Map of Pittsburgh Area Farmers Markets

farmers markets
Buying fresh, local produce at a farmers’ market is a great way to stimulate your local economy, provide healthier food for your family, and even help the environment.

We’ve already posted some information about the 2016 farmers market season here in Pittsburgh, but this map posted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is worth sharing. This interactive map lets users see all the farmers markets happening in the Pittsburgh area on any given day. Scroll down the page, and you’ll find every farmers market listed. Now you’ll know exactly where to go for your fresh produce, and when!

Update: Farmers’ Markets

As promised, we have an update on the start dates for this season’s farmers’ markets.

Mt. Lebanon Partnership’s Uptown Farmers’ Market opens its season at 9 a.m. tomorrow. It takes place around 710 Washington Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15228, by WesBanco and the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, just a couple blocks down from the Mt. Lebanon T station (Red Line) and walking distance from Prudential’s own Cornell Place Apartments. The market runs 9 a.m.-noon every Saturday through November 19th. On the second Saturday of each month, the market will include live music and other special activities. The first Second Saturday will take place on May 14th and will feature music from local bluegrass band The Mackin Family.

The twelfth season of the Market Square Farmers Market starts at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 12. This downtown event is just a short walk from the Gateway T Station. The event runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Thursday through October 27th and coincides with free outdoor concerts from 11:30 to 1:30. Special events like Christmas in July and Navy Week will take place throughout the season.

The Mt. Lebanon Lions Club Farmers’ Market won’t open until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1. This one takes place 4-7 p.m. every Wednesday (no end date listed) at the Mt. Lebanon United Lutheran Church (975 Washington Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15228)

Pittsburgh Celebrates Earth Day

We’re posting a little bit early this week so we can tell readers about all the exciting things happening this Friday for Earth Day in Steel City.earth-405096_640

Paint the Square Green is taking place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Market Square. The event includes live entertainment, local vendors, and educational stuff as well. This family friendly events coincides with the Solar Powered Food Truck Festival taking place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on 10th Street. All the food trucks will be powered by the sun. Also taking place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. is the Mellon Square Lunchtime Bluegrass Concert and Market.

Art + Artifact Market will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. This is another all ages event featuring live entertainment, local artists, and more Earth friendly vendors.

All of the above events are free and open to the public. There are more ticket required events taking place throughout the weekend.

To coincide with Earth Day, Phipps Conservatory is hosting the grand opening of its Butterfly Forest in the Stove Room on Friday. Butterflies are vital to biodiversity, so it’s fitting that these pollinators are being celebrated on Earth Day.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, Phipps will host screenings of The Power of One Voice and Sustainability Pioneers to kick off its environmental film series. Tours of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes will also be available throughout the weekend, and there will be two open houses showcasing the SEED Classroom from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Also happening on Sunday at Phipps: free outdoor family yoga at 11 a.m. on the front lawn (weather permitting, RSVP required).

To round out the Earth Day celebrations at Phipps, on Monday, anyone wearing a green shirt will get half price admission, and Cafe Phipps will be celebrating Meatless Monday with a vegetarian special.

Country Living’s tips for downsizing

We came across this Country Living article earlier this week and decided it’s a must-share. We’ve given lots of advice in the past about moving and how to make a smooth transition to a new home, but we’ve never shared anything about what to keep when you’re downsizing.

Alvern Gardens
Residents of Alvern Gardens have access to green space around the property for grilling, setting out patio furniture, and even planting their own small gardens, so moving here hardly feels like downsizing at all.

A fair number of our new residents are moving to apartments after living in houses for several years, and although they’re relieved that Alvern Gardens Apartments feature spacious layouts and included extra storage, there’s usually some stuff that has to go. Country Living advises putting special mementos, family heirlooms, and collections amassed over the years in storage rather than throwing them away. These are things that are important to you and your family, so they’re worth keeping in a safe space. For our part, we recommend buying plastic bins with tightly sealing lids to store those things securely. The article also notes the importance of wiping all personal information from electronics before getting rid of them, a key step that many people forget.

