Arts, Entertainment, Living

Busy Busy Week!

Thursday, 20 January 2011 10:01 AM Written by

Fish_tacosYes ... I am still here! Our schedule has been CRAZY this week!!! Between the day off of school, school, volunteering and activities after school I am pretty impressed that my head is still attached. I was pretty sure I lost it there for awhile. So let's recap the week - How were the Fish Tacos??? I have heard wonderful reviews about them! My friend Ellen passed this recipe to me awhile back and it has been a huge hit!!!

Roast-ChickenThen we roasted not one but TWO whole chickens! Remember my rule - NEVER roast just one bird! Saves so much time and money. Now in a pinch, you could purchase rotissierie chickens and save even more time. Not a bad idea for super busy weeks! However, you do lose the amazing aroma that fills your home on a cold winter's night!

And then last night we served up Roast Beef - or as my children like to refer to it - Roast Beast! Of course, that is curetesy of The Grinch! Now I know the combination of ingredients sounds a bit odd - but trust me when I say the end result is amazing!!!! I have tried many Roast Beef/Pot Roast recipes over the years ... this is my new favorite!!! We served a 2.5 lb. chuck roast and there were NO leftovers!!! The kids and my hubby chowed!!!!

Chili-Coke-Pot-RoastTonight's dinner will complete the Double-Duty meal of the week. Take the leftover shredded chicken and combine it with everything you need for Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas!!! This recipe was given to me by my friend Dawn and just like Ellen's Fish Tacos - these are a huge hit!!! Only one of my kiddos enjoys the hot and spicy side of eating. So I make sure to prepare a few enchiladas without the buffalo sauce. They gobble them up!!! The ranch dip goes along way in my house. Put ranch on the table and my kids will eat just about anything it is served with! I hope your family enjoys this delicious meal!!! This is a great warm, creamy meal to serve during a sonwstorm!! Be careful out there!

 

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Cheers for bureaucracy: 'Parks and Recreation' returns

Thursday, 20 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by

parks_s3Sidelined until now to make way for the pretty terrible "Outsourced," NBC returns "Parks and Recreation" (9:30 tonight, WPXI) to the Thursday night schedule, pairing it with "The Office."

"Parks" has always been a bit of an underdog, debuting with an inauspicious, not-funny-enough, short first season and then really finding its groove in its second year.

In the first six episodes of the third season, the series continues to be at the top of the TV comedy game.

Read more after the jump. ...

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'Hot in Cleveland' returns

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by

Hot_s2She's back. And she's brought a friend. Betty White returns for season two of TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" (10 tonight) and she's joined in a few scenes by former co-star Mary Tyler Moore (or maybe it's just someone wearing a poorly designed MTM mask).

When the first season ended, White's Elka was in jail for possession of stolen property (her husband was in the mob) and Moore turns out to be her cellmate who says things like, "That took spunk. I hate spunk!" Ha-ha, we get it, you were once on the receiving end of that line of dialogue.

Read more after the jump. ...

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Get the Look: "Black Swan"

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by
You may not have adored Natalie Portman's pink dress at the Golden Globes over the weekend, but her talent in "Black Swan" did not miss the mark.

If you haven't seen the film yet, Portman plays a psychotic ballerina, dancing both the delicate White Swan and sultry Black Swan in her ballet company's production of "Swan Lake." While her mind may get the best of her in the movie, it does not get in the way of her fashion.

