Savoring summer: There's plenty to do during those lazy, hazy, crazy days

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Most of us start summer with great expectation and anticipation. So many good-weather days ahead, so many things we want to do. There are places to visit, books to read, friends to see, projects to start, restaurants to try, gardens to tend, pools to float in, bikes to ride, parties to plan, flip-flops to wear, margaritas to sip, rivers to cruise, patios to relax on, blockbusters to watch, recipes to make, concerts to attend, naps to take.

Here are some ideas to make the most of your summer:

Fountain fun

Sure, there's no-fat frozen yogurt in Pittsburgh. There's organic, grass-fed ice cream, too. But nothing says summer like the totally old-fashioned soda counter and ice cream at Klavon's in the Strip District. The ice cream parlor -- which operated as a drugstore from 1923 to 1979 -- was restored to its Art Deco glory and re-opened in 1998. There's penny candy, Coca-Cola bottle cap fountain stools and "authentic fountain beverages" including malts, phosphates and egg creams. -- Anya Sostek

Dynamic duo

Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, left (First Niagara Pavilion, Aug. 4): Things were a lot different the last time Pittsburgh's two rap sensations played here together in December 2010. It was before Wiz went No. 1 with "Black and Yellow" and long before Mac topped the album charts with "Blue Slide Park." This show is guaranteed to be a wild time. -- Scott Mervis

Summering with superheroes

One fresh beginning, one emotional end.

If it rains on the Fourth of July, Spidey has you covered. Andrew Garfield is the latest young actor to play "The Amazing Spider-Man," opening July 3, and we suspect the chemistry between him and real-life girlfriend Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy should be silken strong. Of course, the movie most Pittsburghers are desperate to see is "The Dark Knight Rises" July 20. The previews assure us Pittsburgh has not been left on the editing-room floor. -- Barbara Vancheri

Chilling with the Web

Use summer to catch up on all those local Web TV series like the ever-popular "Pittsburgh Dad," which stars Curt Wootton, above, as the quintessential Pittsburgh dad who's always yelling at his kids in fluent Pittsburgh-ese. Or chill with "The Baristas," a quirky sitcom about a group of people who work in a coffee shop. Episodes live on at the show website and on iTunes. -- Adrian McCoy

Beach reading

New York Times best-selling author Mary Kay Andrews has made a name for herself with her Southern-flavored series of beach blanket sizzlers, and she's out with another -- "Spring Fever" (St. Martin's Press, $25.99) -- on June 5. The former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter's breakout hit, "Summer Rental," came out last year. The latest features a sleepy little lake town, old flames and deep secrets. -- Virginia Linn

Burn, baby, burn

Chile peppers are among your easier veggies to grow, so why not plant a row or two in your garden, and then when the harvest comes in, cook up a batch of homemade hot sauce? "Hot Sauce! Techniques for Making Signature Hot Sauces," a new release from Storey Publishing, offers 32 recipes to get you started, plus 60 more for cooking with fruits of your labor. -- Gretchen McKay

Louisiana Hot Sauce

PG tested

  • 1 pound fresh chiles, stemmed
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Simmer the chilies, vinegar and salt in a nonreactive saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Jar size is flexible -- you can use anything from a 5-ounce bottle to a quart-size jar.

While sauce is still hot, pour into a sterilized jar. (Sterilize clean jars by submerging them in boiling water for 15 minutes or putting them into a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes.) Seal, and let seep for 2 weeks to 2 months (depending on how hot you want it). Keep at room temperature until you open it, then refrigerate.

If you want to put up the sauce, or give it away as gifts, then you should put it in a water bath. Cook the sauce, then pour it while it is still hot into sterilized bottles or jars. Seal with cap, then plunge into a water bath, which is a canning kettle filled with water that has been brought to a boil. Make sure the jars are fully submerged under the boiling water. Boil pint jars for 15 to 20 minutes; boil quart jars for 30 to 40 minutes. Sealed, your bottles will keep for a year. Once opened and refrigerated, a sauce can keep for up to 6 months.

Makes 3 cups.

