life · through my camera lens

Thankful for- places

Home is where my family is, where we sleep each night. In my married life I have lived in 3 houses. Before I married Richard, I owned my own house in Orlando. Before that I owned a condo in MA. I also lived in Rochester, NY and grew up in different area of MA.

I still talk about going home to FL even if I feel like our house here in PA is home. There are so many things that make this house a home. We have done so much in the year we have lived here. We have explored the area and enjoy everything if offers.

I am thankful for the house we live in, but I talked about that last week as a “Thing”.

I’m thankful that we live so close to North Park. This is a county park that we go to whenever we can. I have watched the leaves change the snow fall and the floods comes. My sons have learned to ice skate, mountain bike and kayak in North Park. We love the trails, wild life and scenery we can enjoy there.

I’m thankful for the city of Pittsburgh. This is the city where Richard works. But, more than that it is the city we get to explore. We have experienced a variety of cultural activities there. We have gone to baseball games, monster truck races, street fairs and many more things. It is know as Steel City from all of the steel factories that were located here back at in the last century. This steel is present in the many bridges that crisscross the city.

I’m thankful the memories we have from our years in Orlando. It was the city where my sons were born and had all their “firsts”. We miss going to Disney World and the year round summer.

But, for now… Pittsburgh (well really Wexford) is our home… and for that I’m thankful.


family · life · through my camera lens

Carnegie Science Center

Yesterday Richard took the day off to spend some time together as a family. We had been trying to find time to head into the Carnegie Science Center, but hadn’t managed yet. Right now they have a special display called the Art of the Brick.

We started by going through The Art of the Brick. This is the art of Nathan Sawaya. He creates and recreates art using Lego blocks. Colby was excited to see this. Before we walked in he informed me that this was going to be his career, but he wants to create abstract Lego Art.

We walked through and looked at the art and sculpture recreations. It was pretty impressive to see how close he was able to get to the original art. The next sections were pieces he created on his own. These too were very creative. When you went through this whole area you then went upstairs where they had a variety of stations with Lego blocks for people to build their own creations. They had a variety of suggested items, but you could pretty much do whatever you wanted.

Then we went into the science museum. This was a decent science center. There was a variety of hands on activities for the children to interact and learn from. I’m not sure I was impressed with the quantity or quality of these activities. (I guess I’m a bit of a museum snob). I’m not sure you would want to go back to this museum on a regular basis, but it certainly was worth going at least one, or once in a blue moon.

They we went outside to the submarine that they have docked on the river. You are able to go through the USS Requin submarine with your admission to the science center (the Art of the Brick was a separate cost, but everything else we did was included with the museum price). We walked through the submarine and realized that this was a very tight place to live for weeks at a time.

We then went to the Highmark SportsWorks. This was nothing like I expected it to be. There are 30 sports related activities. There were long lines at most of it and many were just ok. We did not wait in line for the ropes course, rock wall, human yo-yo or any of the ones that had long lines. They swung a bat, raced, tested their reflexes and a few other things. I’m glad this was included in the price I would not have wanted to pay a separate price for this.

family · life · through my camera lens

Sprinkler fun

I feel like I often write about things that my kids are getting to do here that they didn’t do in Orlando. Don’t get me wrong, they had a great childhood there but this is a different childhood. We have created a less structured childhood here. The boys have more freedom and more opportunities to just be outside doing kid things. There are times I think they miss the structure and activities they were engaged in when they were in Orlando, but most of the time they love the quiet, free, open time they have here.

When they were younger they played sports all school year as well as were involved in a variety of other out of school activities. When we moved here we stopped that. The main reason is the fact that they were not passionate about any of the sports they were playing. Neither wanted to do anything to improve beyond the practices and games. I’m not saying they needed to ask for private lessons, but they didn’t want to go kick the soccer ball, toss the football, or shoot baskets when they didn’t have to. So, why pay for something they aren’t passionate about. When you get to their age the teams get more competitive and there is more involved, multiple practices and traveling.

They have both asked to continue acting, and they have another week of theater camp coming up soon. We will see where this goes.

But, this weekend they had another free child first. Playing in the sprinklers. In Orlando we had a sprinkler system installed in our yard. The water that was feed to this was reclaimed water, so the boys were not encourged to play in it. We actually usually ran it at about 5am so they weren’t even awake when it was running.

Here we do not have a sprinkler system, so the sprinklers run on hose water. On Saturday we were watering the front lawn since it had been a while since there was rain. Both the boys just began running in and out of the sprinkler in their clothes. At first they hesitated and were just going up and drinking the water or helping to move the sprinkler. When they realized they were not getting in trouble they went for it.

