Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

Warm Smiles on Frozen Ice

Every city has its own way of celebrating festivals. I always look forward to the Christmas tree on ice rink in Pittsburgh. The entire PPG place comes alive during Christmas. Winter Garden is decorated with Santa of the world and live orchestra. The place holds a special warm family vibe during Christmas. People, dressed in their winter best, skate on the ice with their families. One would see people of all age groups in all colors of sweaters, mufflers and hats. Toddlers would be learning to skate. Their determination to skate is so strong that even after multiple falls on the frozen ice, they stand up and try again. They always have their elders to cheer them. This just reminds one that family support helps one defeat all problems even that caused by freezing cold.

This tradition is followed in the city every year, still it amazes me so much that I go there every year. The warmth of the smiles overcomes the bitterness of the cold. The secret is the presence of family. No matter how cold it is, the warmth of families skating together makes this a sight to behold. The spirit of festival lies in the time one spends with near and dear ones. When we are with our loved ones, the place and surroundings don’t matter, all that matters is the presence of everyone. The belief that there are people to love me, to cheer me even when I fail, is all one needs to be happy. A common question is “What is the best gift?”. I think the answer is to spend quality time without any gadgets buzzing around. So the next time you wonder about doing something special for someone, just spend quality with them.

Navaratri Gifts

Navaratri is a special time when the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. I got posted out of my hometown when I started working. I requested my mother to give me any spare kitchen items. She gave me six plates and bowls out of which none of the two plates or bowls were same. I asked her, how she got this unique set. She said those are my Navaratri gifts. Small girls (Kumari) are worshipped during Navaratri as Goddess. This is called Kumari puja. As part of this ceremony, they are invited, a small dot with vermilion is placed on their forehead. They are then offered food cooked specially for this occasion. After this they are gifted with plates, bowls and sometimes toys. As kids we used to have invitation from numerous houses in our neighborhood. If we were unable to make it, they would send the gift to our house. It used to be fun to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear new clothes and go for the ceremony. The festivities would turn even bigger from the 7 day (Saptami), when we used to visit the Bengali community. There we would have a huge idol of Goddess Durga along with her four kids. We would offer our prayers and meet up with everyone. Although these festivities are only for few days but we used to start preparing three months before.

This year I decided to offer gifts to Goddess through Kumari puja. Luckily all the Kumaris I knew were fond of books which happens to be my hobby as well, so I gifted them classics. All the kids were happy. We also visited the Durga Puja organized by Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. These festivities always take me back to my carefree school days. On the tenth day we have Dashami when the idols are immersed in water. We take blessings of our elders and wish everyone “Happy Dussehra”.

An evening with Musical Fountain

Summer is the time to be outdoors. An evening with a cool breeze is the best time to spend with family and friends. Most of us go out for dinner but the dinner becomes memorable when we have it outdoors. On a nice summer day, after cruising on the three rivers of Pittsburgh, me and my friends decided to have dinner at the station square.

The rhythm of the station square fountain with the music has always impressed me. Whenever I went there, it was always soft music. That night the fountain was dancing on rock music. I had never seen it before. The water came out in different colors. It was majestic. The place was full of kids. Each time the water came out, they would clap. We looked for a restaurant with a view of the fountain. Although we were hungry, we waited till a table on the patio was available. Once seated we ordered our food. The best part of eating outdoors is no one bothers about being loud. Dinner with a fountain dancing on rock music along with the cheerful laughter of kids, is simply mesmerizing.

When we look back, the time spent with family and friends brings that warm smile on our faces. We often wonder about special locations to be with our dear ones but its the company which makes the place special. The best place would be a location where one can speak and laugh as loudly as one wants. A simple meal with the loved ones on a moonlit sky or a garden with cool breeze is all one needs to create those special moments which become treasures of memories.

World of Bicycles

Colorful bikes

Summer always reminds me of vacations. We used to cycle around our neighborhood in groups until we were called for dinner. With the sunny days coming around, it was high time to explore the city. This year, I began with the bicycle museum of Pittsburgh. It is the largest bicycle museum located at a quiet neighborhood. You are greeted with rows and rows of colorful bicycles as soon as you enter the museum. There are bikes everywhere, on the floor, the walls and even at the ceiling. Its not just the regular cycles but the earliest of them. It is fascinating to see how the bicycles have evolved over the years. There are bicycles used for special races. Some of them even have the trophies along with them. Each one is tagged with the year and make. Few of them reminded me of Charlie Chaplin movies.

