Friday, May 31, 2013

Greendance Winery

Over Memorial Day weekend, we took a drive to the Laurel Highlands region of PA, where Dave and I are getting married in September. Because most of the wedding planning has been done from a distance, my parents kindly tromped through the snow for us this January to look at a handful of potential wedding venues we picked online. They sent back pictures and pricing and thoughts, and we eventually decided on Greendance Winery. This weekend, Dave and I were very excited to see our wedding venue ourselves, in person and without snow on the ground! 

Sand Hill berry farm is also part of Greendance winery. They grow their own berries and turn them into yummy things like jams and jellies. 

This is an adorable little dessert stand in front of the winery. I love how everything is hand painted. 

Outdoor cafe in front of the winery. 

All the tables are hand painted, too! This one with the guinea hens was one of our favorites. 

Mom, Dad, and I in front of the winery store. 

Wedding planning notebook in hand! 

This is the natural aisle our guests and I will be walking down to the wedding ceremony. It will be lined with fall flowers, and, hopefully, the trees will be changing to vibrant shades of oranges, reds, and browns. 

The natural amphitheater where our wedding ceremony will take place. 

There is even a field full of sheep behind the wedding ceremony spot! We're so pleased with this venue. It is just what we wanted: natural, outdoors, and full of critters and life. 

There are also extensive apple orchards at Greendance. You can take a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the orchards on weekdays. 

Dave got some awesome shots of these mushrooms growing on the property. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stairway to Nowhere

While Dave was walking around Bloomfield trying to get the best angle for the huge churches we mentioned on yesterday's post, he found this door, quite out of place in this grungy alleyway. 

On the drive home from Bloomfield, we discovered Frank Curto park, which is near Pittsburgh's Polish Hill neighborhood. According to what I could find online, it seems to have been around since the 1970's. It was named after one of the city's longtime horticulturalists, after his career with the Parks and Recreation department ended in 1970. 

Frank Curto park boasts these amazing overlook views. You can see even more, but we were only able to take photos in one direction, because the sun was hanging low in the sky. 

One of the things we really missed living in Florida was views like this. In Florida, everything is pretty flat, so its rare to find a view from anywhere but a bridge near the ocean, or a high-rise window. We love Pittsburgh because of its hills and the ability to find places like this with views of the city's rivers, buildings, and bridges. 

Frank Curto park is "sculpture filled" according to the internet, but these sculptures have all seen better days. We think this was part of the old "Goddess Adorned" installation, which originally had three statues like this and was surrounded by circular gardens filled with locally sourced plants. That installation happened in 2002. Now, all that's left appears to be one statue and a garden of weeds. Another sculpture, a giant metal one named "Pittsburgh," was installed in 1977, and looks like it hasn't been cleaned or repainted more than perhaps once since then. 

As we were traversing the park, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a huge male turkey crossing the pathway. We tried to quietly follow him to take pictures, and while he slipped out of sight before we could get to the camera, he did lead us to this really neat staircase to nowhere. 

This staircase clearly has not been in use for a while, but that makes it all the more appealing to us. Dave and I are both fascinated by spaces like this, where nature has come back in and reclaimed something man-made. There are plenty of pristine city parks to be found, but coming across a place like this, mostly overgrown and in ill-repair, makes you feel like you're discovering a place for the first time. It feels untouched and wild. We like that. 

The grass in the park, though, is still cut and maintained, and there has been a line of new trees planted, lending an odd mix of decay and repair to the park and making it all the more interesting. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Ideas

Today, we traveled to Bloomfield, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, to meet with our wedding officiant, Ann Marie. She co-owns this awesome spot, The Big Idea Bookstore & Cafe. I'd never been to Bloomfield before, so I'm really glad we decided to meet her at her bookstore instead of a more central location. Ann Marie was wonderful. She is laid back and easy going, which is just what we wanted from our wedding officiant. We are writing our own ceremony and vows, so we wanted someone we could feel comfortable around and be excited about working with.

Inside The Big Idea. They have sections of new and used books. 

Bloomfield is also home to Pittsburgh's Little Italy, which really is little, but has some cute looking wine spots and restaurants. 

Wandering down the street from The Big Idea, we came across a great vintage and resale shop, Clothes Minded. 

This is Josh, the owner of the shop, which will have been open a year on June 1st. He is so friendly, and his dedication to and love for his shop are really apparent. It was great meeting you, Josh! 

Inside Clothes Minded. 

After the bookstore and shops, we drove around a bit and stopped to get some pictures of a few neat old churches. One had tons of these gorgeous flowers growing outside. We're not sure what they are, but they were so fragrant! It was nice sitting near them in the late afternoon sun just enjoying their scent. 

