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Updated: 2018-03-06T11:34:30.862-08:00




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A very, merry Thanksgiving was had by all -- with Pap-Pap Rotstein in attendance! Leslie, what is UP with those torn JEANS!!(image)



A cool autumn breeze is blowing through my window... I am ready, I suppose, but I still don't want to give up the memory of this family vacation to St. John in the Virgin Islands this August... one of the best ever. My kids had a swell time, we all had a swell time. Now, though, it's time to pull out the sweaters. I can't believe it.[...]

Embracing the heart of winter before it dissolves into mud


(image) Blogs must be fed frequently, I know... but I don't have time. Still, as this wondrously snowy weather fades into the mud season, I must at least post some cell phone pics from my trip last week to Vermont to visit some dear old pals... and to ski... at Stowe and at Mad River Glen, (image) an amazing old-timey place in the 60s/hippie/crunchy/ski bum sense of the word... with views of Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks on one side... 60 miles to the west? and (image) Mt. Washington, xxx? miles to the east... this picture does not do it justice (Blackberry cameras are not alas very good) but that fine white line you see is Mt. Washington in NH... but here we are on the other side with NY's Adirondacks in view... incredible.(image) Oh, and the skiing was pretty challenging, but I did okay on what MRG calls "the easiest" trails. They would be intermediate anywhere else, believe me.

Mad River also boasts a single chairlift, probably the last one in these United States. And NO snowboarders!!!(image)

Only in Pittsburgh


(image) .... Could I spend the day working (it was the Saturday shift) and end up covering a public meeting which reminded me, once again, about why I love Pittsburgh. For nearly two hours, nearly 100 people stood and told the mayor and a host of public officials about their love and need for Pittsburgh's public libraries... founded by Andrew Carnegie more than 100 years ago. Four of those libraries are slated for closure because of budget problems, but perhaps, given the public outcry, that will be averted. I was amazed at the cross-section of people in the audience and at the microphone... retired schoolteachers, young moms holding babies in their arms, philosophy students, nuns, a jazz trumpeter (who played "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the end of his comments, in tribute to those who had filed into St. Mary's Lyceum in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood to speak their minds), the young man from Holland, here getting his doctorate in neurological science, another young man who said he does "menial tasks" for a living, the 11-year old girl from Hazelwood who softly told the crowd she goes to her library after school to write her essays on the library's computer (she doesn't have one at home). Norman Rockwell should have painted the scene... but all I could do was write about it.

Anyway, after work I headed over to see the Pittsburgh Opera's "Falstaff" with the PG's music critic Andrew Druckenbrod, who had a spare ticket. (image) Mark Delavan played the title role and Andy says he could be America's next Wotan, as James Morris eases out of those Wagnerian roles.... As it was, Delavan seemed to be channeling Sherrill Milnes (I saw Milnes do Don Giovanni in a Met traveling producting in 1972-3 while at college in Boston. Have never forgotten it) Falstaff isn't a great singing role -- he kind of gets drowned out in the last act... but it's certainly good enough... and that ravishing last act as staged by the Pittsburgh Opera was all magical, moonlit masquerade... exquite music, children's voices.... "Chimes at Midnight." there's a wonderful video on showing Delavan having his makeup put on for the role. It is hilarious... If you do nothing else today, click on this link, you will love this guy (especially when he goes into Clint Eastwood mode).
P.S. Only in Pittsburgh could I go to the opera, and in the space of a half hour run into the three doctors who have changed/improved my life: my longtime, beloved family doctor and doctors Ray Capone and Dan Gagne... 'nuff said. Pittsburgh IS a small town, with very cultured doctors! :)

Happy Birthday Mom!


