Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Growing Up in Pittsburgh

I’m sure the headline of this article might trigger a few raised eyebrows, so I’ll just cut to the chase:

I grew up 30 miles east of downtown Pittsburgh in a small town. Growing up like many teenagers in small town Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to get to the big city and leave the farm fields behind me. New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles. I started applying to colleges to meet my only three requirements: “far, far, away.”

Flash forward over a decade later and let me tell you about where “far, far, away” has gotten me:

I have lived all over the world – from Rome to Sydney to DC to Colorado. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. I’ve met a lot of people. And you know what? Nothing compares to my hometown, my heart and soul – Pittsburgh, PA. Here’s why:

  1. All Friendships Are Not Created Equal

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my closest friends to this day are some of the first friends I ever met growing up. I was recently in a wedding for my best friend since kindergarten. My best friend I talk to regularly on the phone once a week. We’ve known each other and been joined at the hip since we were four years old. I’ve grown and gained a lot of friends over the years, and have also come across a lot of friends that don’t know the value of good people and friendships like Pittsburgh people do. As my boyfriend would say, “Real recognizes real”.

Going to school in Washington, DC I listened to stories and stories about girls who had the WORST friends growing up. I’m talking serious “Mean Girls” level, and still referred to them as their best friends. Luckily, my best friend and I were there to show them what true friendship looked like. They became fascinated with our hometown and the fact that our friend group looked after each other, protected one another, and were always just a phone call away no matter how far geographically apart we were.

  1. True Love is Right in Front of You

After living away from Pittsburgh for eight long years, I moved back to Pittsburgh and started dating a man who I first met as a seventeen-year-old boy who went to a neighboring high school (Later evidence would show we actually knew each other from a shared preschool class together when we were three years old!). After years of chasing the wrong boys, the wrong relationships and the wrong kinds of love, I realized my perfect match had been right in front of me all along. No one knows the way to my heart or fits me better as this guy – and I have to credit a lot of that to the fact that he grew up with the same values, priorities (go Pirates!) and memories as I did.

  1. You Can Do Anything You Want to Do if You Work Hard Enough

One of my first job interviews I ever had, my interviewer stopped mid-sentence and took a deep pause when he read “Pittsburgh, PA” off of my resume. Not sure where he was going with it, I smiled and nodded and responded with a brief, “that’s right.” He replied, “I like Pittsburgh people. All of the hardest working employees I ever had were from Pittsburgh, PA. You guys know how to get things done. Let’s see what you got.” And the interview was over. And he was right – from many of the trust fund kids whom I had rubbed shoulders with in college or out and about in our nation’s capital, who else could say their mother’s college job was working in a steel mill among the boys as a summer job in college? Or that yours truly had a summer job working in a foam factory on a production line making pillows for Greyhound buses? (fun fact)

  1. Take Pride in Where You Come From

Living in DC, I came across a lot of people who were looking to others as a way to advance them to the next level. Many often hid or manipulated their pasts to come across as more prestigious or glamorous than they actually were. They were embarrassed of their farm town pasts and tried to bury them in exchange for budget three-piece suits and entry-level jobs on the Hill. When people would ask where I was from and they heard Pittsburgh, many people responded with “I’m sorry” or “yikes, that sucks.”  And even though growing up many of my friends might have jokingly said the same as we were waiting to leave and see the world, I couldn’t believe the amount of disrespect and frustration I felt in those moments. I said, “Sorry for what? Sorry you didn’t get to grow up in an amazing town with incredible sports teams? Me too.”

They say distance makes the heart grow founder, and in those years that I increasingly stood up for my hometown, the love I had for Pittsburgh continued to grow. Repping my pride for my hometown when I was living away added a new level of appreciation for a town I already admired and couldn’t wait to get back to with every visit.

  1. Find & Cherish Your Tribe

Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, our social calendar revolved around football games and sporting events. I had black and gold in my closet to wear to parties during senior year that started with Steeler games and ended with young dumb kids playing too many rounds of beer pong. The funny thing is I thought it was natural for girls to like sports, to grow up around a culture of sports and being one of the guys. When I left Pittsburgh, I realized there were some serious stereotypes in larger metro cities that only tomboys and lesbians were expected to take part in these types of activities while the other girls were out shopping and getting manis and pedis. Knowing the facial and credit card shopping spree life was never the right one for me, it always made me take comfort when I went home when I went out to a grocery store on a Sunday, the first question I got was “Where’s your black and gold, girl? You watching the game?”. It didn’t matter that the things other city girls liked wasn’t my cup of tea, there was another universe where I fit right in and was home, in every sense of the word.

