Tag Archives: Urban

Whereabouts

by Kate

This morning felt like fall. The air was chilly, the leaves scarlet and swirling down against a grey sky, and the park was full of small children in brightly colored sweaters.

autumn arsenal park

It’s been a long hot entry into autumn here in Pittsburgh, but this morning it was clear that the seasons have shifted. I am adding extra blankets to the beds, drinking more coffee in the morning, taking more time to curl up on the couch and read to the kids while across the street an avenue of trees blaze into fiery color. There may even be more time to blog. Somehow this is preferable to other time consuming possibilities, including but not limited to catching up with the laundry. The laundry situation has hurtled out of control here in my home. Browsing through the photographic record of the past month or two, I begin to see why.

Life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. There was samba dancing at Kennywood Amusement Park.

kennywood samba dancer

There was the addition of a brand new chicken coop and three elderly laying hens to our urban backyard, bringing a sweet peace to my farmgirl soul.

urban chicken coop pittsburgh pa

Speaking of farming, I’ve spent a lot of time with a camera around my neck…

farmer's market northside pittsburgh

at the farmer’s market and way out in the country, taking notes and photographing the Farm Kings for their new magazine, which you should head right over and subscribe to. They’ve been shooting the new season of their reality show, which makes things particularly interesting in their neck of the woods.

farm kings behind the scenes

The day of the Farm Kings tomato field shoot, I sprinted across those hay bales to get some shots, jumped down, drove back into town, and got all gussied up in red lipstick and rhinestones to play the harp…

rhinestones and red lipstick

for a spectacular, high society style Downton Abbey fundraiser at the WQED Studios here in Pittsburgh. It was pretty stunning.

downton abbey fundraiser WQED

Watching young ballerinas from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearse quietly before the madding crowds arrived, dripping with jewels and sophistication, was one of my favorite moments of the night.

pittsburgh ballet theatre school

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to dance myself at a huge party comprising the entire Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh, to welcome the Giant Rubber Duck to the city.

Pittsburgh Downtown big rubber duck sunset

It was a fantastic evening. The kids got to have a dance party in Katz plaza and see one of the largest Rubber Ducks in the whole wide world, and I got to work with some truly lovely women on a bellydance flash mob, and also had an excuse to wear bright red harem pants in public.

harem pants style downtown urban chic

Here in my own neighborhood, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon in my neighbor’s sunlit garden, playing the harp for the Lawrenceville House Tour.

pittsburgh harpist kate stapleton

I am both exhausted and exhilarated by the various gigs I’ve had in the past few months, but it is possible that the most tiring thing I did was go on vacation for three days, with four women and six (small! loud!) children. Here is a picture of the sweet peace and sunlight that actually eluded us for the entire three days we spent laughing and snorting, occasionally crying, staying up far too late, and shivering because those were the only FRIGID three days of the entire fall. Holy cow was it cold.

lake trip rowboat

Also? I am shockingly inept with a rowboat. It was still great though. And I saw Lake Erie, and heard the thunder of waves upon the sandy shore.

lake erie

Back in Pittsburgh, there have been impromptu picnics….

pittsburgh picnic pirate's umbrella

many wagon rides…

wagon ride

and a lot of walks.

out for a walk

Back in the park with the leaves swirling down, something about the change in the season makes me realize I am ready to sit down on my wooden stool and spend a bit more of my time here, on this blog. Come on over- you may just find me here. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll get started on that laundry.

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Sunlight and Forsythia

by Kate

In this grey stone city, the forsythia has burst forth into belated flame.

forsythia

It’s difficult to trust the thaw after such a slow and frozen spring, but if the peach blossoms can open to the new warmth so can I.

branch and blossom, garden, pittsburgh

Goodbye, socks. Hello, swing.

baby swing arsenal park

Hello, sun. So good to see you again.

sunglasses 2013

Thank goodness we can leave the huge heaps of coats and sweaters at home when we head out into the city.

exploring the city pittsburgh

The sunlight opens wide the great world outside our tiny home. I can’t wait to explore it.

red doors heinz chapel pittsburgh

 

 

In the Rain

By Kate

It’s a grey day, a warm day, with rivulets of snowmelt running down alleys of rugged cobblestone.

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The warmth and a striped pair of rain boots make for a perfect walk.

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There is a great wet world to discover, and in the light of low looming clouds every door leads to wonder.

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Walking slowly hand in hand we seek beauty in stone and branch and shingle and sky.

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I am grateful for my new galoshes…

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For this warm wet winter walk, and for our destination. Of course we are at our local Carnegie Library branch, and I’m heading home with a copy of Singing In The Rain.

