the planning stages of becoming a 104 room boutique hotel.  They plan on having two bars and a restaurant for their guests as well as being open to the general public.  Currently called the Granite Building, the new name will be the Forbes Hotel.  That’s in addition to the new 247 room Hotel Monaco under construction on William Penn Way in the former Reed Smith building and the proposed 180 room Drury Hotel in the old Federal Building.  There’s also a number of Holiday Inns, Embassys and Hiltons also in the works.  Either under construction or proposed is 1,505 new hotel rooms in da burg.

What’s up with our judges?  I’ve had issues with our legislative and executive branches, both state and federal for some time.  But always held the judicial in high regard.  Sending kids to juvenile facilities so the judges could take pay offs, Supreme Court Justice Orey CONVICTED and she’s she’s still fighting it.  Now another supreme court justice is caught receiving and sending racy e-mails.  I’m pretty indifferent to porn through e-mails, if I get one I just delete it.  I think their stupid.  I do have a problem with judges receiving and sending them on “company time”.  #1 they should be the epitome of  decorum.  #2 doing this on the job?  State Supreme Court Justice McCaffery also got called on the carpet for “speaking” to the judge at the Philly traffic court where his wife got a ticket (I don’t care whether he was making a social call or trying to get the ticket fixed, either way it shouldn’t have happened).  And his wife making hundred of thousands of dollars in referral fees from lawyers while she was his administrative assistant.

This brings us to the controversy over the potential threat of Ebola in America.  We just don’t trust the government anymore.  I don’t believe  I would contract Ebola from riding on an airplane with someone with the virus (unless we exchanged bodily fluids :) ).  But the CDC let that nurse travel knowing she had potentially been exposed to the virus while treating a patient makes you question their reliability.  It’s like the Legionnaires deaths at the Pittsburgh VA Hospital.  Two years later and we don’t have answers, we have the latest spin the VA’s trying to put on it, while the people running the place got bonuses!  It’s OK to make mistakes, I do it all the time.  And I fess up and pay the price, whatever it may be and move on.

I don’t know if you saw the story on Howard Lutnick, but when he was a junior in high school, his dad passed away.  He started college at Haverford and one week into his freshman year, he learned his mom passed away due to some medical mistake.  The dean called Howard into his office and said “Howard, your four years are free.”  Well Howard graduated and worked his way up in a financial company in New York to where he’s now chairman.  His company lost 658 employees in the 9/11 attack, he would have been in that number if he hadn’t have to take his son to school that day.  He/his company has continued to donate millions to various causes, usually requesting a project be named after one of the lost.  He personally just donated $25M to Haverford’s library.  Why can’t we see more good stories like this?

Yesterday, I got the elephant ears dug up and most of the large vegetation cut down.  Now that I no longer have the Arrondo donex, the pile is much smaller.  In the past, Jeff that owns Peppi’s right down the street has let me use his dumpster to get rid of it.  It’s a bit of a pain for me because I can only put so much in at a time.  It bothers me putting anything into a landfill and so I called the city today to see if they have a program for composting.  They sort of do, it’s one of those programs where you fill those brown paper bags with the vegetation and put it out to the curb.  I’d have to fill the street to get rid of all I have.  The city employee I spoke with said I could take it to a city dump over on the West End, but that defeats the purpose of keeping things out of landfills.  Then I thought of Western PA Conservancy, they’re the great people that plant all those gardens around the city and throughout Western PA (they also run Falling Water).  I see them in the Fall taking all the plants out of their gardens and putting the old plants in trucks.  I figured they have some kind of a system for composing bulk and so I called them. Sure enough, they do and I met with one of them and we took my truck up to their compost heap.  It’s much larger than mine.  :)  He’s a picture of the garden I sponsor through the Conservancy on the corner of Brighton and California Avenues:


It looks prettier in the spring and the summer when it has flowers.  :)

Have great one and Happy Halloween,



































Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Crimean War (1853), the first birth control clinic opened in Brooklyn, NY (1916), John Brown’s Raid occurred (1859), Marie Antoinette was executed (1793) and Yale was founded (1701).  Birth anniversaries include Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion (1886), jurist William Orville Douglas (1898), educator Noah Webster (1758) and poet/playwright Oscar Wilde (1854).

The latest addition to The Parador’s Halloween decorations is a scary tree:


My last post talked about haunted houses.  Here’s two other Halloween activities you might be interested in.  I hear there’s a Zombie Outbreak in Emsworth.  They must be stopped by November 2 or the planet it is doomed.  You can suit up and join the fight at 500 Huntington Avenue, Emsworth, PA 15202.  Paint balls are provided.  :)  More info at their website or by calling 412-327-2078.

