Tag Archives: Best of the Burghosphere

Best of the Blog, 2015 Edition


before we knew how much was about to change ~ sunset beach, cape may, new jersey ~ june 2015

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with all things New Year’s related. The degree to which the scale of life balances in either direction can vary from year to year. Generally, I love this time of reflection, remembering, and resolving — but all of that can dredge up some crap that I’d rather not reflect back on or remember. New Year’s has not always been a happy occasion for me and recently, the ghosts of years gone by have been making their presence known.

Anyway, I’m spending this final day of one of the worst years ever by looking back on the year in blogging — something that is made easier with WordPress’ nifty “annual report” for those of us who use this platform. Here are some interesting stats:

I wrote 120 blog posts this year, which is much lower than average compared to previous years. (Well, there were two or three additional ones, but when your legal counsel suggests it might be best to take them down, you tend to abide by that.  At least I do. On the other hand, as someone said in the midst of that particular malestrom, you know you’ve hit the big time when your blog has gotten the attention of a lawyer. So, um … yay?)

I participated in the inaugural Best of the Burghosphere event, which resulted in becoming more connected with my Pittsburgh blogging peers and resulting in my being named Most Literally Literary Blog.

The busiest day of the year was August 9th with 254 views.

This blog was viewed 21,269 times in 2015. It attracted 13,437 visitors. You know who you are. More importantly, thank you so much. This is astounding to me.

The above is a huge increase from last year when there were 12,788 views and 7,926 visitors.

I reached a blog milestone of 2,000 posts, bringing the total for this blog to 2,034 posts.

The most popular post OF ALL TIME is still, unbelievably, Hits and Misses with ALDI’s LiveGFree Products, which was written in May 2014. I cannot for the freakin’ life of me comprehend how — or why — nearly 4,000 people have read that. It gets hits every damn day. It’s crazy.

And finally, my Top 10 Blog Posts Written in 2015 (in order of most blog views). What’s interesting about these ten is that, if I had to list my best blog posts I wrote this year, most of these would be on that list, too.

1) A Moment of Choice is a Moment of Truth: An Open Letter to the East Norriton Township Zoning Hearing Board Regarding Laurel House (8/8/2015)
An appeal to the East Norriton Township Zoning Hearing Board and the community on why they should vote to relocate Laurel House, a domestic violence shelter. A version of this post was published in the Times Herald newspaper. (Update: the Board did, indeed, vote in favor of this move.) 258 views.

2) When the Bully is the Teacher (3/19/2015)
My response to The Girl’s chorus teacher’s bullying tactics in the classroom, including the teacher’s comments that if they didn’t memorize a song, there would be “bloodshed” in the classroom. (Update: the teacher in question has retired. Despite that, my daughter is still reticent to return to chorus.) This post was written for the 1000 Voices for Compassion project, where bloggers write about kindness, compassion, support, and caring for others.  224 views.

3) My Apology to Ron Howard, Jason Katims, and Everyone on Parenthood (1/28/2015)
On the ending of NBC’s show “Parenthood” and how I was glad to be proven wrong about the Asperger’s aspect of the show.  This post was published on BlogHer. 202 views.

4) The Sum of My Parts (5/13/2015)
The post where hitting “publish” scared the crap out of me, and which is one of my bravest pieces of writing here or anywhere, and perhaps the one I am most proud of. 167 views.

5) You’re Missing (6/19/2015)
This spring, my friend Ryan Mooney disappeared. During the weeks of the unknowing, until his body was found, I reflected on what this meant. 141 views.

6) sunday salon: winter of our book blogging discontent (2/22/2015)
Every so often, the book blogosphere seems to go through the blogging blues.  After two bloggers closed up shop and others wrote about why we tend to take ourselves too seriously — and the remedies for such — I offered some thoughts. 101 views.

7) The Answer’s at the (Almost) End (11/29/2015)
We’re still living in the aftermath of Thanksgiving 2015, which saw The Husband hospitalized after collapsing on our bathroom floor and my giving him chest compressions until the paramedics arrived. This is from The Husband’s blog about that incident. 98 views.

