10 things to love about Greenfield

People often call Greenfield a “suburb in the city”—not a flashy moniker, but it fits: the streets are crowded with houses, but the houses are roomy and most have full lawns, trees and a few even have backyard swimming pools. We’re a quiet neighborhood, residential. If you don’t know where Greenfield is, we’re the neighborhood that borders South Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Hazelwood, sloping steeply downhill along Greenfield Avenue until it terminates at the Monongahela (2nd Avenue).

Like most Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Greenfield was a mill neighborhood, with easy access to the mills in the South Side, Homestead and Hazelwood—the “Pittsburgh Toilet” is common in houses around here, a basement toilet and/or shower so the steel workers could clean up before heading upstairs. Many families from the Steel era still live in Greenfield, but like the rest of Pittsburgh, Greenfield has recently undergone a dramatic change, with an influx of graduate students and young professionals who’ve moved here for easy access to Oakland and Downtown.

10 things to love about Greenfield

My wife and I moved to Greenfield in 2008 after renting in Shadyside for several years and fell in love with the neighborhood. There are many things to love about Greenfield, but here are my top 10:

1. The views from the hills.

Driving, walking or biking through Greenfield can be exhilarating—one moment you’re threading narrow streets hoping not to hit the rearview mirrors of parked cars, or you’re negotiating uphill switchbacks, when unexpectedly, you turn a corner and the view opens dizzyingly, affording panoramic vistas of the Downtown skyline. Many Greenfield houses have elaborate back decks to capitalize on the views, and on clear nights you can even see the fireworks from the 4th of July!

2. McCarthy Sandwich at Szmidt’s

On Greenfield Avenue, in the shadow of St. Rosalia’s, is Szmidt’s Old World Deli. It’s in the same space that Elena’s used to be, a space that floundered as a short-lived coffee and convenience store until Szmidt’s moved in. Darrin Smith, the owner, makes everything from scratch, based on his grandma’s recipes: he prepares the meats, bakes the bread for the buns and makes his Pierogies by hand. The Pierogies are a must—either “old world” classics or “new world” flavors like Buffalo or Southwest style chicken.

My go-to here is the McCarthy “Szmidwich”—slow roasted Top Round, sautéed onions, mushrooms, peppers and provolone cheese with Horseradish Mayo. (And, mentioning the “McCarthy” lets me mention that Greenfield is the neighborhood of Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, raised in Pittsburgh and still a hometown presence through his charity work).

3. The Churches: St. Rosalia and St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church.

There are several churches in Greenfield, but these two need special mention:

St. Rosalia Catholic Church on Greenfield Avenue. This church centers the neighborhood with weekly Mass, Bingo nights, Lenten fish-fries, voting polls and social events throughout the year. It’s a dominating presence on the block, with a beautiful stained glass rose window and church bells that still chime throughout the neighborhood.

St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church on Saline Street. This church is not only important as the spiritual center for its worshippers, but also to the heritage of Pittsburgh and is crucial to the understanding of American culture as a whole. St. John Chrysostom is Andy Warhol’s boyhood church and it seems increasingly likely that Warhol, a lifelong Catholic, based his artistic imagery on the Iconography he learned here.

4. Pasta night at Big Jim’s in the Run

The “Run,” (actually Four Mile Run, named for a small watershed about four miles from the Point), is a section of Greenfield that’s almost its own neighborhood because of its isolation from the rest of the City. Heading down Greenfield Avenue, there’s a sharp right turn onto Saline Street that takes you into the shadow of the Parkway overpass—there are a few bars here (including Mike McCarthy’s family’s old bar), plenty of houses, St. John Chrysostom Church, and Big Jim’s in the Run.

Big Jim’s is a good place to take an out-of-towner for a crash course in old-school Pittsburgh—there ain’t nothing fancy here—and the best time to go is Monday for pasta night. For three bucks, you get a plate of spaghetti. The back dining room is always crowded, so come early.

