Nomination for Very Inspiring Blog

Thanks to my fellow blogger over Writing Fiction Blog for the nomination.

Writing Fiction Blog

It’s happened again, however unlikely, right smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season. I have been kindly nominated by Nic over at for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. You can always be sure of finding short pieces and examples of fiction at that address. As everyone knows I love to celebrate awards. 😐 So in honor of the occasion I’ve pulled out my powder blue tux and frilly tux shirt and clean pair of underwear. I’ve also pulled out my public teeth (teeth I wear in public) and my shiny black leather shoes. In the corner sits my close friend, Myrtle. She is eighty years old and can party with the best of them. She is sitting in the corner with a half empty bottle of champagne in one hand and a party blow thing (one of those things you blow into at a party that rolls out…

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The Phipps Conservatory – Pittsburgh Gem

blown glass by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly is displayed throughout the Phipps

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Whenever I need cheering up, I visit the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland near downtown Pittsburgh. Last month, I went the day after Sandy hit our area and visited the mum show there. Since, I’m recovering from the flu and getting ready for Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share some of the beauty I saw on my visit  rather than writing a post today.

More than 100 years old, the Phipps began an expansion in 2000, which eventually incorporated energy efficiency and sustainable conservation into the multi-year plan.

Happy Thanksgiving to all you. I’m grateful you read my blog and even more grateful when you leave a comment. Do you have a place you go to when you need a little cheer on a dreary day?

Glaciers create landscape drama

Slippery Rock Creek


By Patricia Zick @PCZick

When my daughter visited me recently, I wanted to show her some of western Pennsylvania’s landscape without driving very far. Serendipity intervened by delivering to my mailbox “The Sylvanian,” the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter’s magazine. An article on Slippery Rock Gorge offered me a solution. A forty-mile drive from Pittsburgh, McConnells Mill State Park is home to some of the state’s most dramatic landscapes along Slippery Rock Creek and the gorge that was created by glaciers some two million years ago.

slope leading to the creek

The glaciers left behind waterfalls, Homewood sandstone boulders, and a whitewater creek. The Pennsylvania State Parksystem offers trails and picnic spots where nature puts on a theatrical show for visitors. And it’s free since Pennsylvania doesn’t charge an entrance fee into any of its parks.

Homewood boulders in the gorge

There are nine-miles of hiking trails within the park – some are more vigorous than others. We decided to hike the two-mile loop of the Kildoo trail, which begins/ends on either side of the 1874 covered bridge. Opposite the trail heads sits a gristmill constructed in 1868.

covered bridge and grist mill

We didn’t have time to make it to the falls because this “moderate” hike took a little longer than we anticipated and our schedule required us to turn back. Even though it’s marked as moderate, the hike can be slippery and narrow at some points. Slippery Rock Creek roars below so falling off the edge of the gorge is not an option. If we had made it to the falls and crossed over the foot bridge, we would have been on the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs through the park. This trail, a part of the National Park Service, goes from New York to North Dakota.

whitewater awaits in the valley of the gorge

Next time I visit – and I will – I’ll plan my schedule better and be prepared to stay the whole day.

a waterfall in the sandstone

Serendipity is welcome in my life at any time.  I’d love to hear about times this has happened to you.

NOTE: I’m cutting back on my blog writing starting this week. I’ve been writing four blogs a week – two for Living Lightly Upon this Earth and two for Writing, Tips, Thoughts, and Whims. While I enjoy writing the blogs and interacting with followers, I need more time for writing novels and nonfiction books. From now on, I will post two times – one for each of my blogs. Thanks for reading my posts. I’m always thrilled when I see someone has left a comment.


To Feed or Not to Feed

San Antonio River Walk

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I know it seems sweet to feed birds in the park or on the riverfront walks in cities. I probably did it at one time myself. But if you want to feed birds, do it in your own backyard using food that will help them. Audubon gives some great advice on bird food and feeders.

The other day I ate lunch on San Antonio’s river walk at Cafe Rio. Pigeons, ducks, and smaller birds wander the area waiting for easy grub.

lying in wait

I watched as a man across from me leaned down and fed a pigeon a tortilla chip. I shook my head at his female companion, and she looked puzzled. Then I heard her give a small yelp. One of the ducks had nipped at her foot. When they stood to leave, she exclaimed, “They’re on the table.”

cleaning up

I’m only surprised she was surprised.

Wildlife are not supposed to eat our food (we shouldn’t eat some of it either). They can find food in nature. When they find an easy source, they’ll go for it. Wouldn’t you? It’s not healthy for them and brings them into too much contact with humans which in turn puts them in more danger. They lose their innate fear of humans. And they can become predators, such as the duck who pecked at the woman’s foot.

