Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


I  was out in Pittsburgh visiting my son and future daughter- in- law in  this past weekend. We took the “Just Ducky Tour” and learned a lot about this great city.

Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and with its proximity to three major rivers and countless hills and ravines, Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges”. That is 3 more than Venice, Italy! It is also surprisingly hilly-there are two verniculars that you can take up the side of the mountain to get great views. There is PPG Place-called “the crown jewel of the Pittsburgh skyline”. It is a 6 building complex,complete with an outdoor skating rink,adjacent to Market Square.

Rich and productive, Pittsburgh was also the “Smoky City,” with smog sometimes so thick that streetlights burned during the day as well as rivers that resembled open sewers. Civic leaders, notably Mayor David Lawrence elected in 1945, and Richard Mellon, chairman of Mellon Bank, began smoke control and urban revitalization, also known as Urban Renewal projects that transformed the city.

Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the steel industry in Pittsburgh began to implode along with the deindustrialization of the U.S. Following the 1981–1982 recession, for example, the mills laid off 153,000 workers. The steel mills began to shut down. These closures caused a ripple effect, as railroads, mines, and other factories across the region lost business and closed. The local economy suffered a depression, marked by high unemployment and underemployment, as laid-off workers took lower-paying, non-union jobs. Pittsburgh suffered as elsewhere in the Rust belt with a declining population, and like many other U.S. cities, it also saw flight to the suburbs.

Top corporate headquarters such as  Gulf Oil(1985), Koppers (1987), Westinghouse (1996) and Rockwell International (1989) were bought out by larger firms, with the loss of high paying, white collar headquarters and research personnel (the “brain drain”) as well as massive charitable contributions by the “home based” companies to local cultural and educational institutions. At the time of the Gulf Oil merger in 1985 it was the largest buyout in world history involving the company that was No. 7 on the Fortune 500 just six years earlier. Over 1,000 high paying white collar corporate and PhD research jobs were lost in one day.

Pittsburgh is home to three universities that are included in most under-graduate and graduate school national rankings, The University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University.Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh had evolved in the mid-20th century along lines that followed the needs of the heavy industries that financed and directed their development. The collapse of steel put pressure on those two universities to reinvent themselves as research centers in science and technology which acted to pull the regional economy toward high-technology fields.

Beginning in the 1980s, Pittsburgh’s economy shifted from heavy industry to services, medicine, higher education, tourism, banking, corporate headquarters, and high technology. Today, the top two private employers in the city are the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center(26,000 employees) and the West Penn Allegheny Health System(13,000 employees).

Present-day Pittsburgh, with a diversified economy, a low cost of living, and a rich infrastructure for education and culture, has been ranked as one of the World’s most livable cities. The Pittsburgh diaspora that left the area during the Steel Crisis and comprise Steeler Nation, supporters of the Pittsburgh Steeler football team, celebrate an industrial city and ethnic culture that no longer exists; according to one scholar, “The blue-collar Pittsburgh that you see flashed on the screen during games exists only in Steeler bars and in the visitors’ parking lot during tailgate parties!”

-excerpts from Wikepedia

Baby Showers!


We had a shower last weekend for a dear friend’s daughter-she is due in one month. I was interested to see that Burt’s Bees is now doing baby stuff-clothing and products that were very cute and clever! I started wondering about all the different traditions around the world for baby showers and this is what I found on Wikepedia:

Baby showers and other social events to celebrate the impending or recent birth are popular around the world. They are commonly “women-only” social gatherings.