My mother turned 80 yesterday, and my youngest daughter Annie and I drove down to Charlottesville, Va., to celebrate with her and some of my sisters, their progeny, et al. A long drive through the mountains, six hours total, even though I suspect that, as the crow flies, C'ville and Pittsburgh are at most three hours apart, if that. Nonetheless a great time was had by all. Here's a photo of some of us (Mom is at the far left) at cousin Carter Speidel's cross-country meet. Sister Sophie ran her fourth Ultra last weekend. She gets a lot of cool stuff to wear from the race's sponsor if she wins or places at the top, which she frequently does. Here she is in her kitchen that evening after the UVA/Indiana football game whipping up some homemade chicken soup... shirt by SmartWool. You can't really see it in this photo, but I really WANT it.And here's another photo of Mom's birthday dinner Sunday night at Duner's, a tasty tasty restaurant whose menu boasted lots of good things to eat. There was great people-watching to be had, typical Charlottesville: crunchy/hippie/counterculture people, horsey people, outdoorsy mountain bikers/hikers, good ol' boys, UVA profs and... us! (we defy description). Everyone in the restaurant sang happy birthday to Mom when they brought out a chocolate mousse cake slice with a candle in it!It's great to have a mom whose birthday is in mid-October because I was able to get my fall foliage fix on the way down. Here's an old Victorian in Bedford, Pa, where my husband lived for two years when he was editor of the Bedford Gazette. Alas, it was getting dark so the photo doesn't quite do justice to the tree's colors... but that HOUSE!Here's the venerable old Bedford Springs hotel (once the summer White House for James Buchanan, and where the Supreme Court met). When Gary was living there in the late 1980s, the hotel stood vacant, waiting for someone to fix it up. Well, someone finally did:In some ways, the most beautiful part of the weekend was the trip on Sunday to Carter's Mountain, near Monticello. It was a gorgeous Indian summer day -- and while the view reminded me of the Napa Valley, the vast crowds who came to the mountaintop (not pictured!) reminded me of the battle of Dunkirk.. but never mind. The just-picked apples and cider donuts made it all worthwhile... I just had to take a picture of the donuts, still hot, glittering with sugar... oh my oh my..You can't really tell from these photos, but on one side of Carter's mountain, the view is of ridge after ridge of mountains... while on the other side, the view is of coastal plain, flat as a pancake. I have to wonder what the first settlers thought when they ascended this mountain and looked out on the other side....At day's end, Sophie, me, my daughter Annie and her cousins Grace and Virginia decided to take the trail down Carter's Mountain... it was a gorgeous hike. Here are some pictures of them that I took before we headed down:[...]

My Excellent Pittsburgh G20 Summit Adventure


Call me insufferable and narcissistic, but I just HAD to share the White House pool reports (see below) I filed during Thursday's Phipps reception for the G-20 foreign leaders and Michelle O's incredible CAPA visit yesterday morning. They resulted in this storyand this story...What an experience, especially hearing CAPA's own Jason Yoder, a mop-haired, reedy 10th grader, accompany cellist Yo Yo Ma in an exquisite rendition of Saint-Saens' "The Swan." I've been privileged to see a lot of great musical performances in a lot of places but this one seemed especially freighted with meaning, in that A) it was taking place at a school whose students include some of my childrens' friends; B) the golden sound of Yo Yo Ma's cello in such a small space seemed miraculous; C) I love "The Swan," in part because it's the piano piece my youngest daughter has been trying to master for the past year; D) Members of the audience in that little auditorium included Michelle Obama and the wives of the world's leaders. My heart just swelled with pride even though I know I was supposed to be a jaded, hard-hearted journalist ... NOT. Here is another take on the CAPA event from Kate Hannon, one of the many foreign journalists at the event, very nice, very astute -- and National Political Editor of the Australian Associated Press. Surely I was luckier than some of my braver PG colleagues, some of whom were tear-gassed, pepper sprayed or, in Friday night's final protests, were arrested and spent the night in jail IN HANDCUFFS. Here's a gripping shot by the Post-Gazette's Mike Henninger of that long, long night (you can see much more at Those PG photogs and reporters were the ones doing the really hard work at this extraordinary event. I am simply too old/cowardly to do that sort of reporting [Although I did interview a young man who was forced to kneel, in handcuffs, with the Chicago policee for a "group photo." Harrowing.} Better yet, I didn't have to write any analysis pieces of global monetary policy, thank GOD -- but Jim O'Toole did a typically nuanced, elegant analysis of the summit here. I DID wander in to the news conference Obama held yesterday morning at the convention center with the British prime minister and the French president. Clearly these three leaders weren't speaking to the coffee-sipping, backpack toting journalists in the room, but to the world. I kept thinking, oh my, this is the David L. Lawrence convention center, and yet at this moment it is also the center of the WORLD... Can I be in the same spot where I took my kids to PiratesFest a few years ago???Even though the subject -- a stern warning to Iran about its nuclear ambitions -- was dramatic, and would dominate the headlines coming out of the conference (AND perhaps, one day, the history books) the scene in the half-empty auditorium seemed casual, almost anticlimactic. Perhaps the space was simply too big to accomodate all the journalists, but whatever the case, you could kind of mosey up the aisle past some empty rows of seats and stand pretty close to the president. Notice the empty seats in this picture I took on my BlackBerry... and note, too, that the photo of the three men onstage (between the heads of these two men in the foreground) was splashed across the top page of the New York Times the next day...All the hassle of getting through one security checkpoint after another pays dividends, I suppose. And you can be sure that getting through to the convention center was onerous... a bunch of us spent TWO nights at the Post-Gazette sleeping on cots so we could be sure to get to our assigned spots the next day. Here is a photo of our newsroom on Thursday night as protests started to ratchet up and calls started coming in from reporters who'd been pepper sprayed in the protests.(you can dimly make out photog Larry Roberts, exec. editor David Shribman, asst mng editor Virginia Linn, G20 coverage coordina[...]



