Perseids Meteor Shower

While the Perseids typically appear in the night sky starting in late July through late August, the peak night of Aug. 11-12 is when they’re at their most spectacular with upwards of 80 – 150 meteors per hour streaking through the night sky (though this year the quarter moon might wash out a bit of the view). It’s a grand show as only Mother Nature can put on!

How to Stay Positive in a Negative World

How to develop a Winning MindYou don’t need to look far to find negativity these days. Scroll the headlines or turn on your TV and you could quickly come to the conclusion that we live in a dark and angry place. But you can change that; both your belief about the world, and the world itself. The quickest way to change how you feel is to change how you think. Part of my purpose in life, I believe, involves contributing positively to the world. I want to be remembered for making a positive difference; therefore, I strive to live that legacy now, every day, with every interaction. Do I always succeed? Probably not. But I hold this aim high and give it my best. We have been programmed our whole lives to think negative and we didn’t even know it was happening. Listen to the news or the weather they always say partly cloudy, why not mostly sunny? What do we call traffic lights in America? STOP lights why not GO lights, or what type of clock do we set at night to get us up in the morning ALARM clocks, why not OPPORTUNITY clocks. We must be aware of the environment and purposely make a paradigm shift even if it makes us an outcast. If you could use a boost of positivity in your work and life, consider some of these ideas: 1. Surround yourself with positive peopleWho in your life seems to glow with positivity? Who inspires, uplifts, and challenges you to up your game? Consciously build a network of people who motivate you to be your best, then spend ample time with them. Be that source of light for others, too. 2. Infuse yourself with positivityPutting poor quality gas in your car will not help it run at peak performance. Similarly, how you fuel yourself will determine your experience as well. Read inspiring books, download helpful podcasts, watch encouraging movies, follow positive people on social media. Share acts of kindness at staff meetings. Create a physical environment of positivity. 3. Focus on what you can controlSo much is out of our hands, isn’t it? Focusing on that, however, can leave you feeling depleted and helpless. Determine what you can control and put your energy there. For example, you can control your responses, actions, words, and thoughts; you can, as Gandhi advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. You have more power than you realize, and when you keep your focus there, that power expands. 4. Look for the goodHave you ever decided to purchase a certain kind of car, then suddenly you see that car everywhere? We tend to find what we focus on: If you believe things are awful, you’ll find evidence to support that belief; if you believe life is a gift, you’ll find evidence to support that. Look for positivity. 5. Examine your daily routineHow do you start your mornings? How do you close out each day? How might you bring positivity into the activities you do regularly? One of my coaching clients uses her commute to send silent blessings to other drivers; another reflects on gratitude’s every evening as she brushes her teeth. Shine positivity into your already-established routines. 6. Choose to be positiveCan it be as simple as a choice? Like most things in life, positivity is a decision we can make in every moment. Set affirming boundaries in your work and life. Take action to support growth and joy. Begin the habit of pausing and thoughtfully choosing your response to situations rather than just reacting. Just remember that the outside world may seem negative and that it’s spinning out of control but it’s your inside world that you have 100% control of, as long as you control your thoughts, feelings, perception and actions. After all it is your choice and we live with the choices we make.  
Fortune is determined by our actions … it is in our mind that we decide to win. Winning Minds is all it takes!~Matt De La Cruz

Italian Rice Salad

Home Cooking: Insalata di Riso (Italian Rice Salad)

by Daniela Savone contributor
July 17, 2020

Insalata di riso by Daniela Savone

An ideal summer dish for picnics or lunch at the beach. Learn how to prepare it.

Since I was a baby, my family and I would board the 8-hour Alitalia flight out of New York City’s JFK International Airport, bound for Italy’s Rome Fiumicino Airport, where my Zio Angelo, and cousin Stefano would anxiously await our arrival. We would spend 3 weeks in August vacationing in my father’s hometown of Lucxa. We always made sure to book our trip around August 15th, a national holiday in Italy, similar to the United States’ Labor Day, known as Ferragosto. To celebrate the holiday, Italians across the country traditionally take off work – heading either to the mountains for a big family picnic or to the beach for a couple of days’ escape. My fondest memories of Italy in the summer as a kid are celebrating Ferragosto and driving up to Prato di Campoli, in the mountains and picnicking with all our family and friends, or going to la Spiaggia di Sperlonga and sitting under a huge ombrellone (beach umbrella) at the beach, feasting on my families  insalata di riso.