  • In Canada, it’s traditionally known that only women may attend this event.
  • In Brazil, a party called “chá de bebê” (baby tea) is offered before birth and is often a “women-only” event.
  • In Chinese tradition, a baby shower, called manyue (满月) is held one month after the baby is born. Due to the lack of advanced medical technology in ancient times, the high infant mortality rate prompted families and friends to celebrate if a baby survived more than one month after birth.
  • In Armenia, a baby shower is called “qarasunq” (քառասունք) and is celebrated 40 days after baby’s birth. It is a mixed party for all relatives and friends. Guests usually bring gifts for the baby or parents.
  • In Iran, a baby shower is called sismoony party which in the family of pregnant woman 1-3 months before delivery will provide her virtually all accommodation and accessories her first baby needed. This includes but not limited to bed, toys, clothes, dishes and almost every things related to the baby. All family and close friends would be invited to see the gifted items and also themselves will bring a gift.
  • In Costa Rica, a baby shower party is called té de canastilla (“basket tea”).
  • In Hindu tradition, they are called by different names depending on the community the family belongs to.
  • In northern India it is known as godbharaai, in western India, especially Maharasta, this celebration is known as dohaaljewan, and in West Bengal and Odisha it is called saadh.
  • In Southern India, in Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh it is called Seemantham or Valaikaapu (The expecting mother wears bangles) and in Karnataka it is calledshreemanta and is held when the woman is in her 5th or 7th or 9th months of pregnancy. Although Seemantham and Valaikappu might be celebrated together, they are very different. Seemantham is a religious ceremony while Valaikappu is a purely social event much like Western baby showers. In a Valaikappu, there is music played, and the expecting mother is decked in traditional attire with lots of flowers and garlands made of jasmine or mogra. A swing is decorated with flowers of her choice, which she uses to sit and swing. At times there are symbolic cut-outs of Moons and Stars that are put up. There are blessings showered on her by the elderly ladies from the household and community. There are gifts given to the expecting mother. It is a very affectionate and fun-filled event for most of the expecting mothers since they are on the threshold of motherhood and entering a new life.
  • In Kerala, it is known as ‘Pulakuli’, and is practiced predominantly in the Nair community, though it’s popularity has spread to other Hindu sects as well over the years. On an auspicious day, after being massaged with homemade ayurvedic oil, the woman has a customary bath with the help of the elderly women in the family. After this, the family deity is worshipped, invoking all the paradevatas (family deities) and a concoction of herbal medicines prepared in the traditional way, is given to the woman. The woman is dressed in new clothes and jewellery used for such occasions. A big difference in the western concept of baby shower and Hindu tradition is that the Hindu ceremony is a religious ceremony to pray for the well-being of the baby. In most conservative families gifts are bought for the mother-to-be but not the baby. The baby is showered with gifts only after birth.
  • In Islam adherents are required to perform aqiqah of newly born child. This involves the sacrifice of animals. The meat is then divided in three equal parts; one for the poor and needy, one for relatives and friends which can involve inviting them at home for a feast, and finally the last part is utilized by the household itself.
  • In South Africa, a baby shower is called a stork party, and takes place typically when the mother is about 6 months pregnant. Stork parties are usually not attended by men, and South African men do not have an equivalent party of their own. The stork party is accompanied by silliness such as dressing up, and babycare related gifts are given to the mother. A stork party is often organised as a surprise without the mother’s knowledge.
  • In the United Kingdom, this is called wetting the baby’s head, and is a more common substitute to a baby shower, which is seen as a materialistic American custom.Wetting the baby’s head is traditionally when the father celebrates the birth by having a few drinks with a group of friends.
  • In Nepal baby shower is called Pasni, It is often done to the boys in 6 month of their birth and it is done to the girls in 5 months of their birth. People give money and other gifts during the baby shower.

Menauhant & More House Tour Preview Salon

This is a presentation I gave on Thursday, July 18 at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. I spoke about the renovation and additions we did to our summer home on the Cape.

Lauren Huyett Highfield Hall Salon sitetx. Click on the blue highlighted words here. Please note it will take a few minutes to download the PowerPoint document to your computer.

Menauhant & More House Tour

Using Music As A Teaching Tool For Kids

This is an article about my brother!! :

Using Music as a Teaching Tool for Kids“There may be no more powerful method of learning than through music, and no more important lessons for children than those that focus on character and social and emotional skills,” according to clinical psychologist and author Don MacMannis, Ph.D.

MacMannis is the clinical director of the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara and a music director and songwriter for the PBS hit animated children’s series “Jay Jay the Jet Plane.”

He’s developed over 40 songs in a variety of genres that help kids with everything from being assertive to managing their feelings to respecting others to understanding responsibility. Both kids and adults provide the vocals, and lyrics are packed with positive, empowering messages.


For instance, the song “Go Away Bad Thoughts,” written in a country-western style, teaches kids that they don’t have to believe their negative thoughts. Here’s an excerpt:

So I walked outside to see if I could hide from my bad thoughts,

Then everything I tried, including when I cried, left me bad thoughts.

‘Cause all I was thinking was “poor poor me.”

Everything’s bad ’til there’s more for me.

He got all the luck, and here I am stuck with my bad thoughts, bad thoughts.


No need to get riled up instead of havin’ fun, and no need to dial up 911.

If you want to get those thoughts to end, yell out twice then yell it again…


Go away bad thoughts, go away bad thoughts,

Go away bad thoughts, go away.


Go away bad thoughts, get outta my head.

I want to have a good day instead.

So scram, get out, be gone, vamoose.

