Friday, July 31, 2009

a good week = three new bags

I'm a bag girl. So is Kate (an entire closet in her house is devoted just to bags and dresses). When I visited her last weekend in Providence (those pictures are coming soon), I told her I was on the hunt for a new bag. If I'm not biking, I need a bag for work that will fit my wallet, makeup bag, a book, shoes, a wrap, and a laptop. It also needs to have compartments for a little notebook, gum, my MP3 player, and phone. So it needs to be really sturdy--ones I've bought from Target have cracked under the pressure of carrying my heavy loads.

Kate took me to a shop called Strada and introduced me to Ellington bags. She bought one last fall and swears by it. She says she hasn't used any other bags since--a pretty strong statement from girls like us who love buying new bags.

I ended up buying this bag in red (admittedly, Kate spied it first and was going to buy it for herself. She graciously let me have it, but then this week bought another one online.)
Doesn't look like much, right? You can't tell in this picture what a smart design it has, including four outer pockets perfect for carrying water bottles, shoes, umbrellas, etc.; two large interior pockets, one with compartments for phone, pens, and a clasp for keys; two additional zipped interior pockets; a very roomy interior; and a zipped pocket that lets you slide it over a luggage handle.

I got to know this bag really well waiting all day in the airport when my flight was delayed, and it was a godsend. It's sturdy, all canvas (so vegan, which is nice), fits my laptop and all my essentials, and the compartments made it easy to find my plane tickets, itinerary, etc. I'll definitely use this bag for travel, but it's quickly becoming my go-to work bag too (easy to find my bus pass and other necessities quickly).

I loved it so much that I just bought another Ellington bag!
This is the same one Kate has. She uses it for work and for going places with her two-year-old son. Like the tote I bought, this has four exterior pockets, lots of compartments, is very roomy inside, and is very sturdy. It's smaller, so I'll use it to whenever I'm out and about and need to carry my camera, a water bottle, a wrap, and other necessities. It will be great for exploring places on day and weekend trips since it fits so much. I can't wait to get it in next week!

In addition to the Ellington bags, I bought a bike messenger bag from REI that I desperately needed. I use an old backpack, which is pretty embarrassing since big backpacks are so ten years ago (which is pretty much when I got it). Dave has the same bag and says it fits nicely and doesn't swing when he's riding, is waterproof, and is roomy enough inside for my laptop, shoes, change of clothes, and everything else I carry to work. I'll pick it up from REI next week.
My idea of a great week: one where I get three new bags!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Because I was visiting Kate last weekend, I missed a joint suprise party for my mom's 65th and sister Chris' 40th birthdays. They each thought it was a surprise party for the other. The theme was a rockin' luau, and everyone lip-synched to a song. Dave took these pictures. I love them. It looks like it was a lot of fun. I'm sorry I missed it, but I'd previously made plans with Kate to visit that weekend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

fun weekend but worst flight ever

I’m finally home, back from my weekend in Providence and trying not to let the worst flight I’ve ever had taint the fun weekend I had.

My 8:30 p.m. US Airways flight into Philly last night was delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight into Pittsburgh. They said the delay was due to weather and therefore not their responsibility and refused to compensate for a hotel, a taxi, food vouchers, or to even give an apology. I could either sleep in the Providence or Philly airport since the next flight I could get was the next morning.

So I stayed in Providence at Kate’s house once again, which I really appreciated—I know how tough it is to have overnight guests when you need to work in the morning, especially with a two-year-old. Thanks very much to Kate for driving me to the airport at 5:30 this morning to catch my 7:10 flight!!!

After not getting on standby for earlier flights, I got the 2 p.m. flight out of Philly and got home at 4-- a 16-hour delay. There were many of us with similar sob stories just trying to get home. In an earlier flight, people who had been booked on the flight got bumped to make room for crew members who missed canceled flights the night before. Of course, those people got compensated, but no such luck for all the rest of us who were supposed to get home last night and waited around in the airport for hours.

Well, at least I'm home. I'm happy to be home. I'll be posting pictures of my fun weekend in Providence with Kate later this week--we explored Providence, ate at really awesome restaurants, bought great stuff at local boutiques, walked on the Rhode Island coast in Newport, and relaxed at her very cool Dutch Colonial with her husband Billy, son Peter, and cats Dewey, Sid, and Bean. (I want to bring Dewey and Bean back to live with me. I think Kate and Billy are cool with that, but Dave won't be.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

off to providence

Tomorrow I leave for Providence, Rhode Island to visit Kate who moved there last fall. I'm looking forward to a long weekend catching up with her, seeing how much her son Peter has grown, seeing her new house, and exploring Providence and possibly other parts of Rhode Island.

I'm steeling myself for lots of ocean--RI is the Ocean State, after all. As some may remember, I have a deep and irrational fear of the ocean after watching Jaws on the big screen when I was four years old. Ocean aside, I can't wait!