10 things to love about Greenfield

5. The Festivals.

Greenfield has small, but nice, family-friendly festivals throughout the year, including the annual 4th of July footraces at Magee Field, the Hough’s summer block party and the St. Rosalia’s summer festival in June, but my favorite is the “Celebrate the Season” holiday parade.

This past year, my wife and daughter watched the parade through the large picture windows at Hough’s to stay warm while I stood outside with a group of friends. The parade had marching bands, politicians and the Pittsburgh puppets, but nothing tops when the hard-mouthed Santa Clause arrives riding on the back of a flatbed tow truck, throwing (not “tossing,” but throwing) hard candy at the crowd. Well, maybe one thing did top Santa this year: the full set of fireworks set off at Magee Field.

6. Sometimes the best thing about Greenfield is getting out of Greenfield.

Greenfield has two separate business districts, plenty of restaurants and even its own Giant Eagle, so you never have to leave, but one of the best reasons to live here is how easy it is to enjoy what the other neighborhoods have to offer. Like many newer people to Greenfield, my wife and I first learned about the neighborhood because we wanted to stay near familiar Shadyside or Squirrel Hill, but couldn’t afford to buy a house in either of those neighborhoods.

Greenfield, on the other hand, is very affordable, and once here we realized how easy it is to still walk to Forbes and Murray to catch a movie at the Manor, or walk to Oakland to see Phipps or the Carnegie Museum of Art, or along the Eliza Furnace Trail to the South Side Works and Carson Street. The Waterfront is a short drive away and the entrance to the Parkway is here as well. Commuters downtown can take the 58 bus along 2nd Avenue and commuters to the universities can take the same bus in the opposite direction through Oakland (that is, until the transit cuts come through, when Greenfield might lost its bus service entirely).

7. The green fields:

Greenfield really is green. As I mentioned earlier, most houses here have full lawns and trees, but we’re also a short walk away from Schenley Park where you can hike up to the overlook or through the woodland trails.

The Eliza Furnace trail is in Greenfield taking you to the South Side, as is the Junction Hollow Trail that will lead you eventually to Panther Hollow Lake. Baseball is legendary in Greenfield, with Bud Hammer playground and fields and also Magee Field, which is really almost a stadium, and a great place to take in a game. Greenfield also has one of the city’s major cemeteries, Cavalry, a quiet space for somber reflection.

8. The Giant at Rialto Pizza

The Giant is…absurd. They say you should measure your front door before you order this thing because it might not fit. And that’s true. The first time we ordered the Giant, we had to walk it because it didn’t fit in my buddy’s car—and it didn’t fit through the front door once we got it home; we had to, sort of, angle the box to get it inside!

Now, we’re better prepared and often eat the Giant at Rialto, which is a great pizza joint with flat screen TVs, plenty of tables, and delicious pizza and hoagies. I’ve tried many Pittsburgh pizza places, and have my favorites, but Rialto’s is right up there at the top.

9. Hough’s and the Copper Kettle Brewing Company

Boston may have Cheers, but Pittsburgh has Hough’s. If St. Rosalia’s is the spiritual and civic center of Greenfield, then Hough’s is the social center. This place is perfect—a clean, family-owned and operated, friendly bar and restaurant that offers a full menu, a full bar, over three hundred bottled beers and a huge selection of drafts.

Hough’s has the polished wood luster you’d hope for in a classic bar, but also has the number of flat screens you’d hope for in a contemporary bar. It’s comfortable, a great place to sit at the bar with your friends, to take a table with your family, or to watch the Steelers or Penguins around the massive projection screen.

You always see a friendly face here, whether because you run into people from the neighborhood, or because you see the owners’ parents, John and Barb, who will chat with you, hug you, give you a handshake. And, just recently, Hough’s got even better when they purchased the neighboring storefront, fixed it up and turned it into the Copper Kettle Brewing Company, a brew-your-own beer establishment.

