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South Side

Carousing, in our mild way, on the streets of the South Side. I found a dozen pennies and a couple nickels scattered on the ground, some thoughtful person anticipating my delight, I like to think, that weird woman who will always stop for a coin. To state the obvious, I love the collection of neon here, probably Pittsburgh’s best concentration, juxtaposed against the cow’s head, perched high, and gazing down on them all. Old and young, we all live together.

We ate far more than we ought at Winghart’s, including a ridiculously rich and enormous funnel cake (such a weak spot for fried dough!), no carnival required. Winghart’s, along with Burgatory and Benjamin’s, makes the best burgers in town. My favorites all have jalapenos on them, just in case you were wondering. I like spicy (but not so much as to ruin the flavor), and with the exception of home cooking, it’s very difficult to find in these parts. No Tabasco for eggs. Mild salsa. Not-so-hot and sour soup. My friend calls it the mid-west palate. It makes my mouth sad.

Speaking of palates, are you geared up and ready for all foods homey and Thanksgiving? No spice necessary! We are going to friends for the feast and bringing Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, mashed sweet potatoes, and home made pecan pie. It’s funny how foods like crescent rolls and jellied cranberry (which our friends are providing), that when tried as an adult are often offensive, yet are integral to the Thanksgiving experience, how every adult I’ve ever met must have at least one item served at their childhood table. Whether it is nostalgia or expectations, I’m not certain, but I like the sweetness of it, how we carry so much of youth with us, always.

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Quebec City! We arrived at sunset, after a long day of travel. The skies were crystal in their clarity and the air bracing, but I was sweating, nervous over the fact that we got stuck in traffic and our phones don’t work in Canada. Surprise! Oof. Many thanks to the kindness of strangers, we made a call at a local restaurant to connect, just five minutes late, with our weekend landlord. The world is good, and so were our lodgings.

It was a short walk to cobbled streets and every manner of wonder, a sculpture or two or a dozen, and a fabulous public market. These are our breakfast provisions for the duration of our stay in Quebec City, black pepper smoked mackerel, tart crisp apples, a wild mushroom quiche, and ground cherries. Do you know them? They taste like an apple kissed a cherry, with the the look and texture of an orange tomato under that lovely husk. Delicious! Not wanting to leave any local stone unturned, we also bought nougat, more hard cider than we ought, and maple butter, velvety sweet goodness.

It is a marvelous place, a time capsule from the late 1600’s opened anew each day. When I began studying French in seventh grade, my text book had a photo of the Chateau Frontenac on the cover, and young me had many a fantasy about what it would be like when I saw it in person for the first time. Friends, none of them was as joyous as rounding that corner and having my thirteen year old self gasping from my fourty-four year old lungs before squealing at the hubster, “There it is!” Of course I got teary at the silly sentimentality of it all. Dreams come true.

A delectable lunch at Cochon Dingue, poutine for the hubster, and a seafood gratin in the cutest cast iron pan for me. Don’t my arms look long?

Shazama-bama diggity-pop! I love my life!


And the hills are kitted out in their beautiful best.  The mood changes with the whim of the wind and scudding clouds, leaving me to shiver or coo, hood up or eyes squinting at the the warmth of the sun. How lucky I am to be wandering this neck of the woods, to traipse loudly through ankle deep leaves, to hear the squawk and chirp and cry of every manner of bird, greeting me from on high, to know a bit more of the world.

And with fall comes the shift from the snap and crunch of giant summer salads to roasted vegetables and hearty soups, the house warmly scented. I am jiving on this combination, as of late: a winter squash and red grapes, dotted with butter and flaked sea salt. On days that I remember, I toss in rosemary from the garden for the last few minutes, and everything is elevated. Mmmm, yes!

How about that smile! Last Sunday’s walking adventure to St. George’s Ukrainian Church in Brighton Heights for their Ethnic Food Festival. We devoured more hearty fall fare, Stroganoff, buttery rolls, borscht (for the hubster, I don’t do beets), mushroom barley soup, pierogies, and sausage with the best cabbage I’ve ever tasted.

The scrape of metal chairs on linoleum and a wall lined with crooked pictures of Jesus and the saints sent me straight back to childhood and the countless hours spent at Our Lady of Grace. The church where my dad was an Altar Boy, and I earned my First Communion. The church where Father Moynihan taught me, with a wink and a smile, how to shake hands properly. The church where I saw my Grandma Frances in her Sunday best, gloved hands, lipstick, and the scent of Aqua Net. Oh, nostalgia, how you blur the tedium and frustration and shine a light on all that is fine.

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VICTORII REBUILD, artist San Priest.