Winter’s Mantle

by Kate

In the city, snow subsumes stone. Winter has stolen softly and shifted the surfaces of the world.
winterwonderland12 126

Yesterday I wrapped my baby in warm wool and wandered through the snowscape to the nearby Allegheny Cemetery, which is part castle…

part postcard…
winterwonderland12 027
and part Narnia.
winterwonderland12 033
The statues of the cemetery are stark and stone, blackened by the ages and bespeaking grief…
winter's mantle
But winter had wrapped her icy mantle around them, quite literally in this case, imparting a strange sense of warmth and a definite flair for couture.
winter's mantle cemetery statues

There is a softness and an elegance and flair about these wintry stoles that I imagine makes it much more comfortable for this young woman eternally reading high in the sky.

reading statue

And an amusing jauntiness about Justice’s new hat.
justice with a hat
All in all, I wouldn’t mind possessing a few items designed by the icy hand of winter…
winter couture
but for all their soft elegance they may be a bit chilly… so I’ll stick to my warm woolens and downy furs.

Fine Feathers at Carnegie Hall

by Kate

I spent yesterday in a red feather headdress and sparkling gold high heels, dancing samba with an orchestra and a full chorus onstage at Carnegie Hall.

Granted, we’re talking the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, not the larger and vastly more prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Of course, if you have ever seen the movie Flashdance you may recognize this as the home of the fictional Pittsburgh Ballet School the heroine is longing to attend… and be even more impressed that I had a chance to perform within this marble temple of the arts.

Although the Carnegie Music Hall itself is tiny inside, it is also a spectacularly opulent space.

I loved this staircase.

And these murals.

The opportunity to dance at the music hall came about due to the  Brazilian dancer and choreographer, Luciana Brussi, who is not only an amazing samba group director, but also a model for how to look amazing while in the middle of the sixth month of pregnancy.

Luciana was approached by the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, who happened to be performing an entire concert of Latin and South American music, culminating with a samba piece entitled Brazil.

We spent the afternoon watching the Symphony rehearse, and waiting for our turn to take the stage. It was delightful. Sitting in a deep red theatre seat wearing dancing shoes, with a bag of sequined and feathered costuming next to me, is definitely one of my favorite places in the world to be.

On the other hand, I have to admit that being backstage with an entire Youth Symphony is something you MIGHT want to avoid at all costs. The experience brings a new meaning to the term pandemonium.

In our dressing room, the Pittsburgh Samba Group was experiencing pandemonium of a different sort- involving lots of feathers, glitter, and sequins.

Perhaps most dramatically, the zipper on my dress finally broke under the strain of my five month pregnant frame, and I had to be sewn into my dress.

Luckily, Luciana had a needle and stitched me up in no time, so I was ready for our Carnegie Hall debut.

The Youth Symphony was great. I can’t recommend their concerts highly enough. If you live in Pittsburgh, make time to attend one these concerts- especially if you’ve got kids. The concerts are free, there are tons of kids running around, and the atmosphere is simultaneously sophisticated and relaxed enough for toddlers. Also, you never know- you may happen to see an entire samba troupe, with red feather headdresses, front stage and center. I sure hope so.

For more pictures of my Carnegie Hall adventure, click here.

Art All Night

By Kate

Post industrial Pittsburgh is rich in space. There are cavernous warehouses, former steel mills, abandoned houses of man and God, all solidly built in a past full of prosperity and American steel.

Pittsburgh is also rich in possessing a populations of artists and dreamers eager to re-imagine those spaces, and inhabit them in a new way.

Last Saturday we attended Art All Night, a 24 hour celebration of local visual and performing art that takes place at a new location in our neighborhood every year. The event is free, and the entire community is encouraged to attend and to participate in creating art during the event.

Along with a whole host of talented professionals and amateurs from all over the region.

There was a whole section of children’s events, but this year our two year old was more interested in clinging firmly to her father and gazing at wide variety of art on display.

There was live music….

There were massive puppets…

There were robots, fitting enough considering that we were a stones throw away from the Carnegie Robotics Institute…

But Casey’s favorite piece of art was definitely this practical and attractive coffee table with a cribbage table built in.

My favorite art was the juxtaposition of the entire event within the skeleton of the factory.

It is hard to describe the sheer scope of the space that housed the event this year, but wandering through it and gazing up at the massive remnants of industry was extraordinarily interesting- particularly for a girl who spent a couple ill advised years swooning over Ayn Rand.Like the work of Ayn Rand, however, it is clear that working in this factory had a dangerous side. I thought this safety measure was appropriate for an art show.

