Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pedal for Pennies: I bike miles. You pledge pennies. Everybody wins.

A week ago, I alluded to a project I had been working on order to keep with my fourth resolution: FINISH SOMETHING. Well, it's time to explain what I intend to do throughout the year - and how you can help! But first I want to tell you about my mom.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh in July 2010, my mom was healthy. By November of that year she started experiencing really discomforting pains, that we all believed was likely a urinary tract infection. A month later we were sitting in the dining room for Christmas Eve dinner digesting the news that there was a tumor in her bladder. And the bladder had to come out. She had to start chemotherapy. It felt like it was one thing after another after another. Each day there was more news that wasn't horrible, but it also wasn't good. And then, on a late July afternoon just over a year since my return, I got the messages from my dad to call right away.



"I have horrible news."


Right after my mom died, I spent a lot of time taking very long bike rides. They cleared my head and gave me some time to be on my own. I would listen to music that made me feel better (and sometimes it made me feel worse) and ride up and down the trails all morning, afternoon, or evenings after work. If I was having a bad day, I rode my bike. It was my way of trying to cope with the loss. Since then, riding my bike is my best time for thinking. And it's when I thought of this.

The project.

At the beginning of the year I decided I would log every mile I biked throughout the year. I was mostly interested in seeing just how far I could do. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to find a way to do something broader and better with the project. So, with my mom's memory in mind, I'd like to introduce to you Pedal for Pennies.

It's simple. I bike. You pledge pennies per mile.

At the end of the year, your pennies will go to a wonderfully worthy organization with a local chapter in Pittsburgh:

  • Named for beloved comedian Gilda Radner, we opened in the city’s Strip District in June 2006.
  • Since that time over 1,400 members have participated in our free program of social and emotional support for anyone touched by cancer—men, women, teens, children—and their families and friends.
  • All activities offered in the clubhouse and the community—support and networking groups, workshops, educational programs, arts/crafts, and social activities—are free of charge.
  • All monies raised by Gilda’s Club Western PA stays here to support our programming.

If you'd like to learn more about Pedal for Pennies (or perhaps make a pledge!), visit the Pedal for Pennies project blog - where you can track my progress, see dorky pictures of my bike throughout Pittsburgh, and read my ramblings on biking.

My goal is 3,000 miles. You do the math.

Donna Rowland. The best.
March 3, 1948 - July 23, 2011

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Sebak Challenge: Stuff Below the Surface in Underground Pittsburgh

The Sebak Challenge
Underground Pittsburgh

A couple weeks go, I shared with you my desire to watch all of the Rick Sebak Pittsburgh documentaries. Well, I'm off to a good start as I've already watched two and have scheduled a viewing of a third. I figure: it's winter. It's cold (but not freezing! thank you, Mother Nature!). Why not spend some quality indoors and under-blankets-and-cats time enjoying the ever enjoyable Rick Sebak taking me on tours of the best city I know? After living in my apartment for a year and a half, I finally figured out how to make watching WQED a reality (I don't understand how much technology works anymore. It makes me feel funny!) and was able to catch two Sebak Pittsburgh documentaries in a row! The first, Underground Pittsburgh, was exciting because not only would it be first, but it was first on my mental list of which ones I wanted to see most.

What follows are notes, observations, and possibly some anecdotes. Use this as a fun viewing guide next time it's on WQED!
  • First featured is Laurel Caverns. Great place. Nice field trip idea in the summer because the caves are so so so cool and walking through them is an adventure. Put it on the summertime to-do list!
  • Next Rick Sebak interviews a guy from a geological society whose offices are on Washington's Landing. First thought: I hope people are SUPER excited when they find out Rick Sebak wants to talk to them. Second, this guy is seriously fantastic. His enthusiasm is contagious. I used to call on geology professors when I was a textbook sales rep in Boston (yuck times about a bilion!), and they were always the nicest people to talk to.
  • After that there is a segment about bugs. Gross. Just gross. However, that cicadas are crazy enough to know to stay underground for seventeen years? That is pretty insane.
  • The tunnels are up next and the epic coming-out-of-the-Fort Pitt-tubes view is discussed. My immediate thought: If Perks of Being a Wallflower screws this scene up in the movie, I'm gonna be so mad. #1 Best Thing about Bringing People to Pittsburgh for the First Time!
  • A couple segments later, the focus shifts to the T. I actually use the T to get to my dad's house in the South Hills. But, another EXCELLENT use of the T is in the trailer for a fantastic film called The Next Three Days:

  • I had an honest to goodness freak-out moment a few segments later after the documentary switched from the T to basements. In the back of my head I was hoping for it, and Sebak delivered: THE PITTSBURGH TOILET. One of my absolute favorite weird Pittsburgh things. We had one in the South Oakland house I lived in my senior year of college. My dream Pittsburgh home will have one. It has to.
  • The Iron Mountain facility is kind of the most awesome thing. Working there has to be completely bizarre and amazing. The lady who takes care of that humongous photography collection there is adorable. It seemed like she feels an amazing sense of duty doing what she does, and that is wonderful.
  • One of the last segments features a married couple who have curated an expansive collection of coal mining memorabilia and materials. Their love of coal mining and their passion for preserving these items was envy-worthy. In the most honest sincere way, I hope I one day love something as much as these two do. The best quote of the documentary: "We are the guardians of this piece of history."
  • Finally, everything wraps up where Pittsburghers almost all eventually end up: [six feet] underground. Not me, though. I want to be cremated and my ashes shot off in a firework against the skyline. (Credit to Rob for the idea. I only wish I were clever enough to come up with something like that on my own!)
My rating for Underground Pittsburgh: two very excited thumbs up!
(Pittsburgh Toliet FTW!)

Friday, January 27, 2012

I Like Stuff. Wild Stuff.

My apartment is a collection of stuff. Of stuff I've made. Of stuff I've found. Of stuff that's been given to me. Of stuff that I've take with me. It's like a museum in some ways.

(Or maybe I'm a hoarder. Just the other day my friend Lindsay told me that watching Hoarders makes her think of me.)

Either way, I appreciate stuff, especially one-of-a-kind finds. As I'm trying to consume fewer things this year in an effort to save some money, when I do buy something it has to be unique. And unique things were the flavor of the day at Wild Stuff. Through March 31, Wild Stuff - a collaboration between Wild Card, Zombo Gallery, and Botero Development - will set up at 4300 Butler Street with a collection of items large and small and wholly unique.

Though I did not take home the very awesome and absurd "Guide to Bodily Fluids" (and honestly, I may have to go back and buy it on another Saturday...), I did find an amazing pillowsham that had all of the Canadian provincial coat of arms painted on it. It was something I would never find again and something that HAD to come and live on my wall.

While the cold is here and upon us, Wild Stuff is a great winter alternative to flea markets or yard sales. Find a Saturday before April gets here to get there and do some digging.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

PGH Book #1: "21" The Story of Roberto Clemente

You may recall my first resolution for 2012 was to read more. Well, I am happy to report that I have been keeping ahead of schedule! Now, this is partly due to the facts that a) I started this first book before 2012 began and b) it is a graphic novel. (I wanted to ease into things.)

"21" covers Clemente's lifespan from a child in Puerto Rico to the fatal flight that took his life.

This is a quote I will take to heart.

The Cathedral of Learning! It's weird to see it there, because I've never seen that popping out of the skyline at any Pirates game I've ever been too.

I've never been very good at book review, so let's just say I read it, I enjoyed it, and I think you might enjoy it too! Now, a month is nearly behind us in 2012 already! Time. It flies. You may be wondering how I've been faring with my OTHER resolutions. Well, even if you're not, I'm about to tell you. My second resolution was to volunteer, which I did just a tiny bit of this month when I went to a BikePGH volunteer night. I was there just shy of an hour! One down, forty-nine to go.

My third resolution was to try new things. I have tried new things! Here's a short list: walked all the staircases in a neighborhood, went to the Park House for a beer and peanuts, had dinner with my dad and brother at the Tap Room, tried out Habitat with Kate and Zack for Pittsburgh's first Restaurant Week where I ate OXTAIL for the first time (after a quick text-message consultation regarding if I would hate oxtail).

My fourth resolution? Well, that is something you'll have to wait a few more days to find out more about...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PGH Beautiful: Awesome Signs, January 2012

A couple signs from my walk through the South Side Slopes during StepTrek 2011. That was back when it was warm and sunny and lovely. (Winter. Boo!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EvBetPGH Resolution #4: Finish a Project!

I am kind of the queen of starting something, and not finishing it. It's a really upsetting habit, because I get so excited about project ideas, go into them FULL STEAM AHEAD and then lose gusto as the project takes time to develop. I can't tell you how many other "blogs" I tried to start either on my own or with friends that have fizzled out after a few weeks. (I'm actually very proud that I've kept this one going so long, like those others were just dress rehearsals to when I figured out what I actually really wanted to be writing about all the time. So, thank you for reading. It means the world to me. Really.)

So, in 2012, I am going to start a project and FINISH it.

