Tag Archives: Urban

Frumpiness and Pleather

by Kate

Fashion has been the last thing on my mind of late. In fact, for the past two months my style has consistently been that of a depressed farmer reluctantly trudging out to the barn to perform chores. Perhaps if I lived anywhere near a farm, or actually had chores to perform, this would be appropriate. Sadly, I am instead in the midst of a city, and therefore highly likely to encounter other people instead of chickens and cows. Faded and baggy jeans, worn and beaten boots, oversized sweatshirts, and large caps to cover my tangled hair twisted into a glob on the top of my head have been my mainstays. Granted, this look can be done in a glamorous manner- but let me assure you that in my case, glamorous it is not. I have abandoned my beaten silver and painted wooden earrings and even stooped so low as to skip applying smoky eyeliner in the morning. It has been a sad state of things for me.

In the midst of this style crisis, I received an alluring invitation in my email inbox last week. The invitation was from Maniac Magazine, a locally based monthly magazine covering Fashion, Celebrity, Style, and the Arts. Maniac was holding a special event for Pittsburgh bloggers at an abandoned storefront in the super hip South Side Works, showcasing the upcoming issue of the magazine. The invitation promised food and drink and complimentary massages- but most importantly for me, it offered a chance to put aside my tattered barn clothes, rip apart my closet, and attempt to find some semblance of stylishness.

I built my outfit around a pair of pleather leggings buried in an old trunk full of dance costuming. These leggings cost me an exorbitant seven dollars three years ago, and have been worth every penny. Pleather leggings must be deployed carefully, but in the right context they can really make an outfit work. In this case, I paired them with a black Target minidress with jet beading on the collar. I topped that with the only designer item I own- a black Christian Dior blazer with a zebra print collar, purchased from Goodwill for four dollars. This blazer, like the leggings, requires caution. It has a cut that can be construed as classic or ridiculous, depending on how it is paired with the rest of an outfit. I personally like to throw caution to the wind and assume that being six feet tall and sticking my chin in the air will somehow carry me through wearing it without looking like a complete fool. In this spirit, I slipped on a pair of 80’s style pumps (also a thrift store find) and confidently applied a great deal of eye makeup. On my way out the door I noted that my hair was in rather desperate need of another henna treatment, and also that wearing pumps in the middle of winter was a chilly proposition. I grabbed a magenta mohair beret that my grandmotherly neighbor recently gave me, and headed out to see the world of the sophisticates.

Actually I headed out the door with my husband and toddler in tow due to a complicated set of logistics. My husband is amazing, but not capable of multitasking as a fashion photographer while also taking care of the toddler. This meant that there was a serious possibility that there would be no documentation of my pleather look to share with you. Luckily for me, an incredibly sweet blogger from The Pittsburgh Look took my picture and shared it on her lovely blog, which you should definitely check out if you get the chance. Without further ado, here I am in disguise as a stylish person:

I really do recommend pleather leggings. In my case, they gave me the courage to confront this spectacularly stylish scene. Here is a shot of the party from the outside looking in:

So sleek. So stylish. So sophisticated. And it is a great cover, isn’t it? Inside the door, there were many fashionable people talking about fashionable things, and hip photographers on hand to document the action. Here is the dashing Tobi Makinde of Makinde Photography.

I did instantly realize that I was not quite the only one seeking comfort in pleather pants. At least, I think these are pleather…

There were chic people wearing carefully chosen and colorful  outfits and accessories.

And of course, there were great shoes.

Actually, great shoes and great tights and a really photogenic dog.

I really do love those grey tights, worn by the blogger Nicole. You can read all about her dog, Gwendolyn on her blog as well, here. I am pretty sure Gwendolyn was the belle of the ball that night.

In case the other attendees weren’t up to Gwendolyn’s level of fabulousness, there were hair and makeup teams on hand, ready to help party people take it to the next level. Staff from the Harmony Salon were providing instant trims, blowouts, and layering.

Makeup artist Katherine Reel worked her magic.

