Nova Center: Gateway to a new North Side.

Anyone who has grown up in Pittsburgh has a memory of Allegheny Center Mall. Grandma worked at the Sears, Your first photo of the Easter Bunny, or that this is where you ate lunch during your elementary school trip to Buhl Planterium. As a college student at Art Institute in the late 90’s this was the way you walked to class from the student apartments. Then it only housed a wendy’s and most of it was empty. It was the mall that was forgotten. The roof leaked and it was just a building that the general public forgot or felt sorry for the way it ended up.

But the new vision for Allegheny Center mall is Nova Place. A green tech space that construction has already began on. Renovations started on the 1.2 million square foot mall and parking area to make it a tech hub that will have co-working space, incubator, fitness center and the return of some retail space and restaurants.


Currently the “mall” houses a few big name businesses like AT&T and PNC. At this time they all have no plans on moving. They are getting new neighbors with Innovation Works moving into temporary offices this summer and more permeant ones in the fall with a lease of 12,000 square feet. They are aiming for 95% occupancy.


At the helm of this reconstruction is Faros Properties whom already transformed the apartment building that surround the mall. When they bought them they were 50% occupied and they did some renovations, cleaned them up and they are now at 100% with a wait list occupancy.


Mayor Bill Peduto is looking forward to the transformation to open a walkway from the North Side to the North Shore. I personally hope that is begins a transformation up to the Mexican War Streets.

As I was snapping pics of the plans the owner of Cool Beans came up and I asked him how he felt about the changes and he expressed that they had all positive talks with Faros.

“So it is going to be big for your business?”

“Yes it seems like it is going to be REALLY good for my business.” He smiled.


“In science, a nova is an explosion in a star that creates a bright light. We’re hoping that Nova Place becomes a beacon of innovation and a catalyst for entrepreneurship in this region,” Jeremy Leventhal said for the reasoning behind the new name.


Clearly this is the beginning of something spectacular.

amanda tag


Slow Cooker Chicken Ta-Da!

A sure sign of the Acopolypse: Snarky is cooking. I’m going to do something that I swore I’d NEVER do: I’m going to share a recipe. For a meal that I have created, by myself. I feel so dirty, and yet so empowered. Hang on to this one; a recipe that I’ve actually written is sure to become a collector’s item one day.

Chicken Ta-Da!
Some uncooked chicken breasts
Two jars of salsa, as hot as you like it.
A few jalapeños and/or green peppers
Some hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Wash the chicken and throw it into the slow cooker. Cover chicken completely with a jar of salsa. Pour half of the other jar in, just for fun, and to make it saucy (just like you, you saucy little culinary minx!!). Set aside the other half for later. Add lots of hot sauce. Slice the peppers however you want and toss ’em in. Add some salt and pepper, right from the shaker (don’t measure that crap–just add the amount that feels right).  Cook on high for four hours.  Eat the rest of the salsa with some chips while the chicken is cooking…you won’t be eating for FOUR HOURS.  Shred the chicken with a fork after it finishes cooking. Eat it on the bread that looks like a circle or over rice. Or in a salad. I don’t know, you can figure out the serving part yourself. This recipe stuff is exhausting.
JenP tag

Don’t Forget the Bar

It is wedding season and while we love to joke about the cookie tables and wedding none of us will have, I feel the need to touch on one part: your Bartender. Throughout the past few years I have seen about 15 weddings from behind a bar. It has been fun and I have never seen a disaster, which means I am lucky. Although I did once see a downpour open up on a bride mid “I Do’s”. But I do recommend hiring a bartender and these are even good tips for just a party this summer.

1. Please Hire a Professional- Would you like to enjoy your night and not have to cut people off or monitor how much people take of some things? Hire a professional. It is there job to mix drinks and do correct pours.

2. Get Enough-Most of the time you will be buying the liquor, beer, and wine. My Tip: Just when you think you have enough, buy three more bottles. Most liquor stores will take back unopened bottles. Check with the return policy.

3. Don’t Think You Can Cater to Everyone-Everyone likes something different. While Aunt Marge like a Cab and Uncle Lou wanted Titos and you got Merlot and Absolut. Again, Beggers can’t be choosers.

4. Keep It Simple- Some of the best weddings I ever worked were just wine and beer. SIMPLE. Serve time was fast and guests were fine with either.

5. Let the Guests Tip the Bartender-I know this sounds bad. You are the bride and groom or party host and you have no idea how hard I worked. I once had a groom slip me a $50.00 tip for his wedding. Five hours of work. $50.00. That is no where near enough. Your guests would have spent more.

6. We Do Clean Up-I keep a clean bar. I know to bring towels with me and other stuff. But not all know that. Make sure you have a care package for the bartender or that the venue will have that already for them.

7. Feed Us-If it is a catered event let us have 5 minutes to eat. Let the caterer bring us a plate and let us eat during your dance or other special moment. We will stay happy and it will benefit your guests when they request a drink they can’t pronouce.

8. Don’t Order That-We understand that it is a special event and you want fancy drinks, but don’t order something you don’t know. You may not like it and more then likely it will make you sick. All those mixed drinks are more sugar then alcohol.

9. Let Us Work-I get that your night gig in college was a bartender. But tonight you are not one. Let us do our jobs and you enjoy your night.

10. Let You Guests be Guests-I never have a bride tell their guests no. But I am always the one at the bar who has to get permission to turn on the tv at the bar area. Again, no bride ever said no, but this is something brought up all the time.

