To The Holiday Market We Go!

Okay, so maybe you're making a holiday gift list and checking it twice. But you won't have to take a second look anywhere else when it comes to finding unique presents for the loved ones in your life when you shop at the Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square.  In case you missed the grand opening this past weekend, the Holiday Market is open every day through December 23. That's plenty of time left, even for last-minute shoppers.

With an Old World accent, our Holiday Market brings a centuries-old European tradition to Pittsburgh for what we hope will become a holiday favorite around here for years to come. Even in its first few days, the Market is proving to be a big hit with shoppers and the local, national and international vendors bringing their special brand of holiday cheer to the Square. Starting every day at 11:00 a.m., holiday shoppers can visit the market until 8:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. And just what will you find in the Market? Well, here's a look at the many talented people from far and near who are helping the Square look a lot like Christmas:

Adar & Mimi: These hometown ladies custom make playful clothing and accessories for the little ones. From frilly tutus to sassy shirts for tykes, these hand-embroidered goodies are perfect for anyone looking for a gift that's pure Pittsburghese.

Alpine Heritage: The eastern European traditions come alive here with colorful, delicate hand-blown ornaments, festive ceramic holiday dishes and oh so intricately carved Nativity scenes inside tiny little wooden tabernacles on stone bases.

Artel: Mother Russia shares her blessings in the shape of Faberge-style eggs created by craftsmen from their homeland. These delicate pendants and lockets pay homage to Peter Faberge, the favorite designer of the Czars. By the way, Artel is the name Faberge gave to work stations in his shop.

Euro Haus: Travel to the heart of Europe and nearly to Asia itself at Euro Haus, the home of tapestries, jewelry, scarves and Moravian stars from Turkey, Austria, Germany and Russia. Plus, you'll find Santas, snowmen, nesting dolls, holiday platters and more.

European Folk Art: The everyday holiday traditions and flavors of Poland and Slovakia come alive here in the shape of handmade chess sets, Santas, cookbooks and other crafts that display ethnic pride in home-style portions.

The Glass Haus: With a stable of five artists from America and Europe, the Glass Haus brings to the ’Burgh a bevy of wacky, creative and elegant glass ornaments that redefine the spirit of the season.

Gorilla Dust Designs: This vendor's name comes from a phrase her grandmother used to describe the glitter her granddaughter liked to sprinkle around. These truly one-of-a-kind gifts are crafted from old-time souvenir spoons found in thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets.

Ivana's Igloo: You'll warm up to the cool stuff at this stop where the owner creates "faux fur" animal hoods and mittens and sells her own brand of handmade scented soaps and decorative candles.

Linda Barnicott's Art & Gifts: Just one look and you'll recognize the sights of familiars places that make Pittsburgh even more special during the holidays. One of the area's most talented painters, Linda's been creating holiday magic on canvas, coffee cups and other media for years.

Little Bavaria: Here's one place where you can actually enjoy a taste of the Old Country as Little Bavaria serves delicious hot pretzels, bratwurst, fruit strudels and Greek pastries. Once your belly's full, wash it all down with a cup of hot cider.

Little Europe: A big favorite with Holiday Market shoppers, Little Europe is a delight with its selection of nesting dolls, hand-painted eggs, wooden toys and ornaments from Poland, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Old German Christmas: You don't have to be a senior citizen from Berlin to shop here for ageless authentic, hand-blown and hand-painted ornaments and other collectibles based on German holiday items nearly 150 years old.

Style Truck: Parked in the Square for the next month, the Style Truck delivers chic hats, mittens, scarves and other women's accessories made in the U.S.A or by fair-trade firms in India and Nepal.

Wagman Designs: Inspired by nature, these handcrafted earrings, bracelets and bracelets are made from real maple leafs and other items you can find right outside your door to add a bit of the "green" to the season.

In addition, several other vendors will join the Holiday Market as the season unfolds, including:

Cha Ching Coin Jewelry: Distinctive jewelry made from only the most interesting rare and exotic coins from across the globe provide some holiday bling in this collection of unusual items from Dec. 10-13.