10. The neighbors and friends:

I’m a transplant to Pittsburgh, having grown up in Ohio until I came to CMU for college. I stayed because I met Sonja here and we couldn’t bring ourselves to move away from the places that were so special to us. Most of the people I’d known from college were transplants too, and even though the group of us that stayed were getting to know and love the city as Pittsburghers, there was always a part of being a “Pittsburgher” that’s elusive to a transplant—the “if you’re a Pittsburgher, you’re family” feeling. One of our college friends bought a house in Greenfield, and once we were ready to buy we followed him to the neighborhood.

Moving from Shadyside, my wife and I had a solid group of friends, mostly people we knew from college and some new friends we’d made through our jobs, but once we came to Greenfield our number of close friends easily tripled—quintupled, maybe. Not only do you meet your immediate neighbors on snowy afternoons when we all come outside to shovel sidewalks and watch cars struggle up the hills, but there are so many great people who have moved to Greenfield over the past few years that living in the neighborhood can feel like an ongoing family party—movie nights, pizza nights, nights at Hough’s, the Greenfield Supper Club, Super Bowl parties, taking walks with friends, carpooling to Pirates games, watching fireworks from the hillside, meeting friends of friends and becoming friends with new people because of it. A lot of us are having kids, now, too, and thinking that our kids will grow up together is a good thought, a comforting thought.

Living in Greenfield, I get what it is to live in Pittsburgh—that you treat strangers like your friends, and your friends like your family.

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Thomas Carl Sweterlitsch lives in Greenfield with his wife, Sonja, and daughter, Genevieve. He writes science fiction and works as a “Reader’s Advisor” at the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. You can follow him on Twitter, @LetterSwitch

Three things vulnerability has taught me about connecting.

Yinz,

If you have been following along recently on Instagram and this here blog, you know that I’ve been embarking on the #77DaysOfReal project.

It’s a quest for more vulnerability and honesty. It’s a celebration of imperfection. And it’s an opportunity to talk about some of the stuff that may feel a little scary otherwise.

I’ve been playing with the concept daily (mainly on Instagram) and it’s changing the way I observe my surroundings and observe myself.

connecting

Here are three things I have discovered:

1. Scared of something? You’re not alone.

I know this is quite common for many people, but I often get nervous before public speaking. Even now that I’m speaking several times a month, I still get butterflies.

As someone who wants to do more speaking engagements and corporate trainings, I was afraid to admit this but decided to put it out there regardless. I’m glad I did because I learned that I am not alone in this, and I found out some of my favorite speakers get the pre-talk jitters as well.

It just goes to show that if you have a fear, most likely someone else has experienced something similar. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it anyway.

2. There’s a whole lot of humor to be found when things get real.

Believe it or not the post that I had more people aske about/mention was the one where I confessed that I wear socks to bed. (Yes. I wear socks to bed.)

It’s ridiculous but true. I guess this one is NOT so common as it seemed to baffle several other friends.

We all have quirks and embarassing moments. They get a lot easier to handle when laughter is involved.

3. It’s worth it to wax imperfect.

There were several times where it was hard for me to press the share button. It wasn’t easy to admit some of these things sbout myself. (Specifically this and this.)

But just putting it out there feels great. And people relate. And things don’t feel so heavy in your heart if you can share them.

I also found that accepting imperfection in myself has made it easier to accept imperfections of others. And somehow, this project helped me to find the courage to have some difficult and uncomfortable conversations that I have been avoiding for years.

***

What’s the bottom line? When you decide to open up, connections get stronger.

And what you perceive as a weakness usually makes you more relatable and likeable. (It can even be your superpower as Alexandra Franzen describes it.)

That’s a huge relief. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed these mini lessons in vulnerability. There is still plenty of time to play along, and I challenge you to share something real today or join me in sharing something every day as we count down to 2014. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #77DaysOfReal if you are sharing on social media.