A historic cycle

A Harley-Davidson bike

There are miniature models of cycles on the walls. I was so engrossed reading through the labels and history at one point that I almost lost the way. Over the years, bicycles have been used for bringing awareness and marketing in addition to sports and transportation. There is a bicycle made by Harley-Davidson. Bicycles have a special place in childhood for most of us. I am glad there is a museum dedicated to them. So the next time you plan to explore Pittsburgh, do ensure to visit Bicycle Heaven and be mesmerized by the world of Bicycles.

The Strange Wish

It has started getting cold. People say, there is not much activity to do outdoors once the winter sets in. Last year I decided to explore the city of Pittsburgh in winters. Here is my first discovery. My hometown Baroda(Vadodara) was a princely state in past. So horse carriages are not rare but I never got an opportunity to ride one. I always wondered how would it seem to roam around the downtown in a Horse Carriage with all the modern vehicles around. They say sometimes even strange wishes come true. Last year I saw a long queue at Market Square in Pittsburgh. There were families with small kids who were waiting with bated breath. It was for the Horse Carriage ride. My curiosity made me join the queue. Within few minutes the Carriage came into view. It was a beautiful sight. The lovely carriage and the well decorated horse.

Babe and the Carriage

I was quite behind in the queue. The carriage soon got filled. I was just wondering my chance would come after two or three rounds of the carriage when someone shouted “Has anyone come in a group of 2, there are 2 seats left”. Advantages of being a solo traveler, I raised my hand and was able to board the carriage well ahead of my chance. Once we boarded, we were introduced to the horse whose name was ‘Babe’. We went around the downtown with all the modern cars and buildings around us. The reality was far more exciting than what I had wondered. All through the ride, we were entertained by stories of the Horse by the carriage driver who called himself a knight. We were waved by kids who passed by us. Another enthralling sight was to see our reflection in the glass walls of downtown. All in all it was an experience one should definitely have in life.

Once in a while strange wishes come to our minds and we shove them aside. When they come true, precious memories are created which makes our lives beautiful. This year when winter comes, don’t just sit at home but venture out, you never know which strange wish would come true.

Frozen Treats with a Twist

Everyone waits for the arrival of Summers especially the children. The lovely carefree Summer Vacations for which we used to plan from February. In my hometown Baroda, the Summer was flagged by the presence of yummy bright yellow and orange mangoes. All the terraces used to be full of jars containing spicy pickles. All the roads were full of ice cream shops. I still remember tugging my Father’s hand the moment we passed the ice cream shop. These memorable events of life create an evergreen combination of ice cream and summer. Even today the very mention of Summer brings forth a sight of mango and ice cream. This has also encouraged creativity.

The first breakfast introduced to me after coming to the USA was Waffles and I immediately liked it. I have always had it with strawberry syrup but this year I was surprised. While wandering around the library I came across a nice shop called Waffallonia when I went to the library in downtown. There was a genuine smile on all the faces around that shop. They serve Waffles with Ice cream. I had the outstanding combination of Waffles, peanut butter and cinnamon ice cream.

Waffle with Peanut butter and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Summer is also the time for juicy fruits like watermelon, grapes, etc. My mother always made sure, we have lots of fruits. One of her favorite ways to make us eat fruits was through fruit custard. She was really fast at that. Anytime we made a request and it would be present as a dessert. Last week, I went to the local library. It was really hot so I searched for frozen treats around library and came across The Meadows. There I came across different varieties of Frozen custard. This time it was frozen custard with crunchies.

Custard with Crunchies

Waffles, cream, crunchies are mostly available but it never occurs to us they could create such amazing desserts. This shows creativity has no limits, one can do so even with day to day things. Both Ice cream, waffles and custard are part of my list of favorite dishes but this year I had them with a twist. The trip to library definitely helped me discover these in addition to books. Next time you go for Ice Cream, do ensure you look around for something new in your regular favorite.

Heart winning Event

This years shopping

There are so many questions in mind when one is moving to a new city. ‘Will I be able to adjust here?’, ‘Will the city accept me?’, etc., are just a few of them. These questions make a person nervous, which was my condition when I moved to Pittsburgh. Three weeks after I came here, a book fair was organized by Half Price books at a nearby hall. The streets were lined by small boards mentioning the sale. The moment I saw the boards, I felt so glad. The sight of a book fair always fills my heart with joy. It reminded me of the bookstalls at my hometown and cleared all the uncertainty and nervousness immediately.

The fair also consists of records and dvds in addition to books. The hall was extremely crowded when I entered. My excitement was boundless at the sight of rows and rows of books. There were books on fiction, cooking, photography, science, self help, etc. The collection had classics like works of R.L Stevenson, Jane Austen as well as new age authors like Danielle Steele. I discovered so many new authors here. It felt so nice to see so many people who enjoy reading. People had their shopping carts full of books. You can speak to any person and get knowledge on authors. People had come with their toddlers. The excitement of the children at the site of books was marvelous. I was moved to see parents encourage their kids for reading even in this age of gadgets. This event connected me to the city in such a way that I never felt I was new here. It just became my heart winning event.