Mid-September thoughts

I know it's early, but with the cooler nights I am already thinking about flame colored trees and remembering last year's incredible visit to New Hampshire in October. I was there for work, to cover that state's primary and a speech by John McCain, but I sneaked in some leaf-peeping in the White Mountains and southern N.H.... there is truly something about New England's foliage that just knocks me senseless. I think it's simply that there are so many, many maples...?
These pictures, however, were taken in West Virginia in 2007, on my way home to Pittsburgh from Charlottesville, Va....(image) absurdly brilliant...

This photo, taken of a side road somewhere in the mountains right at the border of Virginia and West Virginia stirs me, too. I wonder where it leads....

My trip took nearly all day. It was starting to get dark, and I was reminded of one of the spookiest/Halloweeniest lines in all of Shakespeare, from Macbeth, I think, which I memorized in high school: "Light thickens and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood... good things of day begin to droop and drowse, and night's black agents to their prey do rouse..."



So, call me a self-promoter, but you read the subtitle to this blog so you know what you're getting into... I am now taking the opportunity to promote PGPlus, our new innovative premium content web site. The Guardian of London has even written about us!!! And I shamelessly sent out this email to friends, which I will now post here:

If you're bemoaning the slow demise of the print newspaper, and of all that excellent journalism that seems to be vanishing, here's a way you can help! The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has come up with a ground-breaking new initiative that we hope will create something of a new business model for ALL newspapers. We learned from the NYTimes failure of "Times Select" -- when they made people pay for all their favorite columnists and writers. It was a flop. We are NOT going to take away ANYTHING that people already get online now at for free. Rather, we have a new initiative being unveiled on Tuesday that we hope will make money for the paper. It's called PGPlus, and for the low, low price of $3 a month you get access to all sorts of NEW online "extras" -- but original content nonetheless.
It's a way to address the fact that we have millions of unique users who pay nothing for our first-rate journalism provided online.
And hey, that's okay... except that even journalists need to eat!
We have lots of talent in this newsroom, lots of professional journalism experience, that we can offer in this new format. Most of PGPlus, frankly, is aimed at Pittsburgh's huge sports audiences who cannot get enough of the Steelers, Penguins, Penn State and Pitt football or basketball -- or even the miserable Pirates.But there will be other things in the mix besides sports.

I will be hosting a ten minute weekly webcast (with guests!) called "Mackenzie Carpenter's Omnivore," loosely modeled on Tina Brown and her "Daily Beast," where I talk about whatever suits my fancy -- in politics, culture, books, gossip, lifestyle and try to interview smart, funny people about these issues without being too stuffy.
One recent show noted, for example, that the New Yorker's online "Book Bench" blogged about and linked to my story a few weeks ago on the lively independent publishing scene in Pittsburgh -- prompting an online fight in their comments section about the merits/demerits of Pittsburgh! In THE NEW YORKER!!!!
PG Plus will also have book critics, movie critics, food writers, photographers, cartoonists all offering their own content too. Again, for $3 a month, you can help us invent a new business model that's rich in content, fun AND will help save newspapers and ... DEMOCRACY!!! :)
To learn more, go to and click on PG Plus...



