Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Finding That Perfect Gift: Picket Fence Baby Store Pittsburgh (Giveaway – Now Closed)

Can you believe that the first day of spring is one month away?

I’m practically counting down the seconds because I am definitely not a winter person.  Bring on the warm weather and sunshine — the sooner the better!

Spring is the season of showers … and weddings and graduations and other events. For special occasions like these, I like to give unique, one-of-a-kind gifts. And I also like to support local small businesses, especially those that are women-owned.

The Picket Fence Baby Store Pittsburgh meets all of my criteria. And, while this adorable boutique is conveniently located in Shadyside (which is one of my favorite Pittsburgh neighborhoods for shopping and dining!)  online ordering via The Picket Fence’s website makes shopping even easier.

That means that even if you’re not in the “Burgh — or if you are like me and busy with work, family, volunteering, freelancing, etc. — you can still enjoy a delightful shopping experience at The Picket Fence, which is known for its baby and children’s collections, including hard-to-find distinctive toys, clothing in current and classic styles from U.S. and European designers, and special keepsakes.  The boutique also offers gifts for the home, women, and jewelry.

In addition to its curated inventory of items from all over the world, The Picket Fence also keeps things close to home by featuring a selection of Pittsburgh gifts for yinzers of all ages.

You probably have a few special occasions coming up where you would like to give a one-of-a-kind gift.  Is someone in your life getting married or welcoming a new baby or moving into a new home?  Perhaps a new piece of jewelry or clothing would be the perfect gift … for yourself.

If so, then you’re in luck.  The Picket Fence is offering one of my readers a $50 gift card toward a purchase from their shop!   And because they provide online shopping, you don’t even need to be in Pittsburgh to take advantage of this giveaway opportunity.

Simply comment on this blog post by telling me about the most perfect gift you ever received — or the most perfect gift you gave someone — and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Picket Fence. I’ll keep the giveaway open until March 7, 2017 and will draw a winner at random. Good luck!

UPDATE:  Congratulations to Ava who was chosen by random.org as the winner of this giveaway!

The Picket Fence
5425 Walnut Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
phone: 412-246-0350 or 800-250-6002

email: info@picketfenceshadyside.com
web: https://picketfenceshadyside.com/
Instagram: @picketfencepgh #FenceFaves
Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/thepicketfencepgh/
Twitter: @thepicketfence 

roar

That’s the cover of today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with a photo of thousands of people taking to the streets for the Women’s March on Pittsburgh. We actually had two marches yesterday in our fine city: the one above and the Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March.  (Virginia Alvino Young explains why Pittsburgh had two marches.)  Seeing the photos and posts from more than 600 marches across the globe–including Antarctica! — was so powerful and moving.

I didn’t attend either gathering because large crowds and me don’t always get along.  (Also, The Girl had Sibshop yesterday at the same time. It’s a support group for kids who have a brother or sister with a disability and we try not to miss these workshops.)

At first I felt a bit guilty about not going to the march, and while scrolling down my Facebook feed, I noticed several other friends voicing similar sentiments. It struck me how ironic this was; that on a day that was all about love, respect, power, value and dignity, we were so quick to diminish and invalidate ourselves. It’s so easy to feel like we’re not doing enough or participating in the right things.

But the reality of these times is that we will need all kinds of advocacy in all forms.  This resistance is only just beginning, and there are a lot of different ways to contribute and try to make a difference.  It’s impossible to do everything, but we can all do something.  My activism might take the form of a blog post protesting a woefully unqualified and dangerous nominee as secretary of education while yours might be to participate in a march. We all do what we can, in whatever ways we can.

And we will be called upon to do so, again and again and again. This revolution and resistance requires all of us and many individual actions that make a collective roar.

 

Sunday Salon/Currently … The Year Spins on Unheeding

Sunday Salon banner

“Time, always almost ready 
to happen, leans over our shoulders reading 
the headlines for something not there. “Republicans 
Control Congress” — the year spins on unheeding.”

Those lines from William Stafford’s “Reading the Big Weather” certainly seem apt for this particular moment in time, as this dreadful year of unprecedented (or, rather, unpresidented) moments spins unheeding down to its near conclusion. A glimpse at the news shows that there certainly has been no shortage of unheeded things.

Of course my first interpretation of this correlates to the election and tomorrow’s convening of the Electoral College.  Save for a Christmas miracle and the ghost of Hamilton,  they’ll likely vote to put the most unqualified, thin-skinned, egotistical, racist, sexist, narcissistic, hateful liar and abuser ever imaginable in charge of our country. It doesn’t need to be said that I fervently hope that Santa and Alexander are in cahoots, because nothing else can save us from our apparent doom, it seems. It is all so discouraging and depressing.