There are an incredible number of interesting old churches around the Bloomfield/ Shadyside area. 

Some, like this one, are so enormous, its impossible to capture their full scale in a single photo frame. Check out the detail on that bell tower, though! Pretty incredible. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Family Cookout

On Sunday, we had family and friends over for an afternoon Memorial Day cookout. 

I made these strawberry, strawberry/blueberry, and strawberry/kiwi shortcakes completely from scratch, from the cake to the whipped cream. They came out deliciously! 

After hours of searching, I finally settled on a Three Ingredient Italian spongecake recipe to use for the cake instead of opting for a heavier, more traditional shortcake. The recipe was simple and straightforward, and I highly recommend it. The cake is delicious enough just to eat on its own! You can find the recipe at this link

We also had baked beans from scratch, homemade macaroni salad, grilled peppers and onions, and salad, which were all delicious, but no where near as photogenic as these cakes! 

Though a bit cool, our Memorial Day weekend weather turned out to be sunny and beautiful. 

Dad and Dave took care of the outdoor cooking. 

Dave flipping burgers and grilling hot and mild Italian sausages. 

We even had corn slow roasted in the fire. 

At the beginning of the day, Dave threw this makeshift table together out of materials my Dad had laying around: a wood pallet, 4 garden stakes, and 4 screws. It was actually incredibly sturdy!  

Our good friends Jon and Anna came by. 

My mom and Uncle Nick. 

Hope you had a good Memorial Day, too! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bird Watching, Garden Planting, and Pants Patching

The bird feeder in my parents' backyard gives me hours of entertainment. There's been lots of binocular using and bird book searching. Most recently, we've seen male and female boat-tailed grackles, a pair of house finches, a red-winged blackbird, and, of course, some beautiful cardinals. 

We've had a few days of sporadic rain, but we've managed to get almost everything planted in between the storms except for the lettuce, carrots, and beets. 

We planted our tomato and basil next to each other since they are good companion plants, and put crushed egg shells in the bottom of the tomato holes since they like extra calcium. 

There are snap peas and garden beans planted along the middle rows. 

There are eggplant, broccoli, green and banana peppers, onion, and parsley along the sides of the garden. We are really looking forward to a lovely bounty when we come back to Pittsburgh this Fall.

Unfortunately, there's a chance of frost tonight, on Memorial Day weekend when it's nearly June! Hard to believe. Tonight all our poor little plants are well covered with sheets and blankets. Hopefully they make it through alright. 

Dave's on-going spare time project this week has been patching up this old pair of jeans. He finally finished today. 

He even sewed in a new pocket! I'm constantly impressed by Dave's ability to's just something I'm not any good at. 

Hope everyone has a lovely Memorial Day weekend. We're busy planning and cooking for a family gathering we're having at our place this weekend. (Looking forward to seeing you all soon!) The two things I'm most excited about cooking are homemade baked beans, and strawberry shortcake from scratch. Yum! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Steel City

Dave and I have been coming to Pittsburgh together since 2010 to visit my family, primarily for Thanksgivings and Christmases. It's funny to think that we first came here for Thanksgiving 5 months after we first met, and now we're here, almost exactly 3 years later, working on wedding plans! Pittsburgh certainly has a lot of meaning for us. 

For today's post, we thought we'd share some of our favorite photos Dave has taken around the city during the time we've spent here. "Steel City" isn't nearly as gritty as you might think; it's actually one of our favorite cities with plenty of art, nice views, neat neighborhoods, and all those bridges crossing over the three rivers that intersect here: the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio. 

View of downtown Pittsburgh from Mt Washington. 

A bridge with Heinz Field in the background. 


The Duquesne Incline, one of two that take riders to the top of Mt. Washington. 

A few photos from inside the Carnegie Museum of Art, which is always a great place to spend a day. 

Our favorite grocery store of all time, Giant Eagle Market District, is located in Pittsburgh. We always look forward to buying groceries here, especially cheese from their huge selection. 

Eat'n'Park is a Pittsburgh tradition. It's a 24-hour diner, and I've spent countless nights of my life here, drinking coffee and eating pie. 

Squirrel Hill is one of our favorite neighborhoods. There are tons of coffee and tea shops and local mom and pop stores and eateries, as well as gorgeous houses and green space in the surrounding area. 

This construction worker outside the Jewish synagogue wanted his picture taken! Pittsburgh can be such a friendly place. 

A mural in Squirrel Hill. 

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