Fabulous Homemade Cookies: Just like your Grandma made them, these delicious gift packages of treats will make for the perfect way to tell that sweet someone in your life how much you care about them. Pick up these goodies Dec. 17-20.

Vessel Glass: Form and color are the hallmarks of Drew Hime's glassblowing artistry in a collection of vivid created ornaments in traditional and contemporary style. Visit Vessel glass from Dec. 3-6. 

Lest we forget, kids also can take care of the holiday wishes at the market. Because the Big Man himself is taking up residence in the Square too.  While the grownups are shopping, the little ones can visit Santa in his own specially built home almost up to Christmas Eve. And to keep you entertained, local performers with an ethnic focus will grace the Cultural Showcase Stage on weekends. So, bring the entire family to the Square  to all the festivities and fun of Pittsburgh first Holiday Market.


We Got the Music in Us

The Square is alive with the sounds of music — even if the our lunchtime and evening concerts are packed away until next summer. With winter coming on fast, the beat goes on and on indoors around the Square, hitting high notes in a diverse variety of musical genres from New Orleans accented tunes at NOLA to the South of the Border infused sounds of Las Velas.


One of the first night spots to host live music in the Square, NOLA on the Square gets in the swing of things Wednesday through Saturday with a spicy gumbo of sounds and bands that mix a little bit of jazz, a dash of blues and even a splash of rock from local talents such as the Boilermaker Jazz Band and John Gresh's Gris-Gris.

The result is a blend of music as unique as the food on the menu at this slice of the Big Easy in the ’Burg. So if you're in the mood for a little Crescent City Stomp, NOLA is a must-stop destination.

For a more Continental style, Perle' offers a French-Mediterranean atmosphere in this chic spot perched above the Square in what used to be the The Attic, the musical home of Pittsburgh's own jazz man Walt Harper. This cosmopolitan lounge rises above it all with an urbane vibe set by some of the city's hottest and most creative DJs. Unwind in style at the Champagne bar and order some small bites from the extensive tapas menu as Perle' lives up to its name as a pearl of a place.

For music that's mucho caliente, Mariachi is the specialty of the house at Las Velas on select Saturday evenings. This lively style of Mexican folk music is a perfect side dish to Las Velas' home-style nacho chips, guacamole and entrees handed down to chef David Montanez from his mom and grandmother.  And to enhance the entertainment, order a tasty, hand-mixed margarita at the bar while you enjoy the view of the bustling nightlife in the Square.

And while it's not "technically" within the boundaries, we're willing to think outside the Square to recommend the classic jazz at Andy's Wine Bar in the Fairmont Hotel. Most nights you can chill to the cool sounds of area talents such as Max Leake and Maureen Budway while you sip some of the finest designer cocktails in town.

So if you're looking to get in the rhythm of the city, there's no better place to keep your feet tapping all night long than Market Square.


Feel Good, Look Great in the Square

Sure, we generally flock to Market Square as the city's hub of music, food and other fun. But the hot spot we like to think of as the pulse of Downtown is also a great place to keep your heart beating strong — especially since the coming of Old Many Winter will force many us to get physical indoor for the next few months. Whether you're looking for a traditional workout, a new age wellness approach or just a bit of well-deserved pampering, it's time to make tracks to the Square —your one-stop fitness and well-being destination.

The PNC YMCA on Fifth Avenue, with gorgeous bird's eye views of the Square, combines old school commonsense with contemporary attitudes to health and well being in its 44,000-square-foot site. Along with a five-lane 25-meter swimming pool, the LEED-certified PNC Y provides spacious women's and men's locker rooms and scores of exercise equipment for spinning, weight training, running, aerobics and more. And if you aren't quite sure which path to fitness to follow, the Y staff is on hand to help you chart a reasonable course. The Y also offers guidance on leading a healthier life overall, with programs in weight maintenance, nutrition and smoking cessation. Located in Millcraft Industries Market Square Place, the PNC Y is a convenient destination for Downtown residents, workday commuters and anyone else interested in a sound approach to a healthier lifestyle.