Speaking of Halloween, the Western PA Humane Society will be hosting their 8th annual pet costume contest Howl-O-Ween at the Mall at Robinson from 7 – 9 pm on October 24.  Registration starts at 6:30 at entrance C by Macy’s.  You need to register to participate.  The categories include Look Like Owner, Group Theme, Most Original, Most Macho, Funniest and Cutest Pet.  The cost is $20 in advance per category or $25 at the door.  You can enter as many categories as you want, proceeds benefit WPHA programs.  More info at their website or by calling 412-321-4625.

I don’t want to be an “I told you so”, but Merrill Stabile is proposing building two 11 story office buildings over the parking garage he plans to construct on property he owns  between the stadiums!  Just to remind you who Mr. Stabile is, he owns Alco Parking and offered $10M to buy the parcel of land behind Stage AE that is being developed by the Steelers and Continental Real Estate (the Steelers and Continental have exclusive development rights to the properties where Three Rivers Stadium used to stand paid and only paid $1M for that land).  When the Steelers and Continental announced their plans to develop that parcel, they claimed it only warranted a three story structure, but Mr. Stabile thinks there’s a market for 22 stories of office space (two 11 story buildings).  There’s time limits on the Steelers and Continental to develop the areas of the Northshore currently being used as surface parking lots.  They had to start development last year or they would lose their development rights and so they hurried up and built a minimal building to keep their exclusive rights to development, at a $9M savings!

Our very own WQED turns 60 this year.  PBS is only 45 years old.  Pittsburgh certainly set the stage 15 years before the rest of the country!  Governor Rendell slashed state funding for public television when he was in office and that not only meant a $1M loss in state money but also matching federal dollars.  They are surviving, but by a thread.  There is a movement to get Governor Corbett to restore funding, good luck with that.  I’ve been watching this show on WQED on sanitation in America.  America started trying to clean up our cities in the 1850’s Chicago.  Chicago is very flat and level with the lake so they couldn’t dig holes to put sewers in.  He came up with the idea to RAISE the city!  Ellis S. Chesbrough embarked on raising the City of Chicago, connecting the buildings to an integrated sewer system and then back fill!  Most amazing.

Are you looking for that big break to the big screen?  They are looking for background extras for the new Will Smith file about former Allegheny County forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu credited as being one of the first to identify football brain injuries.  His study of former Steelers center Mike Webster’s brain after he passed away was pretty cutting edge at the time.  Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote an article in the 2009 GQ Magazine on how the NFL tried to discredit the study.  Casting call will be Saturday, October 18 at the Double Tree Hotel, Bigelow Square Downtown from 8:30 till 4 pm.  More info at Movie Extras website.

Having worked in Atlantic City casinos in their heyday, I’ve always watched them.  It’s such a shame watching the HUGE missed opportunity.  They had such potential with so much money, and blew it.  Four casinos are closing this year and AC is still such a waste.  If you go a block or so away from the main drags, it’s the same as it was when casino gaming was past.  Revel, the newest casino, opened 2 years ago.  It cost $2.4B (yes, that’s a B) in a market that was already in steep decline. Obviously it lasted just two years before going into bankruptcy.  A Canadian company with casinos in Las Vegas is in the process of buying it for $110M, quite the discount.  :)  I wish them luck.

You’ve probably heard of “farm to table,” but how about “field to garment”? In Alabama, acclaimed fashion houses Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid have a new line of organic cotton clothing made from their own cotton field.  There was just a segment on NPR about them.  It would be nice if more cottage industries were able to take off and make a go of it.

Thank you Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.  The little guys in the August Wilson Center flap have an advocate, Mr. Zappala.  I know $32K is chump change the grand scheme of things like $9M, but for the lowly stage hands (I use that term loosely-no offense to the stage hands who worked hard for their money and the money that was paid in advance to the AWC) who’s money owed was going to disappear, it’s a big deal.  Mr. Zappala filed a theft and wage charges stopping the sale until these are settled.  I bet it gets someone’s attention now.   Judith Fitzgerald is getting her $590,000 for six month’s work (to be fair, it was her and her legal team), Dollar Bank was getting most of their $9M (a lot of that was just fines and penalties), even the developer 989 Liberty Partners were going to get a cut in the deal to cover their “expenses”.  I can’t believe the URA, Pittsburgh Foundation and the other partners in this deal were willing to stiff all these little guys.  How immoral!  Now I hope Mr. Zappala looks into the small contractors that were also going to be left high and dry.  Fitzgerald (note my lack of proper address can be taken as my lack of respect for her) also has not released her list of small time contractors also facing getting stiffed .  Fitzgerald (again my lack of respect) has said she “planned to do that ONLY if there was enough money in a purchase deal to repay them.”  Hey Fitzgerald, let’s take it out of your FEES!  Then I bet it’s worth her time.  Totally outrageous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Out in Oakmont, the Kerr Museum recently received a significant donation.  The Kerr Museum was built in 1897 for doctor Thomas Kerr.  It was his family home and his doctor’s office.  His only daughter lived in the house until her death in 1994 and she bequeathed the family home to the city of Oakmont to be used as a museum dedicated to her father.  Helen Burch of Mt Lebanon wanted to donate her grandmother’s trousseau (the clothes, household linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage) so they could be properly cared for and appreciated.  Her grandmother, Emma Jackson married Harry Burch in 1891.  These items have been kept wrapped and in their original trunks for years.  It was like a treasure trove when the members of the historical society arrived at Ms. Burch’s house and examined the items.  The exhibit is only on display until November 15, so if you want to see it, shake a leg.  :)  The museum is only open Saturdays from 10 am until 2 pm  (if you get a group of 8 or more, you can get a private tour on mutually agreed upon time).  More info at their website or by calling 412-826-9295, admission’s $8 and gets you in to see the entire first and second floors of the museum.

