Mystery Writing

by Jenny on 24 February 2018

Blogging is fun because I can share the fantastic people and places near my home.

I grew up in a rural, Laurel Highlands town. Even a trip to the “local” bookstore to buy the newest Baby-Sitters Club book was a special treat and an all-Saturday event. The bookstore was more than an hour’s drive from our house. We didn’t shop online  – heck, we didn’t even have the internet in my town. (Thanks for driving me to Johnstown every time a new Baby-Sitters Club book was released, Mom!)

So, I very much appreciate New Kensington’s LACK OF TRAVEL TIME to so many things that I can see and do.

Sometimes I find activities and groups that sound like fun to me, but I don’t find the time needed to participate. So, I wait and circle back at a different point in my life.

Case in point: A few years ago, I pulled a list of the faculty members of a Pittsburgh-area MFA program. I Googled these names to see what other classes or workshops they each taught in the Pittsburgh area. I learned that one of these instructors planned to teach at an upcoming weekend retreat for The Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Sisters in Crime, Inc., is an international group for women crime writers. The Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter is the Pittsburgh area’s local chapter.  The original co-owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont initiated the local chapter in 1997, and the group still meets in Oakmont.

I had fun at that retreat. Then, I got busy and I didn’t take part in any other activities for this group. Until today.  Today I attended the group’s new and prospective member meet and greet at Mystery Lovers Bookshop.

I mention all this because I want my five or so readers to know that this group exists. Because I hear people complain that there’s “nothing to do” in our area.


In case you didn’t already know this: Mary Roberts Rinehart was an extremely successful mystery novelist from Pittsburgh.  Rinehart’s Pittsburgh residence still exists as a private residence on the North Side.

Now, here’s the thing: My mother-in-law Fran loved to read mystery novels. A kinds of mystery novels. (My father-in-law gave me several bags full of Fran’s well-loved copies of mystery books.)

Fran also loved books from Western Pennsylvania writers, and books that took place in Western PA.

Because of Fran, our whole family knew that Mary Roberts Rinehart was a native Pittsburgher. Fran took Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase on our vacation to northern Michigan. Fran sat beside Lake Huron and downloaded a Rinehart memoir on her iPad. Fran read aloud to us all the sections that she found the funniest. (Can you imagine? Bringing servants with you? To go camping? I still hear her laugh.)

Each Christmas, we toured Allegheny West, a neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, behind Heinz Field. Fran loved that during each tour, we walked past Mary Roberts Rinehart’s house.

One year, the Rinehart house was even a featured house on the Allegheny West tour. We got to go inside the Rinehart house!

I posted above the photo of the Rinehart house that my father-in-law, Dennis, took during this tour. I think that Fran asked Dennis to take a photo of this house – Mary Roberts Rinehart‘s house.

Anyway, here’s your Saturday night snapshot of my life in Western Pennsylvania.




Hey, Westmoreland County Leaders

by Jenny on 13 February 2018

Trib articles rarely spur me enough to post in the Woytek blog. So this is your lucky night.

Tonight I respond to the article Westmoreland County needs more, better branding, leaders say, by Joe Napsha.

According to this article, the “Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland annual luncheon” held today at Saint Vincent College discussed ways to brand Westmoreland County. The article noted that Westmoreland County promotes its inclusion in the Laurel Highlands region, but also needs to extend its branding.

To quote the end of this article,

Amond said it is not that people are leaving but that those of child-rearing age left Western Pennsylvania when the steel industry collapsed in the late 1970s and 1980s, taking with them families or creating families who grew up elsewhere.

“That’s why you have all those (Pittsburgh) Steelers bars all over the country,” Amond said.

Noting that Westmoreland, like other areas, is experiencing “the graying of America,” Smith offered a succinct explanation.

“We’re simply dying faster than we are reproducing,” he said.

The Lost Generation

I belong to the generation that Westmoreland County and Pennsylvania all but lost.  My family lived for generations in Westmoreland County (North Huntingdon Twp) and Pittsburgh. I was born just outside of Harrisburg around the same time that PA steel industry collapsed. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors left PA due to job loss. All of my close buddies from my high school (in the Somerset County part of the Laurel Highlands) left PA after high school graduation.

