Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kous Kous is rockin' mo' rockin'!

I popped into Kous Kous Cafe for lunch on Wednesday afternoon and all the tables were filled at 1:30 p.m.  Harira, a creamy soup flecked with lamb, chick peas, lentils and noodles, was my warming starter and I followed it with Eggplant Zaalouk, a delectable melding of eggplant and tomatoes served alongside crispy crackers, glistening olives and a fresh salad whose dressing recipe I must have.

This cozy Moroccan restaurant on Washington Road is a wonderful addition to the Lebo dining scene (and goodness knows high-quality ethnic cuisine is a welcome addition anywhere in the Pittsburgh area).  Owner/chef Abdel Khila is talented, unassuming and oh so nice and the kind of guy we all want to see succeed.  Pay him a visit soon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Energy Solutions

Once again as winter settles in to lovely Lebo I am anticipating those pesky energy bills to start their usual winter ascent through the roof. HOWEVER, this year I decided I would try to do something about it! I decided to have an energy audit done on my cozy Roycroft abode. Constantine Paliouras and his wife Vasso (Lebo folks as well) have a franchise business called Pro Energy Consultants. I heard about their company through some mutual friends at Foster Elementary. Constantine spent the last three hours with me and my husband looking at every crevice of our home to sniff out the energy zappers. It was fascinating and incredibly helpful. The neatest part was probably the infrared camera he used to show all of the coldest spots in the house - and there were a lot of them in our case. The great part is that they are not affiliated with other companies so they are NOT trying to sell anything. He did not come in and say, "well, you need a new furnace, all new windows and better insulation and I can do it all for you for $40,000". On the contrary, he gave us very specific advice about products to buy to help seal duct work, insulate crawl spaces, have better, faster hot water flow, etc. -all stuff we can do ourselves without ever needing to call a handyman. They are all about helping consumers and empowering them to make inexpensive improvements that will vastly improve the overall efficiency of their homes. What's even cooler (pardon the pun) is that Constantine and Vasso try every product in their own 1930's home before recommending it to others. If the product works they recommend it, if it doesn't they don't. Within 24 hours we will get a full written report including detailed advice on how we can make several improvements ourselves after taking a trip to Rollier's, Home Depot, or Lowe's. We are really pumped about finally getting pro-active about energy use in our house. I LOVE that Pro Energy Consultants is based right here in Mt. Lebanon. Vasso and Constantine are just two more examples of the great people who live here and care about their community. I'm so glad to have met them. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet Treat

One of my greatest pleasures in Mt. Lebanon is Uptown Coffee on Washington Road, and it's not even about the coffee.  Owner Elizabeth Boyd has to be the best baker around and her every creation is a revelation:  super-chocolatey brownies (no nuts, yay!), foot-tall cakes, a perfect key lime pie, cinnamon-almond coffee cake (my absolute fave), hot-from-the-oven scones on Saturdays and cookies for the kid in everyone.

My only wish:  that other Lebo cafes (Aldo's? Blue Horse? Coffee Tree?) would buy their baked goods from Elizabeth.  Buying local is the way to go and if you can't beat 'em, folks, by all means join 'em.  Everybody wins!

Construction Contracts Down In Pittsburgh Area

Contracts for future construction projects in the Pittsburgh area were down 42% in November, according to a report in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Year-to-date, the dollar amount of contracts was down 20% from the same period a year ago.  A seven-county area including Allegheny County was surveyed.

If there was ever a favorable climate for bidding out the Mt. Lebanon High School renovation project, it's now.  Let's work to keep this project on track so that maximum savings can be realized for taxpayers.  What can you do?  Write to the School Board and let them know how you feel -- they're at

High School Renovation Takes A Big Step Forward

The findings of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) were reviewed by the Mt. Lebanon School Board last night, with a number of community members weighing in alongside the project architect, who gave a detailed presentation addressing the CAC's main recommendations.  Most citizens agreed that the project should stay on track and that the redesign envisioned by the CAC was not only outside the charge given to the committee by the board but was also undesirable for a number of reasons, chief among them keeping Building C, an issue which the board had already voted down after lengthy deliberation.

The board ultimately voted 8-1 in favor of approving the architect's Design Development (DD) plans and gave them the authorization to proceed with construction drawings.  The lone vote against was cast by board member James Fraasch.  Over the course of the next many weeks, the board has requested that the architects review a number of issues, as well as some suggested by the CAC.  They include:  placement of the loading dock; reworking of Horsman Drive; tennis court options; LEED Silver certification; congestion/pinch points in the commons area; and a more welcoming entrance on Cochran Road.

Still to come are the scheduling of an Act 34 hearing for approval of the plan and the finalization of drawings.  I encourage everyone to either attend our school board meetings or watch them on TV.  The continued engagement of our citizens is what will help get this project to the finish line, an outcome that serves the entire community.