Sunday and Monday they went out and put the sprinkler in the backyard. These times they actually wore bathing suits. They brought out their water squirters and a bucket. They had a blast playing in the water.

They were just running around and laughing. They had fun… being kids!

food · life · through my camera lens

Our new city


Last night we went into the city of Pittsburgh to see Nitro Circus. We are really enjoying IMG_20180622_102302_113these trips into the city. Just like here we lived outside the city in Orlando, but we didn’t go into the city of Orlando that often. Actually most things that people associate with the Orlando area actually aren’t in Orlando itself. The city of Orlando is rather small as far as cities go. There is a lot to do in the Orlando area, but the city itself didn’t hold as much to see and do as bigger cities.

The unique thing about the city of Pittsburgh is that even though it has the attractions and appeal of a big city, there is a lot to it that has more of a small city appeal.

IMG_20180621_204424Last night we were on the banks of the Monongahela River. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the city is surrounded by three rivers. The Monongahela (refereed to as the Mon by locals) is the south of the city. We were in an area called the South Side Flats, this is still in city of Pittsburgh, but the outside of the downtown area. During Nitro Circus we were looking across the Mon into the downtown area.

I love the bridges that you see around Pittsburgh. As I mentioned the downtown area is surrounded by rivers, that means you have to cross bridges to get downtown. While I’m not a fan of the traffic you find on these bridges, I love taking pictures of them.

We already have plans to head back to this new area we discovered. We want to ride the incline, go on a duck boat tour and just hang out near the rivers. We look forward to checking out other sections of the city to see what else our new city has in store for us. I know we will continue to enjoy our new home, town and city for years to come.

family · life · through my camera lens

The Point and North Park

Friday we went into the city. The boys and I met Richard at his job and from there we went to an art’s festival by “The Point”. Point State Park is the location of Fort Duquesne which was part of the start of the French Indian War. (I’d have to have Blake do a blog post to tell you more about it) The Point is also the location where three rivers (the Allegheny, Monogahela and the Ohio) converge.


The art festival was… ok. But, we had a good time walking around and just being. I was also able to get a few decent pictures of some of the bridges as well as the incline.

Saturday we got up and headed to North Park. The boys took Richard on another trail that they rode with their mountain bike class. This trail travels across the park so I dropped them off and then moved my car. When the finished they wanted to ride more so they took off on a new trail. This trail also ended in a second spot so I moved the car again. I hiked on two new trails for me too. We were all tired when this was done.


While I was hiking I came across this little deer having a snack. I decided to stop and watch. While I was there, the boys and Richard actually made it to where I hiked (we were going in opposite directions). We then headed back to the car.

Last night Colby had two friends over for a late birthday sleep over. They had a blast playing video games, watching a movie and we even went out for ice cream. We are all tired today, but it was a fun weekend.

family · food · reviews

Emporio: A Meatball Joint – Restaurant Review

So yesterday I posted my menu for the week. In posting this I realized I had never reviewed Emporio: A Meatball Joint.

Emporio is one of those place that we have been going to since we visited PA last March looking for a place to live. What make Emporio special? Their meatballs. That’s what they do… meatballs!

First things first which type of meatball are you going to have, beef, chicken, pork, veggie or the “Ball of the Month”? Now what are you going to do with your balls? Pick your sauce, pick your side (or skip the side) pasta, fries, tater tots, rice, on a roll?

I typically just get “Saucy Balls” which is 4 meatballs in your choice of sauce. This time I just decided to have beef balls in marinara… simple yet yummy. IMG_20180426_174127 (1).jpg

Richard ordered the Taco Ball Salad (taco ball was the ball of the month). This was romaine lettuce, Spanish rice, cheese, peppers and beef taco balls. IMG_20180426_174159.jpg

We have tried the Ball of the month in the past too, one time it was a cheese burger ball, Colby loved that one.

Blake and Colby ordered off the kids menu. This gets them one ball in sauce, a side, drink and a cookie. Blake had beef with marinara (then ate one of my meatballs too) and french fries. Colby had beef with creamy Parmesan sauce and penne with the same sauce


One of Blake’s favorite things about this restaurant is that we saw it on Ginormous Foods. He thinks this is pretty cool. They visited Primanti Bros on the same episode. You can check the episode out here.

family · life

Why did you leave FL for PA??