8) write the hell out of this life (6/26/2015)
My friend Ryan Mooney was a hell of a writer. One of the best I’ve ever known, especially because he was so thoughtful in his feedback and encouragement of his friends’ work, including mine. “He wrote the hell out of life by writing hard. He put in the time and did the work. He was committed. And with his passing, I think he would expect – no, demand – that his writer friends do the same. To re-commit to our work. To be as good as we possibly can be. And most importantly, to be that friend that others may not always know they need.” 90 views. 

9) finish line (12/2/2015)
On the sudden loss of a college friend. “My memories of that time can sometimes seem like that.  An image, a moment, a visage of what we were and hoped to be. A random capture, like the photo I snapped today of the changing clouds that greeted me upon leaving work at the end of this heavy day. A burst of yellow light, a streak of pink. A feathery wisp. More and more often, that’s what this life seems to be like sometimes.  Fleeting. A flash and a blur. Our finish line around the corner, always just out of sight.” 89 views. 

10) Hidden Behind the Headline (7/14/2015)
An opinion piece where I criticize the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s headline about new housing options for people with autism. 81 views.

In the “You’re Missing” post, I wrote these words which, upon re-reading, could be considered a resolution of sorts for this New Year:

“I vow to pay better attention, to notice who has gone silent, who has dropped off the grid. To step in before it is too late and to hold you and you and you and, yes, even you – all of you who I love, all at once, both collectively and singly, because this is what I know of this crazy world: it is a fragile one which has the power to make all of us disappear, poof. And then, sometimes it takes too much time to realize it and then, we are just as lost because they are gone. And we don’t know what this emptiness is like until it makes its presence known, stamping its feet in a tantrum, screaming maybe if I was more cognizant of the missing more often, maybe then I could have said something, maybe a comment would have made the difference, maybe I could have caught us at just the one right, perfect moment.”

Here’s to a year of new moments — the perfect and imperfect — in 2016.  Happy New Year, everyone.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Currently …Birthdays, Burghosphere, and Books

Chocolate cake

Currently …
Sunday evening, at the end of a busier than usual weekend. The highlights: a dentist visit for an 8:45 a.m. root canal (there’s no better way to spend a Saturday, let me tell you) and a Sunday afternoon hanging out with some of Pittsburgh’s best bloggers at Best of the Burghosphere, which I’ll post more about tomorrow. Afterwards, The Girl and I stopped by Half Price Books for some birthday shopping. As much as this may surprise some of you, I’d never been there before today. It’s now The Girl’s favorite store (and one of mine, too).

Celebrating …
We’re celebrating the kids’ birthdays this weekend. Hard to believe they are 14. We kept things fairly low-key with one of their favorite dinners (a simple version of pasta with chicken in alfredo sauce) and the chocolate cake, pictured above.

Reading … 
I finished two books this week, which is practically unheard of for me — especially given the slow pace at which I’ve been reading.

M TrainAccidental Saints

M Train by Patti Smith, which I enjoyed. This has a very free-form quality to it.  If you’ve ever been part of a writing workshop and the instructor says to write for ten minutes about whatever comes to mind, that’s what this feels like.  (It’s not so easy writing about nothing is the first line and at times this feels as if you’ve stolen a glimpse at a page written in Patti Smith’s notebook.) Non-linear in structure, M Train is what I would describe as a “writer’s book” and it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It meanders, often in an esoteric way.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is the pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver.  I picked this up at the library after hearing a great interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air.  This was more … I don’t know … religious? theological? than I expected. (Also a bit too self-deprecating.)

Not Reading …
Another week, another DNF.  Despite my appreciation for its author, I’m finding the characters in Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood to be somewhat boring.  I’ve been listening to this collection of linked stories on audio but it isn’t holding my attention. Back to the library it goes.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving, which comes with a few additional vacation days from work for me.  Plenty of time for Thankfully Reading Weekend!

