Friday, August 28, 2009

hot weekend

Sprout Fund's Hothouse event is this Saturday. This will be my first time, and I'm dragging Dave with me. I'm looking forward to the event itself and also seeing a lot of friends. Tickets include unlimited food and drinks all through the event, a bunch of bands, and Sprout-supported community-based projects. I planned on wearing my teetering platform heels with my vintage dress I bought with Kate in San Francisco, but a note on the website advises to "wear sensible shoes." The heels are not so sensible, but I can't exactly wear flip-flops with the dress. Time to raid my shoe stash!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

driving in rush hour sucks

This week I went to a friend's house for dinner after work, so I drove in. This is the view of backed-up traffic on Fifth Avenue right before the intersection with Penn Avenue. Driving to and from work in rush hour traffic seems like a particularly awful form of self-torture. Why do people do it? I'm happy I don't. My bus/bike combo commute suits me just fine. The bike ride home is fun, it takes 15 minutes less time than riding the bus home, and I don't have to deal with traffic like this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

can i keep him?

video

Rasputin goes to the Animal Rescue League Wednesday night for adoption. You can see that he is extremely attached to me. He came in as a hissing, growling stray, likely with little contact with people. He's such a sweetheart now. I want to keep him so much my heart aches when I think about having to take him in. But...if he's gone from a semi-feral into this sweet lovey-dovey guy, then I guess my job as a foster mom is done...and he needs to go to his permanent home. But it won't be easy to give him up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

north side summer celebration

I love festivals. We go to the North Side Summer Celebration every year at St. Boniface Church (right beside 279 North). There's standard carnival food mixed in with buttery dough-and-cabbage treats like pierogies and haluski, delicous home-baked desserts that cost next to nothing, games, rides, raffles, slots, and entertainment (Johnny Halo and the Angels...every single year!) More than that, I love the down-home, community feel. This past weekend was perfect weather for the festival. In this photo, you can see Downtown in the distance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

i love/hate the new casino

Pittsburgh's new Rivers Casino opened two weeks ago. It sits on the riverfront on the North Shore, right beside the Carnegie Science Center. The bike trail goes right through the property. The first time I biked past it, I was mesmerized. And the next time I biked past it, I was mesmerized. The first week it opened, I wanted to go there nearly every night. And then...we went there this past week. And gambled. And lost.

Things I Love About the Casino
1. It's a very quick bike ride from my house, about 15 minutes.
2. The outdoor light poles have speakers that play the casino music.
3. It's a fairly cool, slightly modern design. It puts the Mountaineer and other local rinky-dink casinos to shame.
4. It has beautiful landscaping along the river trail and a nice amphitheater.
5. It has a lot of big windows so you can see the three-story, glowing chandelier and people having fun in the bar.

Things I Hate About the Casino
1. Absolutely no good vegetarian food options. Pre-packaged salads and pizza don't count.
2. The faux exclusivity vibe of the only formal restaurant, Andrew's Steak & Seafood, is annoying. Both D and I and other people I know have been turned away for not having reservations, when nearly half the tables were empty.
3. No bike parking.
4. A confusing, tight parking garage on the inside, a monstrosity from the outside.
5. Tight, deceptive slots. When Dave and I played the nickel slots, we didn't realize it was defaulted to the maximum bet...of $5! We wondered why our money was going so fast. Even the penny slots were defaulted to a minimum bet of 40 cents, so the cheapest good slots to play (you could play some true penny slots, but they were all on cheesy machines) were the quarter slots. Because nickels are usually my high limit, I wasn't happy about that. We quickly lost $30.

Conclusion
The casino has been carefully designed to take my money. I don't like that. But it is still calling me...will I be able to resist its temptations?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

best home project: backyard patio & garden

Redesigning our back patio to include a perennial garden was one of the most rewarding home projects we've done since moving into our house six years ago. (See before pictures here and here.) We frequently use this green, shady, private outdoors space for get-togethers with friends, grilling and eating outside after work, and relaxing with cocktails in the evenings. We recently bought a strand of outdoor string lights from Target that we hung on the underside of our deck. They give a warm glow to the whole backyard, making the space very inviting and pretty. Adding to the glow are the many lightning bugs who visit our garden often. We never had lightning bugs (or bees or butterflies) before planting the garden this year--a nice bonus!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

visit to foxburg

This past weekend we took a drive up to Foxburg, a very cute little town nestled in the hills, right on the Allegheny River, in Clarion County. It took a little over an hour to get there from Pittsburgh. It was a nice drive on a sunny, summer day.

Foxburg has a very small main street but was bustling. With restaurants offering seating right on the river, some antique shops, a chocolate store, and a wine cellar (we bought a bottle of the Foxburg chardonnay--very good!), it's a little tourist destination. Who knew? (I didn't until a Twitter pal clued me in.) There was a lot of new development--a hotel, restaurant, and bridge. Who is investing in Foxburg? I'm nearly positive they're not part of the state's Mainstreets program. A private developer perhaps?On the drive back, we stopped in Butler.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

more squiggy

Didn't see this cute picture of Squiggy when I posted the kitten pictures yesterday. Too cute not to post--Squiggy licking his lips! Squiggy is super, super friendly and affectionate. If I don't immediately pick him up when I come into his room, he tries to climb up my leg. He likes to be as close to my face as possible, and cuddles right under my neck or on my shoulder. He's also a voracious eater--more so than the other kittens. In this picture, he jumped onto my lap after eating. Rasputin, who likes to be the only one on my lap, is getting ready to try to push him off. I just love them all. It will be bittersweet to see them get adopted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

kittens: rasputin, lenny, and squiggy

I've so enjoyed fostering these loving, affectionate kittens. All little loverboys, they jump onto my shoulders, crawl all over me, nestle into my lap, and give little kitten kisses all over my face. They have lots of love to give. They are available for adoption from the Animal Rescue League. Contact me if interested!