If you’re looking for that slightly different night out, here’s some suggestions:  They hold Party in the Tropics at Phipps Conservatory about once a month from 7 pm to 11 pm and you must be 21 or older.  The normal price of admission gets you in, you can wander around and pick up beverages of choice and munch a bit while enjoying their vivid Flora.  This year, events are scheduled November 7 and December 5.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.  Not to be outdone by Phipps, the National Aviary at Night hold their evening soirees the third Thursday of each month from 5 to 9 pm and its for the 21 and older crowd as well.  It’s half priced tickets ($7) and you can take an additional $2 off if you bring a receipt from a Northside restaurant.  Atria’s Kookaburra Cafe has food available and there’s also a cash bar.  More info at their website or by calling 412-323-7235.  The Andy Warhol Museum has happy hour every Friday from 5 to 10 pm and also offer half price admission.  The Warhol also sponsors contemporary independent music in the Warhol Theater.  For more info, go to their website or call 412-237-8300.  Tired of all those screaming kids at the Science Center (that’s what the Science Center’s for, by the way)  :)  , tired of not being able to play the many interactive games because little kids are all lined up?  Not to despair, the Science Center offers 21+ nights once a month from 6 to 10 pm.  Cash bars are on each floor helps limber you up for the challenges (or you can blame it for doing worse than a ten year old).  :)

That’s about it for now, have a wonderful day,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the founding of the American Library Association (1876), the assassination of Anwar Sadat (1981) and it is the anniversary of the Yom Kipper War (1973).  Birth anniversaries include physician Florence Seibert (1897), industrialist George Westinghouse (1846), tennis star Helen Moody (1905), Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882), actress Janet Gaynor (1906) and Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyedahl (1914).

People drive me nuts.  Mayor Peduto initiated our first real bicycle lanes in the heart of Downtown.  I think it’s a fabulous idea and hope to see a lot more of it.  As the Mayor of our fair city and the person responsible for public safety, he made the command decision to place police officers at strategic locations to be sure the transition from a two way motor vehicle road on Penn Avenue to a one way motor vehicle lane with a dedicate two way bicycle lanes went smooth and no one was injured.  Of course there’s the negative residents out there whining about the police overtime.  Would you rather have a cyclist get run over by an inattentive driver that was used to Penn being two way for cars?  And the other thing they are whining about is the lack of bikes on the new lanes.  Did they expect Rome to be built in a day?  It’s going to take awhile to get people out of cars and start being more healthy riding bikes to work and other activities Downtown.  One of the reasons I don’t bike is I’m afraid of the drivers.  I can’t tell you how many times I would be taking RJ down to the park for his run and while crossing the Brighton and Western Avenues intersection (with the green light for us) we were almost run over by a distracted driver on the phone.  One was so close I slammed my palms on her hood to get her attention!

SCORE‘s celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.  Score is generally retired professionals that donate their time and expertise to people thinking of starting their own business.  They are retired accountants, attorneys, business executives, and such.  Not only do they have the experience to guide potential new business owners in the right direction, they have the networks (in SCORE as well as their personal contacts) to steer you to professionals that have more experience where you need help.  When I was getting ready to open The Parador of the Palm Beaches, I worked with the TED Center in Delray Beach and they were very helpful getting my business plan together and they connected me with other small businesses that helped me a lot.  The nice thing about these resources is there’s nothing in it for them to string you along.  It’s totally nonprofit and if your ideas don’t add up, they have no problem telling you so. If you are thinking of starting a new business, I highly recommend checking them out, they’re not perfect, but certainly can give you an edge on getting started than going it alone.