And for those in the market for further fabulous accessories and beautiful jewels, Stella and Dot was on hand to serve those needs.

There was a great deal of White Diamond Vodka, a massage table from LaVida Massage, and the food was lovely- but fashionable. So, light. So, sushi and cupcakes.

Needless to say, I ate quite a bit of sushi. Which was very nice. Pleather leggings are surprisingly forgiving.

I sipped, and mingled, and photographed, and was delighted to have my fill of sushi and of the world of high fashion. The one thing I didn’t do was get a chance to sit down and seriously apply myself to instantly blogging the new issue of Maniac Magazine.

But lots of other people did! You can read all about it herehere, and here– or even better, pick up a copy yourself if you happen to see it at a chic boutique or newstand near you.

I am grateful to Maniac Magazine for bringing style back into my life- even if only for a night. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to add another frumpy layer to my current chicken feeding chic outfit.

Sisters in The City (NYC Edition)

by Colleen

I’ve always dreamed of going to the East Coast.  Too snobby for the Midwest in high school, I thought it was the epitome of class in comparison.  Over Christmas break, I had the privilege of traveling to that famed area of the United States to test my dreams and theories.

After a short flight, a few metro rides, and a long bus ride, I finally arrived in Princeton, New Jersey at the home of my friend, Emma, filled to the brim with children.  She’s the oldest of nine-typical Catholic family, I suppose.  We spent a few glorious days, wandering around the town and drinking copious amounts of coffee.  I completely fell in love with Princeton.  The college campus was literally a manifestation of my dreams.  The stone buildings, peaceful and studded with towers and turrets, in late afternoon sun took my breath away.

After the Princeton stay, Emma and I set off to New York City and met up with Mary.  I’m still amazed at life; the coincidence of Mary working in New York at that particular time that I visited?  Crazy.  I was SO happy to see her.  After the initial hugging and talking session, we were off!

Emma acted as tour guide because Mary and I are NOT city girls.  In fact, I had serious concerns about being able to get on a metro before I left home.   By the time we got to NYC, though, I was an old hand, and we felt very comfortable in Grand Central Station.

Of course we did a little shopping, as Mary was determined to find rainboots.  I cringe.  Rainboots are definitely not my idea of fashion, but they make Mary happy-very happy.

While she bought boots, I bought a scarf.  To each her own.  We proudly displayed our new wares.

Then we hit up the really big stores, like Saks 5th Avenue, a place that I literally had only ever read about.

Emma and I tried our best to cover our muddy boots as well went up, floor by floor, seeing dresses like the one above, and being scared to touch anything.  On our way to drop Mary off at her bus stop, we passed by another store…Anthropologie keeps trying to knock the Slattery family off, it would seem.  We’ve been using those blueish square cartons to harvest and sell raspberries for years.

I loved traipsing about the city and looking up and seeing things like this:

But, I must admit, I am not a city girl.  It was a great realization to me that I absolutely love where I’m from.  The hills and valleys which make up the landscape at home are far more beautiful to me then anything I saw in New York City.  That is not to say that I don’t see the beauty in cities-I do, but it’s just a different kind.  Cities are beautiful and awe-inspiring in that I am amazed at the skills of mankind to create them.  But there is no replacement for the beauty of the earth and its infinite multiplicity of geography.  That beauty comes straight from God.  How could a metal structure ever compete?

More adventures of the Slattery Sisters in the City here:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Sister in the City

Farmers in the City

Country Girl, Big Sisters, Big City Style

A Sense of Wonder

by Kate

The clouds have been low and looming the past few days, with grey skies and intermittent cold rain. Bare branches and rattling leaves cast spiked shadows, and at night the bright silver moon peers through the bony fingers of the trees. The flaming glow of autumn light has faded, but this picture is currently set as the screensaver on our computer, reminding me of autumn light streaming through the changing leaves.

