Friday, May 29, 2009

puppies, kittens, and see you in Prague

The Animal Rescue League desperately needs foster homes! Foster homes are critical for providing pets with temporary homes until a place becomes available for them at the shelter. That means that fosters help save lives because they prevent having to euthanize pets when space at the shelter isn't available. They currently about 275 cats in foster with over 40 different people, but it just isn’t enough. Already in May, they've taken in 519 cats. Unbelievable! If you are unable to adopt a pet, please consider fostering--the application is here. There are plenty of puppies and kittens that need foster homes, as well as adults--wouldn't you like to have a puppy or kitten in your life, even just for a short while? :)

I leave tomorrow for Prague! First for vacation, then for work. Please check back to this blog starting Sunday--I'll be posting photos of our travels around the Czech Republic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

please help keep state parks open!

An article in today's Post-Gazette said that state budget cuts Republicans are proposing could mean that 50 state parks will close by July 1. "If 35 to 40 parks were closed, the DCNR estimated that approximately 3 million park visitors would be affected and visitor spending in local communities would be reduced by almost $58 million."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

the case for biking to work

Recently I saw a PBS show called Blueprint America about the problems with this country's infrastructure. Today we face not only issues like bridges falling down, but issues that affect our quality of life: suburban sprawl, which has led in PA and elsewhere to the decline of small towns and neighborhoods, traffic jams that not only are maddening but lead to pollution and unsafe streets, and poor public transportation.

The show that I saw, Road to the Future, profiled a couple living in Portland, OR, where a large percentage of residents bike to work. The couple lived in the city and biked everywhere with their two young children. They said they rarely go anywhere they can't bike to.

It made me feel guilty for applying for a parking permit. While it takes me less than 15 minutes to drive to work, it takes me a half hour via bus in the morning (not bad), but between 40 and 45 minutes for the afternoon commute.

One of the (many) reasons both Dave and I like city living is that we have so much more free time because of quick commutes. Dave bikes to work most days and walks when the weather is too icy or rainy to bike. He's never once driven his car to work in the five years he's worked Downtown! His bike commute takes him 10 minutes each way. Compare that to commuters who live in the suburbs and have an hour commute each way (which is very common where I work). If you take out two weeks vacation, it comes to 500 hours, or roughly 20 full days, of people's lives every single year that they spend driving to work. And that doesn't take into consideration the costs they spend on gas, car maintenance, and parking; the congestion they contribute to; and the greenhouse gas emissions they contribute, which is fouling up our entire planet. It makes perfect sense to us to live in the city where we don't have to drive to work and can walk most places. (And for those who say they won't live in the city because of city taxes, obviously they pay more for car gas, maintenance, and parking than the tax increase.)

Given this, it's hard to stomach a 40-minute commute when I live 15 minutes away. But I hate the idea of driving to work and contributing to congestion and pollution. SO, I'm saying it here, publicly, so I can't back out of it: I'm going to start biking home from work. My morning commute is up through Polish Hill, so I'd have to shower in my building before work because I'll be sweaty from the ride (and, furthermore, I seriously doubt that I'd be able to make it up the hill without stopping and pushing). Luckily, my bus, the 54C, has a bike rack, so I can put my bike on the rack and ride the bus in the morning, then ride my bike home after work, which is all downhill and should be pretty quick.

This is a huge step for me because I've never been comfortable biking on roads. I like mountain biking on trails, but even then I'm pretty uncoordinated and fall and hurt myself a lot. But I'm going to start! The Port Authority has some instructional guides on how their Rack and Roll program works. I'm going to start as soon as I'm back from Prague in two weeks. Wish me luck!

Oh, and if this has inspired you, please consider taking mass transit, biking, or walking to work! Watch that Road to the Future documentary I linked to above, seriously. And here's a link to Bike Pittsburgh, who advocates biking to work.

Image taken by Dave, who not only commutes via bike to work, but also takes hour-long bike rides every day after work, as well as multi-hour rides on weekends, all over the city.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

i love my garden!