LennySquiggyRasputin

Friday, August 14, 2009

happenings in the burgh

Whoever says there's nothing to do in Pittsburgh isn't looking very hard. Here are my top picks for the next few weekends.

This Weekend: August 14-16
Bike Fest. There are a bunch of cool bicycle-themed events all weekend, brought to you by Bike Pittsburgh, who works to make Pittsburgh a safe, accessible, and friendly place to bike. We're going to their kick-off fundraising party tonight at The Pittsburgh Opera's offices in the Strip.

Next Weekend
: August 19-22
My favorite church/neighborhood festival: North Side Summer Celebration is happening at Holy Wisdom Parish (the church adjacent to 279 North right after the on-ramp from East Ohio Street.) Sure, there are rides and slots and a car cruise, but we go for the homemade pierogies, halushki, other Polish yumminess, and baked goods.

Pogoalooza 6 takes place August 19-21 and features extreme pogo athletes. Fun!

Next Next Weekend: August 28-29
Great Lake Swimmers are playing a free show at Schenley Plaza in Oakland on Friday, August 28.

The Sprout Fund's popular Hothouse benefit event is happening Saturday, August 29 at Walnut Capital’s new Bakery Square development on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End. There will be music, performances, art, food, and drinks.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

wacky stuff at pittsburgh visionary arts festival

Read about some of my favorite stuff from the festival at The Savvy Grouse, a blog from PA residents about the many awesome things to see and do in PA.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

scenes from providence: day three

Actually, these are scenes from Newport, where we went on Sunday. Newport is about 45 minutes from Providence.

We walked on the Cliff Walk, a famous 3.5 mile trail with the sea on one side and decadent mansions on the other. Loved it!Mansions.Fellow creatures enjoying the coast.Kate created this while we were beachcombing for rocks (our pockets were filled--great finds).
Boats in Newport's harbor.

Monday, August 10, 2009

scenes from providence: day two

Saturday was hot and sunny—an anomaly in the very rainy summer Providence has had. We started off the day by walking just around the corner to the farmer’s market. I bought fresh raspberries, home-made focaccia from Seven Stars Bakery, and the most amazing caramel from Ocean State Chocolates. I wish I would have bought more caramels. They were so fresh that they melted in my mouth-- completely unequalled with anything you can buy in a store.

A very chic Kate and a very cute Peter walking/biking to the farmer's market.

In the afternoon we went to a bunch of really cool independent boutiques on Hope Street and Wayland Square. I got great stuff, including an awesome necklace from a Providence-based designer at a cool shop called Studio Hop, a pretty summer scarf, a handmade hairpin from local Lucky Bird Studio, a funky card holder from 11:11, and my Ellington bag.

We had lunch at Red Stripe—I had a great salad with fried chevre and really amazing double-fried French fries with a garlic-mayo sauce. So unhealthy, but so delicious.

In addition to the great independent shops and restaurants, what I loved about Providence is the public art everywhere. Because of The Sprout Fund, Pittsburgh has great murals. But we don't do as good a job of incorporating art into underutilized spaces, we don't have a good diversity of public art, and we don't work with local art students enough.

Here, a RISD student created barnacles and tilework in a bus shelter. A surprising place for art, the shelter would have been dim and dreary without the installation.

These were tiles created by young students in a tunnel by the river.

This is Providence's three rivers--yes, they too have three rivers! The pits in the middle of the river (there are 100 of them) are an installation for WaterFire. Waterfire is a sculpture by Providence artist Barnaby Evans installed on all three of Providence's rivers. After shopping, we relaxed back at the house. Kate had gotten a babysitter, so she, Billy, and I went to dinner at a noodle restaurant and then headed into town for WaterFire. The pits are lit at dusk, and then boats with crews of volunteers go through the river until midnight filling the pits with more wood and keeping the fires going. It was really cool! They also had a bunch of food vendors set up and stages with music. There were like a million people there—it was packed.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

scenes from providence: day one

A few weeks ago I spent a fun weekend in Providence visiting Kate, who moved there last fall. With a population of about 175,000, Providence feels bigger than it is. It has a decent-sized Downtown and lots of neighborhood business districts—and it also has three rivers, as well as a bunch of bays and the Atlantic. It was a lot of fun exploring (and shopping and eating in) Providence, seeing some of the Rhode Island coast, and getting caught up with Kate.

Kate and Billy’s Dutch Colonial—I love the slightly spooky, Amityville-Horror-esque style of the roof. It’s big, has tons and tons of storage space and built-ins, but my favorite part of it was the large shady yard filled with huge trees.

On Friday we walked around the Brown and RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) campuses and saw a little bit of Downtown. There were lots of cute, independent shops and restaurants around campus, just 10 minutes away from Kate’s house.

A sculpture beside a RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Building.

RISD and Brown campuses are in the College Hill neighborhood, just 10 minutes away from Kate’s house. This is College Hill.

Downtown had a lot of cute shops.

We ate lunch at a really good Mediterranean place. I had a fantastic falafel wrap. Friday night we had another awesome meal—this one at Chez Pascal, literally around the corner from Kate’s house. I had herbed baked ricotta with sautéed spinach with a garlic sauce and salad with baked feta along with some really good wine—everything was amazing.