Just finished a week of following Netroots Nation and its counter-conference, Right Online. These bloggers are so interesting... and I got to see Bill Clinton wag his finger at a heckler while frantically racing to file a story on deadline, because, of course, he was late late late to address the liberal bloggers...
I did manage to play blogger tourist and shoot this pic of Daily Kos himself, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, taking a break (he's slouching on a clear plastic chair). He was pretty much the first to do political blogging on a wide scale... Daily Kos is the biggest community website in the world. He was very nice. And so was Austin James, a very young blogger for the American Majority, a conservative group.

Sublime summer weather


It's July 18th and the air is fresh and cool... it could be Maine, it could be Oregon... but it's Pittsburgh, and it's the best sleeping weather you could imagine... no air-conditioning unit in the window yet, and it's July 18.
The hydrangeas have been outstanding... as you can see from this photo taken on my rather lame BlackBerry camera. That's the tent my daughter Leslie pitched in our backyard as soon we returned home from our New England trip... she just couldn't bring herself to sleep in her own bed, I guess. She and daughter Annie were a delight all throughout the trip... here they are outside the Plaza Hotel in New York... where we stumbled upon Mariah Carey preening for the papparazzi. Inspired, I told my girls to preen for me:

They were pretty amazed, but, hey, anything can happen in Manhattan... and here they are on a friend's Vermont porch, preparing to go inspect (image) the bullfrogs in her pond...

And, to top it all off, here's a photo from another front porch I really like ... far far from Vermont, but just as beautiful!(image)

If there is a heaven it must be early June


Every day, I walk outside and think, the the garden cannot become any more beautiful. Then, it defies me and becomes more beautiful.How is this possible? I do not have a particularly grand garden... my house, while atmospheric in its late a tad shabby around the edges (although the dining room looked awfully nice the other evening for my annual strawberry shortcake fest... I baked up a whole lot of the richest shortcakes and dumped them on the table, and voila! Abundance....)I honestly believe, though, I live in a palace -- at least I do when it's early June. I told a friend that one evening not long ago, I came home from a hard day at work, stepped out the back door, and glimpsed this sight... all the while inhaling the sharp, sweet fragrance of honeysuckle. I felt I was the richest woman in the world, although technically I am far from that:[...]



Here's a fabulous article about Mary Chapin that I had to share...

Lovely, lovely May


It's the month of May, the month when we gardeners go out of our minds with delirium. Just when I'm thinking NOTHING is more beautiful than the marble pink of magnolia soulangeana blossoms against a stormy gray April sky, May presents herself with lilacs, daphne, and glossy green, lime green, lettuce green, velvet green green green green... if we're lucky, we get some soft spring days before summer's fiercer heat... but Pittsburgh's Mays are generally chilly and rainy. So we shall see.

This year's cherry tree bloom was a bit anemic, which worries me, so I'm posting a photo of last year's bloom, which was spectacular... right outside my window...(image)

Back in the real world, I was in Washington, DC, last week, reporting on how the city has changed or not changed in the first 100 days of Obama. You can read about it here.

Better yet, check out my video version of the story at

Dreaming of magnolias


Pittsburgh's magnolias are nowhere near close to bloom... but I am already starting to fantasize... maybe three weeks from now? Here is one magnolia whose buds I captured for posterity a year ago... it's on the way to work... I nearly drove off the road when I saw it. Please ignore the yewball right beside it. I would like to hurl a Molotov cocktail at these horrible foundation plantings... they're magnets for bugs and mice and peeing dogs... and ugly to boot. But oh, those magnolias!!!!

dreams of summer gardens


I have finally finished Shirley Hazzard's "Graham on Capri" and by the end, of course. was completely beguiled ... less by Graham Greene (what a grouch) than by Capri and Hazzard herself... she writes very sweetly about Harold Acton which makes me remember when my friend Wistar and I, eager teenagers, incongrously served the great Florentine aesthete spinach hors d'oeuvres on the back deck of her parent's house in Princeton. (Here father, Alan Williams, was Acton's editor for his book "Memoirs of an Aesthete" which, sadly seems out of print but you can buy it here for about a gajillion dollars.)