From the dramatic ballerina performance costumes to the casual practice sweats, you too can achieve similar looks for everyday wear. Whether you choose to find your inner White Swan or Black Swan, you can get the look by paying attention to the following details:

  • Color Palette: Neutrals, including white, gray and black. The great thing about neutral colors is that they are will always be "in" and will always match with one another. That means you can combine various shades of gray, brown and navy with black and white. Also, nothing says classic ballerina than the hue of soft pink.
  • Textures: Look for pieces that are textured with feathers, lace and/or tulle. If you are channeling your inner White Swan, keep your look soft and delicate by finding clothing with small accents in these textures. If the Black Swan is more your style, bring out major drama in pieces heavily adorned with these textures, such as full feathered skirts or lace dresses.
  • Apparel: To get the ballerina look for everyday wear, seek out some of the following pieces: shrugs and bolaros, scarves, legwarmers, tights and leggings, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, ballet flats and even tutus. Yes, I said tutus. According to a recent New York Times article, tutus are in for everyday wear in spring, with designer Lipsy of London and boutiques ASOS and BCBG Max Azria, selling them within the coming months.

To find my own inner Swan, I turned out my toes and pranced through some local shops and neighborhood boutiques to find some ballerina inspired pieces.

01KohlsLCShrugBlog

LC Lauren Conrad Embellished Mesh Shrug Cardigan, $60, Kohl's

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ELLE™ Floral Lace Skirt, $44, Kohl's

01JupeBallerinaDressBlog

Ballerina Ruffle Dress, $96, Jupe Boutique

01JupeFeatherSkirtBlog

Feather Weather Skirt, $130, Jupe Boutique

01PavementLaceShirtBlog

Lace shirt available in black, cream and navy, $48, Pavement

01PavementFlatsBlog

Lace-up flats, $129, Pavement

Before you take flight, polish off your look with these sinister "Black Swan" inspired makeup tips by Jen Paelmo, a New York City-based makeup artist:

  • Apply a cream highlighter to define the cheekbones and a pale shimmery or iridescent blush on the apples of the cheeks. Use liquid or gel eyeliner to create a cat eye to mimic the shape of the original "Black Swan" performance makeup. Use silver shadow to highlight the eyelid and define the crease using a matte taupe or mid-gray shadow. In the lower rim of the eye, line with the silver liner to add to drama. Feather lashes are becoming more and more popular and can be used with this look to get the feeling of the Black Swan.
  • As for the lips, they are beautifully contoured using shades of red. Use a darker burgundy or blood red liner to line the lips and a more wine or brick shade of lipstick to fill into the middle. First, use the liner to create a sharp edge and fill into the lip slightly so the color blends seamlessly into the lipstick shade. Use a liner brush to blend the liner and add the lipstick on top. Be sure to keep the edges dark but to fade the liner into the lipstick so that there is no separation of color and the lips look perfectly defined.

Now that you have all of the "Black Swan" fashion tips, I hope I'll be seeing you dancing around the city in your ballerina inspired apparel.

Be sure to check back on Friday for another Clutch post!

Shop Locations:
Kohl's, various locations throughout Pittsburgh or online at www.kohls.com

Jupe Boutique is located at 2306 East Carson Street in the South Side. Online shopping is now available at www.jupeboutique.com. Above photos provided by John Colombo Photography.

Pavement is located at 3629 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.

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New from Damon Fowler - "Devil Got His Way"

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by

515wahQ6pnL._SL500_AA300_What a coincidence. Here I am in the Tampa Bay area of Florida just as Tampa Bay recording artist Damon Fowler releases his new CD, "Devil Got His Way" (Blind Pig Records). And alas, I missed him last Saturday night at a St. Pete club (Steelers playoff games can't be ignored, even for good music).

But let's focus on the new CD, released yesterday. Fowler has been known for fiery guitar work and expertise on dobro, slide and lap steel guitars.

On "Devil," Fowler has written or co-written most of the songs, which are still filled with excellent guitar work, but are filled with trenchant songwriting, swampy sounds and vocals that range from tough to poignant. He works with a small band, usually a trio, and they're tight and crisp throughout.

Fowler's music shows an increasing maturity, and at 30, he's developing into a musician who's taken rootsy, bluesy influences and turned them into a personal style rich with emotion and subtlety. At times he reminds me of other fine swampy Southern musicians -- JJ Grey (also from Florida), Tab Benoit, Eric Lindell -- where the vocals and music reflect moods that defy the sunny warmth and citrus-filled air. There must be something in the Southern psyche that generates a different kind of music -- one that's more moody Spanish moss than urban grit.