So please think before you throw that white bread, tortilla chip, or french fry on the ground for wildlife to enjoy. Instead, invest in a proper bird feeder and bird seed. Teach your children and grandchildren to admire the birds from a distance and show them how beautiful nature can truly be with little interference from us.

Angels Live Lightly

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

A young woman at the doctor’s office treated me rudely the other day. The details aren’t important, but my reaction is. For a few minutes on an otherwise pleasant day, I allowed another person to define me. Then I realized that woman isn’t just rude to me; it’s the world she treats this way. In turn, she perpetuates her attitude because she gets back what she gives out. One day perhaps someone will assist her in turning it around. On the day I encountered her, it wasn’t me.

After I left the office, I decided not to let her darkness of soul become an imprint on me. Many more angels skip through my life and those are the ones I want to emulate. I moved to Pittsburgh two years ago not knowing anyone but my new husband. In that time, I’ve encountered more kindness than meanness.

First, there’s our neighbor Rich who magically appears in our driveway every time the snow covers the pavement. Sometimes I hear the putt-putt of his tractor before I realize snow has started to fall. I’ll look out the window and there’s Rich with his plow clearing our steep driveway. Then he leaves to do his own. Whenever we thank him, he humbly says, “I’m out there anyway.” I suspect he knows how difficult it’s been for me to adjust to the winters in Pennsylvania after thirty years of living in Florida.

Since I work at home, my main social activity is going to the gym to work out and take dance classes. The owners of Body Buzz, John and Carmella, and their staff pay it forward every single day by participating in a variety of local charitable projects. Right now, they’re stuffing stockings for the military with items donated by all the members. They are sponsors for the local chapter of ElderCare and many of us are adopting an older person for Christmas. Also, raffles and sales have been ongoing the past month for the family of a local state police officer killed in the line of duty. This type of work is not just for the holidays – it’s ongoing year round. They do many projects for the local Humane Society chapter as well. The spirit of the owners and employees multiplies out to the members who are kind souls not only keeping in shape but making our world a better place.

Then there’s the woman at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in The Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh. I fell in love with shopping there in my first months of living here. But when I really knew this place captured my heart was my first encounter with Carol Pascuzzi at the cheese counter. Most people refer to her as “dear heart” because that’s what she calls everyone who steps  up to her counter. I’ve always hated to be called “honey” and “sweetheart” by strangers because it seems so phoney. But “dear heart” from Carol as she hands me a slice of ten-year aged white cheddar cheese makes me smile.

dear heart

I told her I wanted to write about her in this blog about nice folks in Pittsburgh. She said, “It’s simple really. I treat everyone as I want to be treated.”

It’s true, tested, and simple. She makes me strive to be a “dear heart.”

I need to introduce Carol to a certain doctor’s receptionist.

Who are the angels living lightly in your life and heart?

A Love Affair with Birds

great blue heron in the salt marshes of Florida

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

My grandmother taught me a love of birds many years ago back in Michigan. She had a bird feeder right outside the window so she could see it from her chair in the living room. She kept bird books on the table there and I loved to visit her in the winter to watch the colorful birds come to the white-covered feeder.

When I moved to Florida, I continued my love affair. I’m not an expert, but I know I admire birds, especially large ones. The great blue heron is found near any type of water, but I thought it was only in Florida. When I moved to Pennsylvania two years ago, I discovered they are year-round residents here as well. One morning when I woke in my new house, I looked outside the French doors in my bedroom to the balcony railing. A great blue was perched there looking down at the small pond below as small gold fish swam unaware of the danger lurking above. Too bad my camera was in another room.

Great blues forage alone so it was with surprise that I saw two flying over us as we cruised on the Beaver River recently. I assumed they must be migratory here, but according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they are year-round residents in much of the continental United States.

great blue heron on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

Right now, the males are searching for places to nest in the trees, which provides an explanation of why these two kept perching on tree limbs instead of the usual foraging on the banks of the river. It also explains why these two traveled as a pair. Most likely, the male is looking for the right platform while enticing the female to join him.

We also saw a great egret on the river the same day.

great egret on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

I’d never seen one of those in Pennsylvania, but they are abundant in Florida. These are migratory birds, but usually travel in flocks so I’m not sure why this one was alone. According to Cornell, during mild winters the great egret will remain in the north. We did have a mild winter last year. In that case, the male may have been doing the same thing as the great blue: looking for a nesting site in the tree. Then again, this great egret may have just been resting for a bit before heading to its winter home in the south. No matter the reason, it’s good to see the great egret here. At one time, they almost disappeared because women’s fashion required their plumes in gilded age hats of the late nineteenth century.

This time of year anywhere in the world, is a great time to see the birds preparing for the change in season.