Then my friends from Saint Vincent College left PA after our college graduation.

AND THEN – Three of my sisters and my sister-in-law left PA for job opportunities.

My parents and my husband’s parents trekked south, to Maryland and Virginia, to visit children and grandchildren.

Honestly, when I first graduated from Saint Vincent College, I desperately wanted to find a full-time job in Latrobe or Greensburg. A job that would allow me pay off my student loans and build my own life close to Saint Vincent’s campus. This didn’t happen.

I now live on the fringe of Westmoreland County – in New Kensington – because my husband’s parents and his grandparents built their lives here. My husband and I are building our own life here. But I work in downtown Pittsburgh because I found a good job there.

I take the bus most days, across the Allegheny River and onto Route 28. I moved to New Kensington in 2006, and in that time my transit options fluctuated.  I don’t like to drive in Pittsburgh, so I depend on public transit in order to make a living and pay taxes.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the article. Westmoreland County does need to brand itself better.

But if Westmoreland County leaders actually want to keep non-retirees in Westmoreland County, they need to improve the job options here and also improve transit options to the existing jobs.  For instance, ever since I visited New Kensington for the very first time in 2004, I have heard tales of a mythical commuter train that would travel from New Kensington, along the Allegheny River, into downtown Pittsburgh. Will I see this legendary commuter train with my own eyes before I retire in a few decades?

I’m tired of traveling for hours to see my family and friends. And so I cheer anything that will keep people happy and employed in Western Pennsylvania.



The Parade

by Jenny 2 February 2018 New Kensington

So tonight I went through the photos that I took in New Kensington in 2017. Most came from the parade on the weekend prior to July 4. This was the 2nd year in a row that New Kensington donned a parade on the holiday weekend. The 2016 parade celebrated our city’s 125th anniversary. The 2016 […]

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Snakes on a Plantation

by Jenny 14 January 2018 History

I listened to a few episodes of The Nod last month. The Nod, by Gimlet Media, is a podcast about Black life hosted by Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings. I highly recommend The Nod‘s 2 part series The Hairstons. This focuses on the life journey of Ever Lee Hairston, who grew up picking cotton as a […]

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“A Season with the Witch”

by Jenny 13 January 2018 History

So, I read this book: “A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts,” by J.W. Ocker. J.W. Ocker lived in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife and two young daughters for the full month of October 2015. The author claims an interest in the occult, which is amusing because the […]

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The War On Christmas. Also, Happy Solstice!

by Jenny 20 December 2017 History

People get outraged over how other people celebrate December.  Centuries ago, people got outraged over how other people celebrated December. Here’s an episode from New England Legends Podcast which explains all this: When Boston Banned Christmas See, back in the 1600’s, the Puritans persecuted non-Puritans (and also other Puritans) over religious beliefs. Sound familiar? I’m […]

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This Year’s Tree Adventure

by Jonathan 10 December 2017 House and Home
Thumbnail image for This Year’s Tree Adventure

This year’s tree adventure was a little… different. We have traditionally cut down our own tree, from the same farm my parents went to when we moved back to this area and started to get a live tree again. This particular farm up by Butler had always been a great place to get a tree. […]

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3 Après-Halloween Folklore Podcasts

by Jenny 10 December 2017 History

Today I read on Facebook that “marriage is just sharing the same germs” or something to that effect. Anyway, I’ve been laid up with a cold since Thursday night. I spent these days sleeping, screwing around on the internet, and listening to podcasts. Now that Halloween is over, it’s harder for me to find “new” […]

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All My Life’s a Circle

by Jenny 9 December 2017 Photography

  This is a photo of my maternal grandfather’s own grandparents. With their children. So, the married couple are my great-great grandparents, and one of the boys is my great-grandfather. This branch of my family was from the South Side of Pittsburgh. In fact, the studio stamp under this photo says: Fallert 1207 Carson ST. […]

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Departure Eve

by Jonathan 5 December 2017 Travel

I just found a short story snippet I wrote in 2013. I was looking for something else (that I didn’t find). I feel like there was supposed to be more, but I didn’t write it. I wish I left myself some notes about the “boring reason” that I didn’t take the boat to St. Ignace […]

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