Zio, is my father’s younger, loud, vibrant, sharp-tongued brother – always bursting with personality, much like his famous Italian rice salad: It’s colorful, refreshing, packed with flavor and you just can’t get enough! And while I know that rice may sound bland, when it comes to this salad – delicioso!


This cold Italian rice salad is a traditional summer staple in Italy. It’s the perfect dish to make during the sweltering months of summer. It’s so easy to make and requires very little preparation since the recipe often relies on ingredients found in the pantry or refrigerator. Make it easily ahead of time and store it in the fridge for days. Pack it for a picnic in the mountains, at the beach, the lake or even the pool! Or serve it as a side dish with dinner alongside grilled meat or fish, or as a main dish at lunchtime, because this is literally an all-in-one meal!

You can make insalata di riso in so many ways, and every Italian usually has their own recipe, but typically, the main ingredients are a classic combination of cooked rice, pickled vegetables, tuna, ham, and boiled eggs. And sure, the sound of mixing tuna and ham may sound strange – but these ingredients actually work very well together!

Just beware: It’s important to use a high-quality tuna variety preserved in olive oil along with a specific type of rice since the fundamentals of this dish are rice and tuna. The best tuna to use is jarred or canned Italian tuna packed in olive oil because it has so much more flavor than regular canned tuna in water, which simply won’t have the same effect. Italian jarred tuna can easily be found in the same aisle as regular tuna fish at the grocery store or in any Italian delicacy store.

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It is best to use arborio or carnaroli rice – the precious and highly-valued rice grown in Italy that you would use for a traditional risotto. They cook well and tend to maintain their shape and texture. These rice varieties also contain the largest amount of starch, which is why it should be cooked like pasta – al dente – to give the salad a nice texture.

The rest of the ingredients needed for the salad can be adjusted to taste. That’s the beauty of this dish: You can customize it to your liking and there are infinite options! As long as it’s colorful and savory, you can use whatever variations of ingredients you prefer, such as the following; marinated artichokes, giardiniera salad, marinated mushrooms, antipasto salad or basically any vegetables preserved in vinegar. I suggest you just head to the deli counter and choose from the selection of antipasto in the salad case, or from the antipasto section of the salad bar. Eating so much of my Zio Angelo’s insalata di riso growing up explains my obsession with any kind of pickled vegetables, especially pickles. Nowadays, I can easily eat an entire jar – juice and all. I just love that flavor combination of salt and vinegar, which is why this rice salad is my favorite summer go-to meal. 

Cured meat is another traditional ingredient used in this dish. You can use either prosciutto cotto, or ham, mortadella, or my Zio Angelo’s secret ingredient: boiled hot dogs. 

 I remember trying his insalata di riso for the first time as a kid and shouting with excitement: “Cane caldo!” And everyone in my family burst out laughing because I thought the literal translation of hot dog in Italian was a dog that is hot. Turns out they refer to hot dogs in Italy as würstel, a German word, which sounded strange to a five-year-old, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time; I was just ecstatic that they actually had hot dogs in Italy. So not only is this rice salad delicious and refreshing, easy to make, and to tote along with you, but kids will enjoy it too, especially if you use my Zio Angelo’s secret ingredient, würstel – better known as hot dogs! 

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Another must-have ingredient is a semi-soft cheese: either mozzarella, provolone, fontina or asiago cheese. My uncle also used the following ingredients in her Italian rice salad (but again, you can choose to use as many, or as little, ingredients as you like): cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh parsley, cocktail onions, capers, black and green olives, boiled egg, peas, and corn. Plus, there’s no need for dressing besides a little extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper, because, with the combination of pickled vegetables, tuna, and cured meat, the salad already has the right balance of salt and vinegar. People also use celery, pimento peppers or roasted peppers, dill gherkins, scallions, chopped fresh dill, thyme or oregano, swiss or gruyére cheese – and even anchovies! I suggest using my Zio Angelo’s recipe as a guideline, because just like pasta, the recipe is totally open to improvisation, and every time you make it, you can experiment with different variations of flavors and ingredients. 

