Friday, 13 July 2012

Locations and a contest with guest author Alana Lorens

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the kind of city that pops from the get-go. No matter from which direction you approach, whether you exit a tunnel or come around a hill,  Pittsburgh’s downtown ‘appears,’ as a glass and steel fait accompli, shining in the sun or sparkling with night lights. 

While most people think of the city in terms of its Steel Town heritage, or perhaps in light of its many sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates AND Panthers as well as the Vipers rugby team), or even East Carson Street, said to be the longest continuous stretch of bars in the country, the truth is it is a family-friendly city as well.
If you’re not in town on a weekend, the kids will enjoy the breakfast selection of pancakes—even pancake sundaes!—at Deluca’s on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. Parents, choose the mixed grill: sausage, peppers, onions and potatoes piled with eggs.   Weekends, though, the place is much too busy and the lines out the door. Choose your favorite fast food instead and get on with your day.

The city prides itself on its ethnic heritage, and celebrates in summer with festivals of international flavors, culture and heritage. Try the St. Nicholas Greek Food Festival (, or the August Festa Italiana  in Vandergrift, where you can bring your pot of Bagna Calda to compete with the locals. At the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, held in early September at the Riverplex at Sand Castle on the east side of the city, families can try out Irish instruments, and even learn to speak Gaelic. Later, as the bands take the stage, our children always join the many others right down in front, dancing merrily to the lively tunes.

The Fourth of July weekend brings the Three Rivers Regatta , the largest inland regatta in the United States, for a weekend of free entertainment that includes a Zambelli fireworks/ music performance rated one of the top ten in the country. The Regatta features unique Chinese dragon boat competitions , as well as hands-on activities such as kayak lessons for the uninitiated. Watch the events from designated areas on the North Shore of the Allegheny River, or brave the crowds along the Overlooks on Mount Washington for a birds-eye view.
The Overlooks are accessible year-round and provide a panorama of the city no one will forget. But don’t trouble yourself navigating the twisty, narrow roads that lead up to Mount Washington—take the Incline! Free parking is available at the bottom of the hill, and the several funicular railway cars will take you up the hill for a slow ride with plenty of time to enjoy the view. Stop after your ride with your cooler for a picnic at Point State Park,  at the Golden Triangle, where the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River.
Pittsburgh’s museums are nationally recognized for their collections and for their diversity. Take your afternoon and choose the one that’s right for you.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History,  one of the six largest in the country, has traditionally-loved exhibits such as its extensive collection of massive reconstructed dinosaurs, as well as the Wertz Hall of Gems and Jewelry, which showcases beautiful crystals, rocks and minerals as art.
The Carnegie Science Center is a hands-on adventure, complete with a planetarium, a submarine to explore, a complete miniature railroad village, Roboworld, where you can come face to face with robots from your childhood—Robbie the Robot, the Lost in Space robot as well as R2D2 and C3P0—and face off at air hockey with a determined robotic opponent. If your little ones have steam to release, take them across to the Highmark Sports Works center where they can race, run and climb to their heart’s content. (SportsWorks and submarine admission included in Science Center admission, OMNIMAX extra)

For those artistically inclined, visit the Carnegie Museum of Art , the Andy Warhol Museum  (colorful, but mostly static and stuffy except for one room where the ‘art’ is a batch of floating silver balloons that visitors are encouraged to touch and move around as part of the display—kids love this), and the Mattress Factory where room-sized exhibits are created by artists-in-residence.

If your little ones would rather make their own art, there’s only one place in Pittsburgh to go: The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.  The Studio, on the first floor of the Museum, has a full layout of stations where kids (and parents, too!) can silkscreen, paint, sculpt, draw, make paper and much more. You’ll want to do this activity last in your visit to the museum, because your little artists will have a stack of creations to carry home!