Fowler's music on "Devil" is not flashy rock, or traditional blues, but a rootsy blend that lends itself to thoughtful songwriting and emotional exploration. From the darkened title track to the sunny "Fruit Stand Lady" and the eerie "Cypress in the Pines," he's worked out a personal style that suggests he's just going to get better and better at the music he makes.

Here's a video of one of the best tracks on the album, "After the Rain" -

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By way of introduction: The Pittsburgh Connection

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 08:25 PM Written by

201101SteeltownGroup

From left: That's me, Carl Kurlander, with Eric Gold, Bernie Goldmann, George Romero and Rob Marshall.

Maybe its like when you buy a green Volvo and you suddenly realize how many others there are on the road, but ever since I moved back to my hometown, it seems the whole world is connected to Pittsburgh.  Maybe it’s that I have spent much of the past two years on tour with a movie, "My Tale of Two Cities," that tells this city's comeback story, meeting Pittsburgh expatriates from New York, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Boston, Chicago, Silver Spring, Portland, New York, New Haven, Hartford, Harrisburg, Cleveland, Delray Beach, and even on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to name of few. I met people like 93-year-old Evelyn Smith who made her son drive her over two hours to Sonoma Valley, California for the screening of the movie because even though she had left the then "smoky city" in 1954, she still considered Pittsburgh “home” in her heart. And of course, while making this movie, "My Tale of Two Cities," we met even more displaced Pittsburghers, talking to them in Steelers bars around the country and at “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” sing-a-longs in Times Square and Beverly Hills.

For those sing-a-longs, chronicled here in the Post-Gazette, we had no money for advertising, we just put word out that if you were from Pittsburgh, please show up at noon at Times Square or at the Will Rogers park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel.   We were amazed with how many showed up just to say, that though they lived elsewhere, they were in the end from Pittsburgh. (You can see a clip of these "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" sing-a-longs by clicking here.)

It was not like I myself had come back to Pittsburgh intending to make a movie about the place.  Frankly, I didn’t have the most ideal of childhood here and had only returned quite serendipitously when, while living in the Hollywood Hills above the Sunset Strip working as a screenwriter ("St. Elmo's Fire") and TV writer/producer ("Saved By the Bell"), I received an unexpected job offer to teach screenwriting at the University of Pittsburgh. (I had a 1-year-old daughter at the time who liked to dance naked on the coffee table, and as my wife pointed out, if we stayed in that neighborhood, that might one day become a profession.) Our journey home turned out more transformative than we had ever imagined, as I loved simply walking around the block with my daughter, Campbell, kicking Fall leaves in what was quite literally “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It turned out my daughter’s pre-school teacher, Mimsie Leyton, was on the cover of the Mister Rogers’ “Moving Book” our Beverly Hills pediatrician had recommended we read to Campbell for the trip, and that Dave Bartholomae (another new blogger on Community Voices), the chairman of Pitt’s English department, had taught Fred Rogers and his TV neighbors how to play soccer on the show.

The next thing I knew, my wife Natalie who had put all our stuff in storage in L.A. fully intending to return, had bought a house in Squirrel Hill, and, then, of all things, we got a call from a producer of "The Opray Winfrey Show" informing us they’d like us to appear on a program about people who changed their lives. On the show was an attorney who had become a baker who gave out cake for everyone (cheers), a surgeon who gave out mink slippers (the audience goes wild), and myself a writer who had moved to Pittsburgh.  (crickets)  And just after we finished telling Oprah how happy we were living in the real life "Mister Rogers Neighborhood," everything seemed to go wrong.  First our accountant called from L.A. letting us know that our property taxes were higher in Pittsburgh than they were in L.A for our house worth over 3 times as much.  Then Western PA. had one of the worst winters on record.   And even the Steelers were losing.  And then, the City of Pittsburgh, which a hundred years earlier had been one of the richest cities in the world, became the first major American city of the new millennium to declare itself financially distressed, aka bankrupt.   2003 was also the year that Pittsburgh lost its favorite neighbor-- as Fred Rogers passed away, leaving a hole in all our hearts.