As I write this, though, what to my wondering eyes did appear but word via Facebook of a true Christmas miracle here in Pittsburgh. I’ve been following for some time now Caitlin O’Hara’s need for new lungs. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis on her 2nd birthday, Caitlin’s mom (novelist Maryanne O’Hara) has been chronicling their wait for a double-lung transplant after Caitlin, now 33, was officially listed as a candidate in April 2014.  Because she wasn’t eligible to receive a lung transplant at a hospital near her Boston home, Caitlin and her mother moved here to Pittsburgh to be closer to UPMC, which thankfully agreed to accept Caitlin as a transplant candidate, despite her high-risk status.

Last week, as Caitlin remained on life support, one of her surgeons declared her “the sickest person in the United States” awaiting a lung transplant. The situation was truly tenuous and fragile — and today, word comes of a donor and that the surgery has been completed

(A sad update:  I’m heartbroken to share that Caitlin passed away on Wednesday, December 21, three days after receiving her new lungs. She fought tremendously to live but was so very sick. I never met her but I feel as if I know her so well from her mother’s posts and Caitlin’s own writings. My deepest condolences to her family and friends who loved her so much.) 

Arctic temperatures have frozen Pittsburgh all this week and this weekend’s weather was just downright bizarre with snow and ice storms in the morning, then nearly 50 degrees. Late last night, there were rumbles of thunder. But, of course, Mr. Tweeter-in-Chief doesn’t believe in the likes of big weather (to bring this back to Stafford’s poetry) so, you know, nothing to see here.

a-scripture-of-leavesThis week in books I only managed to finish A Scripture of Leaves, William Stafford’s collection of poetry that was first published in 1990.  In the immediate shock post-election, I remember someone or someplace mentioning Stafford’s work and when I saw this slim, unassuming volume in the library, I picked it up, not knowing much about him but later learning that he was a pacifist and conscientious objector. Those themes show in his work with these poems set in nature and exploring themes of religion, social justice and the environment.

As the year winds down, I have an abundance of use-it-or-lose-it vacation time. Tomorrow at noon begins my official 13 days of Christmas vacation from work—save for one project that will need some paying attention to during this break. I have a pile of books at the ready, several blog posts waiting to be written along with some blog maintenance, a smattering of decluttering around the house, and a handful of appointments to keep both the cars and psyches in working order. Some (okay, all) the Christmas shopping still awaits along with some time with friends and family in Philly.

Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow. And so we spin on.

Mornings we see our breath, Weeds
sturdy for winter are waiting down
by the tracks. Birds, high and silent
pass almost invisible over town.

Time, always almost ready
to happen, leans over our shoulders reading
the headlines for something not there. “Republicans
Control Congress”—the year spins on unheeding.

The moon drops back toward the sun, a sickle
gone faint in the dawn: there is a weather
of things that happen too faint for headlines,
but tremendous, like willows touching the river.

This earth we are riding keeps trying to tell us
something with its continuous scripture of leaves.  

“Reading the Big Weather” by William Stafford

 

Book Review: Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman

“But hearts are complicated and fragile things. They break for medical reasons, but frequently crack from the pain caused by unresolved questions and conflicts, changing friendships and devastating losses. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave everything we know behind, connect with others who are hurting, and cross a few bridges for our hearts to heal.”

That’s just one of my takeaways from Leave Me by Gayle Forman. For more of my thoughts, go here to read the rest of my review, which was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/9/2016). 

 

 

 

 

State of the Heart

Pittsburghers are known for being incredibly friendly people.  It’s one of my favorite things about living in this area.

The downside of that is people here are chatty.  Really chatty.  And nebby as hell too. (That’s a colloquial term meaning that they love to find out all about your personal business.)

This phenomenon happens everywhere — not just the ‘Burgh — but it’s particularly acute in doctor’s offices. Nobody needs blathering bubble-headed bleached blondes (h/t Don Henley) on morning television in waiting rooms here because there’s no shortage of people waiting to entertain you with the minutiae of their medical history.  It’s why I always, always, always bring a book to every appointment I go to.

(That and because I cannot STAND handling magazines in public places. I’m no paranoid germaphobe, but oh my God, the idea of touching a magazine that sick people have had their paws on gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

So, yeah, I’m that person reading their book, making as little eye contact and conversation as possible. I’m an outlier among Yinzers. The Husband will disagree, but I am not a chatty or nebby person. I’ll smile and engage in pleasantries to be nice and because I know idle chit-chat is a stress-reliever for some and a way to combat the boredom of what sometimes is a long wait. And for the elderly, I understand these connections are sometimes a valued piece of social interaction.