I thought I would set out to do some amazing creative project, but I am nervous about feeling really incapable of undertaking something that's not entirely concrete. So, I shifted my thinking to my second favorite option: biking. Let's face it: I'm kind of obsessed with my bike. I love getting around on two wheels. There's something about the physical movement of pedaling and propelling myself forward that I just absolutely thrive on. There isn't a day that passes when I'm not finding myself daydreaming about getting back on the trail for another bike tour/camp trip. (Summer, I miss you. Please come back soon!)

So, in a week, I'll have a more formal announcement about the project. I'm still ironing out some details and figuring out the easiest way to execute it without it turning into a logistical nightmare. But, I'm excited. And better yet, I'm going to FINISH.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I Wanna Buy: January 2012

We've a new theme here at EverythingBetterPGH and it's called "Things I Wanna Buy." One of my personal goals for 2012 (and hopefully beyond) is to live a little cheaper in order to start saving for a home. It's a crazy idea to me that one day I will be a homeowner. But, I'm sure that this is the place I want to be, so I might as well shoot to make a place within that place a perfect resemblance of me.

This means: I can't go around buying every odd little awesome thing I see. Every now and then I will treat myself, but it will have to be something incredible and unusual that I may never be able to find again. (Case in point: later this week I'll be posting about Wild Stuff where I found an amazing pillow sham with all of the Canadian provincial coat of arms painted on it.)

So, enjoy my replacement for purchasing. Maybe you'll find something suitably odd, little, or awesome and you'll know just where to go to get it. I'm already jealous.

Awesome thing: Zombie Nesting Dolls
Where to buy: Divertido, Lawrenceville, 3609 Butler Street
I'd love to use these to decorate my mantle, which already displays a mini-zombie/monster collection.

Awesome thing: Bicycle Matchbook
Where to buy: Pavement, Lawrenceville, 3629 Butler Street
These would find a home next to my "success" prayer candle, also on the mantle.

Awesome thing: Outpost Journal: Pittsburgh
Where to buy: Wildcard, Lawrenceville, 4209 Butler Street
Confession: I actually did buy this. I went home and used some of my PayPal earnings from my Etsy shop to buy this from the Outpost Journal website. I couldn't resist.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Hair for a New Year: Pageboy Salon and Boutique

I'm not one to cut my hair with any sort of frequency or regularity. Normally I wait until the mess on top of my head is finally too unruly to do anything other than throw it in a ponytail. And then, it's time to suck it up and go to a salon. Around the middle of December, I realized I was at the end stages of acceptable appearance. At the same time Allie and I had lunch and she mentioned that she was going to make an appointment at Pageboy in Lawrenceville. They had just been voted Best Local Salon in the City Paper, and so, with this bit of serendipity, I asked Allie to book me one too. Which she did, side-by-side in mid January. After another month of disaster-hair, I went with Allie to Pageboy, where I received something very rare for me: a haircut I really liked and wanted.

I've never really had a consistent salon or hairdresser. It's probably the result of that whole putting it off as long as possible thing. But, leading up to my appointment, I had done a little reading up on the salon, and found the following description on the website:

"Pageboy Salon offers a fun environment where you can have a great conversation, laugh a little, and still enjoy a totally personal and professional experience."

This hits the nail right on the head. Allie and I sat through each other's appointments, hanging out with Dana and the other ladies working that afternoon. When I described what I had in mind for the cut that day, I basically described a trim. Nothing new. Nothing out of the ordinary. But, as Dana started cutting away, I felt more and more comfortable with taking a little bit of a risk and eventually told her to do what she thought best. She kept in mind what I had told her about my lifestyle (wear a helmet almost daily, don't have a lot of time to spend on it, etc.) and gave me a cut that looks great and will work for me. I love it, and I'll be back - sooner, rather than later.

Pageboy isn't just a salon, it's also a shop full of great new and vintage pieces. There are plans of expanding the salon and tightening the space and collection of the boutique, but I expect it will retain all the charm and chic that it currently has now. I explored the shop during a bit of Allie's appointment and found a great number of things I knew I could provide a good home for.

It was incredibly difficult not to take this home with me. This is going on a wishlist. Immediately.

Pageboy is easy to describe, but it would be hard to imitate. It is wonderful and well curated. It is sophisticated and comfortably homey. It's the kind of place I'd recommend to anyone. So - if you're looking for a new haircut or to add to your own personal style, visit Pittsburgh's best, Pageboy Salon and Boutique.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pedestrian Pittsburgh: The Staircases of Polish Hill

[Pedestrian Pittsburgh is a collaborative effort between Eric Lidji and me. We're gonna walk all over this fantastic city. Check out his blog for his account (which will be much more elegant and whimsical than my account that follows).]

