First thing’s first: Happy MLK Jr. Day! Today’s a great day to engage in service for others. If you have kids in the Burgh, it’s a great day to head to the Mattress Factory for free, fun and educational programming!
Winter has been weird here in Pittsburgh. We had one snowfall in November, but it was light and dissipated quickly. Since then, it’s been fairly warm. Over the holiday break, it was so warm we abandoned coats in the Spring-like weather. The air was pregnant with an unseasonably warm humidity. Everyone I ran into simultaneously loved it and was, on a deeper level, disturbed by it.
All illusions of Spring vanished this weekend as we had our first real snow pass through. Things got icy. Things got a little dicey on the roads for a minute. For better or worse, it began to feel like a Pittsburgh winter.
I hate scraping off my car.
I’m not the tallest person. When this season rolls around, I typically bust out the car brush, curse myself for moving into yet another home without a garage (that rent tho!) and curse some more as I try in vain to get every last chunk of snow off of my car.
It’s a miserable process.
A lot of times, I’ll just “leave” half an hour early, sitting in my car with the heat blasting on defrost until things have thawed enough to make the job easier.
Burning fuel like that is not cost-effective and also is a pretty terrible thing to do the environment I claim to be so worried about.
Scrape-A-Round to the rescue!
Earlier this winter, Scrape-A-Round had approached me with a few free snow scrapers for myself and my family. I watched their videos and was intrigued. It looked like it was going to be a ton easier to clean off my car. And that’s something that makes me super happy.
This weekend, I had my first real chance to try it out.
I LOVED IT.
I applied almost no pressure and easily cut through ice within seconds. I was able to reach the same parts of the windshield I am with the scrape-y part of a regular brush tool, so range was not an issue. Because it’s a hollow cone, I figured out a technique to scoop the snow off the car which was just as efficient as brushing it off had been in years past.
Their marketing indicates that they have had problems with knock-offs made in China. These knock-offs might be cheaper, but they also don’t work as well as the original. I’ve noticed this same problem with other products lately, especially when I order off Amazon. You have to be vigilant nowadays!
I have never been much of a fashionista. My style — during those moments when I can claim to have any — is simultaneously classic and offbeat and sometimes the punk rock still peeks out a little bit.
Other than a stint in late middle school where I attempted to wear the right brands to fit in, clothing has never been a core value of mine. Because it wasn’t a core value, I haven’t ever really allocated a lot of money towards it. I was hitting the thrift shops when we all thought real estate only went up. I would patch my own jeans and upcycle the heck out of what I had.
I also went to a high school that was ridiculously moneyed. My parents made a lot of sacrifices so we could live in the right neighborhood to go to the right schools, and it served us well. Even during the hardest times in my life economically, I’ve been grateful that I grew up in the cultural norms of the upper middle class. If I was a fish, these norms were my water.
I didn’t always like them. And I in no way think they’re superior. But because I was acculturated to them, I’ve been able to use them in situations where I need to earn money, many of which are annoyingly still dominated by the cultural norms of the upper middle class.
That’s how I found myself at Saks Fifth Avenue.
When I was a junior in high school, one of my friends came home to visit from college. I was trying to remember if I skipped school to hang out with him the day this story happened, but I can’t remember. We’re going to go with, “It was a Saturday.”
We went to the mall and grabbed some eats from this amazing Japanese place we always frequented together. He had to run some errands afterwards, including picking something up at Saks Fifth Avenue.
I rolled my eyes, but said I’d come along. He picked up a shirt. He knew right where it was.
Even back then, I was anthropologically interested in everything. I had never seen an old storefront like this in real life. Downtown. Fancy. Built to not only sell ritzy clothes, but make you feel like you yourself were ritzy once you were inside. To make you feel special. Worthy.
At least, I wasn’t falling for it until my friend showed me the clearance rack.
Yeah, he knew me well.
He cheered me on as I found good deal after good deal. That’s something I’ve always been good at. I’ve never been particularly prone to peer pressure, but that day, with him oohing an ahhing over all the steals I was finding, I decided to bring home a trophy.
I brought home a Marc Jacobs sweater and a Juicy Couture miniskirt. There was a tank top to wear under the sweater in there, too, but I don’t remember the brand. It was all under $90.
For those brands, it really was a steal.
I still felt like an idiot when I got home. Mad at my friend for cheering me on. Frustrated with myself for caving to the magic of the store’s presentation and giving in to his encouragement.
Something funny happened when I wore that outfit to school. A ton of people gave me compliments. I remember thinking it was really, really weird that they could know the brand of my clothes when zero branding was showing.