Here is a gorgeous passage about the garden of an abandoned cliffside villa on Capri Hazzard and her husband used to wander through which made me want to go there immediately... I did visit the island in September of 1975 during my senior year in college and I've never forgotten its extravagant beauty. I must go back before I die...
For the moment, though, this passage makes me long for green shade and warmth and damp earth smells...

"Inexpressibly romantic in its solitude and decline, it was cared for by a custodial Caprese family who for years intrepidly occupied the kitchen quarters at the landward rear of the building, while the haunted drawing rooms, shedding stucco and gold leaf, teetered ever closer to the limestone brink. The damp garden, tended by the housekeeper, was ravishing: suitably overgrown, encroached on by a cloud of ferns, creepers, acanthus, agapanthus, amaryllis; shadowed by umbrella pine, and by cypress and ilex; lit from within by massed colors of fuschia, hortensia, azalea and all manner of trailing mauves, blues, purples -- wisteria and iris in spring, solanum and "stella Italia" in high summer; in autumn, plumbago and belladonna lilies. Geraniums were the size of shrubs, and of every red and coral gradation. The different jasmines flowered there, on walls and trellises, in relays throughout the year.

"In September and October, great crowds of wild cyclamen, small fragrant flower of the Italian woods, sprang from crevices... a garden of mossy textures and dark dense greens, with impasto of luminous flowers: a place of birdsong and long silence; of green lizards and shadowy cats, and decadent Swinburnean beauty."




It's just occurred to me that I've been at three "centers of the universe" in the past three to four months. I.e., in the middle of huge crowds who were ecstatic about something.

First, it was Grant Park in Chicago on Election Night.

Then, it was the National Mall during President Obama's Inaugural.

And then it was today, sitting at my desk, while outside an estimated 400,000 people gathered to celebrate the Steelers' victory. I took this photo with my BlackBerry from my window. It's not great, but you get the idea:

(image) Actually, we were kind of stuck in the office for the most of the day. It was like being lodged deep in the internal gears of some huge vast machine that was grinding away... and you could HEAR the grinding... BOM BOM boom BOM BOM boom WE WILL WE WILL ROCK YOU...

Et cetera

My favorite scene, which we have on our web site: Troy Polomalu doing the Mosh Pit thing:

You can see the video of Troy at our Post-Gazette web site here.

How I found out we'd won the Super Bowl


(image) I think this is a picture of Bruce Springsteen from the Super Bowl. That massive, leonine head...

Someone should sculpt him.

I should note that I once slept on a sidewalk ALL NIGHT LONG so I could get tickets to one of his concerts. Needless to say, on this particular night, I found him wonderful and riveting in a sad way. It was as though a long lost boyfriend had emerged from the past and was as virile and gorgeous as ever while I was old... so OLD...

Okay, Mackenzie, you're 54. Get over yourself.

The New York Times and other critics didn't agree that Bruce was so transcendent. You can read about that here.

Anyway, towards the end of the second half, when Kurt Warner caught that touchdown I thought, well, this can't be good. Sure, they have two minutes left, but what are the chances...?

This kind of football is actually almost painful to sit through. Especially when your newspaper, the place where you work...the place you plan to cling to until they pry it loose from your cold, dead hands... is probably going to reap all kinds of extra ad revenue if the Steelers WIN. So, if they LOSE, it's not just bad for Steelers Nation, it's bad for the Pittsburgh-Post-Gazette (One of America's Great Newspapers).

So, I bid youngest daughter Annie-belle farewell and wandered into my room to lie down in darkness. I lay there, thinking, it's okay, Mackenzie, be still your beating heart, it's only A FOOTBALL GAME.

Then, from the house across the street on our small city block, I heard a strange sound. It was Kent Tarpley, a RABID Steelers fan. He sits in his front living room during games watching it on his big screen TV. Basically, you can follow the play-by-play from his howling, his hollering and his "yowzas."
(He's also the guy who saved our house from burning down a few years ago. You can read about that here.)

Out of this silent night, I suddenly heard this kind of "HMHhPHFFFF!!!! harfmfff!!! YEOWWWWWff!!!

And I thought, hmmm, something must have happened? I got up and wandered out into the family room. "What happened?" I asked Annie-belle.

"Oh," she said in her tiny little 14-year-old voice. "The Steelers got a touchdown, they're winning and there are 23 seconds left."