Thanks for sharing this post!

currently … november 15

Paris Peace Sign

“Peace for Paris” by Jean Jullien  

Briefly …
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, my instinct has been to hunker-down and reduce my social media and news consumption this weekend. It all feels too much, too overwhelming, heartbreaking, and scary. Like most of us, I simply can’t understand such hatred that compels people to commit such horrific acts against innocent people. It is unfathomable and it makes me want to never leave the house again.

Listening …
I borrowed several short story collections on audio from the library (Hemingway, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Pilgrims, Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorders and Other Stories). While doing errands on Saturday — a much-needed oil change for my car, the weekly grocery shopping — I happened to turn on “The Bad News” from Moral Disorder, which was certainly ironic. It’s about a middle-aged couple and their somewhat dismissive and nonchalant attitude about the bad news in their morning newspaper.

“I think of bad news as a huge bird, with the wings of a crow and the face of my Grade Four school teacher, sparse bun, rancid teeth, wrinkly frown, pursed mouth and all, sailing around the world under cover of darkness pleased to be the bearer of ill tidings, carrying a basket of rotten eggs, and knowing- as the sun comes up- exactly where to drop them. On me, for one.”

Reading … 
The WitchesStill working my way through The Witches.  I’m on page 54 and it’s due back to the library on Tuesday, so I’ll probably need to return this unfinished and wait until it’s available again. This seems to be the story of my life lately.

Not Reading … 
Decided to give up on Fates and Furies. I lasted for just over 100 pages and just couldn’t take anymore of these characters.  I just couldn’t. I hated almost every single one of them, especially Lotto. Several instances in the plot just irked me, too. I know that the second half of the book is supposed to be much better, but the promise of a reading payoff in another hundred or so pages was too elusive for me.

This is a novel that I really wanted to love, which makes this especially disappointing. I am a big fan of Lauren Groff’s writing and I’ve really enjoyed all of her other books. (See my reviews for Delicate Edible Birds and Arcadia; I read — and loved — The Monsters of Templeton but didn’t review it.)

Starting to think about Thanksgiving dinner.  It will only be five of us this year — my mother-in-law will be visiting for five days. I’m starting to buy a few things here and there at the store and mapping out a plan for cooking as much as possible ahead of time.

Promoting … 
Web Banner Best ofIf you’re in the Pittsburgh area, I would love to have you join me and my fellow Pittsburgh bloggers for Best of the Burghosphere on either Friday, November 20  at 7 p.m. for the 21+ party or on Sunday, November 22 at 1 p.m. for a family-friendly event. Both events will be held at the fabulous Most Wanted Fine Art; more details are here.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Best of the Burghosphere: The Steel Trap

Web Banner Best of

After living in Pittsburgh for four years, I don’t claim to know everything about this city. I know much more than I did when we first arrived, of course, but there are a few areas that require my consulting the expertise of others.

This occurs most frequently when selecting a restaurant. Take last week as an example.  The Husband and I had tickets to see Ringo Starr at Heinz Hall and we decided to treat ourselves even further by having a nice dinner Downtown.

(Dinner and a show at Heinz Hall.  That’s a veritable Night on the Town… or, Tahn, as the natives say here.)

Now, selecting a dining establishment that meets both The Husband and my requirements is no small feat. We’re not adventurous eaters — certainly not before something like a concert — plus there is the small matter of us being vegetarian, me being gluten-free, and The Husband’s preference to avoid fish.

So for our big date night with Ringo, I did my usual extensive Googling of various restaurant possibilities.  And of course the usual sites always turn up — Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. — and while those are helpful, what I crave is an honest-to-God review from a real person.  (Not like those leaving reviews on those other sites aren’t real, but the cynical Philly girl in me always takes those effusive accolades or negative experiences with a grain of the proverbial salt.)

But a funny thing usually happens whenever I turn to Google and plunk in a Pittsburgh restaurant. More often than not, I often get a link to a local blogger who knows the Pittsburgh dining scene incredibly well.

That blogger? HGB from The Steel Trap, whose tagline is “thoughts and ideas from the mind (and the mouth) of a Pittsburgh woman.”