Peace and Love,

Kate

P.S. I wasn’t aware how vulnerability has become such a “thing.” I love it! I believe it’s mostly thanks to Brene Brown. After my last email, several people recommended that I check out her Ted Talks (they rock!) and I’m looking forward to reading her book, Daring Greatly.

Interview #100: Frank Battista

Here it is. Interview #100 featuring the one and only Frank Battista.

I met Frank a few years ago when I started swinging by Commonplace Coffee as part of my morning routine.

The stops at the coffee shop soon became not only an opportunity for a warm and comforting beverage (I love the raspberry patch tea) but also time to catch up with friendly and funny … Frank!

As someone who’s observed Frank interact with a broad spectrum of customers, I’m amazed how he handles all personalities with ease. Regulars and strangers alike, somehow he is able to make them smile and laugh.

Frank treats everyone with respect and patience. I admire his pace in life. He is steady, present, and doesn’t rush.

I saved Frank’s interview for capstone of this project because what sticks out to me most about Frank is his kindness.

And after 100 interviews, I realize that this is what Yinzpiration is all about.

Yes the affordability of Pittsburgh is awesome.
Yes it’s incredible to be leaders in healthcare and technology.
Yes we have amazing food, talented musicians, and an innovative community of artists.
Yes we have the best end-of-tunnel experience ever known to humankind.

But if we forget to say hello, listen, and high-five one another we miss the mark.

So what do you say we help Pittsburgh top the “friendliest” charts?! It’s people like you and people like Frank that are going to make it happen.

Enjoy Frank’s Q&A!

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Name: Frank Battista

Job title: Barista/Educator/Steward with Commonplace Coffee Co.

Twitter: If you hear me say something worth tweeting feel free to do so.

Blog: Posted a thing once.

Neighborhood you live in: Central North Side, Allegheny City Central, Mexican War Streets. It depends on who you ask.

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Espresso/Cappuccino

Current Shampoo Preference: Whatever is present at the time but I identify as ‘baking soda-curious’.

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I grew up in the South Hills. I wanted to go live in the woods as I didn’t quite care for the suburbs or cities. After living in Chicago and NYC i found that cities do indeed have redeemable qualities. Upon returning to Pittsburgh i found many of those redeemable qualities here, just not as obviously present. My family and I find Pittsburgh to be quite comfortable, an interesting study in history and development, stocked well enough with yummy food and drink and all with an approachable cost of living. Above all though we have a great community of family and friends here and a sense of this being our present and seemingly a good portion of our future. It is also nice that we always have a sense of ‘ooooh’ whenever we see the city we call home.

Who do you spend your time with?
Mostly: Belle (wife), Viggo (son, 3), Zali (daughter, 2), Henri (canine, 5). I also appreciate the company of a wide variety of people whom I know from different seasons of life and different venues.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
The opportunity to serve someone a thing that is nice. I currently work for a company that I feel I have found a home in with Commonplace Coffee Co.. The coffee industry is a great window into how the world works. Coffee provides a context to discuss: agriculture, education, chemistry, physics, sociology, economics, ethics, the environment, design, friendship, neighborliness, history, politics, etc.. I claim to know very little abut any of these things but it is nice to have access to thinking about and practicing them within the context of my vocation.

Do you have a soul food?
Popcorn. A REALLY big bowl of stove top-popped with butter and light sprinkling of Kosher flake salt.

What are some of your recent personal goals?

  1. Figure out some personal goals.
  2. Practice contentment.
  3. Be a great husband and parent.
  4. Be a great friend and neighbor.

What are some of your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?

  • GAUCHO!
  • Korea Gardens
  • Sultan’s Market (This is actually in Chicago, but let’s pretend.)

Describe your ideal day.
Generally speaking this would include: time with my family, a nice coffee beverage, a really great sandwich, lots of walking/no time in the car, crossing something off of the ‘to do’ list, running into people I know, getting to go out of my way to do something nice for someone, having a surreal experience, eating some grilled food and a bit of a beverage on the front stoop to close out.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?