Whenever people learn that we moved from Orlando, FL to Pittsburgh, PA, we always get that look of … “What were you thinking?” People then always say “Was this for a job?” “Do you miss Florida?” “And many other questions that make you know that people think we are nuts.

Maybe we are, but this is working out for our family.

Yes, the weather in Orlando is a LOT warmer. Yes, Orlando has Disney and Universal and Sea World and Legoland and so many other things. Yes, Orlando is the only place my sons knew as home. Richard too had only lived in Florida.

What have we found? The neighborhood we live in now is a lot friendlier than the one we left. The boys have friends here. They enjoy going out on their bikes and joining up with other kids to play sports, ride bikes, play on the playground and so much more. The school they attend is for grades 4-6. This means they have more freedom and responsibility. The school doesn’t focus all their time and energy on the state testing. They want the children to be involved in learning beyond the classroom. They are more concerned about the depth of knowledge than the breathe of knowledge.

The city of Pittsburgh is a bigger city than Orlando, but it actually has a small town feel. There are lots of museums and things to do, but you can walk around and go to small restaurants and other venues that have been there for decades or longer. When you talk to people around they are friendly and speak highly of the city they love to call home. We have met so many people who say they grew up in Pittsburgh, moved away and came back.

No city, town, area is perfect. But, I will say that feel of this city is so caring and welcoming. We look forward to getting to know the area, city and state more. We are enjoying the change, and not just the change in seasons.

So were we crazy to leave Florida? Nope! We made a step that is helping bring happiness to our family, and that is what is important.

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Flame BBQ restaurant review

Last night there was no way I was cooking dinner. The house was still pretty much a cluttered mess from painting. The kitchen counters were covered with paper, the island was covered with everything that belongs on the counters. The kitchen table was covered with everything we using for painting.

So we decided to go out to dinner and then head to Costco to get the things we needed from there. We didn’t know where we were going to go, so we decided to try some place new to us.

We went to Flame BBQ in Cranberry, PA. I found it on-line while Googling “restaurants near Cranberry, PA”. I really like the near me features on Google as it gives you the map and then you can get to the websites. I like going onto the Google Earth feature of the map as I have to see what it looks like to know where in the world it is talking about. I can’t give directions go north 5 miles, that means nothing to me. I’m more of a drive until you see this gas station then turn right kind of person. So looking at the Google Earth map helps me see what I would see while driving.

Anyway…. back to Flame BBQ. We looked at the menu on the site and sort of had an idea of what we were going to order. We always look at menus on-line before going somewhere for the fact that my boys are picky eaters. They are getting better, but aren’t always super adventurous in their eating.

2018-03-02 18.00.02This restaurant was a small store front in a strip plaza. They had space for about one dozen people to sit in the restaurant so you can tell they do a lot of take out business. They had pulled pork, pulled chicken, pulled beef and brisket as their main meats. This works!

Colby ordered first. He decided to get the Jr. Beef 2018-03-02 18.00.07Brisket Sandwich. The meat in this was very lean and after he added the BBQ sauce it was very tasty. The roll they use for this was good too.

Blake ordered Ms. Chicken which is the pulled chicken sandwich. The meat came with their sweet sauce on it already. This too was really good. The chicken had decent flavor. It had the same roll as Colby.

Richard ordered the Boss Platter. This is two meats and two sides. Richard choose to have pulled pork, brisket, coleslaw and their side called Cheezy potato bake. He also got a kaiser roll with it. The pork was really good. Just like Colby, the brisket had good flavor, but was dry since it was so lean. The coleslaw had a bit too much mayo, but the flavor wasn’t bad. Neither Richard or I liked the potato bake thing. The potatoes tasted almost uncooked and it didn’t have a strong flavor.

2018-03-02 17.59.53

I ordered Pig Pen. This was fries topped with pulled pork and cheese sauce. This was really yummy. I was shocked that the whole time I ate this the fries stayed crispy and never got soggy. I think this was the right balance of meat, cheese and fries. I would certainly get this again.

2018-03-02 17.59.59

We left saying “Yep, we will go there again.” We all agreed that the meat is cooked perfectly and the food was flavorful. I think next time, I’ll try beef and mac (mac and cheese topped with pulled beef) but I did like the pulled pork a LOT.

You will find us going back to Flame BBQ again.

family · life

Valentine Box, Monster Jam and Visiting the Mall

Today was a busy fun filled family day. I knew we were going to have brunch and linner today so I made breakfast burritos. They turned out really good. I made a batch of scramblers with ham and cheddar cheese. We then wrapped it in tortillas and baked it in the oven for about 5 min.