Well, it looks like the August Wilson Center spat is over.  980 Liberty Partners have withdrawn their offer and the group of non-profits is going to pay off the bills.  They are still almost $1M less than 980 offered, so we’ll see how this pans out.  The non-profits are suggesting they may add a hotel on top of the Center themselves.  My concern with this arrangement is there a fair amount of small creditors that I’m afraid will loose out, and their the ones that can least afford it.  One of the main objections the non-profits had was there’s over $30M in citizen money involved in the Center (government as well as non-profit’s money) and they didn’t want to loose that investment.  980 wanted to take ownership of the entire building and give the Center “some” space to continue their operation.  I don’t understand why 980 didn’t just come up with a proposal to leave the Center to the Center and just do what the Fairmont did in the PNC building. You enter the PNC building and take an elevator up to the hotel’s front desk. 980 could have leased access to the hotel they had planned on building.  Anyway,  it seems the Center will now be solvent, they will have a steady revenue stream from the hotel.  The Center just needs to find a developer and a hospitality company to build and run the hotel giving the Center a percentage.  It seems to be a win win for all concerned.

Do you have a smart phone?  If so, so you have a security code to open it’s operation?  Usually it is a four digit number and is fairly secure.  Google is working on face recognition software that if you want to use your phone, you turn it on and aim it at your face.  The phone then will recognize if it is your or not.  There’s nothing much more secure than your own face.  That can’t be hacked.  :)

What’s with Goddard College in Vermont inviting Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak at one of their commencement ceremonies from prison?  Jamal was convicted of ambushing Philadelphia Police Officer Faulkner, shooting him in the back  and as Officer Faulkner lay helpless on his back cold bloodily shot him in his face.  Officer Faulkner left behind a widow and I think two little kids in this 1981 crime.  I’m all for rehabilitation and I think we should look at the way we treat ex-cons.  They’ve paid their price, hopefully did something productive while in prison, like Jamal did and get a college degree.  But Jamal has never expressed regret that I know of and he’s still in prison.  Speaking at a commencement is an honor.  I believe in free speech, but certainly wouldn’t invite James Holmes from Aurora,  CO to speak either.  If I was anyway connected to that college, they certainly would hear from me.

Well, it’s that time of year again, Halloween.  It’s a trend that more and more adults are enjoying Halloween.  It’s a strictly fun holiday with no strings attached.  Thanksgiving you have to worry about cooking, Christmas you have to worry about gifts, cards, decorating, multiple entertainment commitments.  National holidays you remember the horrors and courage that made our country great.  Halloween is just fun, and if you want, it’s a time to give in to our fears.  Fears come in many forms like walking down a dark deserted street in a questionable section of a city, jumping out of an airplane (with a parachute, hopefully :) ), watching a scary movie.  They all induce a basic part of nature in us, fight or flight and our mind releases a chemical dopamine that makes us feel invigorated and invincible.  The thing about scary movies and haunted houses is we have that fear sensation while being aware that we are in control, not like walking down that dark alley.  And even though we know on some levels the haunted house is not a real threat, the fear response does not does not control the rational side and we receive that chemical high.  So if you’re game, here’s some scary things you can visit to get your adrenalin pumping:

Bruce Klein of Photo Antiquities (part of Bernie’s Photos) over on East Ohio Street is hosting his annual Spirits! Good and Evil exhibit.  The exhibit features post mortem photographs which became popular in the 1840’s.  Because of the high infant mortality, parents would frequently have pictures taken of their children after they passed on for remembrance.  They would have the kids staged as if they were asleep, sitting up and some even had their eyes open.  Bruce also has “Spirit” photographs.  These feature translucent or ghost like images that are captured by using a double-exposure technique.  Bruce has an amazing collection of photographs, he can only exhibit a small portion of them at a time.

Academy Hill Ghost Walk, October 17  & 18 starting at the Greensburg YWCA at 424 N Main Street.  Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 in advance.  More info at their website.

Castle Blood in Monessen runs Fridays and Saturdays in October and cost $16.  Castle Blood is located at 100 Schoonmaker Avenue.  More info at their website.

Cheeseman Fright Farm runs Fridays through Sundays in October and cost $15 and are located at 147 Kennedy Road, Portersville, Slippery Rock Township.  More info available at their website.

Demon House is located at 417 Coyle Curtain Road, Monongahela and costs $18.  Open Saturdays and Sundays in October and more info can be found at their website.

Downtown Butler Ghost Walk will be held October 24, 25, 31 and November 1.  Tours cost $10, they begin and end at Diamond Park and reservations are required.  More info at their website or by calling 724-256-9026.