Small: The first time I saw Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Club Cafe’ 2010

Medium: Swell Season/The Frames, Byham Theater 2008

Large: Sigur Ros, Stage AE 2014

Colossal: U2, Heinz Field 2011 (There was this spider—hanging underneath the catwalk that Bono was on—that had no idea where he was.)

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
I referred to Pittsburgh as ‘the city of unrealized potential’ from the time I moved back in 2004. I have however quieted that phrase over the past several years as Pittsburgh seems to have become ‘the city of realizing potential’. I could actually see this city in some ways being unrecognizable in ten years rom what it was 10 years ago. I am thankful to those who have either returned to their hometown or those who have made the choice to adopt this city and bring some freshness to it. As for the future, I really hope that one thing this city maintains is the sense of being a small town and that the inter-connectedness continues to be one of its defining traits. I really love a lot of things about Pittsburgh. It’s a hard task to choose the most loved thing. I love some people, the topography, the history, the unpolished-ness and the fact that the city is nestled amongst so many trees, waterways and other natural things.

25 Creative ways to spark connection.

Yinz,

Do you have a desire to meet new people?

(Or connect on a deeper level with the people who are already in your life.)

I find that sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to start, and making it a practice to put yourself in situations that provide opportunities to connect.

I wanted to share some quick and easy ideas with you today so that you can start rocking some sweet connection action.

Practice one of these a day and you’re life will change. I promise!

***

1. Write a letter or Facebook Message to a long lost childhood friend.

2. Host a dinner party. (I’m partial to hosting Dinfinity dinners, of course.)

3. Join a gym or start an exercise class. (It has been fun meeting new friends at Muv.)

4. Start a daily thank you note practice. (You know how I feel about this one.)

5. Call someone and express what you appreciate about them. (Happy tears alert: watch this video.)

6. Join (or start!) a Meetup.

7. Ask a neighbor if they need help with a project.

8. Start an interview blog or podcast.

9. Flower bomb someone who needs it.

10. Tweet a restaurant when you’ve had a great experience. (I had the best reuben sandwhich of my life this week at Marty’s Market. I just had to tweet about it.)

11. Give a compliment to a stranger.

12. Go to a neighborhood meeting and get involved with a community project.

13. Volunteer at a non-profit fundraiser.

14. Host a potluck at your house.

15. Go to a creative community event. I’m a big fan of Soup N’at, Awesome Pittsburgh Events, and of course CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh.

16. Write a haiku about someone or a place you love and then share it with them.

17. Read a book and then write the author and tell them what you enjoyed.

18. Comment on a blog post that inspired you.

19. Organize or join a retreat. (We’ve got an exciting one in the works at Propelle.)

20. Write an article for the paper or offer to write a guest post for a blog.

21. Already planning on attending an event? Invite a friend or two along with you.

22. Volunteer at a nursing home.

23. Turn an instagram photo into an actual postcard and send it to someone.

24. Make an email introduction to two people that should know each other.

25. Give away something you no longer use to to someone who needs it.

***

I know there are a million other ideas out there … what do you have to add to the list?

My challenge to you? Pick three and complete them this week.

I dare you!

Peace and Love,

Kate

10 Things to love about Pittsburgh’s Oakland

A few weeks ago as I was walking down Forbes Avenue between Pitt and CMU, I was struck by an amazing scene. It was a beautiful summer day, the sun was out and a light breeze carried cool air along with the bustle of students from all over the world heading to summer classes. The Cathedral of Learning towered over the buildings ahead, its elegant gothic architecture somehow able to complement the classic brick buildings that still line the neighborhood’s business districts. The smell of freshly prepared food was on the air, Frisbees were flying and music could be heard in the distance. It was the perfect reflection of summer in Pittsburgh, past, present and future, and it was all to be had in one place: Oakland.