After breakfast, we decided to work on Colby’s Valentine box. This will probably be the last box we make. His teacher is running a decorating contest before they give out their valentines. We went back and forth between a few different box decorations and he settled on Cut the Rope.

Then we headed into the city to go see Monster Jam. We went to see Monster Jam many times in Orlando. When we went to Monster Jam in Orlando it took place outside in a football stadium. This time it was inside the PPG Paints Arena which is where the Pittsburgh Penguins play. Needless to say it wasn’t as big of a show. I don’t think we will be back to see it, but if we didn’t know what it was like to see the big shows it probably would have seemed like a lot more fun.

When we were done, we decided to go to Chili’s for dinner. Then went to the mall. We had yet to visit this mall and decided since we were right there we would. Colby didn’t like his meal at Chili’s… I’m not sure I blame him. He ordered kids chicken and pasta and the sauce was spicy. When I was putting it into the to go box we saw pieces of jalapenos. I wonder if they put the wrong sauce on it? So we decided to stop at the food court and he decided to get a burger from Five Guys. Blake ended up getting a hot dog even though he ate his quesadilla at Chili’s.

It was a fun day for the four of us. Now to play a game before bedtime. Hope your Saturday was fun for you as well.

family · life · reviews

Cirque de Soleil- Crystal and more

Happy Sunday. I know I typically don’t post on Sundays, but I didn’t post yesterday so I’m here today instead.

Yesterday we had a fun and busy day. We went to see Cirque de Soleil Crystal. We got the boys these tickets as part of their Christmas present. Over the years we have been to many different Cirque de Soleil shows. Living in Orlando, Richard and I went to La Nuba a often as a date night activity. We did take the boys to see the show once as well. Richard and I have seen 2 or 3 other travel shows as well. We took the boys to one travel show before this one. Over the years we have seen travel shows that we have really liked and others that we not up to our Cirque standards.

When we saw the advertisement for Cirque de Soleil Crystal we were intrigued. Crystal is a Cirque show on ice. Yes, you read that right.. they were on skates. When I read this I started to question if they could get that Cirque vibe on skates. Would they be too limited by what they can and can’t do on ice skates?

Before we purchased the tickets, I did a bit or research on the show and watched the preview videos. One thing that helped was seeing that they got Kurt Browning involved in the planning of the show. I knew the skating would be at a high level when you put an Olympic skater in the mix. I also read that they had both people on skates as well as people wearing shoes to help stabilize them when they were catching the “fliers”

So yesterday we headed into the city of Pittsburgh into the PPG Arena and got ready to watch Crystal. Let me tell you I was sucked in within the first few minutes of the show. It was very different from many Cirque shows in that there was less comedy and almost no makeup. Typical Cirque de Soliel shows have a set of “clowns” who are the between scenes comedy, they had this, but they were a tiny roll in the show. Also typical Cirque show characters are made up until almost indistinguishable, these characters maintained their personal features.

But that was about it for things that made it non-Cirque like. Just like all Cirque shows there was a vague plot that held the acts together into a story. There was so much going on in a given scene that you don’t know where to watch. There was action, there was jumping, tumbling, there was feats that made you hold your breath. But, this was done on skates! There were a few acts that I’ve grown to expect to see at a Cirque de Soleil show, but they had a different flare.

All four of us left with huge smiles on our faces talking about the show. We all enjoyed different pieces of the show and pointed out different parts that another may have missed in watching this or that.

After we left we went and had dinner at a Peppi’s Old Tyme Sandwich Shope. Richard ate there when he was up in Pittsburgh before we moved up this summer. It is known for its cheese steaks subs, so why not! Richard had The New Yorker (cheese steak with bacon, onions and cheese), Blake had a grilled chicken sub with cheese, Colby had a bacon cheese burger sub, and I had a pizza steak. They were really good. We each had a bite of everyone else’s sub (does anyone else do this when you try a new place?) I ended up eating my steak out of the roll with a fork. Don’t get me wrong the sub roll was really good, it was just super messy!

We left our house around 1:30 and got home around 8:15. It was a fun day with lots of laughs. I love days like this where we all step back and just enjoy being together. I have no pictures because I was just living the moment and not trying to capture it. We go back into the city twice in February for two more activities that we got the boys for Christmas. These activities are so worth it for our whole family and are appreciated so much more than a toy.


I enjoy reading your replies to my posts. Keep sharing your thoughts, it helps motivate me to share mine! 

Have you been to see Cirque de Soleil? Which show? What did you do this weekend as a family?