  1. Family First

Similarly, to learning the value of friendship, I also learned the very important foundation of family first. I’m lucky that I come from a strong family unit, I’m close with not just my immediate family but my aunts, uncles, Grandma, cousins, etc. But what extra special element my hometown gave me on top of that is the extended family of friends and their respective families. My best friends’ sisters and brothers became like my own, their parents my second set of parents looking out for me and helping to raise me, and their grandparents another set of elders imparting their wisdom on us young kids. My friends helped me learn to not take my family for granted or complain about having to spend time with them vs. going to the latest social get together, because at the end of the day, we got it. We knew how lucky we were and how we had to appreciate what we had, and that made it easy for all of us to recognize that.

All in all, I’m a lucky girl. I’m lucky for the people around me, the town where I came from and the town that shaped me. Wherever I go, I know I’ll always have that with me. As they say – you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh, but you can never take the Pittsburgh out of the girl.

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8 Fun Fall Fitness Activities in Pittsburgh

For all of my Pittsburgh friends out there, here are some of my favorite fall fitness activities in the Steel City as included in a guest blog I wrote for Visit Pittsburgh: http://bit.ly/2eAfQO5

  1. Take a Hike!

One of the best things about fall are the cooler temperatures perfect for spending time in the great outdoors. While Pittsburgh itself is home to many great parks to stretch your legs, there are also many places not too far from the city that are great to visit in the fall. McConnells Mill State Park is one of my favorite places for a picturesque hike that’s only a quick drive away. My boyfriend, Mitch, and I take our pup, Max there to hike along the water and watch the kayakers. I can’t tell who loves the trails more, us or Max!

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McConnells Mill State Park

  1. ‘Tis the Season for Turkey Trots

I’m sure this one is already on many of your lists, but I can’t leave out the always popular turkey trots! While there are dozens of regional turkey trots taking place all over western Pennsylvania, I’m the most excited about the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot on Nov. 24. The race has a variety of events ranging from a 1 mile, 5k, 5 mile, to a special “Double Gobble” – 5k followed by a 5 mile! It’s also dog-friendly and stroller-friendly so the entire family can come out to take part. (Nov. 24)

  1. Lions and Tigers, and 5ks, Oh My!

If lions and tigers and bears are more of your thing than turkeys, than the ZooZilla 5k Run/Walk is definitely your kind of race. This race takes place at the Pittsburgh Zoo and is ideal for competitive runners, leisurely walkers, and animal lovers alike.  Even better, participants get free admission to spend the day enjoying the zoo after the race. (Nov. 6)

  1. You Can Go the Distance

If you’re feeling up for a longer run this fall, you’ll definitely want to check out the EQT 10 Miler.  Pittsburgh’s famed “Fall Road Race” takes runners on a scenic route throughout the city, with the starting line located near Station Square. There’s also a popular 2-person relay option if you’re looking to take on the course together with a friend. (Nov. 6)

  1. Go on a Fitness & Foliage Road Trip

One of the most important things about finding time for fitness, especially in the colder months, is remembering to keep it fun. What better way than pairing your workout with a road trip? Harper’s Ferry is the perfect place to get your workout in on a hike while also getting to enjoy some scenic views, local farm to table cuisine, and of course, the fall foliage. If you’re looking to head a bit further out-of-town, Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

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Path Through the Woods at Harper’s Ferry, WV

  1. Go for a Climb – Inside!

If you’d rather stay indoors to exercise, check out The Climbing Wall in Point Breeze. Whether you’re a seasoned climbed or a newbie, this gym welcomes all levels. The experts at the Climbing Wall offer different lessons, classes, and certifications, as well as daily passes and a variety of membership options for regulars. Climbing is a great workout for your entire body and fun way to mix it up from your normal gym or running routine.

  1. Bounce, Jump, and Dunk!

As we’re all kids at heart, fall’s a great time to channel your younger days and get your workout in indoors at a trampoline park. Sky Zone is a popular park that not only has trampolines but also 10,000 foam cubes that are just waiting for you to jump in. They offer different events such as open jumps, dodgeball, Skyslam – where trampoline launch pads allow you to dunk like a pro, and Skyrobics – a fitness class that is sure to make all other aerobics classes look boring.

  1. Take It to the Ice

One of my favorite pastimes growing up in Pittsburgh is coming down to the rink at PPG to go ice skating every year. And while Christmas may still be a little while away, this November, both the PPG rink and the Schenley Park Skating Rink will be open and ready for you to show off your moves. Get ready to make some new memories – either with friends, on a date night, or with the entire family – while burning a few calories on the ice.