This fair happens only once a year and I make it a point to attend it. These days people have to move to new places for job. When that happens, one should not crib about missing the old place but look out for events in the new place. These are the windows to the culture of the city. They are an opportunity to relate to the city. In fact they give us a chance to find new things about ourselves. So the next you face a transfer, remember to check the events that take place in the new city. You never know, the city you are going to may just be the one, most suitable to you.

A cluster of Museums

Its not often we come across places with historical significance. Today was a beautiful day. A nice breeze blew which urged everyone to move out of their homes. It was an opportunity to explore parks. While looking for a park, I discovered the Frick Art and Historical Center. It is a cluster of museums spread over 6 acres. One feels like travelling through time as the neighborhood around it has an old world charm. A warm smile greeted me as soon as I entered.

The paintings of Madonna and Christ in the Art gallery filled my heart and mind with positivity. There is a beautiful lane through the garden to The Car and Carriage museum.

One is immediately transported to the era of black and white movies. The carriages remind you of aristocracy. Each vintage car has unique identity making it an owner’s pride.

What really amazed me was that there were cars that were used to spread awareness about voting rights for women. It reminds us of the struggles that women went through to get the voting rights. They also showed how the evolution of Cars brought changes in women’s fashion. I next passed through the playhouse where soothing music was being played.

The greenhouse has an amazing collection of flowers and plants. There is also a Café, library and gift center. I did not have a ticket for the Mansion so that left me with a reason to visit again. A colorful garden surrounds all the buildings. Helen Clay Frick (1888—1984) was the driving force to preserve the Frick estate and allow it to open to the public after her death. One can feel her presence everywhere through the exhibits displayed around the area.

An exploration is successful when it leaves one with a purified heart and an enhanced mind. It also helped me do my daily walk as the garden was simply mesmerizing. So the next time, its a beautiful day and you feel like an explorer, make sure Frick Art and Historical Center is on your list.

Option for an Individual

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

There are certain things which take you back to special moments of life. I recently had one such experience when I stood in front of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It was raining heavily but I felt as if I had gone on a time travel to the first day of College. The 19th century architecture reminded me of my college days in Baroda University, which was established at the same time. How grown-up it felt to say we are leaving for college. There was one thing common in the first class of each subject. The professor suggested a number of books for each subject. We asked one of the professors how were we going to cover so many books in one academic session. The professor smiled and replied, those were books on the same topic by different authors. It is up to the student to select the book he or she wants to refer. Initially we referred to the books which were popular choice among seniors. But the curious ones could not resist the urge to explore all the books suggested by Professors and that lead us to the amazing stack in the library.

I entered the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the same time travel mode. The entrance at the stack had welcome written in various languages including Hindi. The stack of a library is a special place. There is always pin drop silence although there are people. The atmosphere is so serene that one can almost feel the presence of knowledge. If knowledge were to have a fragrance, it would definitely be there in the stack. There are rows and rows of book shelves and benches on either side of the wall. There used to be a break of 3 hours between our theory and practical classes in the first year. We used to spend this time in the library. As I walked in the stack, I remembered how we referred to each book and then chose the one which suited us the most. It is so similar to life. We all are presented with an array of options be it work or hobbies but most of us go for the popular choice ones. We forget each of us is an individual and has unique abilities. Maybe its laziness or the fear of being different which prevents us from pursuing other options. But I feel, when we pursue the option which suits us we develop our personality. We feel satisfied and enlightened, something which is very rare in today’s life. So the next time you have to choose from an array of options, make sure to check each and select the one which suits the individual “YOU”.

Bridge of feelings

There are very few rare places in the world which signify commitment towards relationships. One such place is the Schenley bridge in Pittsburgh. The yellow bridge is filled with colorful locks on both sides. Its a beautiful sight. These are love locks put up by couples. There is lush greenery around the bridge. While walking over the bridge, one is reminded of those hundreds of couples who put up the locks as a mark of their commitment. Seems like it is a bridge connecting their feelings which would stay forever. This is a complete contrast to all the noise around broken relationships. As I looked on, the bridge seemed to be saying, no matter how bad the times are and how far the people are, true feelings would always remain immortal. This filled my heart with an amazing sense of positivity. A poet would have captured those words in a poem. I was able to capture the bridge in my cellphone camera.

The next time you are in Pittsburgh or when you are feeling low, just take a walk over Schenley bridge. It would fill your heart with optimism.