Haunted Guyasuta will occur Saturday, October 18 and will be held at the Guyasuta Boy Scout Camp at 300 23rd Street Sharpsburg with tickets between $10 and $20.  More by calling 724-782-2669.

Haunted Hills Estate runs Fridays through Sundays the month of October and run $14 – $15 per adventure and are located at 236 Rolling Hills Estate Road, North Union.  More info at their website.

Haunted Hillside Haunted Trail runs Fridays and Saturdays through October and cost $17.  They are located 7217 Route 819, Mt Pleasant and more info at their website.

Hell’s Hollow Hunt is Fridays and Saturdays in October and cost $20 ($12 for children 12 and under) and is located at 340 Bestwick Road in Mercer.  More info at their website.

Historic Ghost Tour will be held October 16.  The tour begins at the Tarentum train station and ends at the Gatto’s Diner.  Sponsored by the Tarentum History and Landmarks Foundation the cost is $10 and more info at 724-612-0076.

Historic Haunted Hayride will be October 18 at Bushy Run Battlefield, Route 993, Penn Township.  More info at 724-527-5584 or their website.

Hobgoblin Hikes will be October 17 at Twin Lakes Park, Hempfield and October 24 at Cedar Lake Park, Rostraver.  This one is free and it recommended 8 yrs old and older.  More info at 724-830-3950.

Hundred Acres Manor in South Park is one of the best recommended and is daily (except October 13 & 14) at 1 Hundred Acre Drive, Bethel Park cost $18.  More info at their website.

Huston’s Haunted Hollow Fridays through Sundays all month long cost $18 ($14 for under 52 inches) at 126 Woodland Road, Rockwood (out by Somerset).  More info at their website.

Lincoln Caverns Ghosts & Goblins Fridays and Saturdays in October on Route 22 at Lincoln Caverns just past Huntingdon cost $19.98.  More info at their website.

Lonesome Valley Farms Corn Maze cost $8 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October and will be next to the Westmoreland County Fair Grounds  in Pleasant Township.  More info at their website.

Monongahela Candlelight Ghost Walk will be October 11 & 12 and 17 & 18 and cost $10 and is sponsored by the Monongahela Historical Society.  More info at 724-258-2377 or at their website.

Nemacolin Castle Halloween Ghost Tours cost $9 ($4 for kids) at 136 Front Street in Brownsville.  Presents Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October.  More info at their website.

Phantom Fright Nights is at Kennywood Park Fridays and Saturdays through October cost $32.99.  More info at their website.

Rich Farms Fright Farm runs Wednesday through Sundays in October and cost $25 – $40 for all five attractions.  Located at 2043 Springhill Furnace Road, Smithfield.  More info at 724-564-7644 or their website.

The Scarehouse Thursdays through Sundays in October cost $29.99 and then $29.99 for one guest and $49.99 for two guests to enter the basement.  This long running venue is in Etna with parking at the Zoo’s parking lot.  More info at their website.

The Shadows Haunted Attraction is at 748 Bull Creek Road in Fawn.  It’s open Thursdays through Saturdays (weather permitting) the month of October.  The cost is $10 and more info at their website.

Terror Town is on Smallman Street by 17th Street where that discount seconds store used to be in the  building that has all those night clubs.  Open Thursdays through Sundays in October and cost $20 – $30.  More info at their website.

Terror Trolley Tours depart from Station Square Thursdays through Sundays and cost $25.  More info at 412-391-7433 or their website.

I got this list from a Trib article by Kellie Gormly.  Check the links to the sites, some of the attractions have even more dates they are open.

If you want to be truly terrified, visit The Parador during October to see our fun and ghoulish decorations:

Halloween SkullSpider

Halloween Basket

Halloween Parlor

Halloween Library

Well, that’s it for today, keep warm and have a great week,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Warren Report (1964), the famous letter from “Jack the Ripper” (who most attribute as a hoax-1888) and the battle of Cambrai-Saint Quentin (1918).  Birthdays include Revolutionary leader Samuel Adams (1722), political cartoonist Thomas Nast  (1840) and Confederate naval officer Raphael Semmes (1809).

Sorry, I just posted this and forgot to include pictures of my new chairs.  I found these fabulous campaign chairs at the Ohio Valley Antique Mall on route 65.  Check these out:

front campaign chair

back of campaign chair

Once I get them fixed, they will end up in African Tulip.  I think they’ll be perfect.

Such a warm and fuzzy story.  Pittsburgh Police Detective Jack Mook is a volunteer for training kids how to box.  Two boys he met and coached six years ago became friends with him (the boys were 9 and 5 at the time) and they obviously came from a challenging home environment.  He’d encourage their school work, take them out for pizza after practice sometimes, was sort of a big brother to them.  As time went by, the boys became more and more introverted and without being pushy, Jack would talk to them about their home life, trying to coach them on that as well.  When the biological parents got busted for drugs and they were facing jail time, Jack offered to foster the kids and the parents agreed.  On September 16th, Jack formally adopted the boys.  Though they complain about his strict rules, they admit the structure he gives them a sense of stability.