Luckily, I had no need for an emergency eye bath. I enjoyed the work of the artists, especially those working hard on collaborative immediate pieces.

It was cold on that concrete floor, and I was shivering watching them work.

Of course I have always imagined that being a painter involves a lot of shivering. In garrets, while stained with paint in an aesthetically pleasing manner, and being gaunt and interesting. The artists at work all looked just like the artists in my imagination.

And the outfits and demeanor of the artists seemed to match the paintings, which I found fascinating.

Speaking of outfits, I am thrilled to say that this event, which involved high and low art and frigid temperatures, was a perfect opportunity to pull out the pleather pants. And what five month pregnant woman doesn’t love to wear pleather pants?

Not to mention almost every brightly colored plastic bracelet I own. That was my great contribution to the world of visual art.

Want more? Read about my adventures in post-industrial Pittsburgh here:

Frumpiness and Pleather

After Atlas Shrugged

Painting Pittsburgh

A City Morning

Pittsburgh in my Paris (A Bibliophile’s Dream)

Snowstorm in July

Hot Times, Summer in the City

Fire Knives, Fountains, Steel Mills, and Spectacle

Inspiration, Expectation: Anthropologie, Spring 2012

by Kate

The world is in bloom.

Spring arrived with a great rush here in Pittsburgh. Midsummer heat swept through the bare branches of early March, bulbs burst into full flowering brightness, a lush carpet of grass sprung up from the bare brown soil, and suddenly the air is full of sweetness. Spring is a season of powerful newness. Since I am here in the city and far from the farm fields of home, I decided to celebrate the season by packing up my camera- and my toddler…

…and heading over to see the new crop of displays at our local Anthropologie. Like my recent trip to meet the Pioneer Woman, this trip was partially inspired by my sisters, especially Mary, who lives on a ridge far away from fancy stores and big book signings. Mary will be moving into her own little cottage in a couple weeks. She has a beautiful ( and anthropologie-ish) knack for home decorating, and I can’t wait to see what she does with it. I though these pictures might inspire her.

Lets look a little closer at the front window, shall we?

This spring, Anthropologie is inspired by Abstract Expressionism. It says so, right on the window.

Meanwhile, I am inspired by Anthropologie. In part, this is because, unlike Mary, I am a terrible shopper. As the eldest of nine children raised by a journalist/farmer, I didn’t get into the habit of shopping at an early age- though I did get really proficient at sorting through the regular large bags of clothing left at our home by helpful friends and members of the community. Even thrift store shopping is fraught with tension for me. I lack the ability to see an object or piece of clothing and know how to integrate it into my home or wardrobe with a strong and significant sense of Style. However, I am capable of recognizing beauty and creativity when I see it- so, I love wandering through Anthropologie. I think they do a fantastic job of marketing brilliant creativity and an eye for beauty.

I love the way this display flows, and the colors of their spring collection. I also love that this shirt is laid out on what appears to be a butcher block table.

This next picture is a great example of the way the designs within the store play with texture. Something about this reminds me of the running a theatre company and working on set design. However, I am pretty sure that something about the chair would remind my husband of a piece of furniture that has been attacked by a vicious bobcat and then left in the rain. Sometimes our tastes differ, have I mentioned that?

I have another ulterior motive in my recent love for bright and flowing prints, like the shirt featured above, and the dresses below.

As a very tall, very straight hipped, and very fair skinned person, I generally shy away from bright and flowing clothing. I feel that it makes me look ridiculous, as though I am swathed in a bright and cheerful tent and billowing in the wind. However, these days I am a very tall person who is four months pregnant, and my shape is definitely starting to shift. So is my taste in clothing. Bring on the bright and the billowing!

Also, bring on the big accessories. Luckily, the fact that I am a bellydancer means I have lots of necklaces like this one lying about.

In fact, I have a very similar necklace to the one above. I love it, but for some unknown reason I’ve only worn it once. I now resolve to work it into my wardrobe on a regular basis. Wandering through the displays at Anthropologie often reminds me to see the beauty in things I already possess- like this heap of clay pots.

I too possess a (significantly less orderly) heap of battered and empty pots, located in a forlorn jumble to the side of our back porch. One of them is verdant with a random and likely weedy growth, and the rest reproached me throughout the entire last gardening season. Seeing these displayed made me feel marginally better about this eerie similarity to my pitiful pot heap. I am going to guess that my husband will NOT be convinced that this justifies the jumbled heap or makes it any more attractive- so I have put Clean Pots on my to-do list for the next week.

I do not on the other hand happen to have a large collection of home- made aprons, but my domestic goddess sewing sister Mary makes them, and I bet hers rival the ones on display here.