I also remember thinking it was really, really weird but also completely predictable that the people coming up to me showering me with compliments were people I had come to know as jerks and bullies.
You could be in the right crew with that sweater, tho.
You’ll have that.
Grabbing drinks at Saks.
Recently, I found myself back in that same location. Saks Fifth Avenue is no longer downtown. There’s a Saks off Fifth up in the North Hills because after the housing bubble burst even the moneyed picked up the hobby of finding a good deal, but the location I was standing in was no longer an old-time-y department store. It was now a fancy Brazilian Steakhouse called Fogo de Chao. I was sitting at one of the most expansively stocked bars I had ever seen with hints of glimmering gold jumping out of the decor, catching my eye with every last turn of my head.
I was there for a happy hour. I had been invited to tour Pittsburgh Magazine’s Ultimate House. After a drink and some appetizers, we headed next door to the Lumiere.
The Ultimate House
For the past several years, Pittsburgh Magazine has been sponsoring the Ultimate House. They work together with local companies like PPG Paints to create a beautiful model home somewhere in the city. Then, they open the Ultimate House up for tours, with tour proceeds supporting a local cause.
This year, next door to Fogo de Chao, we headed up to the eighth floor of the Lumiere to tour this year’s house: A penthouse by Millcraft.
It’s still heavily under construction, but it’s already gorgeous. The open-concept living space between kitchen and living room is massive not only in its indoor capacities, but also in its flow into the outdoors, which includes two balconies running the length of the apartment on either side of the building. Head outdoors for fantastic views, or open the windows up to convert your apartment into an indoor/outdoor space.
There were more bathrooms than bedrooms, each thoughtfully and carefully decorated with beautiful tile and the best paint PPG can offer. The closests could legitimately be bedrooms in and of themselves.
Then you head up to the top floor where there’s a beautiful, open-air balcony, giving you views of the iconic skyline from within the skyline itself. It’s not something we get to see often in Pittsburgh as our downtown area is not packed thick with residences. Also on the roof is an open-air dog park so you don’t have to worry about navigating the city streets with Spot if you don’t want to.
The penthouse is perhaps unsurprisingly expensive. But if you’re moving to Pittsburgh and are looking for inner-city living, there are smaller units on higher floors which have comparatively affordable pricetags. These apartments are more expensive than what you can find in other city neighborhoods, but there are some advantages to living downtown.
This neighborhood is probably best for young professionals moving to Pittsburgh from another metro. You don’t have a car, and don’t want one. I mean, if you do, there’s residential parking available. But Pittsburgh’s public transport is nothing to write home about. Downtown is the neighborhood it serves best.
Downtown is also where a lot of white collar jobs are, so if you have the income to support the real estate purchase, you’ll likely have a short commute. The Lumiere is walking distance to the Cultural District, where — among other shows — Pittsburgh gets the most Broadway shows on Earth outside of NYC. It’s also walking distance to Point State Park and both of the inclines on Mt. Washington.
Take a tour. Help pay kids’ medical bills.
The folks at Millcraft have put a lot of thought into their project, including the 2020 Ultimate House. The finished product is going to be amazing, and it’s also going to be open to the public. Tours start on February 21 and run through March 1. Tickets are shockingly affordable, making this a great, under $30 date night or a fun event to participate in with your teens who may be interested in architecture, interior design, real estate or future employment with nonprofits.
Tickets are $20/each, unless you buy a bundle package which gives you admission for two people for a whopping total of $25. On Wednesday, February 26, there will be a Dine & Design event. Tickets to this event are $35/each, but you get more than just a tour:
Visit Pittsburgh Magazine’s Ultimate House on Wednesday, February 26 for an evening of Dine & Design. Enjoy a night out complete with complimentary cocktails, lite bites and access to the 5th Annual Ultimate House for just $35 (Ages 21+).
The proceeds from the event and the tours will benefit the Free Care Fund at UPMC Children’s Hospital. This fund is something all hospitals claiming to be nonprofits are legally required to provide under the ACA. The money goes towards forgiving or paying off the medical bills of families who prove they cannot afford care.
Every year, the Mattress Factory hosts a party for MLK Jr. Day. This year, there’s going to be a lot of really cool all-ages activities going on. The education department at the museum does a really great job with its events.
For example, this celebration will feature hands-on activities for all ages, including an I Have a Dream-scape collaborative mixed-media mural. Guests can also write a letter to someone who has inspired them at our Appreciation Station; enjoy a snack at the cookie table and hot chocolate bar; and dance to the music of local DJ group Wavy Bunch Sound.