Old school fitness fans can pump iron at Gold's Gym, at the far end of Forbes Avenue, near Stanwix Street. But don't let the muscle men and "dumb bells" fool you. This "traditional" gym caters to women too, and provides alternative programs such as Tai Chi and yoga to help anyone to shape up on their own or with a trainer.

You can get your mojo working at Moxie Mind & Body, the Pilates place perched above NOLA. A relative newcomer to the Downtown exercise scene, Moxie takes a holistic approach to improving a person's, well, mind and body. Developed more than a century ago, Pilates increases a person's flexibility and strength through extremely low impact exercise routines. Group and individual sessions are available.

Finally, if you just need a little pampering to the chill off, take a hike up the stairs to Denham & Co., a sweet salon above the Nicholas Coffee shop. With stylists dedicated to making you look and feel your best, Denham adds a personal touch for a nearly head-to-toe treatment, featuring Aveda hair and skin care products.


Exercise Your Muscles, Ears, and Stomach This Week in the Square

Well, we may have closed the book on another season of the Carnegie Library's Tuesday Reading Room program in Market Square this week, but there's still plenty of events happening in our favorite Square. The Market Square Farmers Market still has the freshest produce Downtown every Thursday starting at 10:00 a.m., as well as hot new music acts playing from 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. through November 8. The autumn harvest brings a bumper crop of beets, apples, potatoes and other farm fresh ingredients that are perfect for comfort food recipes as the cooler temperatures take hold. Enjoy a selection of delicious prepared foods this Thursday, along with a free concert by one of the most popular local rock, blues and jazz cover bands, Valentino & the Avengers.

Sometimes you might think you'd want to live a dog's life, running in the woods and chasing squirrels all day. The truth is - too many dogs, cats and other creatures lead lives filled with nothing but neglect, abuse and pain. Well, now you can do something to ease your mind and body - and help hundreds of lovable four-legged friends in need.

This coming Sunday, October 14, Moxie Mind and Body, located above NOLA in the Square, will offer a "Class for a Cause." The first class is offered at 2:00 p.m. and another at 3:00 p.m. Stretch out those limbs to benefit the good work at Animal Friends.  The Pilates instruction is free, but donations to help the canines, felines and other creatures at Animal Friends will be put to good use finding abandoned and unwanted pets a new, loving home. You don't need to be a Pilates expert, the Moxie staff will help you stretch a few muscles and limbs as your extend a helping hand to a few of the animals friends who will be on hand for adoption.


A Design SPLASH and Latino Fest in the Square

Now that summer's over, most of us will be spending more time indoors. Which means it might just be the right time to start thinking about a few home makeover projects. Well, there's no better source of inspiration to be found around town than in Market Square Today, Wednesday October 3, from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. That's when Design Squared returns to the Square with a new lineup of top-shelf kitchen and bath products, design advice and classes from local and national experts, some great giveaways and the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the Square.

Hosted by the kitchen, bath and lighting pros from SPLASH, which just happens to be located on the corner of Fifth and Market, Design Squared showcases luxury items from Axor, Hillmon and Vangura in an outdoor setting open to the public. Along with the latest trends, Design Squared features a live cooking demonstration and certified courses for local designers looking to enhance their credentials. After the public portion of the event, attendees can stroll to the SPLASH showroom for a champagne reception, more classes and dinner.

Speaking of style, the city celebrates Hispanic Heritage month with a hot, hot, hot party in the Square on Friday from noon-8 p.m. Sponsored by the mayor's office and city councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents Downtown's residents and businesses. The Fair in Market Square celebrates Latino culture, music and cuisine with performance by local musicians and artists, amazing food from area Hispanic restaurants and goods from the city's growing number of Hispanic merchants. Among the performers are Jorge Delgado and Melissa Alliston, Aqui Tango, the Guaracha Latin Dance Band and Machete Kisumontao. Authentic Mexican cuisine will be served by Silvi's of the South Side, and the Ujamaa Collective, Latino Family Center and Rite Aid will be on hand to provide health-related advice. Free and open to the public, the Fair in Market Square is part of the city's week-long schedule of activities honoring our Hispanic neighbors and their contributions to the region.