Suddenly I heard the sound of firecrackers going off out on the street below. (image)

I opened our window. Neighbors were coming out onto their porches, yelling for joy.

"Mom, don't do it. Don't be embarrassing!" Annie implored, as I leaned out and screamed in a strangled voice, "GO STEELERS!!!"

Inaugural... Super Bowl... Inaugural... Super Bowl...


IN PITTSBURGH WATCHING THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS IN THE SUPER BOWLI'm trying to finish my posts about the Inaugural, but the Super Bowl is on, and our Steelers are in it. Hard to concentrate. Somehow, the Inaugural is receding into the mists of time... already it seems so five minutes ago... Groundhog day is upon us... then Valentine's Day... then St. Patrick's...Oh, never mind.My daughters are sacked out on the sofa in our second floor family room, stubbornly refusing to explain to me what is going on. It's 10-7, but, I wonder aloud, vaguely, is the momentum with the Cardinals? ... How would I know?Leslie and Annie will also not cooperate with my attempts at picture taking.The Cardinals just received a 5 yard penalty but I'm still not sure what it all means. My husband is at the Post-Gazette, having volunteered to work that evening... do you think it was to get away from my questions? I'm not sure why. Indeed, there is so very, very much I am not sure of in this world... But one thing I DO know is that Maira Kalman's piece in the NY Times about the Inaugural was far more artistic than anything I would ever post. You can look at it here.Anyway, let's make a long story short: On Monday, Jan. 19th, I went down to 14th and U to meet Bob Witeck, a K Street lobbyist for GLBT causes... he's extremely nice and very plugged in. He told me he was going to the Huffington Post Ball that night. We had lunch at a Thai restaurant, then walked down the street to Ben's Chili Bowl, which Obama had visited a few days earlier. Here's a picture of him emerging from the eatery, having just ordered and consumed a chili "half-smoke."By the time Bob and I got there, it was bedlam. Long lines of people outside, snaking back into the alley, patiently waiting for a chance to visit what had become something of a shrine. Here are not-great photo from my BlackBerry of the lines heading back into the alley behind Ben's Chili Bowl:And here are some folks in the street in front of Ben's. The police had parked in front and were politely asking people to get on the sidewalk.Oh. Back to the Super Bowl. James Harrison just ran down the field and nearly broke his neck making a touchdown for the Steelers. The longest play in Super Bowl history. At least I think he made a touchdown. They're reviewing it.John Madden just said James Harrison ran like James Brown. Bob Costas says it's one of the biggest turnarounds in Super Bowl history. They're already calling it the Immaculate Interception.Okay. Back to the Inaugural. It's a good thing that I was down at 14th and U that day... I hadn't planned on doing much reporting, trying to save my energies for the next day down on the National Mall. But at 5 pm, while I was preparing to move from my dad's apartment to Georgetown to camp out overnight at a Washington Post editor's apartment -- within walking distance of the Mall -- I got a call from the PG: Seems that the editor had decided we needed an Inaugural "set up" piece for the next day's paper.He decided that at 5 pm, and they needed me to write it.I was furious. Ready to quit. They'd had ALL DAY to figure this out.After having a few nervous breakdowns, and cussing in front of my father, who was driving me to Georgetown ("I don't mind, I understand," he said. What a great guy.) I let myself in to my friend's apartment, hooked up my laptop and started writing. I had only a few hours to do it, and had to interrupt my work with a trip back to my father's apartment to pick up a credential I'd left behind. My sister Camilla came to pick me up. There she is, on the left, in this photo t[...]