Mind you, it’s not just the patients. Medical professionals, too, tend to be incredibly chatty. Again, I get it — customer service is what they do and you want them to be friendly and interested in you as a person and all that good stuff. Nothing wrong with this.

Except, well … I’m convinced I have some magnetic pull that attracts People Who Say Stupid Shit.

Case in point: I spent part of this morning in the cardiology lab at our local hospital for a scheduled stress test, my consolation prize for having a trifecta of high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and intermittent chest pains.

While I dreadmilled for 10 minutes, going faster and faster, one of the cardiac technicians would not shut the hell up. Maybe keeping me talking was intentional to exhaust every last bit of bit I had, but that didn’t stop her from going on about a new ice cream shop in Lawrenceville, a good 40 minutes away.

I KID YOU NOT.

I mean, I’m wearing more wires than an actor in The Sopranos, hooked up to machines, and we’re talking about flavors of fucking ICE CREAM, which is one of the main reasons I’m even in the damn cardiac lab at 8 a.m. (#JobSecurityForCardiologists, I hashtagged on Facebook.)

As my heart rate was “recovering,” she started telling me about her experience at a fairly well-known Pittsburgh attraction and its proprietor.

“He’s a bit of an oddity himself. A little Asperger-y, I think.  Very scripted. You might want to keep your kids away from him.”

Um.

Say what now?

DID SHE JUST SUGGEST I KEEP MY KIDS AWAY FROM SOMEONE WHO MAY HAVE ASPERGERS?

I may have glanced at my blood pressure on the heart monitor machine thing, since I was convinced I’d be watching my vital signs explode off the literal chart if I responded to this absurdity.

Now, although I had offered that my kids were teenage twins, this conversation hadn’t yet progressed to my saying that my son has Asperger’s — which isn’t really anybody’s nebby damn business. Instead, not wanting to screw up the results of the stress test, I muttered something like “hmmm.” Later on, I realized I should have shot back with, “Oh, you mean I should keep MY SON WHO HAS ASPERGERS away from this individual?  Is that what you mean?”

While thinking about this today, I realize that this is a big reason why I dislike and take pains to avoid superficial conversations among strangers. People say Stupid Shit and I am getting too old to deal with Stupid Shit.  And as well-meaning and unintentional as people may be, Stupid Shit often results in too many sharp jabs.

It was jarring to hear — in 2016, for godsakes — a medical professional expressing the notion that people with disabilities should be avoided. Shunned.  This kind of thinking only perpetuates ancient stereotypes, misconceptions, and myths. I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did nothing to thwart that.

I left the cardiac lab with a benediction from the cardiologist that I “performed better than average within my age group” on the stress test. My heart, it seems, is likely to keep on ticking, its dings and dents notwithstanding.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #94 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging Project. 

listen to your mother, the grand finale season

 

LTYM - Pre-Show Toast 2

Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh cast, pre-show toast. May 6, 2016. Photo credit: Ashley Mikula Photography.

If you followed any aspect of my experience with Listen to Your Mother this year, you know how much being in this show meant to me. I know that’s true for all my other castmates and I’m sure its the same for those who were in Pittsburgh’s inaugural show in 2015, and everyone who has been in a LTYM production throughout the country (and Canada, this year!) since the show’s inception.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Today the announcement was made: this upcoming 2017 season of Listen to Your Mother will be the show’s last. In all cities.

As disappointing as it is to hear that the show is ending, it’s good to go out on a celebratory note. And Listen to Your Mother has so much to celebrate. More than 150 shows in 54 cities. Over $100,000 raised for nonprofits supporting women and families, in local communities across the country.  Two thousand (yes, 2,000) stories shared via video on YouTube, including mine as part of Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh 2016.

I know there are probably some of you who attended a LTYM show or watched a video or read a post and thought, “Hmm … maybe I could do that someday. Maybe next year. Maybe I have something to share.”

Or maybe you thought the opposite: that you could never do that, but you secretly wish you could.

Here’s the thing.  Sometimes this life presents us with opportunities that we think we’re incapable of doing.  Or, maybe we think we’re not ready right now.  I admit, I had some of those doubts as I wrote my story and even after I was selected for the show.  I questioned whether I was in a strong enough place to talk about this (the answer: yes).

Opportunities are ours for the taking. Sometimes they disappear.