-- "Hot Sauce! Techniques for Making Signature Hot Sauces" by Jennifer Trainer Thompson (Storey, May 2012, $14.95)

Block Party

Start your summer tonight at Kaya Fest in the Strip District from 5 to 11 p.m. This yearly party takes over 20th Street between Smallman Street and Penn Avenue with live music, delicious tropical drinks and a lot of great food. You can order off the menu at Kaya, or just enjoy the tacos and roast pig cooked street-side. No reservations necessary, just show up and join the party., 412-261-6565. -- China Millman

Something pleated

Pleats have worked their way from the catwalk to the boardwalk, so make waves this summer with a skirt, dress or blouse that incorporates them. The narrow creases will add movement and an extra hint of elegance to everything from a pleated top paired with jean shorts to a maxi skirt styled with a dressy camisole. -- Sara Bauknecht

Bright and bold

Summer will be the season of shock-and-awe when it comes to colors. Like the sun on a day trip to the beach -- the brighter, the better. Some of the hottest hues to try include seafoam, tangerine, seaweed green and a rainbow of pinks. Wear them with a neutral-colored look for a pop of personality or experiment contrasting them with other brights, such as coupling an orange polish with an electric pink dress. -- Sara Bauknecht

Garden gem

Discovering a favorite plant and sharing it with other gardeners is one of the joys of gardening. 'Gryphon' begonia is one of those plants available at local nurseries. It's grown specifically for its foliage and loves morning sun with shade the rest of the day, but will tolerate many lighting conditions. The more sun it gets the more water it will need. It's a perfect plant for the center of a big container. -- Doug Oster

Nip and tuck

Every gardener needs a hand pruner or two or three. The Dramm ColorPoint Stainless Steel Compact Pruner is a great little tool for less than $20. It's lightweight, ergonomic, built tough and is easily locked and unlocked and stays in either position. Many similar bypass pruners can be awkward to use as the lock gets knocked out of position or is a stretch for the thumb. -- Doug Oster

Travels with App

Wherever this summer's travels take you, you'll find a slew of smartphone apps that can help you every step of the way:

• Weather+ delivers current weather conditions, five-day forecasts, plus other detailed weather information for all worldwide weather stations.

• To avoid what could be huge Internet charges, seek out free Wi-Fi spots with Open Wi-Fi Spots, Wi-Fi Finder and Free Wi-Fi Finder.

• Postagram turns photos taken with Android or iPhones into postcards. The app is free, and it's 99 cents to mail each postcard.

• Lunchbox is a new restaurant-finding app described as "Pinterest for food" because of its use of graphics.

• Last, but not least: Restroom/Bathroom/Toilet Finder, a database of more than 60,000 public restrooms around the world. -- Adrian McCoy


This isn't your granddad's cup-and-ball game. A kendama has a large wooden ball on a string attached to a handle with three cups and a spike. Players can perform hundreds of moves of skill and balance. It is appropriate for children from elementary school upward. Japanese in origin, kendama has become popular in the U.S. You can buy it, among other stores, at: Learning Express in the Galleria for $24.99 and up." -- Andrew Druckenbrod

Quantum leap

Quantum Theatre opens its 22nd season with Roland Schimmelpfennig's "The Golden Dragon," a surreal play that winds around a labyrinth of settings, including an Asian restaurant. Continuing a penchant for quirky performance spaces, Quantum artistic director Karla Boos has selected Lake Carnegie in Highland Park. The play runs Aug. 2-26. -- Maria Sciullo

Sweet tunes

WYEP Summer Music Festival (Schenley Plaza, Oakland, 6 p.m. June 22): So, you may have noticed concert tickets are just a little steep these days. All the more reason to take advantage of free!

WYEP has assembled a sweet lineup for its 15th annual festival, topped by Philly indie-rock band Dr. Dog and hot Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, with Great Lake Swimmers and Pittsburgh's own Donora, below. There also will be kids activities, and crafts from I Made It! Market. -- Scott Mervis

Front-row seat

Sip a refreshing Pineapple Sage Margarita and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at the place to be for people watching in Oakland, The Porch, a relative newcomer to Schenley Plaza at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Schenley Drive. -- Sharon Eberson

Fishing for memories

At the top of my summer must-do list is to take my son on his first fishing trip, and to take myself on my first fishing trip in too long. When I was a boy, I'd spend entire summers fishing. This year, if you're aged 16 to 64, a fishing license and trout stamp will cost $22.70 plus $9.70 or $32.40. But if you just want to fish once or twice, do it on one of Pennsylvania's two Fish-for-Free Days, when you can fish the state's waters without a license -- on Monday, Memorial Day, and on Labor Day, Sept. 3. -- Bob Batz Jr.