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

pittsburgh vintage grand prix

We stopped by the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix yesterday. We'd never been before, but it was pretty cool! It's the nation's largest vintage sports car race and the only one run on city streets. Their website says they get more than 250,000 spectators. The cars were pretty cool...unfortunately, because they were racing, it was hard to get good shots. It continues today.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

cool installations, panoramic photos, edgy tees

Last night's Gallery Crawl may have been the best I've ever attended! The rain towards the beginning didn't keep people away. The galleries were crowded with people, and we ran into a bunch of people we know. Dozen Bake Shop is opening a new location Downtown and were passing out free, fresh, yummy mini-capcakes. Thanks!

At 937 Liberty Avenue, there was really cool photography including some awesome panoramics. I also loved the Cultural Trust posters for various events over the years they had on display. 943 Liberty, which used to be a porno shop, was home to The Cotton Factory for the night. They created new designs specifically for the event. You can get them all and other great tees on their website. They were serving up Pabst Blue Ribbon and made a skull of the used cans...pretty cool.
And the cool tee I got--thanks, Cotton Factory!
The installations at the Wood Street Galleries were really incredible. In this photo, they had a ladder set up and had some sort of white, sticky string blowing out of a machine and onto it, creating a shroud of white on the ladder. It was pretty cool.
This was a similar concept, except the machine spun out hot wax to make a giant circle of green wax.
In one of the galleries we ran into John Morris, who used to run the Digging Pitt Gallery in Lawrenceville. We got to talking about how awesome Pittsburgh is, and John said something that I think is really spot on. He said Pittsburgh isn't a ready-made city. It doesn't offer a canned, pre-packaged, easy experience. Instead, you have to seek out the unique, the interesting, the authentic--the very things that make Pittsburgh so cool. I think this is why so many of us Pittsburgh cheerleaders love the city--there's just so much to continually discover, and we all love exploring it.

We also talked about the furries who were in town for their annual convention over the July 4 weekend and how much we hope they continue to come to Pittsburgh. John posted some awesome pictures of them enjoying drinks at Tonic on his blog. By the way, his blog is a great way to keep updated on the arts scene in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

braddock youth gardening project

We stopped in Braddock last weekend, and I was really impressed with their youth urban farming initiative.

This was probably a big vacant lot and is now a community garden pretty enough that we couldn't help but stop the car, get out, and walk around. Great idea--they used an old billboard frame at the entrance to the garden as a sign: Braddock Green Youth Organic Urban Family Initiative Community.
Paving stones that made up the walkway had messages from the kids involved. Great way to get kids personally invested in the project.
Another part of the garden, with colorfully painted benches inviting the community in.

In Lawrenceville, I went to a school and talked about our anti-litter program, why litter was bad, and why they should help to keep the streets cleaned. The kids were jumping around in their seats and could have cared less what I said. This idea is much more effective--get kids to paint a garbage can and decorate it using their own words. They'll likely be personally engaged in the message to respect the park and not litter. It's working--there wasn't a scrap of litter around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

july birthdays & playing in the park

Yesterday was my Mom's and cousin Emma's birthdays, and today's my Aunt Jo Ann's. Happy Birthday! Here's Mom, Emma, and Olivia (who shares my birthday) at Emma's 1-year birthday party on Sunday at Cedar Creek Park.
Cousin Sarah, niece Katharine, me, cousin Olivia, and Aunt Jo Ann swinging.
Dave jumping off the swings.
Playing on the seesaw.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

whirlwind tour of pittsburgh

We had a lot of fun this weekend with Tim, Dave's good college friend and best man at our wedding, and his wife Jean, who live in Portland, Oregon.

On Friday we went on a fun biking tour. Starting from our house in the North Side, near the Heinz factory and lofts, we went on the river trail to 31st Street Bridge, crossed to the Strip District, then biked up through Polish Hill. We took Melwood Ave. to Oakland and stopped at the Cathedral of Learning. This is the chapel on the Cathedral lawn and a view inside the Cathedral.

We got lunch at Uncle Sam's Subs in Oakland and ate under the canopy at Schenley Plaza. We saw the remaining wall from Forbes Field, then biked into Schenley Park where we picked up the Eliza Furnace Trail (the jail trail) on the other side of the railroad tracks. We took that four miles to the Point. I had to stop and take a picture of this For Rent sign in one of the jail cells!

Here's Tim, Dave, and Jean at the Point.

Next we biked over the Ft. Duquesne Bridge to see the Steelers and PNC Park Stadiums. (Tim is a big sports fan, and Tim, Jean, and Dave are all architects.)We took the river trail back home, but first stopping to see my favorite little building in Pittsburgh, behind the Alcoa building, designed by architect Frederick John Osterling.

It ended up taking four hours, but was a nice way to see a lot of the city. After we showered and relaxed for a little bit, we drove them through the Mexican War Streets and Allegheny West neighborhoods in the North Side and to the Children's Museum (Jean wanted to see it because it's a green building), then walked Downtown for a tour of architecture and historical landmarks. This is a shot of the cemetery beside Trinity Cathedral on Sixth Ave., which contains some of the oldest graves in Pittsburgh.