Over the past month we've planted a bunch of perennials in the square we cut out of the concrete patio. Here are the before pictures. Here's what it looks like now!We got the rocks from a demolished house on the side of Route 28 instead of paying $11 per rock from Home Depot. I spend every evening I can after work outside, and Dave and I eat dinner most nights at the little bistro table, which is completely private and secluded from our neighbors. I love this space! I'll post more pictures as the plants grow in. Here's a list of what I planted:
  • Grey Creeping Thyme
  • Spiderswort
  • Lamb's Ears
  • Elijah Blue Fescue Grass
  • Blue Oat Grass
  • Geranium
  • Coneflower
  • Moss Saxifrage
  • Sea Thrift
  • Mountain Bluet
  • Emerald Blue Creeping Phlox
  • Columbine
  • Meadow Sage (Purple Salvia)
  • Stratosphere White
  • Artemisia Silver Mound
  • Ghost Fern
  • Fountain Grass
  • Tickweed
  • Jacob's Ladder
  • Miscanthus Morning Light Grass

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Enon played a great show last night at The Smiling Moose in the South Side. They lamented to us about the ridiculous liquor control in Pennsylvania. "We just want to go to Trader Joe's and buy alcohol!" Yes, we share their pain. Abolish the PLCB! The show was a lot of fun--thanks, Enon, for coming to see us in Pittsburgh. If you haven't heard them, check out High Society, my favorite album.

After the show, we experienced Carson Street crazinesss. Driving down Carson Street at 1:45 a.m. is definitely an experience. The streets were filled with falling-down-drunk people. Guys were doing somersaults on the sidewalks, girls were walking barefoot in the middle of the street holding their heels in their hands, people were passed out on residents' front stoops, people ran up to our car to give us high fives through the window, and, perhaps the oddest thing, some guys clucked like chickens at us through the car window.

road trip: ebensburg, altoona, & hollidaysburg

This is the first long weekend in, well, forever, that we haven't gone away. But we're leaving next weekend for vacation and have so much to do that we opted for a quick little day trip to central PA instead of a weekend away. We stopped in Ebensburg (not much there), Altoona (fairly big for a small town, with a lot of murals), and Hollidaysburg (which is definitely the cutest of the three). It was a longer drive than we thought. And it was hot!

We take our DeLorme Altas & Gazetteer everywhere. It shows a lot of back roads, parks, historical sites, etc. Perfect for little road trips--we have one for PA, WV, and Maine from our trip last year.

Friday, May 22, 2009

new music for the weekend

This week I subscribed to a great free music site: lala. You can listen to any song or album for free once, so it's a great way to check out new music. They also give you 50 free song credits when you join, so you can add 50 songs to your account that you can play as much as you want. You can also, of course, buy songs. Here are some of my favorite new tracks:

Young Adult Friction by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Moth's Wings by Passion Pit

Stillness is the Move by Dirty Projectors

Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear (weird--I heard this via lala on, but it's not showing up when I log into lala, so here it is on myspace.)

You can also play full albums for free on Pitchfork's album reviews page. Looking forward to listening to the new Deerhunter and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) albums.

Happy new music finding!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

so tempted. but i won't. except for one thing.

Arrrgh. My fingers are itching to write about local politics, particularly yesterday's primary. Beyond that, I'm itching to start an anonymous blog to inform the 95% of city residents who are absolutely clueless how city government really operates in this city. I'd argue that only those who have dealt with the city directly really know. (I was in community development, so I know.) It pains me to read blogs and hear buzz from the ignorant city masses and not be able to say to them, "Look, here's how things really work. It's ugly, maddening, and sickening."

But...I won't. Engaging in politics only breeds negativity (my experience, anyway) and, aside from that, no one would ever hire me if I became known as a whistle-blower.

Except...except...OK, I just have to say that the local bloggers have no clue about the Ceoffe versus Banahasky fight for district judge. NO. CLUE. Tony has done SO much for his community. He's intelligent, a hard worker, and fights hard for what he believes in. He's made a huge impact in alleviating crime in Lawrenceville, and district judge is a great and well-deserved next step for him. YAY, Tony!