HGB knows her stuff when it comes to eating out in the ‘Burgh. Her extensive Restaurant Review list offers her readers “honest opinions on the quality of food, beverages, service, and decor.”  I like that HGB doesn’t go “outright negative” in her reviews, as she ” [doesn’t] want to cause any harm for local businesses, nor…gain popularity with negativity.”

This month, The Steel Trap and I are participating in a local blogging event known as Best of the Burghosphere.  Participants were assigned another blogger and bestow upon them a fun Best of the Burghosphere award category of our own creation that fit that person’s blog.

I am pleased to present HG Balas of The Steel Trap with this distinguished award that recognizes her great restaurant commentary.

Best of the Burghosphere
Blogger Most Likely to Be Photographing Her Food for a Restaurant Review 

Make sure to check out The Steel Trap and all the other bloggers participating in Best of the Burghosphere!  (And thanks, HGB for inspiring me to do more restaurant reviews here on my blog!)

Thanks for sharing this post!

Best of the Burghosphere: And the Award Goes To …

Almost every week, it seems, Pittsburgh is being named to yet another list.  You know the ones I mean: those clickbait morsels that proclaim something to be the Best This or the Most That or the Top 10 Whatever, all compiled by every type of media outlet from Forbes to Nerdwallet. Judging by the accolades bestowed on Pittsburgh in the last two yearsMost Livable City! Top Ballpark in the Country!  Coolest American City You’ve Never Been To! — the best of life can be found at the confluence of three rivers.

Pittsburgh also happens to have the best bloggers and the best blogging community in the country.  It’s true.  I read a lot of blogs and most of their creators don’t talk about their cities with the pride that we have here. They certainly don’t talk about the blogging community in those cities, if indeed one exists at all. They simply don’t have what we do, which is 460 bloggers (the number of members in Pittsburgh Bloggers, a Facebook group) who are dedicated, innovative, caring, and connected.

We capture the heart of Pittsburgh and its 90 neighborhoods, offer insightful perspectives on issues that may be glossed over by traditional and mainstream media, and mobilize others to engage in diverse initiatives that impact change in our city and elsewhere. Above all, we’re a community of many strong, passionate voices that care deeply about Pittsburgh and its people.

Several months ago, my friend Sue had an idea to celebrate all the fantastic blogs and bloggers in Pittsburgh.  The result is the inaugural Best of the Burghosphere, and I’m delighted to be among 20 bloggers who are taking part in this project, which launches today in conjunction with National Blogging Month.

Web Banner Best of

For Best of the Burghosphere,  participating Pittsburgh bloggers were assigned another blogger and asked to become familiar with their site, if we weren’t already a reader. Our task was to think of a fun Best of the Burghosphere award category of our own creation that fit that person’s blog and announce this prestigious honor with a special post on November 1.

Boos2I was assigned to Booferson J. McGrugen (not necessarily his real name) who blogs at Boo’s Insane and Inane Ramblings (formerly known as The Insane and Inane Ramblings of the Man Dubbed Booferson J. McGrugen).  I was only somewhat familiar with his writing before I had the pleasure of exploring his blog, which I would categorize as one where Boo offers his perspective and opinions on movies, television, comics, politics, and issues such as increasing the minimum wage, smokers’ rights, and the current state of journalism. His stream-of-consciousness, matter-of-fact posts are direct, honest, and without a shred of egotistical pretense.

For the Best of the Burghosphere awards, I wanted to create a Pittsburgh-centric category for Boo that would recognize and pay homage to his extensive knowledge of movies. With that, I am pleased to present Booferson J. McGrugen of Boo’s Insane and Insane Ramblings with this distinguished award:

Best of the Burghosphere:
Official Movie Critic Blogger of Everything Filmed in Pittsburgh. Ever.

Boo, I hope this reflects the spirit of your blog and your passion for movies.  I enjoyed getting to know you and your blog through this project. I look forward to meeting you at one of the Best of the Burghosphere events and to reading more of your ramblings!

Special thanks to Sue Kerr for organizing this fun project and to Most Wanted Fine Art for hosting two Best of the Burghosphere parties later this month. Interested in joining us?  Click here for more information.


Thanks for sharing this post!