Anyone who has traveled to Italy from June to September knows just how stifling hot it can get, so even the most avid cook like my Zio would rather not do any major cooking inside the kitchen. And since most of the older homes in Italy, like those in my father’s hometown, were built before the invention of air conditioning, Italians generally opt for easier recipes in the summer – like insalata di riso – because they require minimal to no cooking. That is why this has become a summer staple meal in Italy. It’s quick and easy to prepare, it’s deliciously satisfying and refreshing, and simply perfect for a hot summer day – especially since outdoor eating is such a huge part of Italian culture, where friends and family gather over the weekends in the summer to enjoy long languid meals served alfresco!

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And now you can make room on your own picnic table for this Italian rice salad at your next BBQ! You’ll have your guests feeling like they’re sitting under a canopy of olives and fig trees, under a veil of stars, enjoying that aria fresca (fresh air) and feasting on insalata di riso.

Italian Rice Salad Recipe

Prep time: 35 mins
Cook time 20 mins
Serves 12


3 cups arborio rice
3 6.5oz. jars Italian tuna in olive oil, drained
2 16oz. jars giardiniera salad, drained, chopped into smaller pieces 
5 hot dogs, boiled & sliced
2 cups mozzarella, cubed
6 boiled eggs, quartered
1 can of peas, drained
1 can of corn, drained
1 ½ cups black olives, sliced 
1 ½ cups Spanish Queen olives stuffed with pimento peppers, sliced 
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups cocktail onions, halved
1/2 cup or 3.5 oz jar non-pareil capers, drained
1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
Black pepper to taste

Ella Fitzgerald-Just one of those things

Ella Fitzgerald was a 15 year-old street kid when she won a talent contest in 1934 at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Within months she was a star. Ella: Just One of Those Things follows her extraordinary journey over six decades as her sublime voice transforms the tragedies of her own life and the troubles of her times into joy. The film uses never-before-seen images and unheard interviews to bring Ella Fitzgerald to life and to tell the story of her music — a black woman who makes her career in the face of horrifying racism.

Hamilton the Musical

Hamilton: An American Musical, simply known as Hamilton, is a musical with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the show’s music draws heavily from hip hop, as well as R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes; the show also casts non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Through this use of modern storytelling methods, Hamilton has been described as being about “America then, as told by America now.”

From its first opening, Hamilton received critical acclaim. The show premiered at the Public Theater, Off-Broadway on February 17, 2015, where its engagement was sold out; it won eight Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical. It then transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, opening on August 6, 2015, where it received uniformly positive reviews and strikingly high box office sales. At the 2016 Tony Awards, Hamilton received a record-setting 16 nominations, eventually winning 11 awards, including Best Musical. It received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

What Mr. Craig Davis says about the StarLoftsPgh

“I was a resident in both the Star Loft and Sky Loft for 2 ½ years; both apartments are beautiful, clean, and well maintained. You can’t find a better location to live in Pittsburgh- right in the heart of the cultural district, within walking distance to all downtown businesses, theaters, restaurants and nightlife. Charlie and Janet are the perfect landlords- professional, responsive, and above all kind. I will miss them and would enthusiastically recommend their beautiful building to anyone.” -Craig Davis, CEO Visit Pittsburgh

Residents of the, info about your other kitchen.

It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for: the debut of the Proper Patio! We’ve partnered with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to turn the lot next door into an outdoor dining oasis! Beginning Thursday, June 25 patio hours will be Tuesday-Thursday 4-8PM, Friday 4-9PM, and Saturday noon-9PM. We are taking additional measures to ensure the safety of our guests and employees, including:

  1. Sanitizing tables and chairs in between guests
  2. Sanitizing our single, ADA-accessible restroom in between uses
  3. Wearing disposable medical-grade masks and gloves both inside and outside the restaurant
  4. Taking employee temperatures before every shift and maintaining social distancing during shifts
  5. Maintaining a minimum of six feet between our outdoor dining tables
  6. Providing single-use, disposable, and (whenever possible) biodegradable serving containers and plates as well as sealed packets containing utensils, napkins, and salt & pepper packs
  7. Providing single-use paper menus
  8. Offering bottled water and Coke products in cans. We unfortunately cannot offer free refills on these non-alcoholic beverages. Cocktails, beer, and wine are served in the appropriate glassware that is heat-sterilized in between uses. If you’d prefer, we can also serve alcoholic beverages in disposable plastic cups or Styrofoam cups with lids.