It also reminds me of the importance of nurturing a sense of wonder. Living with a small child is a remarkable opportunity to remember to be open to discovery and delight on a daily basis. In this park, I often catch myself wanting to take Olympia’s hand and rush forward, toward something different and something new. I have to take the time to stop, crouch down, consider the intricacy of the leaf she is holding, or the mysterious depths beneath the grated drain cover. There is wonder everywhere- waiting for us to open our eyes and behold it.

The Cookie Tour

by Kate

The cookie is a powerful lure.

These tiny fragments of cookies and slips of recipes are a magic spell for the retailers along Butler Street, which serves as Main Street for the Lawrenceville neighborhood here in Pittsburgh. Every year on the first weekend of December, these shops are decked out to the hilt in holiday finery…

and each stop offers a new platter of complimentary cookies and sheaf of recipes for said cookies.

Of course, each shop is also cannily and cunningly stuffed to the brim with a wide array of possible Christmas gifts.

And friendly salespersons in, ready to assist or inform the hordes of customers in any way.

And of course, there are the crucial coffee shops selling lattes to fuel the touring and accompany the cookies.

For there are many, many cookie seekers on this cookie tour, intent on capturing every crumb.

Lots of hip young families- I love this woman’s red coat.

And happy young couples….

Roving packs of friends out for an urban adventure…

And beautiful boots. Women with great boots seemed very drawn to this tour. Often they came in twos.

The woman below was very elegant, from her velvet beret down to her leather boots.

It was a beautiful day for an urban stroll- crisp and bright and beautiful.

It was a perfect day to shop the streets of the post steel  still bluesy now artsy Lawrenceville neighborhood.

I was accompanied not by my husband, who insists that the only couples who attend these events are still in the courting stage of their relationship and would rather have hot pins stuck into his eyes than meander down Main Street with me, but instead by my one and a half year old daughter, who was very stylish in her own right and had no problem at all meandering.

She was a delightful companion, and often led the way in search of more cookies and conversations.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. I walked away full of cookies, but also the satisfaction of knowing that I had thoroughly accomplished my goal of distributing flyers advertising my new bellydance class at the Pittsburgh Dance Center in every possible shop along the way.

For certainly after that many cookies, some people might be interested in shimmying a bit after the holiday season? Also, a gift certificate for dance classes would make a fantastic holiday gift- don’t you think?

More posts about my urban adventures are here:

Painting Pittsburgh

Caffe Mona

Pittsburgh is my Paris (A Bibliophile’s Dream)

City Morning

The Downtown Department Store

A City Walk

Dancing in the City

by Kate

I’ve got a story for you. This story is the reason I haven’t been around this blog too much lately. It’s a great story, with glitz and glamor and historic preservation, along with a healthy dose of hope. At least I think so.

A few weeks ago I was walking through the Bloomfield neighborhood just up the hill from my house on a beautiful day, hanging flyers for a Gala Bellydance Show. As I’ve mentioned before, I love hanging posters because it gives me a chance to stop in every shop and make discoveries about the world around me. As I hung my poster on the bulletin board at Starbucks, another flyer caught my eye. I pulled it down and headed back out into the street. I’m glad I did.

The flyer was for a brand new studio space set to open at the end of October. A studio space with 5000 square feet of floating dance floor, offering classes in ballroom, ballet, samba, salsa, modern, jazz, west coast swing, hip hop, and tap dance. This mystery studio had everything but bellydance. I was completely intrigued. I made my way home, keeping an eye out for a building in Bloomfield that had 5000 square feet for a dance floor. That evening, I called the number on the website for the Pittsburgh Dance Center and spent an hour on the phone with Holly.

Holly Dayton-Kirby is the dynamic force behind the Pittsburgh Dance Center. A professional ballroom dance teacher and instructor, Holly grew up in the Bloomfield neighborhood. She was raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet, let alone pay for dance classes. A couple crucial scholarships allowed her to become a professional dancer, performing with Dance Alloy in Pittsburgh and later as a part of the cast of Riverdance. Holly loves the neighborhood where she grew up. She also understands what it is like to be a kid who wants to dance and doesn’t have the money to afford it. She lives outside the city now, in the fancy suburban South Hills. But when she decided to open her own dance studio, she put it right in the midst of Bloomfield. She said she wanted to give back the neighborhood- and that she would never turn a kid who turned up with toe shoes in hand, lacking the five dollars she is charging for every kids dance class.