When you put a neighborhood on a steep hill, you end up needing a transportation system to get people from the bottom to the top and back down again. It might seem too basic to be considered a transportation system, but really that's what staircases are. They are a pain when you have to climb several to get to where you're going, but they are way less of a pain than the alternative - scaling the hill without it broken up a bit.

Our plan on possibly the most beautiful January day on record was to walk up or down all of the staircases in Polish Hill. Why? Why not? What else are you going to do with your time?

This staircase is all the way at the back of Polish Hill. On the other side of that wall is Bigelow Boulevard.

From the top of the staircase, you can see Polish Hill, Lawrenceville, Troy Hill and beyond.

But, if you look down, you'll see some lovely little chickens!

The day of our walk it was sunny and almost 60 degrees. Fuck winter, indeed. (Of course, it's now freezing and snowy and blustery, so that whole mild winter thing is probably over. SAD. FACE.)

Definitely my favorite staircase, and maybe Eric's too, was this one above. It's hard to see before most of it is covered in the weird gully-forest overgrowth in Polish Hill's odd little gully. But where it looks like it turns to the right it actually also continues straight, making a big, somewhat unnecessary loop. Though I guess it is not entirely unnecessary for the people who live in the three or four houses it services, which is a nice part of Pittsburgh's charm.

This is one of those snapshots of Pittsburgh that I just absolutely love. Rickety houses teetering comfortably on the edge.

The best part of walking the staircases were the small discoveries along the way: the unnecessary loop, the stickers and graffiti, the chickens and the view. Polish Hill is a treasure trove because the people who live there, have lived there, or have climbed up and down the staircases on trips to the neighborhood have left little remnants of themselves behind. I like wondering who put up these little birds outside their cage or who spray-painted this excellent orange creature on our last staircase of the day. I'll probably never find out, but that's okay so long as there are continually more things to find and enjoy.

You can see more photos from the walk on the EverythingBetterPGH Picasa Page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

PGH T-Shirt Collection: January 2012

Continuing to showcase my obsession with PGH t-shirts.

T007: Let's Go Bucs
Designer: Unknown
Where Bought: FREE T-shirt Friday at a Bucco's game, Summer 2011

T008: PGH Map
Designer: CityFabric
Where Bought: During CityFabric's kickstarter campaign

Designer: Apemade
Where Bought: Handmade Arcade 2011

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

EvBetPGH Resolution #3: Try New (Pittsburgh) Things!

Or even just try new things in general.

One thing I'm embarrassed to be known for is being extremely reluctant to try things. This is mostly related to food, now that I really think about it. And, honestly, that is just never going to change. But! What I can change is my aversion to routine and regularity.

Now, becoming a regular at a few local Pittsburgh institutions this year has been incredibly enjoyable. Especially when those things involve burgers, hot dogs, and great alcohol. But, it's time to keep those regular visits coming, but sprinkle in more new things. New restaurants. New nights out. New places to go. New people to see. I want new (Pittsburgh) things. For now, my "new thing" goal is one new thing a week.

Suggestions, again, are welcomed and encouraged! What things in Pittsburgh do you think I haven't done or haven't seen or haven't experienced? Leave a comment, or send me an email!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do You Know Where You Are: The Hyperlocal Mapping Party

Maps are a handy item. They can show you where you are. They can tell you where you are going. They show you new places to discover as close or as far away from home as you want to be. One of my favorite "features" of my apartment are the tacked-up BikePGH bike maps, which are both informative and really fun to look at.

Maps were the guest of honor at the Hyperlocal Mapping Party hosted by Assemble on Penn Ave last Wednesday night. There were a number of activities and presenters, including the amateur cartographer Eric Lidji (he has been doing some lovely PGH-reporting lately) and his protractors! (You remember, the protractors? I wrote about them in my very first post!)

No one's found #33 yet! Someone get out there and find #33!

The string of protractors I discovered along the river on the South Side and along the Eliza Furnace Trail.

One of the other activities was "Mapping Your Body." Carrie was given a long sheet of paper, drew her body's outline, and filled it in with clippings from magazines - a representation of what Carrie is made up of.

By far, my favorite clipping Carrie chose was the reddish one with the cat on it. You can see it at the top of her head in the photo above. It's great because it says: "Cats, Little Tigers In Your Houses." I hope this is Carrie's actual thought process.

The map above shows the various abandoned or vacated plots in Garfield. This map isn't just a listing of properties in the neighborhood. The great amount of orange/yellow/tan on this map shows that Garfield is an area ready for a major infusion of life. Being that it borders my current location, I hope good things develop there.