Wavy Bunch Sound is comprised of duo DJ Flipwave and DJ African Wolf, coming from Ghana and Haiti respectively. In past years WBS has introduced Pittsburgh to the heritage of Afro-Caribbean culture with events like Ghana@62 and All White Affair: Rep Your Flag. These events give guests background and history through music, allowing people to enjoy and experience the black diaspora that is Afro-Caribbean via Soca, Zouk, Reggae, Dancehall, Afro-Beats, Hip-Hop/Rap and R&B/Soul of the past and present day.
If you’re a regular of the Mattress Factory, you’ll know that they’re not typically open on Mondays. But in honor of the holiday, not only will they be hosting the party, but the museum’s galleries at 500 Sampsonia Way, 516 Sampsonia Way and 1414 Monterey Street will be open for visitors.
If you haven’t been to the Mattress Factory yet, go. I lived here a total of 15 nonconsecutive years before I visited, and man, do I wish I had done it sooner. One of the coolest museums in the city–and that’s saying something in a museum-rich metro like Pittsburgh.
Celebrating a man so full of love, a penchant for peace and a desire for justice isn’t a bad way to spend any day, but Monday in particular will be something special.
You know how the holiday break is wonderful, but simultaneously draining as you try to entertain your children for two straight weeks?
I definitely in that headspace a couple weeks ago. Which is why I was more grateful than usual that we had something to do, courtesy of free tickets to Dinosaur Adventure.
What is Dinosaur Adventure?
Dinosaur Adventure is this crazy cool touring kids’ festival. When you first get there, you walk through all the different ages of dinosaurs. The dinos were automatons (dinomatons?) and extremely lifelike — I didn’t think this was possible, but it truly felt like they were right there! Better than some museum displays I’ve seen.
In the most recent age of dinosaurs, you can also ride dinosaurs! The kids also enjoyed digging up “fossils” and taking advantage of different cute photo ops set up around the room, too.
In the next room there were a bunch of different dino-themed bouncy houses set up. We also had opportunities to create our own fossils, play mini golf, watch an educational performance and get faces painted.
The Kids’ Favorites at Dinosaur Adventure
So we did a lot. At the end of the day, riding dinosaurs and running through the dinosaur-themed bouncy obstacle course took the cake, though. Everything we did was awesome, but those were the two the littles couldn’t stop talking about. I was pretty grateful for that obstacle course, too; they slept real well that night!
Tour & Pricing
Dinosaur Adventure has come and gone through the Pittsburgh region for this season, but they’ve still got lots of tour dates across the country. Here are a few cities they’re visiting coming up:
I’m not going to lie; tickets aren’t cheap. But if you’re looking for a way to get the kiddos out of the house for a solid day with no shortage of super fun and memorable activities, Dinosaur Adventure is a ton of fun. This event would likely take up your family entertainment budget for the month. But it’s a day your kids are likely to talk about for a while.
This post is in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
It’s that time again! While The Magic School Bus: Lost in Space will be touring the Pittsburgh region over the next week, we’ll be ramping up the next ticket giveaway for Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Chidren’s Theater series.
And what a giveaway it will be! This time, we’re giving away tickets to An Elephant in the Garden.
An Elephant in the Garden comes to Pittsburgh
An Elephant in the Garden will be here in the Burgh on January 17 & 18. The show on the 17th will be at 7p and the show on the 18th will start at 2p. There will be an ASL interpreter at the show on the 17th. All the shows will be at the Byham Theater.
Here’s what you can expect:
1945. Dresden, Germany. Two children and their mother flee falling bombs during World War II. They aren’t alone, though. An adorable elephant from the zoo named Marlene becomes an unlikely family member. Along the way, this extraordinary quartet of refugees meet a Canadian officer cowering in a barn, a school choir on the run and their Countess savior who is harboring them from the Nazis.
This story of family, elephant, friends and enemy-turned-ally illustrates the importance of love, resolve, and hope in wartime and anytime. Partly based on a true story, An Elephant in the Garden is an adaptation from the best-selling novel by Michael Morpurgo, author of over 100 books including War Horse, Private Peaceful and Kensuke’s Kingdom.
Or, you can enter to win four (4) tickets using the widget below! You can earn entries through 11:59p on January 11, 2020. Please check you inbox religiously on the 12th as we will have to coordinate your tickets quickly!
If you win, you will get to choose which showing you go to. Best of luck to all!