Here's a detail of a facade of a building on Wood Street designed by Osterling, the same architect who did the little building above.

After the walking tour we went back to the Cultural District and had drinks and dinner at Six Penn. Their Strawberry Basil Mojito is fabulous, and we had delicious food and great wine (Jean picked it--a Sauvignon Blanc from Kunde Estates).

We were all up late on Friday night (the guys were up late, but I woke up in the middle of the night and Grubble wasn't sleeping with me, so I panicked thinking he got out of the house and made Dave walk around the block at 4 a.m. looking for him...turns out he was sleeping with Tim and Jean on the third floor), so we had a late breakfast at DeLuca's in the Strip.

After that, we drove them through some of the neighborhoods to see interesting architecture, cool business districts, and new development projects. We went through Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Penn Avenue (we stopped in the Pittsburgh Glass Center, another green building that Jean wanted to see), Friendship, and Bloomfield.

We ran out of time and didn't get to visit the Warhol Museum (a big bummer), but overall they saw a lot of the city in a short time, and it was fun for us to show them around. We love playing tour guide!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

neighborhoods are the essence of pittsburgh

1. Recently a coworker said that the two biggest draws for out-of-towners are Fallingwater and the Warhol Museum. And, in fact, friends visiting from Portland, OR this weekend are at Fallingwater today and want to go to the Warhol Museum tomorrow.

2. A post on Darcey's blog about restaurant options in San Francisco made the Pittsburgh cheerleader in me come out in full force and remind her and Rachna that there are a variety of restaurant options here. I said that on Craig Street alone, there are two Indian restaurants (both with awesome lunch buffets), Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, French (crepes), American sandwiches and wraps, Chinese, and raw food/vegan all in just a few blocks.

These two things led me to this post as a reminder to everyone about Pittsburgh's 88 (or 90, depending on who you talk to) neighborhoods. Pittsburgh's greatest asset is its neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor and character. Before I ever started promoting neighborhoods as my last job, I loved exploring them. Sure, everyone knows the Strip District is the open-air market district and that Bloomfield is Pittsburgh's Little Italy (right?), but how many people know about all the many city steps all over the city that are fascinating to explore? Or that in the Spring Hill neighborhood there's a cemetery that has views of the city that rival Mt. Washington's? Or the fascinating architecture in Lawrenceville, like the old Stable Building, Engine House, and Ice House? Or about Penn Avenue's resurgence as an arts district? Or Friendship's residential streets lined with old, stately, beautiful Victorian-era mansions?

Many visitors coming to Pittsburgh choose only to go to its most well-known destinations. Great, fine. Absolutely go to the Warhol Museum! But visitors lose out when they don't explore the neighborhoods. Yes, we are taking our friends to the Warhol (for a beer-tasting event!) but we're also going to explore the nearby Mexican War Streets and Allegheny West, which have some of the most beautiful residential streets in the city.

OR, visitors to Pittsburgh will choose very "safe" activities, like going to Station Square or Shadyside where there are known chain restaurants and public parking lots. Nothing against either of those--they have their place in the city too--but the result can be a very packaged and sterile experience that lacks the authenticity that makes Pittsburgh so great.

So, here is my plea. If you live here and haven't explored Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, what are you waiting for? If you need guidance, check out the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Tours website, which has suggested itineraries for touring seven really awesome neighborhoods. (Rachna, check out the food tour!) If you have out-of-towners visiting, don't just give them sterile experiences they can have in any city. Take them into the neighborhoods, and they'll be wowed.

The neighborhoods are the essence of Pittsburgh. Please support them!

Photo from the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Tours site of Who Knew? Retro-Mod Decor shop in Lawrenceville.

Monday, July 6, 2009

mountain biking in the laurel highlands

This weekend we went biking on my favorite trails in the Roaring Run Natural Area in the Laurel Highlands. It was about an 11-mile, two-hour ride, and it wiped me out. Some of the sections--rocky, steep singletrack on the sides of steep hills--were tougher than I remembered. But overall it was fun, fun, fun.

Rolling singletrack through fern-filled forest on the McKenna trail. Pretty!
Memorial marker where three people died in 1896. Creepy!Cemetery in the middle of the woods. Also creepy!
Foundation of an old school.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

ya gotta regatta

Scenes from the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta yesterday...

Bad food on the Roberte Clemente Bridge. It was cool (nice!), and storm clouds threatened all day.
The PA State Police gave simulations on a car rollover with dummies, first with seatbelts and then without. The unbelted dummies got jacked up--wow, who'd have thunk? Frisbee dog show! This guy rescues all his dogs and trains them. Love that he makes sure the audience knows that. The "Pittsburgh style" beer garden certainly isn't like the beer gardens in Prague!
Pro mountain bike stunt guy Mike Steidley doing cool tricks.Motocross stunt show.And the big highlight: Nik Wallenda walks 1,000 feet across and 200 feet above the Allegheny River using nothing but his balancing pole. The huge crowd let out a collective gasp when it started raining. Luckily the rain lasted only a minute, and Nik made it across. Cheers to Nik!!!