Squared Deals

Around here, we're always ready for a good contest. Especially when it involves a match up against our friendly rivals in Cleveland. Which is why Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stepped up to the podium in Market Square at lunchtime on Tuesday to accept a unique challenge. Here's the wager - Pittsburgh will buy more pink ribbon bagels from local Panera Bread stores than our counterparts in Cleveland. And it's all for an important cause, as it raises awareness about the all too real risk of younger women getting breast cancer.

With former Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke at his side, Mayor Ravenstahl dared the city by the lake to out buy and out eat the City of Champions — all in good humor and good taste, of course. Though the bet is light-hearted, the results are down-to-earth serious - the triumphant city will earn an extra $10,000 in donations from Panera.  This money will help more young women understand, assess and combat the risks of breast cancer. The contest runs from October 1st-31st, in support of the Young Women's Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. In the long run, no matter which city comes out on top, everyone is a winner as Panera goes pink. And that's a call not even an NFL replacement ref can botch.

This weekend, the Art Resource Teaching Society will creatively host Art Squared in Market Square, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. each day. More than 40 local photographers, chefs, musicians, writers and other creative types will be on hand to help everyone unleash their artistic potential though various hands-on activities and lessons. Plus, super model hopefuls can learn how to strut their stuff on the cat walk while laughter specialists will do their best to tickle funny bones of all in attendance. You can even learn how to make your own knightly chain-mail armor, if slaying dragons is in your plans. Budding Frank Lloyd Wrights can enter architectural competitions as emerging entrepreneurs design their own business cards and marketing materials. With the entire Downtown as your canvas, you can unleash your creativity in a thousand ways during Art Squared. Best of all, festival proceeds will help support arts programs in Pittsburgh's public schools.

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in nearly 45,000 Americans every year. This coming Sunday, September 30th, people with pancreatic cancer and their families, along with those who lost loved ones to the the disease will gather in the Square at 7:00 p.m. for a the Purple Light National Vigil for Hope as a reminder that much more work needs to be done to fight this serious illness. As part of the National Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, this candlelight tribute will illuminate the need for ongoing research and treatment improvements that will lead to a cure. You can add your light to the fight and keep the flame burning bright for those suffering from this disease.


"Skip Your Lunch" and Start Your Weekend Off on 'the Right Foot!'

Yes, it's true - every day, youngsters in and around the Pittsburgh area go to bed with empty stomachs and wake up without enough to eat. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank along with One Young World's Wake Up Call USA Group, are teaming up to help feed local kids for the "Skip Your Lunch, Feed A Child" campaign. You can do your part by stopping by the lobby of 2 PPG Place to donate your "lunch money" which will provide healthy, nutritious food to hungry children in our community.

 Originally scheduled in Market Square, this Tuesday's event, which has been moved due to inclement weather, is asking everyone to make a small sacrifice for a really big cause — fighting hunger among local kids. Now, you really don't have to skip lunch, but every $10 in donations will help put food on the table, or in lunch bags, for at least 20 hungry kids throughout Western Pennsylvania. Across the country, one in six children live in homes where adults have a hard time keeping the kitchen pantry filled. Closer to home, each month the Food Bank helps feed 40,000 kids, with possibly even three times more youngsters in need. If you do actually skip lunch, your stomach might be a little empty, but your heart will be filled with the satisfaction that somewhere in our region, a child will enjoy a good meal.  If you still need to satisfy that lunchtime craving, walk over to Market Square to visit any of the quick and easy eateries. If for whatever reason you just can't get out of the office today, it's easy to make a donation online too.

Come this Friday evening, they might not be dancing in the streets, but plenty of people will be kicking up their heels in the Square to start "National Ballroom Dance Week" off on the right foot. To get everyone in the swing of things, 20 young talents from the Fairmont State University Ballroom Dance Club will entertain the T.G.I.F. crowd, starting at 6pm. After that, a "flash mob" of local ballroom dancers will fill the Square to dance the night away — and there's even more dancing if you head over to the Backstage Cabaret in Theater Square during the always hot, hot, hot Salsa Fridays.

So whether you like to Foxtrot, Tango, Cha-cha or Rumba, this is one dance party you won't want to miss.