And while I'm talking politics...the election results on last night's news were the third story down. The top story was that Najeh Davenport's car was stolen. Davenport is the ex-Steeler who broke into a female dorm at Barry University in 2002 and took a crap in her laundry basket while she slept...which is why he's known locally as The Defecator. Yep, that's Pittsburgh for you.

OK, that's it. No more politics on this blog!

Monday, May 18, 2009

mitsy--please help spread the word!

Mitsy, who I'm fostering for the Animal Rescue League, desperately needs to find a forever home by the end of the month. She needs a home without children or other cats, with someone who will be patient with her as she adjusts to her new surroundings. I think she'd be a wonderful companion for seniors living alone. She is talkative, enjoys being around people, and has good house manners with impeccable litter box habits. Please help pass the word around to anyone who may be interested. Her ad in the local paper is here.

banjos, piergoies, biker rally & lake arthur

Yesterday we went to the Ambridge Nationality Days mainly for pierogies (delicious, as was the haluski), but I was delighted to find an even better treat: the Pittsburgh Banjo Club. They practice every Tuesday in the North Side, and I'd seen them before thanks to Pam D. and Amy C. but it was fun to see them again.

Today we took a drive on a sunny afternoon up 79 to Ellwood City, where a biker rally was going on (we didn't fit in very well), then on to New Castle and Moraine State Park.

Friday, May 15, 2009

walk around town

Nice walk after work: across the 16th Street Bridge, through Downtown to Market Square, across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and then back on the river trail. Love that I can walk to so many places from my house.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

white for summer

The only time I've worn a white dress was for my wedding, and even then it was off-white. But all I'm seeing online are pretty white outfits for the summer, like the following shots from Lucky's Sexy Summer Street Style. So I'm on a mission to find a white dress that's both sweet and sexy, that I can dress up or dress down. And a white scarf is a must-have too.

pierogie season starts this weekend

The season for summer church and nationality festivals, all of which seem to feature home-made Polish and Slovak food, starts this weekend with Ambridge Nationality Days. There will be over 100 vendors, crafts booths, ethnic entertainment, and the Pierogie Challenge, which seeks to find the best pierogies in Ambridge. I love festivals, small towns, and pierogies, so I can't wait!

Photo from Ambridge Nationality Days website.

Monday, May 11, 2009

palindrome curb appeal

Our house hasn't had house numbers since we moved in--all we've had are decals on our mailbox. So last year Dave and I looked at every possible website we could find for house numbers. The numbers I liked best were the Neutra numbers from Design Within Reach, originally designed by architect Richard Neutra for mid-century buildings he designed. But at $50 a pop, we just couldn't stomach spending $150+ on house numbers. So we did nothing.

Recently, while at Home Depot, we found numbers very similar to the Neutra numbers, complete with the floating aspect that gives them a shadow. And they were $5 a number! Dave installed them this weekend. Here they are in the daylight and at night underneath our outside light. And yes, I love that our house number is a palindrome :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

vegan shoes at pavement

I wanted comfortable but also cool shoes to wear for both work and sightseeing in Prague, so yesterday I headed to the store with the coolest shoes in Pittsburgh, Pavement in Lawrenceville. Last year I bought my first pair of J-41s from Pavement--made of recycled rubber and other materials from the Jeep company, they're 100% vegan and so comfortable that I wore them everywhere.

I left Pavement with three new pairs of J-41s! Two are funky but comfy heels I can wear for work (one is pictured here), and the other are a different version of the J-41s I bought last year--perfect for walking a lot and sightseeing. And they were all on sale, so I got three pairs for what it would have cost me to get two pairs from Zappos.I hadn't seen Alissa, the owner, since I left Lawrenceville last summer, so it was good to catch up with her. She said three new restaurants are coming to Lawrenceville soon, right in her area of Lower Lawrenceville: Sufak's is becoming a Mexican cantina, an asian fusion restaurant is opening up (finally--they were supposed to open back when I worked there), and a coffee shop is going in just a few doors down. Exciting!