We also agree one hundred percent that important documents must be kept safe through a move. A small filing cabinet or even a filing box doesn’t take up much space and will help you keep your life organized.

Are you downsizing? Consider making Alvern Gardens your new home! We have a couple of three bedroom apartments available right now, and at 822 square feet with additional storage included in rent, we’re confident that you won’t have to compromise much on space. Call us at 412-561-4663 or email us at alverngardens@yahoo.com and be sure to ask about our move-in special.

Urban gardening is about to get easier

IKEA, the Swedish master of innovation in affordable home designs, is going to unveil their new hydroponic counter top garden kit next month.

226672961_cd7988cfd6_o
Here’s an example of a DIY hydroponic garden. flickr photo by J Wynia 

It’s OK, we didn’t know what hydroponic gardening was before this either. Hydroponic means growing plants in water instead of soil. The advantage seems to be that it can be done in a much smaller space—and it can be done year-round! There’s no price yet for IKEA’s KRYDDA/VÄXER, but we are definitely intrigued by the possibilities.

Now, as it turns out, people have hacked other IKEA products into hydroponic gardens long before the company came out with their own. So for anyone interested in an even more DIY option, check out ELIOOO.

Now that we know that hydroponics exists and seems to be fairly simple to DIY, we’re excited to start growing our own veggies, no matter the season, no matter how busy we are, no matter how much space we may or may not have.

Leafy Greens: Good for More Than Just Salad

Did you know that houseplants are good for your health? It’s true: plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, improving air quality for humans. Plus, green stuff livens up a home and makes it feel cozier and more inviting.

Here are three tips for adding leafy greens to your home:

  1. If you’re new to keeping houseplants, start with something easy. Hearty plants that do well in low light and don’t require much watering are easiest for beginners. Check out this site for some really easy plants to keep. Our personal favorite is mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as a snake plant.
  2. Ready for plants that have been proven by NASA to help improve air quality? Check out this info-graphic, and note t
    pet friendly apartments
    While house plants are good for humans, not all varieties are pet friendly, so make sure you check plants before bringing them into your home.

    hat there’s some overlap between these plants and the hearty varieties that are easy to grow: snake plants, spider plants, and peace lilies.

  3. Pet owners should note that not all houseplants are pet friendly. The ASPCA has an expansive list of plants that are toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. Filter this list by your specific pet(s) to know which plants to avoid. For a quick look at plants that are both cat and dog friendly, check out this site.
  4. Bonus tip: get a spider plant. They’re easy to keep alive because they thrive in low light and don’t require frequent watering, they’re proven by NASA to help purify the air, and they’re both cat and dog friendly. What more could you ask for? Well: if you know someone who already has a spider plant, they can break of a sprig for you to plant for free! As your own plant grows, you can break off its offshoots and plant them in new pots. Soon, you’ll have a spider plant for every room in your home.

Why you should take out your window ac in winter

Window air conditioning units work wonders in summer, but in winter, they should be removed and put in storage. Why? Because energy conservation, that’s why.

First of all, no matter how snugly your ac fits in the window—and let’s face it, it probably doesn’t fit very well at all—there’s still a draft coming through. Only a fully shut and locked window is truly sealed against the elements. Ask anyone who’s sensitive to drafts and they’ll tell you they feel one when they stand in front of a window with an ac in it.

window air conditioning unit
At Alvern Gardens Apartments, residents are allowed to install as many window a/c units as they’d like, but it’s important that they remove them all before winter sets in.

Any sort of draft causes the energy output of your heating system to skyrocket because it’s constantly trying to compensate for that continuous flow of cold air. Taking out your window ac is the fastest, easiest, and most obvious way to stop drafts.

The more energy your heating system uses, the more money it costs to run it (obviously), but if you’re renting an apartment where “heat is included in rent,” you don’t notice that money blowing away in the winter breeze. But it absolutely is. When your lease renewal runs around, you’ll see that money again in the form of raised rent. When utilities are included in rent, the amount of rent reflects that. So if you’re causing your landlord to pay high utility bills for your unit by wasting energy, you can bet that your landlord will pass those costs onto you by raising your rent.