A few months earlier, I had written an op-ed piece in the Post-Gazette, called “Pittsburgh’s Next Industrial Revolution: Entertainment,” which asserted that our biggest export was no longer steel, but talent, which had gone on to make tens of billions of dollars for other people in fields like film and television.   And that if the city were to comeback, it would have to attract some of that talent. With the help of some neighbors like Audrey Fisher, Anne Lewis and Ellen Weiss Kander, we staged a “Steeltown Entertainment Summit” in Fred Rogers’ studio, and some of the biggest producers, directors and writers in Hollywood flew back on their own dimes to help the place where they grew up. (See image above.) Among those who came back were Squirrel Hill’s Rob Marshall who had directed the Academy Award-winning film "Chicago" and is now directing the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean"; Jamie Widdoes, the co-star of "Animal House" now directing the most successful sitcom on TV, "Two and Half Men," and Bernie Goldmann, who produced "300" and George Romero’s Land of the Dead; Churchill’s Eric Gold, who manages Ellen DeGeneres and Jim Carrey, the latter who he shares with fellow manager Jimmy Miller (who grew up in Castle Shannon with his brother Dennis); Terri Minsky, who created the TV show "Lizzie McGuire" about her experiences growing up in the South Hills, and many more. All of them talked about how Pittsburgh had nurtured their talents and this city’s potential for becoming a player in the entertainment industry-- which was now one of this country's biggest exports- and a business larger than the automobile business and the steel industry combined.

After this summit, my dermatologist offered me money to make a movie about what then seemed Pittsburgh’s improbable comeback story, and with the backing of 18 other Pittsburgh neighbors, we began chronicling whether the city that built America with its steel, conquered polio, and invented everything from aluminum to the Big Mac, could reinvent itself.   We started filming in 2005, tossing a football with Franco Harris and his son Dok on the North Side, going shopping with Teresa Heinz Kerry in the Strip, having breakfast at Ritters’ diner with former Treasury Secretary Paul O’ Neill, asking them and many others whether Pittsburgh could once again become a city of champions.  Little could anyone predict that in the next five years, the hottest company in the country Google would open a Pittsburgh headquarters, the city would host the G-20 where it would be called “the model for the future,” Pittsburgh would once again be named “America’s Most Livable City”, and of course, the Steelers would win two Super Bowls. 

It has been almost a decade since I came home, and the Pittsburgh I live in is much different than the one I returned to. At my daughter’s bus stop are people who work for Google and Rand and who are doing cutting edge research on energy and medicine at Pitt and CMU, people who moved from Boston and Seattle and who love it here because of the quality of life of a place where you know your neighbors and a city where you can get anywhere you need to be in twenty minutes.  I take our dog for a walk and run into the man who invented the internet smiley face who is working on a new project about artificial intelligence, a neighbor who was thrilled to have a movie shooting on the next block (produced by another Pittsburgh expatriate, Laura Davis, who lives in L.A. but grew up on Squirrel Hill Avenue), and a young couple in town for the holidays who live in New York, but are scheming to find a way to move back here.

I remember in college, when I was searching for the meaning of life, reading a novel “Siddhartha,” which I am probably mis-remembering now, but basically told the story of the Buddha who waited by the river and had the whole world appear to him.  Well, Pittsburgh has three rivers and it seems like the whole world is converging towards them these days.