Pavement also has a lot of really cute clothes and accessories. If you want really cute and funky shoes and clothes that no one else has, be sure to check out Pavement--definitely my all-time favorite shoe store! (Note that their website is down right now, but they're at 3629 Butler Street; 412-621-6400.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

new york magazine says come to pgh!

Pittsburgh's arts scene is in New York Magazine's travel section as a suggested weekend escape. I have to admit that seeing things like this (of course Lawrenceville is mentioned!) makes me miss my old job. Even now, I can't help but shout this out here, on Twitter, etc. I guess promoting Pittsburgh is in my blood!

Earlier this week, my friend Pam D., who I worked with in Lawrenceville, was in town and organized a fun happy hour with an equally fun group of ladies. It was wonderful seeing Pam (she had me in stitches all night) and it was good to talk to others from Lawrenceville. They told me I'm missed :( I miss them too! I once told Pam I loved how she described the job on her LinkedIn account: The toughest job I've ever loved. True 'dat!

Just one more thing about the article though--I love how they give a nod to Pittsburghese though they didn't get it quite right...yinzers come in all ages! "The Pittsburgh accent and unique turns of phrase are derived from early Scotch-Irish immigrants and still used by older residents, known as “yinzers.”"

hard to believe this happens

This week I watched an episode on PBS's Frontline called Sex Slaves about sex trafficking. The documentary was filmed in Eastern Europe (women from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Hungary were trafficked into Istanbul, Turkey) but this practice is a multimillion dollar global industry.

It can start with women answering classified ads for waitresses, maids, and other legitimate jobs but, more often, someone who knows the women will tell them they can make money in another country. The documentary followed a trafficker named Olga who promised women domestic jobs in Instabul for $200 weekly pay. Some of the women did in fact get the legitimate jobs they were promised. Olga took others across the border, met up with men who paid for the women (in one instance $1,000), and told the women to go with the men, that they'd be fine. The women were then taken to an apartment (in one story, 22 girls lived in a three-bedroom apartment) and beaten and raped by the traffickers before being told they needed to work as prostitutes in order to pay off their debt. The women were raped 24 hours a day by customers, often between 10 and 25 men a night. They were also beaten regularly, at least once a day. After some time of this, the women were often sold to other traffickers, making it impossible for them to repay their debt.

That this is a common practice that happens regularly today is both frightening and heartbreaking. But, what's even worse, is that there's so little help or even empathy for these women. When traffickers are caught and charged, they often serve no jail time. Olga, the trafficker that the Frontline producers filmed trafficking women three years ago when the documentary first aired, was never arrested and is still living in Moldova.

Still feeling a little sick to my stomach thinking of this, I logged on to the local news today to see two back-to-back headlines: one about a puppy found killed and burned and another about a cat killed with an arrow. Sex trafficking and animal abuse are two different issues, I know, but underlying both is depravity, cruelty, and evil that is hard to imagine existing in so many people today.

But, it does.

Image from PBS's website.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

simple fruit salad

Years ago my friend Jill made this fruit salad for a summer dinner at her house. I've been making it ever since. The ingredients couldn't be more simple--watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, and grapes--but it keeps for a week in the fridge and is delicious and refreshing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

joey's trees

Last night we went to the opening reception for Tree, a photo exhibit by Joey Kennedy at the office of Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest on Penn Avenue that was part of the monthly Unblurred art crawl. Joey's photos were amazing--and of course, I loved the tree focus! The space was cool too. The wood floors were made by a local woodworker. Here's what their site says: "Our new office floor was made by John Metzler, a local Pittsburgh woodworker at Urban Tree Forge right in Highland Park. John gives new life to trees that have been removed in the City of Pittsburgh, turning them into furniture, sculpture, flooring, and other functional wood products. Friends is proud to feature completely local flooring and to put salvaged wood to use." Also in their office was a cool sculpture made from a tree, and what I think were teeny baby seedling trees. Their site has lots of good tips and resources for tree care, so check it out. Joey's photos will be on display through the end of August, so stop by to see them if you're in the neighborhood.