Since we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, there are some rules we respectfully request our guests follow:

  1. Please wait to be seated by our host. Tables and chairs are reserved for paying customers of Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room.
  2. Please wear a mask when entering and leaving our outdoor dining space, while waiting to be seated by our host, and while using our indoor restroom.
  3. Please do not move or rearrange tables or chairs. They are spaced in compliance with state and local ordinances.
  4. Each table can seat four individuals. If your group is larger than four people it’s possible that you won’t all be seated together.
  5. Kids are welcome but must remain seated at your table.
  6. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed and well-behaved.
  7. Please do not congregate in the outdoor dining area, walkway, or lobby.
  8. Please be patient with us! We are navigating a completely new way of doing business while trying to strike a balance between hospitality and safety.

Our indoor dining room remains closed to the public. If inclement weather occurs we may have to box up your food and give it to you to go. If you have any additional questions or concerns, a member of our management team will be happy to speak with you directly.

Thank you for your loyalty, support, and patience! We can’t wait to serve you again!

3 Secrets To Understanding What Music Is Made Of


It’s clear that practically everybody likes music in some form or other. After all, it is the universal language, and all of us participate in it to some degree from the cradle to the grave. It starts with our Mothers’ lullaby, ends with our funeral tune, with a zillion other stops along the way.
What is music, anyhow? What makes it tick? All of us like some kind of it and do not like other kinds of it.
The country-western fan might not like jazz, however he or she sure enjoys the sound of pickin’ & grinnin’. And the jazz fan feels just the opposite.
Which’s as it should be. If all of us liked the very same type of music, there simply wouldn’t be the range that is readily available to us now. We can pick from musical designs varying from heavy classical and opera to rock to kids’s tunes to Broadway musicals to gospel music to the blues.
Each has its place, and each seems on the surface to be significantly various than another form of music. The key word is “on the surface area.” Below the surface of all music is a commonality that is organic to all kinds and styles of music.
So what does all music have in common?
A minimum of 3 things– sometimes more, but never less:
1. Tune.
2. Rhythm.
3. Harmony.
The tune is the part of a song or structure that you whistle or hum– in other words, the tune of the tune. In one sense, it is the most noticeable of the 3 components, because melody is what determines a song. Without melody, it would be difficult to even conceive of a tune or piece.
In musical notation, the melody is often composed in the treble clef– also referred to as the treble staff. It consists of a horizontal line of notes that go up and down on the clef as the tune moves greater or lower.
Rhythm is the beat– the swing– the throb of the music. It takes place in duplicating patterns, depending upon the type of music.
A march, on the other hand, usually consists of a heavy beat followed by a light beat, then another heavy beat followed by another light beat. (I’m simplifying, of course– there are many varieties …) So a march remains in duple meter– as you might expect given that we have two feet and we march in left-right-left-right patterns.
All rhythms are some mix of triple meter and/or duple meter, and the possibilities are limitless– from boogie to R&B to mambos and sambas and bossa novas and … on and on.
Harmony, the 3rd element of music, is the musical background of a tune– the chords, or intervals “behind” the tune. Without consistency, a tune sounds empty– like a vocalist singing without an accompanist– or accapella. Music does not HAVE to have harmony to operate, but in real practice it generally does, even if it is just the interplay of 2 tunes, as in counterpoint.
You might invest a life time learning all the subtleties of music, however it its a lot of standard type, it is these 3 components integrated together; rhythm, melody, and harmony.

We can select from musical designs ranging from heavy classical and opera to rock to kids’s songs to Broadway musicals to gospel music to the blues.
Underneath the surface area of all music is a commonality that is organic to all types and designs of music.
Rhythm is the beat– the swing– the throb of the music. Harmony, the 3rd aspect of music, is the musical background of a song– the chords, or intervals “behind” the tune. Music doesn’t HAVE to have consistency to function, but in real practice it practically always does, even if it is simply the interaction of two tunes, as in counterpoint.