Obama's Inaugural


I didn't take this picture from my cell phone. Allison Price, former Western Pa press spokeswoman for Barack Obama's campaign, did. Allison, who I am still in touch with, posted this photo on her facebook page and I pilfered it. Thanks, Allison!I was too busy back at the Lincoln Memorial shooting video... which I never was able to send due to technical difficulties... to take still pictures of what was going on around me. Dumb, dumb, dumb.I went down to Washington on Friday, Jan. 16, after finishing two preview stories and flying out the door into single digit temperatures... It was COLD..... the snow blowing across the fields as I drove into the Laurel Highlands. But I had Gabriel Faure's Requiem playing on my Mp3... and when I heard the exquisite, ethereal final movement -- "In Paradisum" -- all my anxieties about the challenges of the upcoming week melted away. I think music has that affect on me... whenever I get nervous about an assignment, I just put on some Ravel or Chopin and I'm fine.You can listen to Kings College Choir of Cambridge's version of "In Paradisum" here.D.C., thankfully, was warmer than Pittsburgh... I arrived at Rebecca Trafton Frischkorn's fabulous Washington apartment that evening, and after some social time with the dear girl and her great and good friend Dodge and a few others, collapsed into bed.Here's a photograph from my BlackBerry of lovely Becky/Rebecca the next morning, sipping cappucino made FROM HER OWN MACHINE:And here's a photograph(below) of what she USED to look like, back in Wyonegonic days. She's the little girl on the far left, deeply immersed in sewing something on her teddy bear -- or at least PRETENDING to, for the photographer.... I actually remember when they made us pose for those pictures. I think I'm at the table but obscured by the girl in the white headband (sigh).Oh, wait... I was supposed to be writing about the 2008 presidential Inaugural, not Wyonegonic camp, circa 1963. But it's late and I will write more about my incredible adventures tomorrow....SUNDAY JAN. 25th...Okay, where was I? Oh, yes. Here's a picture of your correspondent, blogging and bleary eyed, the next morning (Saturday, Jan. 17) in Rebecca's apartment (actually POSTING TO THE BLOG is a more correct way to put it, I've been told... in this case to the "Early Returns" blog). You can read some of the blog postings here and here and here and here and here and here and hereand here.That Saturday was spent gallivanting around visiting old friends while posting to "Early Returns" which is mostly a product of my colleague Tim McNulty (who also writes great pieces like this on about Steelers Nation ) but since it was the weekend, I was on duty. Maybe it was crazy, or rude, or both, but I was tethered to my laptop, posting things that I found on the Internet that I thought might be relevant to our readers. We don't always do original reporting on blogs; we serve as aggregators -- hunting down interesting fragments of information and color that might otherwise get lost in the blogosphere...Then it was on to Dad-and-Ele's apartment, just a a short ride away. D&E were a Godsend on this trip... they not only gave me a free place to sleep, and free food, but free parking in their apartment building with AN AUTOMATIC GARAGE DOOR OPENER!!!!I would like to take this opportunity to thank D&E -- there they are in a photo from Thanksgiving a few years ago, with my husband, Gary Rotstein. And props to you too, Gary, for holding down the fort while I was gone.At any rate, after depositing bags in D&E's apa[...]

Going to the Inaugural



I am headed to Washington, D.C. this afternoon for five days... to cover Barack Obama's Inaugural. Let's hope I don't encounter this scene along the way. But I probably will, so I might as well just relax and enjoy the experience. This whole year has been so extraordinary.

Tonight, I will be staying with my dear childhood friend Rebecca Frischkorn. We've known each other since we were nine years old, at Wyonegonic Camp in Maine, when she was Becky Trafton (tall, strong, a true leader) and I was Kenzie Carpenter (short, pesky, and a chatterbox).
We will probably spend the evening singing camp songs together from memory. I will post a photo of us from those days when I get a chance.
Today, Rebecca is an accomplished garden designer, writer and lecturer and host of the acclaimed PBS series, GardenStory.
Isn't she beautiful in this picture?

Kitchens R Us


My sister called me up today and harangued me for not posting photos of my kitchen. Well, in one last act of procrastination before going back to finishing a story about the Obamas, here they are.

It's a pretty unfancy kitchen... the chairs are mismatched, painted in different shades of pale green, lime, celery... and the countertops aren't granite, but what the heck, it's like a palace to me... I especially love the old pine table we found 20 years ago at an outdoor antiques fair in southern Massachesetts. My only splurge: pale green glass drawer pulls from Restoration Hardware... (will post those after I take a picture of them).

Back to work!!!!

Go Steelers N@


I'm feeling great about Pittsburgh today, even if it is 12 degrees out. The Steelers are playing in the AFC championships, Pitt's basketball team is number one in the country, and the Post-Gazette remains a media organization to be reckoned with, even as the newspaper industry crumbles all around us.