The VFW is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.  Did you know they held their first convention at the Schenley Hotel in September, 1914?  They are facing steep declines in membership, from around 2.1 million in 1992 to around 1.4 million today.  They definitely have an image problem.  The younger generation views them as a bunch of wizened old guys sitting around drinking cheap drinks in a smoke filled hole in the wall (part of that is true).  :)  But they also burned a lot of bridges.  I wasn’t permitted to join because they didn’t recognize Vietnam Era vets as equal to them (or at least the chapter I tried to enter).  They actually do a lot more than sit around drinking cheap drinks.  They were instrumental in starting the Veteran’s Administration (the current faults of the VA has nothing to do with them), they helped form the National Veteran’s Cemetery system and my hat goes of to them for the the GI Bill which paid a lot of my expenses at Penn State.  They are trying to clean up their image by recruiting on college campuses and admitting women.  Actually, they trace their roots all the way back to 1899 after the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection, but didn’t formally form until 1914.

Back in June I spoke about the House of Gold, it’s a house, once a home, in Wilkinsburg that was slated for demolition.  Artist Dee Briggs lived next door and was distressed that this home, general store, neighborhood anchor was facing a inglorious destruction and thought it deserved better.  She recruited a bunch of friends and 32 gallons of metallic gold paint and covered the entire place so it had some dignity.  She then started a website and blog to chronicle what made this house important.  Her latest endeavor is to have the building gently demolished.  She’s teamed up with a couple of local contractors (Justin Lacey of Day Shift Furniture and Adam Lackett of Engine House Design and construction firm) to take the house apart piece by piece and recycle/reuse everything possible.

Penn’s Colony will be back this weekend with around 185 craftsmen and artisans this weekend in Saxonburg.  They’ve been having this festival for the past 30 years and there’s lots to see and eat.  They have battle re-enactors, live entertainment, etc at the camp grounds.  Admission is $7, $6 for seniors, kids $5 and little kids free.  Saturday it will run from 10 am until 6 pm and Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm. More info at their website or by calling 724-352-9922.

For 25 years, Stephen Chernicky has been building children’s dreams out in my hometown Finleyville at his Lillyput Play Homes.  I never realized how big of a business he ran.  They were hit hard with the housing crash in 2008 and dropped from around $2M to just over $1M last year.  Obviously, a custom child’s playhouse is a luxury and he was afraid he might loose his business during the recession.  He dropped from a workforce of 25 to 15 and entered the international market and his company is on the rebound with international orders.  One of his most unique orders was $60,000 for a pirates ship for a  family in Pakistan.  35% of his sales are now international.  He doesn’t exclusively make high end extravagances.  Some of his more basic playhouses are in the $5k neighborhood.  So just keep in mind, just because it’s not looking too bright, there’s things you can do to keep your dream alive.  :)

RAD days start this week.  RAD (Regional Asset District) collects a portion of the 1% added on sales tax for Allegheny County and one of their requirements for institutions receiving funds must have free admission during the event.  Since founded in 1994, they have distributed $1.5B to various non-profits.  RADical runs from September 24 through October 12 and the free admission is on different days for different institutions.  (There is one “late bloomer”, the Zoo and Aquarium’s RAD day is November 9.)  Check RAD’s website for dates at venues you may be interested in.

I still love John Conti.  He really has some amazing insights, frequently agreeing with my view (like what the Evil Empire Buncher Group tried to pull by tearing down 1/3 of the iconic Terminal Building-they lost totally, by the way.  Buncher is totally out for development plans for the Terminal Building).  :)  Something that has bothered me for years, subliminally was how they treat our hills for development.  And his article in this Sunday’s Trib is very enlightening.  He likens ripping hillsides out creating verticle walls to what strip mining used to do to us.  And the analogy is spot on, except the strip mines were forced to remediate the land they abused.  The hundred plus foot shear cliff behind the Walmart, Lowes, at Robinson Town Center IS an eyesore, and it will be for the next century or more.  Longer than those businesses will be there.  He points out two local developments that were sensitive to the hills they were to occupy also on the Parkway nearby.  Bayer has been on the hillside over looking the Parkway for years with their main building facing the Parkway and parking in back.  As well as Foster Square on the other side of the Parkway closer to town (Foster Square is that development with a Marriott and other businesses tucked in the hills and you really don’t see if from the Parkway).  How many times have you heard the comments from non Pittsburghers about how green our hillsides are and they are amazed at the greenscape in and around our metropolitan area.  I will blame Mr. Conti for every time my blood pressure goes up when I see these eyesores from now on.  :)  As he points out, there’s a lot of advocates out their for many assets that can’t speak for themselves, bike trails, rivers, parks, etc but non for our hills.  And land use control is left up to the local jurisdictions and we all watched what happened down on Route 65 when Walmart’s misuse of grading collapsed onto the road and railway a few years ago.  We need a countywide, at least, land use ordinance to control this development or our grandchildren will have bad things to say about us.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is hosting a bingo this Saturday at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Crafton Heights.  It’s $20 at the door, doors open at 9:30 am and bingo starts at 11 am.  Fun, food, prizes, raffles and furry friends to give you luck.