Made from remnants of the World Trade Center

There are few events as heartbreaking as the death of a child, even in the eyes of strangers some 246 years later.

Welcome to the final installment of our Pennsylvania road trip! The above photos are from Bethlehem, another town with a steel industry that bit the dust, the old mill doing it’s beautiful best to rust across the ages. Bethlehem was founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by a group of Moravian Missionaries (creators of beautiful stars and ultra thin and delicious cookies). The third photo down is the building where the first water works for public use dates to 1762. The thrilling luxury of pumped water. History in combination with beautiful buildings gets me jazzy-jazzed!

Speaking of jazzy-jazzed, I love a rolling landscape. This photo is the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps I should say top of the hill, my friends. You’ll see.

Our brief foray into Pottsville included driving some 45 degree angle streets, zipping past the Yuengling Brewery (the oldest in the country) too fast to snap a photo, and lunch. What a lunch it was. Tex-Mex in an old diner, that, in front of which, back in it’s diner heyday, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a speech to some 12,000 people. There’s a lovely photo right above the counter. More history! And that was the hubster’s pulled pork torta. Good to the very last, he said.

Centralia – The Town that Was. A few roads, a few houses, and a few stubborn and sentimental residents are all that remain of a once thriving town. The mine on which the majority of its citizens made their living caught fire in 1962 and has been burning ever since. If, like me, you read A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (Egads! This was in 1998?), it probably rings a bell. Though I think it is much more deserted since his visit. Learn the history in this interesting documentary.

We toured, with our expert and quite amusing guide, Joe, a coal mine! the Pioneer Tunnel is absolutely fascinating, beautiful in its own way, and terrifying, too. The second picture of the mine? Twenty minutes straight up that ladder was our escape hatch. Some people do this every day. Bless them.


I never tire of pastoral landscapes. Never.

Millheim, happily sated after a meal at the Elk Creek Cafe, mere seconds before a storm.

It followed us all the way to State College.

A liege waffle at Sadie’s. Mmmm…

Penn State


Dean’s Diner (about an hour east of Pittsburgh) has got to be coolest looking, ever. Their baker arrives at 3 am to make marvels of the simplest ingredients, thirty pies on weekdays, fifty on weekends. The selection is phenomenal. The taste even better.

Thank you, Pennsylvania, for a tremendous trip!


Marvelous light of spring and new wingback chairs, I love their acid green, tall backed comfort, perfect for reading and nodding off. There’s a new lamp on the way, a replacement for the one on the right, which will be quite at home in the T.V. room. Then, and only then, will it be ready for your eyes. The dining room fixture is new and  already well loved. The table, our first piece of grown-up newlywed furniture, and thusly clocking in at more than twenty years old, was a desk for ages but is a table once again. Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle. Let’s make the most of what we have, shall we? One fine breezy day, we will open the windows and paint the walls that perfect shade of white.


Spring is on the verge, with budding trees and blossoming crocus and snowdrops, too. Our first Pittsburgh spring! So often, I think of how improbable this all was one year ago. Pittsburgh and a 109 year old house, my Grandmother gone, the cats too, how quickly a life can change!

Strolling the South Side Flats yesterday afternoon. A precocious teen, spying the hubster’s rather fashionable spectacles, asked, “Are you a hipster?” We laughed, and I said that we’re probably far too old and nerdy for such declarations, before discussing cameras and skateboards and money, and he wished us a blessed day. These are the moments that enrich our lives.

The bright sun belies a bitterly cold wind. We walked quickly, hands deep in our pockets, wishing for warmth in between a fabulous lunch at La Palapa and treats at The Milkshake Factory. Zooming off to our next destination, we played what the hubster and I not-so-fondly call the Pittsburgh Slalom, a.k.a. dodging pot holes. Jeepers!

Greetings from Mt. Washington! My Grandma Frances lived in Pittsburgh as a girl and relayed such fantastical tales of the funicular and uber-super steep hills that they screamed fiction. Even these photos do such little justice to the city’s rolling and rollicking hills. Alas, you truly have to visit to believe it (our guest room will be ready soon!). Grandma lived somewhere near the Duquesne (dew-cane) Incline, and I cannot help but look for traces of her as I wander the nearby streets, decades and decades after her departure. Was this her church? Did she live in this house? Did she scramble, bare-legged and laughing, up this old tree? I don’t suppose I will ever know, which saddens me some.

Our neighborhood lies just beyond the top most bridge in the photo above. And in the photo just above that, on the left, is the PPG Building (Philip Johnson, Architect), my favorite in the Pittsburgh skyline, just in case you were wondering.

More marvelous murals to add to my collection and a sharp-edged building, too, circa 1893. The history in this town!

See you later, alligator. Don’t be an April fool…


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