Here is a great story in today's Post-Gazette by the great Bill Toland about how great Pittsburgh is...
And here's a link the the New York Times' FRONT PAGE piece the other day on how great (sort of) we are...

design blog madness


(image) Here is a gorgeous blog header to one of my favorite design blogs,, which I featured in a story in the Post-Gazette today about my secret passion, interior design, and about some fabulous design blogs that my sister alerted me to. You can read about it here. Three of the blog designers hail from the Pittsburgh area, which must tell you something!!!!
And here is a list of fabulous blogs that I referred to in the article:

Amy Stanley!


We had a visit from the fabulous University of Chicago historian Amy Dru Stanley, her husband Craig Becker and their adorable boys, Tom and Isaac, who stopped overnight with us on their way to Washington D.C. I've known her since she was in 9th grade and I was in 11th grade and she was hanging out with my sister Camilla and at the Williamses' house et cetera... I have an elegant side table that I call the "Amy Stanley memorial table" because my little sister Sophie carved Amy's name in it -- probably because she was mad at Camilla for some reason and wanted to get her in trouble.

Flash forward many years later: When I was covering election day in Chicago, Amy took me all around Hyde Park, to Obama's polling place, past Bill Ayers house, past Obama's house, etc etc and in short was just tremendously helpful. I wrote a breaking news story later that morning in her kitchen and quoted her, which was fun. I should probably send it to the PDS alumni weekly: one PDS grad interviews another!

Great Rooms


News flash: As I slide into my dotage, my interior design style is evolving.I used to prefer the spare and the pale, and still do love it... in my living room, for example, featuring Aunt Anne's childhood writing desk and two prints I bought from my friend Jane Roesch at her exquisite antique shop, Merrivale Antiques, years ago...More globally, here's British designer/aesthete David Mlinaric's exquisite London dining room, courtesy of the fabulous blog... tranquility, defined.BUT...I also find myself drawn to that particularly British phenomenon, the Great Room/Library... there's more clutter here, to be sure, but there's something about all those books and paintings and comfortable sofas that just pulls me in and wants me to plant roots. I like warmer colors, too.Something like this:This is our dining room -- except when it isn't. Now, it's kind of an all-purpose reading, piano playing, hanging out room... for me, anyway (there's no television so there's not much appeal for the rest of the family). I love a dining room with walls of books... actually, I don't have a WALL of books, alas, but I found a respectable looking bookshelf at Target for $80 which does just fine. See a glimpse through the front hall, below:Actually, that shelf is twinned with a smaller farmhouse bookshelf in the room. They're not exactly symmetrical, but I don't care, I love their quirky, mismatched quality. Annie's piano doesn't exactly make an elegant decorating statement either, but I love it because it's old (a Wurlitzer, which, it is rumored, once bedecked a dance hall) and she learned to play lovely music on it. The color, a kind of pumpkin, is an experiment for me. I just got tired of pale pink, and so far I like it, although the jury is still out...On a far grander scale, but nonetheless still inspirational, here is Oscar and Annette de la Renta's Great Room, as designed by Ernesto Buch, in their Connecticut house...You can look at more pictures of their house here.John Richardson's library/great room in his country house can't be found online, alas, but I scanned some photos from an old magazine which might give an idea of how alluring that space is:You can read about Richardson's quest for a similarly comfortable place to work in New York City in a Vanity Fair piece here. Richardson, author of an acclaimed series of biographies on Picasso, didn't have an easy time of it, but oh, to have such problems:"... the English grainer and marbleizer Malcolm Robson came up from Virginia to glaze the walls with the colors that paint-mixing machines can never approximate. As I had hoped, everything glowed with light, and the spaces opened up into one another as attractively as they would in an 18th-century English country house. Unfortunately, the scale of the layout upstaged my battered bits and pieces of furniture. Nice little Regency tables looked forlorn; everything seemed to have shrunk..."Then, of course, there's Nancy Lancaster's hugely legendary great room at Ditchley, a room that is a tad grand, perhaps, for my tastes, but oh, to have seen that room, just once (see photo, below).David Cecil, in his wonderful biography of Lord Melbourne, captures this particular sensibility -- born in the 18th C. -- perfectly:"The great Whig country houses of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are among the most conspicuous monuments of English history. Ornate and massive, with their pe[...]