Also this weekend, Deutschtown is hosting their house tour Sunday from 11 am until 4 pm.  Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.  Tours start at The Priory Courtyard at 614 Lockart Street with free parking in The Priory parking lot.

It’s not every year, but when it happens, it’s BIG! This year, Deutschtown will be hosting the 2014 Historic Deutschtown House Tour on Sunday, October 5th from 11am until 4pm. This year’s self guided tour will feature 8-10 beautiful homes and gardens, many built in the late 1880’s.  The homes are more modest than the mansions in my neighborhood, but lots of loved homes with some unique twists showing what you can do with affordable city living on the Northside.  Maybe you’ll see a home you love and end up being my neighbor.  :) You can’t beat a fifteen minute walk Downtown.

My question on ISIS is if they are making an estimated $2M a day off oil, why can’t we dry up their supply system.  We paid bribes to Pakistanis trying to get supplies through to our troops in Afghanistan and our convoys were constantly under fire by the Taliban.  $2M dollars a day is not a kilo of heroin hidden in the trunk of a car.  It’s pipelines and lots of trucks!  Why can’t we disrupt this?  And why have I never heard anything on this on the news, I ready and listen to it a lot.

Well, that’s about it for today.  Enjoy this spectacular Fall weekend they are forecasting,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of adoption of the Constitution (1787) and the battle of Antietam (1862).  Holidays include Japan’s Respect of the Aged Day and Jewish Rosh Hashanah.  Birth anniversaries include Chief Justice Warren Burger (1907), baseballer Andrew (Rube) Foster (1879), C & W star Hank Williams (1923), Prussian born Revolutionary General Baron Von Steuben (1730), Orville Wright’s passenger that was killed when the plane crashed Thomas Selfridge (1908) and tennis pro Maureen Connolly (1934).

Holy Cow, business has absolutely unbelievable.  We had an 87% occupancy in August and we will go over that in September!  August I was frequently serving 18 – 20 guests breakfast DURING THE WEEK.  A lot of leisure travelers.  September we have a lot of business travelers.  Even though we’re sold out frequently during the week, I may only have 8 or 10 for breakfast, since most business travelers are single.  And my international trade is way up.  We had a Scottish family in for a week several weeks ago, currently we have a gentleman originally from Iraq that lives and works in Australia, and a couple from Singapore in for several days for the same convention.  I received a reservation today from a couple from Mexico coming in for a Steelers game.  I should sit down and make a list of all my foreign guests to see if there’s a pattern.

The 709 Gallery on Penn Avenue is hosting a show by artist Tina Williams Brewer through November 16.  The show is of her quilts and she does them overlapping printed, dyed and various materials to create her images.  African American of heritage, she reaches back to her heritage to use old hieroglyphs and symbols to tell stories.  Most of her imagines are based on mandalas, the ancient Hindu/Buddhist symbol for the universe.  These circles are the center piece of her work.   Tina needs to update her website, a show from 2011 is still listed and Pittsburgh Trust Arts needs to update their website to reflect this show.  But you can see images of what Tina does on her website and the hours, etc for 709 Gallery are at least on that website.  I love that African/Caribbean art.

They estimate that almost half of Americans have had personal or financial information hacked from corporate computers.  And this is not going to let up, it’s just going to get worse, so prepare for it.  By far, most of it is by Chinese or Russian (many formerly Russian republics).  Why go rob a bank, when they can sit on their butt and hack into computers continents away and they don’t have to worry about the police showing up at their door.  You can’t stop it, but you can take precautions.  Use your credit card as much as possible, versus your debit card.  Credit card companies protect your money much better than banks.  Once hackers have access to your bank account, they can siphon off all your $ and there’s not much you can do at that point.  If your at location that takes your credit card out of your sight (many restaurants have there machines back an a pantry kind of area), use your credit card, not your debit card. In particular, use your credit card for all online purchases.  Most hackers seem to do a test run of maybe $10 and keep increasing it until your dry.  I use Slovak Savings Bank and they are incredibly vigilant.  I also use USAA for my credit cards, they also are extremely customer service centered and watch my back.  As always, get your free credit report directly from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  You are entitled for a free credit report once a year and more than that if there’s suspicious activity on your card.  Most credit card companies alert you of large and suspect purchases.  You can request alerts for most any amount, if you want. The solution (at least until the hacker figure out how to break this system) is going to the form used by most other developed countries, using a microchip instead of a magnetic strip.  But that’s going to cost a lot of money for the card issuers to create all new cards and businesses to buy the new machines.  But at the rate these hackers are stealing from us, it’s about time we make the switch.