Mass Mutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink

Mass Mutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink

10 Pittsburgh Summer Date Night Ideas

Pittsburgh is a city that is not just easy to fall in love with, but just as easy to fall in love in. Here are some of my favorite date night activities in the Steel City as included in a guest blog I wrote for Visit Pittsburgh: http://bit.ly/2aJ7FC2

  1. Take in Some Tunes

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Summer is the season for outdoor music. Whether it be a larger concert at some of the city’s well known music venues such as First Niagara Pavilion, Stage AE, or smaller stages like Mr. Smalls, there’s nothing like getting to experience live music with someone else. What’s even more exciting are the many music festivals taking place this summer around the city – from Jam on WalnutWYEP Summer Music Festival, to Feed More Festival, there are quite a few to say the least. Also from my experience, chances are if you step foot in one of Pittsburgh’s city parks on an evening summer night, you’re likely to run across live music of some sort.

2. Check out the Breweries

When moving back to Pittsburgh, I was pleasantly surprised and excited by the number of breweries popping up all over the city. Some of my favorites are VoodooFull PintRoundabout, East End, and Rivertowne. The Voodoo Homestead location allows you to enjoy an open garage-door style spot complete with board games and eclectic art all around you. Both Full Pint and Roundabout are in the booming neighborhood of Lawrenceville where even if you want to stray away from breweries for shopping, dining, etc. you’re in good hands with many options all around you.

3. Escape the City, in the City

The only thing better than BYOB, is BYOB + BYOM (meat), am I right? Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip boasts a private outdoor space, pavilion, picnic tables, concert stage, grills and a fire pit for its patrons to enjoy. It is members-only, but with a spot like this in the middle of the Strip, you can bet Bayardstown is a sure win for an out-of-the-box date night spot. They also do happy hours every Friday with live music, food trucks and more that non-members can partake in for $5. I’d recommend checking it out on nights you’re looking lose the “city” feel without having to travel far.

4. A Day in the Strip

While this is more of a day-date favorite of mine, I would be kicking myself if I didn’t mention it. Nothing beats a Saturday morning walking past the produce stands and Wholey’s Fish market, taking in the sounds and smells of one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic neighborhoods. After sampling some of the fresh fruit, check out the Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange where you can get a cold brew coffee growler to go, or Pittsburgh Popcorn to fill up on all the kettle corn your heart desires. And lastly, if taking it all in makes you thirsty, you can stop in BeerHive – one of my favorite bars my boyfriend ironically introduced to me on one of our first dates. Clearly he knows the way to my heart because I haven’t been able to visit the Strip without stopping in since.

5. Go Out to the Ball Game

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There’s a reason PNC Park is ranked as one of the best ballparks in the country – I mean, have you seen that view? You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate a night out here with your other half. Stop in Beer Head Bar across from PNC Park to grab a beer from their wide selection before the game to get in the buccos spirit. And although I personally feel like any night at PNC Park is hard to top, summer firework nights definitely add a little somethin’ to make your date night a tad more romantic

6. Catch a Flick…Outdoors

Yes, going to the movies is a pretty standard date night option…but if you want to step up your game, check out one of the many movie showings in one of Pittsburgh’s parks (or even on top of a parking garage). Viewing locations include, but are not limited to: Rooftop Shindig at Theater Square GarageSchenley ParkArsenal Park, and my favorite for a view: Grandview Park on top of Mt. Washington.

7. Get Crafty

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In a world where DIY and reclaimed anything and everything are all the rage, why not take a night to roll up your sleeves together? With drinks in hand, of course. I’m talking about Pop Craft – somewhat like a paint & wine night only craftier. Guys can feel extra manly building things – sometimes of reclaimed wood – and girls get to live out all of their Pinterest dreams.

8. Ice Cream

As an ice cream lover, this usually ends up being added into any of my nights out in the city. If you’re looking for a homemade, small-shop feeling (complete with a blast-from-the-past candy selection that will truly make you feel like a kid in a candy store), Klavon’s is your place. My other favorite I was recently introduced to is Dream Cream on Liberty Ave. If you or your date is worried about feeling guilty about indulging in this sweet treat, Dream Cream can help take some of the guilt away as each scoop goes to helping various charities and causes

9. Class It Up

If you’re looking for a more formal or classy date night, hitting up the Cultural District is your best bet. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a great resource to learn about upcoming shows at the Benedum Center and the Byham Theater and help guide you to where to find ballet, symphony, and other events in the area. And for those who want to feel classy but the idea of Broadway isn’t exactly your thing, don’t worry – there are a lot of different options out there.

10. Take in Art & Science After Dark

Even if museums aren’t normally your go-to, experiencing them at night is an experience unlike anything else. After Dark at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has awesome evening events for adults, as does the 21+ night at the Carnegie Science Center. The Carnegie Science Center events make me especially happy as it used to be a frequent field trip destination when I was growing up and I love getting to re-experience it as an adult. One of their upcoming events include the Science of Beer – I mean, what more could you ask for?