Not since living in Colorado have I marveled at the thunderous spectacle of a spring storm. Pounding and rumbling, water sluicing quickety-quick down gutters and shimmering streets. Pittsburgh weather is, thus far, the best I have ever known, elementary school definitions of the elements, fall-winter-spring, at least. We’ll have to see about summer. That may be the rub. This delightful downpour rolled through Monday, evocative petrichor, giant splashy drops, and thunder of the variety that welcomes rather than terrorizes. Air thick with humidity lay in its wake, just right, I thought, fans churning lazily, at least for now.

When the summer sun arrives in earnest and I am out and enjoying it, hopefully not merely melting and cursing the humidity that I now enjoy, I will be protecting my skin with Block Island Sunscreen. What is this, an advertisment? It is, indeed. I will admit that I never thought it would happen, but Kelly, one of the kindly women who runs the company, got in touch. She asked me if I would give it a whirl and report my thoughts. Since it is a product I would actually buy, I decided to go for it. I received my SPF 30 bottle earlier this week and honestly did not expect much. Though I am a natural-leaning sunscreen shopper, I am very picky about textures and fragrance and zinc-white glowing skin. Goldilocks comes to mind, but I think even she would say this stuff is just right. Block Island scores well on the Environmental Working Group’s safe sunscreen guide, has no nasty chemicals like parabens (very bad news for a gal with endometriosis, as they mimic estrogen in the body, and I’ve got PLENTY already), phthlalates, dyes, artificial fragrances, or nano-particles. It smells nice, but the scent doesn’t linger at all. Most importantly, it goes on like regular lotion, no furious rubbing and no greasy skin, and it does the job. Holy frijoles, it’s a win!

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To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.

Arundhati Roy

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Hullo gentle reader. Happy day after the final episode of Mad Men. Which we have not watched because we do not have cable (never have) and are impatiently awaiting its arrival to the Playstation Network, so we can get this business over with, and I can sob or jump up and down in anger, very likely both (UPDATE: Both sobbing and jumping, mostly sobbing. Thank you, Mad Men). I have been rewatching the entire series over the past few weeks, which has been heartening, depressing, and inspiring. That show!

To the photos. We painted! The foyer (with gorgeous landscape by my dear friend Jamee Linton), living room, and dining room are done, done, done. Warm and bright spaces make for happy occupants, truly. It is rather unfortunate that much more remains. You can’t have everything, at least not all at once. I should mention that the light fixtures are also new (Restoration Hardware if you’re on the hunt), installed by the uber-handy hubster! Lucky me, lucky us.

Dianthus, sweet and spicy and one of my very favorite scents!

Green! Our pint sized plot is really starting to come into its own. It’s been interesting to see what comes up and, of course, add my own touches, like peonies (of course!), lavender, culinary herbs, and wild flowers. Hoping the yard is teeming with bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies by summer’s end. I am also researching a few colorific (is this a word?) shrubs and the best evergreens for small spaces, as that wall-o-brown fence is much too much for the eyes to bear, especially in winter. Must have green!

On that note, how lovely is the giant sycamore just beyond our fence?! It is rather slow to leaf out, but it sure does it in style! The street scene is just down the block, though it could be any of our neigbhoring hills. All of Pittsburgh is cradled in green. What a marvelous treat after the browns of winter.

Also exciting, tremendously so, are the birds. It is a dream to see and hear such a wild chorus of song. At this very moment: Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, and Finches! These same birds and more visit our feeder, too, much to my delight. We’ve also seen three varieties of woodpecker, more Starlings than we can shake a stick at (such savage beasts and sweet singers!), Mourning doves, Juncos, White Breasted Nuthatches, Robins, a Red-Tailed and a Red Shouldered Hawk (here for birds, not seeds), and, while they haven’t visited the feeder, we have delighted in the aerobatics of swallows and herons just above the trees. Squee!

Look! It’s like we’re actually talking.

Have a great day!

 

Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.

August Wilson

 

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Sitting in the office, watching cloud after cloud canter across the blue. We’ve lived here six months, our personal clocks ticking away at intervals both fast and slow, wholly dependent upon on our moods (bewildered, happy, sad), the skies, the indolent pace of emerging spring leaves. Pittsburgh is a difficult city in winter. Not for the cold and snow and ice, no, these were reasonable, expected, and largely enjoyed. Our shock was in the lack of color in our snow covered world. Though Pittsburgh’s cloudy skies are much the same as Portland’s, it is what lies beneath that is so vastly different. Our winter rolling hills sport only the occasional evergreen and nary a fern (I miss ferns!), the majority a mass of arced bare limbs and rusty fallen leaves. The resultant landscape is hued only by what man makes, houses, cars, buildings, smoke stacks and steam, a shock to our green Pacific Northwest eyes. I had to promise the hubster that it would turn and he would marvel at the change. Thank you nature for not making a liar out of me.

Pittsburgh remains a city of navigational mysteries. The myriad hills and dales (now brilliantly dressed in every shade of green!) and the impossibility of cherished grid systems leaves me in frequent wonder at which direction I am facing. Though we are finding our way, better and more accurately with each passing day, with a car ride driven by our own sense of direction and not GPS a giddy celebration! Adding to the mystery are the curious and confounding drivers. With all the hills and densely packed neighborhoods, the majority of streets are two lanes, making turn lanes a rather unfortunate impossibility. But, thanks to the politesse of the Pittsburgh left, a flash of lights, a waved hand, or a dead stare to get moving, drivers can turn without so much as a problem the majority of the time. It is marvelous, though the feeling can be quickly dashed by the angry honks while sitting at a red light, or a car tailing wildly close and at breakneck speed before zooming past.

It’s a town that doesn’t quite know how to be, and rightly so. When the steel industry collapsed, thousands of people lost their livelihoods, and nearly 200,000 residents vanished in the ensuing decades. Pittsburghers are proud. Proud to have gotten back on their feet largely without help from the outside. Proud to have such wildly successful sports teams. Proud to have fine institutions like the Carnegie Libraries, the Phipps Conservatory (where I took today’s photos!), Heinz Hall and the Cultural District, a vibrant downtown and waterfront, so many beautiful bridges. Proud to have intact small businesses, even if the service is lousy, or in the case of restaurants, the servers are super friendly, but the food is beyond anything the worst cook you know would serve. Pittsburghers are kind and friendly and welcoming despite their wonder. Why did you move HERE?

The truth is, we are still finding out…

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