Now, there is another important reason to remove your window ac that applies only to those with radiator heat who have their ac installed directly above a radiator (which, if you have radiator heat, is probably exactly where you ac is… it’s more or less unavoidable). Radiators are made of cast iron and they can withstand a great deal, but one thing that is definitely a danger to them is the frigid cold air of deep winter in Pittsburgh. During extreme cold you should never open a window directly above a running radiator because that radiator can crack and leak. An ac inside a window directly above a radiator is pretty much the same thing as an open window above a radiator. If it gets cold enough, that little draft is going to crack your already overworked radiator.

Radiators are not easy to replace because, firstly they’re getting harder and harder to come by, and secondly the entire heating system has to be shut down to do the work. Then there’s the matter of repairing the damage from the leak. A single radiator can leak a whole lot of water and that water will not only destroy your flooring, it will destroy the ceiling in the apartment below yours. You can bet that if your radiator cracks because you opened the window, your landlord will charge for the full cost of repairs, and that’s going to add up to hundreds of dollars.

So when we say you should remove your window ac because it will allow you to conserve energy, what we mean is, you should remove your window ac because it will save you money.

Winter is coming (again): Is your home ready?

We’ve done quite a few posts now about energy conservation, spring cleaning, winterizing, and general home care stuff. As temperatures continue to drop in the Pittsburgh area, we thought we’d round up some of our past posts on staying warm, conserving energy, and preparing for winter.

Pittsburgh in Autumn
While we enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage, it’s also time to start preparing for winter.
By John [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Winter is around the corner

Pittsburgh’s cold winters call for special precautions

Snow is falling on Pittsburgh

Easy ways to conserve energy and save money

The good news for residents of Prudential Realty Communities like Alvern Gardens, Cornell Place, and Garden Villa is that the heat systems have been turned on for the season. Everyone should be warm and cozy even as outdoor temperatures drop.

Make yourself at home with window treatments

When you first move into a place, one of your first steps in nesting should be to put up window treatments. They reduce echo, make a place look cared for and lived-in, and even make your home more energy efficient.

Window Treatments
Not all window treatments have to be exclusively for privacy and blocking out the sun. Even simple sheers can add a homey feel.

Lots of rentals don’t have blinds as a standard feature, so you’ll want to put up something in a hurry for privacy on that first night, but remember that this is a temporary stopgap. Unless you’re living in a college dorm, it’s just plain tacky to use a blanket or flag as a curtain, especially when decent window treatments aren’t that expensive.

  1. Start with is blinds. If you have a pet or a child, you’ll want to stay away from corded blinds to keep your loves safe. Also, you’ll want to know the rules about whether you’re even allowed to drill into the walls and window frames to mount blinds. Chances are, it’s not allowed or you’d have to pay the maintenance man to do it. Luckily, Redi Shade has your back! They make cordless blinds that you trim, peel, and stick. Now, we are a bit skeptical as to how long they stay put and how annoying it will be to clean the glue residue off the window frame once the blinds are removed, but color us intrigued!
  2. Next: drapes. If you’re lucky, you’re renting from a place like Alvern Gardens, where each window comes with its own curtain rod. If not, you’ll need to buy those. Luckily there are sturdy temporary options. If your window frame isn’t conducive to spring-loaded rods, you can use Command hooks to mount your rod instead. Now, you’ll want to measure your window not just for fitting the rod but for finding the right size curtains. Floor-to-ceiling drapes in a heavy fabric lend luxurious drama, but you don’t want the bottoms to drag across the floor.
  3. Finally, maintenance. Now that you have blinds and drapes, you’ll want to clean them regularly. Give blinds a good dusting every week or so, and take drapes down once or twice a year to wash them. We recommend taking drapes to a laundromat with commercial sized washers and dryers to get them fully and properly clean.

So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

guest bedroom/home office
We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

    home office/guest bedroom
    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.