This museum caters to the younger children, with places to climb and launch parachutes, tinker in the wood shop, and ride along on the trolley in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While the museum provides raincoats, parents might want to have an extra set of dry shoes along if their kids tackle the water play area on the third floor, where they can splash, build and float boats on the 53-foot water tray and walk through fountains. Thrill to eerie strobe shadows in the Phosphorescent room, and keep your balance in the topsy-turvy Gravity Room.  Even the website is fun, with its very own Chicken and Chicken Dance!

A few blocks away from the Children’s Museum is the National Aviary , with over 600 varieties of birds on display, some even walking around in the open. Special opportunities allow families to meet and feed some of the aviary’s residents close-up; see the website for details. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is another option, where you can stroll through areas representing Africa, Asia and a tropical rain forest. The Kids Kingdom, ranked one of the top children’s zoos in the country, has native Pennsylvania animals and petting areas. 

After a busy day in the Steel City, everyone will be ready for a nap on the way home!

Mother and daughters ate at the dinner table, an unusual event in light of their busy schedules. Riviera laid out the plates, while Hope poured each a glass of milk. Suzanne served the main course, and the three dug in.
            Settling back into her chair, Suzanne asked, “Anything I should know about happen at school?” She never believed, of course, that either teenager would confess to a transgression. Asking a general question was the best way to find out from one girl what the other had done.
            “No,” Hope said promptly. With her long dark hair delicately French-braided, and her face scrubbed clean without makeup as usual, she looked as angelic as she wanted her mother to believe.
            “Steve Jones got the flu at lunch and puked on Mr. Racine,” Riviera said, taking a huge bite of rice and vegetables. She was shorter and rounder than long-stemmed Hope, strawberry blonde hair straight to her shoulder blades, parted on the side. “It was so sick!”
            “How was the geography quiz?” Suzanne asked her.
            Riviera's fork hit the plate as she dropped it.             “Mom, Mrs. Batt is such a jerk! She tested us on all this stuff that's in our next unit and no one knew what she was talking about.”
            “Did you ask her why?”
            “After she collected the papers, she walked out of class before the bell rang. You couldn't ask her anything.”
            “Would you like me to speak to her?”
            Hope burst out laughing. “Good plan, Mom,” she said, sarcasm coating every word.
            Simultaneously, Riviera blushed and cried out, “No way!”
            Suzanne looked from one to the other. “What's wrong with your mother talking to the teacher if there's a problem?”
            Hope asked, “Like last year, when you talked to Mrs. Weber about her math?” Riviera covered her face with her hands, her response muffled and unintelligible.
            “What about it?”
            “The teachers carried on afterward for a week. They're all afraid you're going to sue them about something. Mona Rheinfeld just eats it up. She even reminds them about you all the time so she can be class suck-up.”
            “Fine,” Suzanne said, swallowing her frustration along with her rice, preparing for a good digestive mess later. “I just thought communication might be a good thing.”
            “Mom, this is Mrs. Batt we're talking about. Remember my seventh grade year? She locked herself in the teacher's lounge and wouldn't come out until after school when the police came?”
            Suzanne smiled. “Sounds reasonable to me. You couldn't pay me enough to do her job anyway.”

CONVICTION OF THE HEART (release date June 8, 2012)  Buy Link
And SECOND CHANCES (release date June 19, 2012)  Buy Link  

The first and second books of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer Series!
Come by the following blogs or live booksignings and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing—at the end of the tour, Alana will give away one ebook copy of each book and one paperback copy of each book—Four lucky winners! Check out all the websites at


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Pippa!! I know you've had more important things on your mind this week.


    1. Thanks for visiting Alana.
      Ah well, things happen.

  2. That sounds like one heck of a tour - wouldn't mind attempting Gaelic either. Best of luck with the book.

  3. Thanks, Maddy--it's a great city. Never a dull moment!

  4. I know little about Pittsburgh, so thank you. I enjoyed the excerpt from CONVICTION OF THE HEART.


  5. I loved this post, Pippa! I live just north of "The Burgh" as locals call it. I think you might know a bit more about Pittsburgh than I do. ;-)

    I had not before heard of this books series. Will definitely check them out :-)


I always love to hear your thoughts.