Cool Pops

Nothing says summer better than an ice pop, and no one dreams up ice pops quite like the Brooklyn-based company People's Pops. Since 2008, Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz have been selling their artisanal ice pops at pop-up shops, which evolved into a catering business and storefronts in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Now, they've written a cookbook, to be released on June 5, so we can all beat the heat with their inspired, mouth-watering frozen treats. -- China Millman

Blueberry & Buttermilk

PG tested

  • 1 pound 2 ounces (4 cups) blueberries
  • 2/3 cup (5 fluid ounces) simple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) buttermilk

Pick out any stems or leaves from the blueberries and puree them in a food processor. You should have about 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (115 fl oz) of puree.

Combine the pureed blueberries, simple syrup and lemon juice in a bowl or measuring pitcher with a pouring spout. Taste and adjust simple syrup and lemon juice. If you want to strain out the skins, do so now by pressing the blueberry mixture through a colander or a sieve using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Or don't strain.

Swirl in the buttermilk.

Pour the mixture into your ice pop molds, leaving a little bit of room at the top for expansion. Insert sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. Unmold and transfer to plastic bags for storage or serve at once.

Makes 10 pops

-- Adapted from "People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops From Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop" (Ten Speed Press, 2012, $17)

House of love

Here's a summer read that will fire you up for your next home renovation project. "From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story" by Ron Tanner (Academy Chicago Publishers, $24.95). Back in 1999, Mr. Tanner bought a former Delta Upsilon fraternity house that had been trashed -- three-story Queen Anne structure -- in Baltimore. He began restoring it with Jill Eicher, his adventurous, wisecracking girlfriend. Despite the doubts of his neighbors, Mr. Tanner and his sweetheart succeeded. Now, they are happily married.

Mr. Tanner appears at a free talk 6 p.m. June 6 at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh--Main in Oakland. His visit is part of Writers LIVE @ CLP-Main. -- Marylynne Pitz

Grill This, Not That

Summer means trading the heat of your oven (and kitchen) for the sizzle of a backyard grill. But what to cook when you tire of cheeseburgers and hot dogs?

One of the season's most fun-to-read cookbooks is "Grill This, Not That!," the latest in Men's Health editor David Zinczenko's popular "Eat This, Not That" series of books. In addition to outing the country's worst grilled foods (steer clear of Chili's Shiner Bock Ribs, people!), the paperback includes 150 recipes, tons of grilling tips and a healthy shopping guide. Summer never tasted so good, or good-for-you. -- Gretchen McKay

Steelers and 'The Chief'

The Steelers of Summer and "The Chief" are a match made in football fans' heaven from July 26 to Aug. 19, when the play about team founder and owner Art Rooney Sr. will be presented by the Saint Vincent Summer Theatre at the same time the Steelers are sweating out training camp. Arrangements for the production were made with the help of Mr. Rooney's son, Art Rooney Jr., a 1957 graduate of the theater's home and training-camp headquarters, Saint Vincent College. Local actor Philip Winters will play the title role. Details: 724-537-8900 or visit -- Sharon Eberson

Bach to Beethoven

The summer, they say, is a great time to catch up on reading. Why not music? A good strategy is to pick a composer or a genre and listen to works chronologically. You could start by figuring out what all the fuss is about Ludwig van Beethoven. But he is not the only composer whose music evolved in such a fascinating way. Following, say, the string quartet, can help you grasp how styles change over time. There are many Web resources, but perhaps the best plan is to go to Grove Music Online, the constantly updated version of ye old "Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians." It is free if you have a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh card (and those of many other local libraries). -- Andrew Druckenbrod

Splishin' and a splashin'

Why drive to Erie for a waterpark when Pittsburgh is positively overflowing with free places to splash around? The city has spray parks in Troy Hill and Beechview (there are suburban spray parks, too). Entering the fountain at PPG Place, Downtown, is not just allowed, but encouraged. The same holds true for the Water Steps at PNC Park, where children can get wet enough that some bring swimsuits and even goggles for hot summer days. -- Anya Sostek

Monster mash

What can't Benedict Cumberbatch do? He and fellow Brit Jonny Lee Miller shared the 2012 Olivier Best Actor award for playing, on alternate nights, monster and creator in director Danny Boyle's National Theatre play, "Frankenstein." NCM Fathom Events will stream a filmed version on consecutive nights at the Cinemark theaters at Settler's Ridge and Center Township, Beaver County. On June 6, Mr. Cumberbatch plays the monster. On June 7, he's the doctor. It's monstrously entertaining. For tickets, -- Maria Sciullo

theater - food - lifestyle - music - fashion


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