Lets look a little closer at all that china.

I really loved the bee on this plate, and the brightness of the mugs.

There were lots of cheerful pieces of china.

But I was extremely relieved to discover that the plate my (almost) two year old fell in love with, and began to play with, was plastic. Pretty and unbreakable plastic plates have been a staple in my house recently. In fact I may return and pick up some of these some day soon.

There were many things in the store that reminded me of the the farm where I grew up- Anthropologie is all about the farmhouse chic.

This strawberry plate reminded me of my sister Colleen, because of her love of all things French and also because growing up, Colleen headed out to the upper fields and found the first ripe strawberry of the year.

Speaking of strawberries, these ceramic containers are a permanent version of the ubiquitous stacks of cardboard containers that we use to harvest berries every year.

These spindles are old and distressed, but they remind me of the beautiful new Amish crafted spindles on the long dreamed of front porch recently added to my parents big farmhouse.

This display case reminds me of  my mother’s cabinets.

This bouquet in the mason jar reminds me of the huge vases of fresh flowers Mary arranges and brings in weekly when our flower gardens are in season…

I would be very curious, Mary, to see what sort of bouquet you would arrange in one of these vases.

Or perhaps not. They are really not quite Wisconsin farmhouse vases. This long plank table, though, reminds me of the huge Amish crafted wooden table at home- albeit with an added abstract expressionist Southwest twist entirely missing from my Wisconsin home.

This next little table, on the other hand? It reminds me, rather sorely, of the beautiful beat up weathered splintery table in my basement, that I lobbied my husband to include as part of our home decor. Sadly, he was not supportive of the splintery beauty. I love half refinished things, and he does Not. Mary, perhaps something like this could be included in your future home?

Speaking of future and imagined home decor, I really do love this Abstract Expressionist theme.

I have always loved the idea of being a painter, and having a light drenched studio, and sort of generally being surrounded by half painted canvases and the like. Sadly I have slim to no talent with visual arts, included but not limited to basic painting of walls, so (to the relief of my husband, I am sure) I will stick with the harp and dancing, and gazing at the Abstract Expressionist Spring displays at Anthropologie.

Aren’t they pretty? Note to Mary: perhaps you might want to think about lampshades?

Actually, perhaps I should think about and actually purchase multiple lampshades, and in fact a lamp. Mine run the gamut from ripped to scorched. But back to the topic of imaginary bedrooms in imaginary Painter’s Lofts. I fell head over heels for this platform bed.

Oh man. Everything about this is so alluring to me. The bare drywall, high platform, exposed pipes, and dangling wire. The suggestion that this bed exists in a huge open space with glazed windows and light pouring in. I examined it from multiple angles, lost in imagination…

and only returned to earth and practicality when my very good friend pointed out that it sure was a high bed for a toddler to fall off of. True. This fact reminded me that years ago I did live in a one room cabin with a loft bed and a wall of windows and no running water and an extension cord just like that one running mysteriously in the window and down the hill, from whence came power. I loved the beauty and the loneliness of that time- but I swore to myself that when I had a toddler, I would also have running water, and rooms, and stairs instead of a ladder. And I do, and I’m grateful for it… but if I did have a loft bed (and loft life!) I would definitely have a blue parrot chair.

Perhaps I would also have a drafting table, in this fantasy life. Possibly computers have replaced the drafting table, but that is no trouble in my fantasy world, where one could also drink whiskey in a haze of blue smoke while drafting Howard Roark-ian masterpieces of modern architecture.

I could of course mix additional drinks in my southwestern inspired kitchen…

And then, exhausted, I could repose upon this worn leather sofa for rest, respite, and further inspiration.

Ah, this fantasy life is exhausting- but there are bits of every scene that I’d love to bring into my world. The bright pillow on the couch, for example? That I can do. I also have a drawer full of beautiful napkins like the ones in this basket, although they are currently only used to occupy the toddler who throws them on the floor and then stuffs them back in the drawer.

I could always browse through this coffee table book for ideas.

Or simply continue to seek inspiration from my little sister Mary, who seems to have a great grasp of modern vintage style, and who regularly plots and plans in journals that look a lot like these.

Come to think of it, I have a couple books like that myself- it’s just a matter of using them. For me, that reminder is one of the best things about a trip to Anthropologie. It is good to be reminded that there is such potential for beauty all around us- even in a life without a platform loft bed, painting studio, or drafting table. And with that, I am off to look for beauty in my own humble home- quite possibly while wearing bright and flowing printed clothing.

Till next time!

-Kate

 

For more Sweet Ridge Sisters posts on Anthropologie, see here:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Sisters in the City (NYC Edition)