While we are on the subject of money, I would like to encourage you to have a conversation with friends and family.  Don’t make it accusatory or anything that would put people off.  Most states allow credit collection companies to garner 25% of a persons salary to pay off a dept!  They also allow credit collection agencies to confiscate ALL of the money you may have saved up in a bank account.  They main way they get away with this is people don’t show up for a court hearing.  If someone receives a summons for a court hearing on a debt, DON’T IGNORE IT.  They win by default, even if it’s not your debt, a minor debt, a debt you can correctly fight.  The attorneys representing the debt collection agencies make their money on how many judgements they get in their favor, so they ALWAYS show up for the hearing.  Another ploy they use is to request a postponement when you do show up.  They know how they can legally do this and will do it repeatedly until you get fed up and don’t show up for one of the hearings.  Again, they win by default.  Collection agencies are on record for charging up to 200% interest on the amount owed!  Usually the people in this fix are ones on the lower end of the income scale that are busy working two jobs or such trying to make ends meet.  Frequently their recent grads trying to get started and work long hours and trying to create a new life for themselves.   (But that’s not always the case).  If you know someone that might be in such a situation, have a general conversation that you can bring this up without offending them that “they can’t manage their money.”  This is a very scary thing.

Edgar Kaufmann was one of the most innovative merchandisers of his time, and he was a huge fan of the arts.  In 1929, he commissioned Boardman Robinson to create a a series of 10 huge paintings they called the History of Commerce.  Mr. Kaufmann did a radical thing with his remodeling of the first floor of his Downtown store in the early 1930’s, he put the counters at angles and hung this artwork from the ceilings.  There were there for 25 – 30 years and then came down for a future remodel.  These huge paintings (8′ x 15′) couldn’t fit anywhere for easy storage and because of there size, Kaufmann couldn’t find a museum to take them.  Robinson eventually went out to Colorado and co-founded the Colorado Springs Art Center and the paintings are now stored there in a climate controlled vault.

Have I told you lately I love our new mayor?  Other than like last last clown that sent a crew out slapping down bicycle lane stickers all over the place and declaring us a bike friendly city, Mayor Peduto is taking his time and thinking about how to incorporate bicycle exclusive lanes connecting different areas of the city.  These lane will connect to our many trails and bicyclist will be able to safely navigate the city.  I think I spoke about the diverse and highly educated and experienced people he’s been bringing in to run the city, instead of the ole ‘burg thing of appointing cronies to various positions.  Case in point is our new police chief, Cameron McLay.  A thirty five year police veteran that is known for community involvement and inclusion.  This past weekend, he went to FOP softball game in Brookline to meet with off duty officers to see what their concerns are.  And he didn’t take office until this past Monday.  He’s aware of the racial tensions in the city and called from his old home while coordinating his move here various leaders of stake holder organizations around town to introduce himself.  And supposedly this was strictly on his own, no prompting by Mayor Peduto or others in his office (and I believe this).

I’m a big fan of non-conventional things, in particularly banks.  I know I rant about the greedy SOB’s frequently.  I’ve talked about Kickstarter and the other crowd funding sources, but they are basically charity where you might get a tee shirt or something.  There’s a new thing out there for peer to peer lending sites on the Internet.  Lending Club is the largest, closely followed by Prosper.  While traditional bank lending has been decreasing around 2% per quarter, these options have been growing at 84% per quarter.  Now granted, the percentage is huge because they are so small compared to traditional lenders, but the options are there.  Since they are not a part of the traditional banking system, they write their own qualifications.  Naturally, they want to know what you want the money for, what your assets and liabilities are, but they also have the creative options to take SAT scores into account for new grads and other non-traditional ways to determine credit worthiness.  Though the interest rates on these loans can run from 6% to 40%, depending on your credit worthiness, they usually are less than what credit cards charge.  And the cool thing about this is if you have some extra cash, you can become a lender.  A lot better return than the 1% your bank’s giving you on you savings account (if you can get that much).

Enjoy this cool Fall weather,