From my first day of preschool to my last day of graduate school at CMU, Oakland has been the neighborhood where I’ve either lived, been schooled or, most recently, owned a business. It’s a diverse neighborhood that is complex, exciting and defies any sort of neat categorization. Picking my 10 favorite things was not easy, but it sure was fun.

1. Cathedral of Learning

Photo Via

A good place to start is with Oakland’s most iconic building, the Cathedral of Learning. Home to many classrooms and offices of the University of Pittsburgh, it also happens to be the second tallest educational building in the world, a great place to study and a beautiful building to take in a unique view of the city (head up to the 36th floor to see what I mean). The first floor of the building also happens to be a spitting image of Hogwarts, which is pretty freakin’ awesome.

2. The O

Photo Via

Technically called Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop, the O is best known for delicious dogs, enormous quantities of French fries and basically never being closed. Although sometimes given a bad rap, The O is a must-experience Oakland destination. And make sure you bring some friends, because a medium fry comfortably serves four.

3. Dave & Andy’s

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One scoop of birthday cake ice cream + a waffle cone with two M&M’s in the bottom = Dave & Andy’s. Arguably the best ice cream in the city, all of Dave & Andy’s 200 flavors are homemade and delicious. Be warned, though – after you get used to M&M’s in the bottom of the waffle cone, every time you’re finishing up ice cream from another place and there aren’t any in the bottom, it’ll taste like a broken promise.

4. Community

Oakland Pittsburgh Neighborhood

In addition to being home to several vibrant university communities, Oakland also has a very strong local business and resident community. Represented by great organizations like the Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation and the Oakland Community Council, all parts of the neighborhood are engaged and working to keep the neighborhood strong.

Photo Credit: Rick Armstrong

5. Innovation Central

Oakland is Pennsylvania’s third largest economic center behind Center City Philly and Downtown Pittsburgh, and one of the reasons for that is the huge amount of innovation coming out the neighborhood’s universities and institutions. Oakland is also home to Revv Oakland, Project Olympus, and Idea Foundry, three startup incubators that support Pittsburgh’s vibrant and growing entrepreneur community.

As of this month, Oakland is also home to the first neighborhood in Pennsylvania with a web mobile app – The Oakland Scene! Check it out to find things to see and do in the neighborhood.

6. Sandwiches

I have a confession to make: I love sandwiches. Thankfully for me, Oakland has the best selection of sandwich awesomeness the city has to offer. In addition to a great Primanti’s location, Oakland also boasts Uncle Sam’s, Fuel & Fuddle, the Pittsburgh Pretzel Sandwich Shop and for something a little different, Eat Unique.

7. Batman

Where does Bane attack Batman? Right next to the columns of Mellon Institute on Fifth Avenue. How awesome is that?

8. Oodles of History and Culture

Between the historic buildings, Carnegie Museums, the Phipps Conservatory and the music and theater performances at Pitt, CMU and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Oakland offers the widest variety of cultural activities available in Pittsburgh.

9. Schenley Plaza & Park

Photo Via

Before Schenley Plaza was built, I’d never heard of a parking lot being turned back into paradise. Located between the Cathedral of Learning, Hillman Library, Carnegie Library and Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts Building, Schenley Plaza is in a prime spot for outdoor recreation and relaxation. On Fridays during the summers, WYEP features live music and a little down the way, movies are shown on Flagstaff Hill every Wednesday and Sunday.

10. Public Transportation

After Downtown, there is no other neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is better connected to public transit than Oakland (just ask Pitt and CMU students). It’s one of the reasons that Oakland is active and vibrant year-round, and one of these days we’ll finally get an extension of the T into Oakland (right, Bill Peduto?). 🙂

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Oakland really has it all, and this list only scratches the surface. I’d love to hear about what your favorite parts are, and don’t forget to download the Oakland Scene App to connect to great things to see and do in the neighborhood!