I’m takin’ over and I’m cookin’ your goose!

Research has found that these songs and accompanying activities have a positive effect on kids’ school performance, social relationships and conflict resolution.

Specifically, the study involved 320 first- and second-grade students from 16 classrooms in Santa Barbara and Goleta, Calif. schools. Kids were given a CD, and then received nine lessons using songs and activities from trained college students. The themes were:

  1. Friendship and Reaching Out
  2. Respect and Caring
  3. Celebrating Differences
  4. Expressing and Managing Feelings
  5. Communication and Conflict
  6. Positive Thinking
  7. Dealing with Fears
  8. Best Effort
  9. Manners and Review

To test the intervention’s efficacy, teachers completed the Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BESS) for each child four times in one year along with other assessments about the classroom. The college students who taught the lessons, the school’s principal and the children’s parents all provided feedback as well.

Both first and second graders showed a variety of improvements, including “approaching peers, using effective tools with teasing and bullying, understanding and using the Golden Rule, resolving conflicts by talking out feelings, staying on task [and] having a positive attitude,” according to MacMannis. Second graders also “showed improvements with concentration and self-control.”

Music is a valuable teaching tool. It makes complex concepts more accessible and enjoyable. It facilitates language learning. Upbeat or uplifting music also may enhance cognitive abilities.

Music appears to light up various regions of the brain related to language, hearing and motor control, MacMannis said. When listening to songs we tend to compare new images with past memories, which involves the association cortex, he said. “And elements of musical surprise activate the cerebellum.”

Music also is highly pleasurable and sustains our attention. This is especially interesting because music has no biological value and shares no similarities with other pleasurable stimuli.

As authors of this study point out, “…there are no direct functional similarities between music and other pleasure-producing stimuli: it has no clearly established biological value (cf., food, love, and sex), no tangible basis (cf., pharmacological drugs and monetary rewards), and no known addictive properties (cf., gambling and nicotine). Despite this, music is consistently ranked amongst the top ten things that individuals find highly pleasurable, and it plays a ubiquitous and important role in most people’s lives.”

“Pleasurable experiences with songs involve brain circuitry associated with pleasure, reward, and emotion, such as the ventral striatum, midbrain, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, and ventral medial prefrontal cortex,” MacMannis said.

Music is a great way to engage your kids in powerful lessons, such as teaching them social and emotional skills. As a recent meta-anaylsis found, these skills help boost academic performance; improve problem-solving and decision-making; and reduce conduct problems and emotional distress.

Of course, these skills are pretty important for adulthood, too.

Further Reading

This excerpt features additional information on how music enhances learning.

Learn more about MacMannis’s powerful music for kids at hiswebsite. Sign up, and receive free learning activities and a free song every month. Also, check out his parenting blog on Psych Central, which is co-written with his wife Debra Manchester MacMannis, MSW, a psychotherapist and co-author of their book How’s Your Family Really Doing?


Ben Elliott of Salt Box Farm



What could be better than having a renowned chef (Number 9 Park in Boston)  inherit his grandfather’s farm and move to Concord?? With Saltbox Farm, Chef Ben Elliott, a professionally trained chef and–more recently–farmer, realized he had an opportunity to offer the surrounding communities unique culinary experiences that focus on local ingredients, seasonal cooking, and the preservation of culinary traditions.  Through catering, cooking classes, and a CSA, Saltbox Farm serves as a resource for locally grown food and culinary education for home cooks and enthusiasts.

Ben and his staff transformed our yard into quite a spot and the food was fantastic.They easily fed 80 of us under the tent-using my outdoor garage for their work space. Very fun night!


Gerda’s in Vineyard Haven


 If you are ever in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, stop in Gerda’s, right on Main Street…..she has really fun MacKenzie-Childs dishes and these wonderful cashmere wraps which I haven’t been able to find anywhere else! She advertises as “an eye catching mix of glitz and glamour!”




Going to Cuttyhunk is like taking a trip to the past. A very small island which has a population that swells in the summer and decreases to 15 or 20 in the winter,it is like living in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, there is a small general store, no restaurants except a small cafe near the docks, a little library, church and elementary school (in which there are two students)-these are considered the town of Gosnold.  The views are incredible from everywhere on the island.

It is located at the end of the Elizabeth Islands-between Buzzards Bay to the north and Vineyard Sound to the south.The island consists of 580 acres. Historically, it is the first site of English settlement and over the years, the site of many shipwrecks. Well worth the trip sailing over as we did, there are also ferries that run from New Bedford, MA-VERY occasionally once summer is over!