That’s right, I said five dollars. About the cost of one of those fancy grande lattes you can purchase in the Starbucks downstairs. The 5000 square feet of studio space at the Pittsburgh Dance Center are located directly above the Starbucks in Bloomfield. The building that houses the Starbucks and the dance studio used to be a movie palace called the Plaza Theater. Here is the Plaza Theater in 1937.

And here is the Plaza today.

The glamor has faded a bit, but the detail on that building is still beautiful if you look closely.

It is even more beautiful on the inside. The theater was converted into two floors. Starbucks is downstairs, next to a restaurant. The second floor is where Holly put the dance studio. She took a blank space with a cement block floor and the ornate ceiling of the original movie palace and created a gorgeous warm and welcoming dance studio. It took a whole lot of work.

I was privileged to get a glimpse of the tail end of that process.

Holly, her husband, and their three kids were at the studio day and night in the week leading up to the grand opening. 5000 square feet is a lot of flooring to lay down.

The studio opened on Halloween weekend.

I was thrilled to perform on that dance floor for the opening, along with a great number of amazing dancers who will be teaching at the Pittsburgh Dance Center.

I am teaching a class at the studio in a couple of hours- I’ll be there every Saturday at 3 for a bellydance class, if you are in the area and want to stop by. There is also a show tonight at the studio with local bellyrock band Ishtar- only five bucks, a bellydance lesson, special performances, and an open dance floor. Come on by if you are in the area!

I am thrilled to be a part of this project. I love teaching at the PDC and I am excited to take classes with the other teachers at the studio. There is a complete schedule of classes available here. I think it is a great story of urban renewal, historic preservation, and hope. If you’re around, I hope you can be a part of it.

Want to keep reading about my urban neighborhood adventures?

Caffe Mona

A City Walk

Caffe Mona

by Kate

There are benefits to setting out on foot to pound the pavement hanging posters all over town. I have been flyering for rock shows and Shakespearean productions and dance performances and bellydance classes for years now, and have come to love the work. It’s a great way to learn a neighborhood, and to discover where to find everything from an amazing bookshop to a great cup of coffee.

Yesterday I was hanging flyers for the  grand Gala Bellydance Show featuring Sherena happening Saturday here in Pittsburgh. It is going to be a great show, and if you are in the area you should come. Live band, great dancing, Turkish food available for purchase, beautiful space, family friendly, kids under 12 get in free. In the course of my ceaseless promotions, I stopped to hang a flyer at the Caffe Mona.

The Caffe Mona is located just across the street from the gargantuan and internationally renowned Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. As coffeeshops often do, it has recently undergone a change of ownership. By all accounts, the former owner was a bit… aggressively friendly, particularly with female customers. Perhaps as a result, the new owner is distinctively courteous and respectful.

He is also Turkish, which means I heavily encouraged him to attend the upcoming bellydance show, and also that the menu at Caffe Mona is extremely enticing. The Caffe does catering as well as a full line of breakfast including sweet and savory seasonal crepes of all sorts and salads and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. My flyering companion had a pumpkin stuffed crepe, and I was torn between the Caprese Bagel or a Steak Omelet. I had the Omelet, but I’ll definitely head back for the bagel. The coffee is very good.

And the general atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and calm. I imagine that it would be a welcome respite for the staff and visitors at the UPMC Children’s Hospital across the street.

It was also a great place to have breakfast with a friend and a wiggling, ululating toddler. Meaning that perhaps during our stay there it wasn’t as great a spot as usual to get some work done in a contemplative manner.

If you’re near the Children’s Hospital or looking for a new coffeshop or lunch experience in Bloomfield or Lawrenceville any time soon, check out the Caffe Mona.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off. I have some flyers to hang.