This blog, Six Degrees of Pittsburgh, is setting out to chronicle some of those connections.  It is dedicated to my daughter Campbell, who does a wicked impression of her father, “did you know the first movie theater was invented Pittsburgh? The first gas station? The first game of Bingo?  The first heart-double-lung-liver transplant?  Those squiggly CAPTCHA letters you type on your computer ever day to make sure bots aren't logging onto your email?   Pittsburgh… Pittsburgh… Pittsburgh.”   I swear growing up here, I didn’t realize any of this stuff about the place I took for granted.  But it is not simply all of Pittsburgh’s innovative spirit, the incredible art and educational institutions, and championship sports teams that make this such a great place to live.  It’s the neighbors.  When we started filming "My Tale of Two Cities," I asked Mr. McFeely, in real life actor David Newell, why I felt so happy being back here—abandoning the Hollywood life most people dream about. And he said simply that Pittsburgh is place where we all feel connected.

The hope is that this blog can remind us all that, wherever we are, in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, we are all still Pittsburghers at heart.   We invite anyone to post comments below about connections that we may not know or that we should all remember.  And stay tuned, for a few stories here that might remind us that, wherever you go, the entire universe is just Six Degrees of Pittsburgh.

Know of your own Pittsburgh/Hollywood connections? Log in and post your comments below or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

(Pictured in photo: Carl Kurlander, Eric Gold, Bernie Goldmann, George Romero, Rob Marshall)

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'Portlandia' worth a visit

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by

portlandiaLike any sketch comedy show, IFC's "Portlandia" (10:30 p.m. Friday) has hit-and-miss sketches, but when they hit, they do so with a laughter-inducing amount of comedic force.

The six-episode series stars Fred Armisen (he plays President Obama on "Saturday Night Live") and Carrie Brownstein (of the late rock band Sleater-Kinney), who also served as co-creators and co-writers with director Jonathan Krisel, a writer on "SNL." Lorne Michaels, "SNL" executive producer, is also EP on "Portlandia."

Armisen and Brownstein appear in every sketch either as characters or as versions of themselves. They also write and perform the music featured in sketches in the show. (I wrote about the making of the series on Sunday.)

IFC has wisely opted to air what was intended to be the show's second episode first, if for no other reason than the opening sketch sort of serves as a mission statement for the whole show. It begins in Los Angeles with Fred telling Carrie about this magical place called Portland, Ore.

"Remember the '90s? Piercings, tribal tattoos, singing about saving the planet and forming bands?" Fred asks Carrie. "There's a place where thet still exists."

Soon he has Carrie excited about Portland as "an alterrnative universe where Gore won and the Bush administration never happened," from that we segue into a very amusing music video, "The Dream of the '90s is Alive in Portland."

Read more and watch "Dream of the '90s" sketch after the jump. ...

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A whole bunch of great music

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by

I was listening to some fine music from the BlueNotes personal archives last night, grooving along to classic sounds from the likes of Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Eddie Boyd, Little Walter, the Clovers, and so forth, so I thought I would try to find some things to share.

There was one particular song I listened to, "Sinner's Prayer," (I think it's a Lowell Fulson tune) by Charles and King, that was especially impressive, but I couldn't find a live video, so this audio version will have to do. A great sound. Big fat notes from BB, soulful vocals from Ray and BB -- what more could any human ask. When I hear stuff like this, I know why I love the blues. It's music for the ages. Really, folks, if this doesn't move you, your soul isn't worth saving.

Then I found this live video of Charles and King that's almost as good.

Then I found this one, which I think might be the finale from the one above, a concert in Rome from 1989 called the Giants of Rock 'n' Roll (you can buy the DVD) -- King, Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard the Bronze Liberace, and more -- an amazing piece of work, blending rock, blues and everything good in a frantic finale.

Watch BB dance.Watch JB work the keys with Fats. A joyful noise.   Makes BlueNotes feel like dancing -- like he was a kid again -- 25 or 50 or something like that.

All of these are from the days when real musicians made real music. Wild, man, wild.

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