The most important part of this is that you: the guest of honor, have fun and let us do the the job you hired us for.


amanda tag

More Than Cupcakes – Homemade Mac n’ Cheese

One of the things I’ve come to find is that folks are either good at cooking or baking, or vice-versa.  (Or maybe they just prefer one culinary art over the other?)  It’s part of the reason you have variety of chefs involved on a restaurant level – you have your head chef, sous chef, and a pastry chef to name a few.  Each one handles a specific task and brings a particular piece to the culinary puzzle.

While I realize a lot of the recipes I talk about and share (either the recipes themselves or photos) pertain to cupcakes, I’m more than just cupcakes.  I’m more than just desserts – in general.

When I was growing up, my family celebrated birthdays with not only a homemade birthday cake, but with a celebratory dinner.  My mother and grandmother would make lasagna for my sister’s birthday, southern fried chicken for my brother’s birthday, and creamy mac n’ cheese for my birthday.  (Sometimes those items would change depending on what we wanted for dinner, but I love some good homemade mac n’ cheese and would usually request it for my birthday.)

CONFESSION:  I don’t like baked mac n’ cheese because I was raised on stovetop mac n’ cheese.

Mac n' Cheese

Macaroni & Cheese

1 box Elbow Macaroni (1 lb)

5 c Water

1/4 c Butter

1/2 lb Cheese (Cubed or Shredded)

1/2 c Milk

On a stovetop, boil water in a large saucepan.

Add elbow macaroni and cook until noodles are tender.

Drain noodles and place back in saucepan.

Add butter, cheese, and milk to noodles.

Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and noodles are covered.

NOTE:  My mother and grandmother would use a brick of Velveeta to make their mac n’ cheese.  Experimenting with other cheeses since I left home, I’ve used white cheddar, gruyere, asiago, pepperjack, emmentaler, muenster, colby, camembert or dubliner.  I’ve found that harder cheeses are a little more difficult to make the mac n’ cheese creamy.  I will generally grate the cheese as finely as I can and occasionally add a little Velveeta (or just a couple slices of American cheese singles) to help bind it together and keep it creamy.

Missy tag

Brunch and Coffee Pause: Grit & Grace

About a month ago Grit & Grace started brunch on Sundays. This was a great place to stop for Brunch on our way to our first Pittsburgh Pirates game of the season.

We did make reservations over Open Table, but seating was open the entire time we were there.

We first ordered our drinks. I opted for Coffee like I do everywhere. The coffee was delish and served with cream, brown sugar and splenda. Steve was thirsty for a Mimosa. The kick: It was fresh squeezed OJ. Perfection.

We had wrestled with what to order since the night before. Scoping the menu I noticed that they had a Monte Cristo and a Farmers Breakfast. The key behind Grit & Grace is local source and so I was curious at what the Farmers Breakfast would bring. So I ordered that.

Steve ordered the Monte Cristo. They said that it was a deep fried sandwich but when we tried it all we could think was that it was a Monte Cristo sandwich with french toast  It was delicious; I only had one bite, But Steve raved about it for days.


My Farmers Breakfast was Eggs, Pork Ham, Bacon, Home Fries, and Toast. Everything was fresh and delicious.


As always the presentation was good and the service was amazing.

I forgot that I had one more thing to eat. We ordered the Yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. It was a great side dish.

Brunch is served on Sundays from 10:30-2PM. Perfect before a Pirates game.

amanda tag

Workout Wednesday-Get Out!

Anyone that owns a home or even a duplex can agree that yard work is hard work.

It can generate sweat and make you breath heavy. All that raking, weeding, mowing and gardening requires you to use a lot of there muscles.

The average of 30 minutes burns 315 calories. That is equivalent to a 45 minute bike ride.

Plus your garden and yard will look amazing.

Plus remember to drink your water and lemonade. And reward yourself with a BBQ.

Short and Sweet this week…Get outside!

amanda tag

MS Walk 2015


A fantastic way to get back into shape after a long, sluggish winter with too much Netflix binge watching while consuming massive amounts of chocolate and wine on the couch (or maybe that’s just me) is to participate in walks for causes. Altruism and exercise is pretty much the most dynamic and productive combination ever…raise some dollars for a worthy organization and burn a few calories along the way. Wins all around.

One of our favorite walks is the annual MS Walk, which took place on April 19. It starts and finishes in Point State Park, amidst an array of activities that are geared toward multiple sclerosis awareness. All proceeds from the event benefit the National MS Society in Pittsburgh, which provides resources and support for individuals in our area who are living with MS. The event has more of a party atmosphere than an athletic one. Remember that bit about “burning a few calories” earlier? Such a lie…the goodies are plentiful and delicious. Betsy Ann donates chocolate Easter eggs to walkers, the Eat ‘N Park Smiley Cookie van typically makes an appearance, and the walk concludes with a cook out that is catered by a Pittsburgh restaurant (Texas Roadhouse this year!). The laid back atmosphere makes it easier for individuals with MS to participate, including several different routes for the walk to accommodate varying levels of ability. It’s a great way to hang with friends, enjoy the spring time and raise money and awareness for a superb cause.

If you missed the MS Walk, there’s still time to register for other upcoming events. The Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community, which benefits local non-profit agencies, and the Autism Speaks Walk are perfect ways to burn some calories for some great causes.

JenP tag