There’s no room for maybes in this too short life.

You never know who needs to hear your story. If you feel you have a something to share, don’t wait. Auditions are usually held in late-winter/early spring. All you have to do is put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write what’s in your heart.  And if you don’t have a story to share, the same goes for attending a show, which can be just as life-changing. I guarantee you, something will resonate with you in each story you hear.

So, yes, while I’m sad that Listen to Your Mother is ending, I’m so very, very grateful to have been part of this extraordinary experience, for this opportunity that has inspired others in my life.  I’m so appreciative to our Pittsburgh producers, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Amanda for all their hard work in creating a wonderful show, one that has been recognized with a Best of the Burgh award (seriously, around here that is a BIG DEAL). I’m so glad this show has connected me with some of the bravest, most courageous and strongest women — strangers once, now treasured friends.

And especially, I’m thankful to Ann Imig, founder of Listen to Your Mother, for her vision and belief that motherhood deserved a microphone and in so doing, provided so many of us with the chance to share our stories with countless people throughout the world, knowing our experiences — and our lives — matter.

Restaurant Review: Sienna Mercato, Pittsburgh, PA

After spending the day Downtown on Wednesday, I met up with a former coworker for drinks and appetizers at Sienna Mercato (942 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh). Although I hadn’t been there before, I’d eaten previously at their sister restaurant a short distance away, Sienna On the Square. I remembered that my meal — with The Girl, before last year’s One Direction concert at Heinz Field — was very, very good.

IMG_20150802_164732_930IMG_20150802_164739_069 - Copy (2)

(These are pictures from Sienna on the Square.  I wish I could remember what we had, but I do know it was damn good.  Anyway, I’m using these because I need a related picture for this post but I didn’t take pictures at dinner on Wednesday and I didn’t want to take an image off of Sienna Mercato’s social media without asking permission first.)

Anyway, yes. Back to the present day and Sienna Mercato, which has a tagline of Good. Times. Three.  This restaurant is unique in that they have three dining establishments under one roof.

Emporio: A Meatball Joint features gourmet meatballs, soups, salads, etc. as well as a full bar with 32 draft beers, wines, and cocktails. It’s located on the ground floor. Upstairs, Mezzo highlights Italian fare including house made charcuterie, wood-fired pizzas, savory panini, creative pastas, and fine wines. Finally, Il Tetto is a rooftop beer garden and a perfect atmosphere for an outdoor gathering. They offer drafts, wine, cocktails and light fare.

My friend and I opted for Emporio because of the happy hour specials; we ordered wine, thinking it was cheaper than it was based on misunderstanding our waitress’ explanation, but no big deal.

Emporio is known for their gourmet meatballs.  Choices are classic beef (“grandma’s secret”); spicy pork (chili pepper, herbs); vegetarian (mushroom, white beans and cauliflower); and chicken (parmesan and herbs).  Only the chicken version  is gluten free, which my friend chose and which presented me (a gluten free vegetarian) with a dilemma. I hedged my bets on the meat being more problematic for my crazy messed up stomach and went for the vegetarian.

I will say that the vegetarian and gluten free distinctions are very clearly marked on Emporio’s menu (and yes, I could have selected something GF, but I really, really wanted a meatball.)

A sauce comes with the meatball and guests have their choice of marinara (vegetarian and GF); pork bolognese; creamy parmesan (vegetarian); chicken gravy; government cheese (vegetarian); mushroom gravy (vegetarian); arribiatta (vegetarian and gluten free); tzatziki (vegetarian and gluten free); spinach-almond pesto (vegetarian and gluten free) and chicken-chili. Adding serving options are as sliders, paninis, grinders, or over a side — including a gluten free pasta.

I was undecided between the tzatziki, the marinara, and the spinach-almond pesto and wound up selecting the tzatziki, again on my friend’s recommendation.  (She has never steered me wrong in the almost 3 years that I’ve known her.)

The meatballs are presented in a little silver bowl with a small flag that says “Emporio.”  SO FREAKING CUTE. You can see it here.

As my friend and I talked and ate and drank our wine, I realized I was hungrier than I thought. We perused the sides, deciding on a basket of tater tots. These arrived piping hot and crispy. Our waitress was very pleasant and very accommodating throughout the meal.

Sienna Mercato was a perfect place to catch up after work while enjoying a drink and snack-type dinner. The meatballs more than earn their reputation.  Next time I’d plan to try them over the penne and with their vegetarian, gluten-free marinara sauce or the pesto.

All in all, a wonderful dining experience which I recommend and look forward to repeating.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #68 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

 

 

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