As happens, what I planned to post today lost relevance in lieu of another senseless tragedy. The Tree of Life Synagogue Shootings have taken away our collection breath.

Squirrel Hill is my favorite part of living in Pittsburgh. I came to this area after ten years in Montana people from everywhere. Before that, I enjoyed the diversity of life in Southern California. I have always felt most at home in Squirrel Hill.

The funerals began on Tuesday. Began. Funerals will continue throughout the week. Family members and friends need to celebrate the lives of those important to them. We need to pray for their community to heal in the wake of such a great loss.

My heart grieves for the families here. Our country battles a long road to fighting for understanding and comprehension at having to grieve through unnecessary losses.

There is a crises in America—a country I love. The crises is not as simple as gun ownership. The crises includes unaddressed mental illnesses, of hate incited by leaders who should be bringing us together, not using words that separate us, and of unevenly applied rules for purchasing weapons.

This is Beyond Religion

Readers, friends, family— I am a Christian. Christ taught many lessons that I wish I could live up to daily. Among the largest is forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult to give when prejudice is the sole reason lives end.

In honor of those lost on the 27th, be kind during this month of our Thanksgiving. Reach out to others and express joy in the traits that differentiate us, coming together rather than being separate.

The City of Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill is a diverse and inviting part of the city of Pittsburgh and one we like to spend time visiting. 

When we want a dose of small town community, we desert our neck of the woods and head east to stroll the broad sidewalks of this hunk of the city.

I set Cold Cases of Pittsburgh, my mystery series, in a 100-year-old  Victorian on a fictitious Squirrel Hill street. The home is based on a real, poorly kept house we debated purchasing.

With both Frick and Schenley Parks nearby, after a long hike we often end up in Squirrel Hill seeking food. The biggest problem is deciding which cuisine we’re in the mood for. The selections range from coffee house treats to Thai, Italian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Jewish, American … you get the idea, right? For dessert, there are multiple chocolate shops to choose from, including a French patisserie, so make sure you save a little room.

Squirrel Hill has the widest sidewalks in town—it’s a place meant for ambling and people watching, for stopping to talk or stand still while you eat a summer ice cream cone. The Carnegie Library here is quite large and the Jewish Community Center offers programs for everyone—of any denomination.

The Stores of Squirrel Hill

Little's Shoe Store in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania

Little’s Shoes is a remarkable store. You’re greeted as you enter—not pounced upon—with a friendly hello and direct friendliness. Eventually someone else will ask what you’re hoping to find, but never do you feel pressured or pushed to try on or buy anything.

Little’s Shoes staff know about the individual shoes and the brands of each. Do they run true to size, what’s the best use of, and do they take any breaking in or are they plug and play for your feet? I love being a member of REI for all their outdoor gear and good business practices, but when I need new shoes, it’s to Little’s that I go first.

Ten Thousand Villages offering an eclectic and unique selection of gifts for friends or yourself—fair trade.

Popping into Silky’s Bar my first time, Jay, the bartender reached out a hand to Alex and said, Long time, my man? They hadn’t seen each other since Alex’s college days when I gather he spent a bit of time in the place. When we make our twice annual stop, Jay pours Alex a regular Guinness and me a half. He really does remember your name (and face, and drink).

Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill is home to the original Mineo’s Pizza—we’ve got a sister shop in our area. Cash only, folks, so make sure you come prepared. It’s classic red-sauce pizza and every so often we have to indulge in delivery.

This same, somewhat steep street, still boasts an abundance of locally owned shops from bookstores to yarn shops to both Christian and Jewish bookstores. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you’ll be able to find something here.

I’d Like to Move to Squirrel Hill

I am a country girl and a small town girl who finds living in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood difficult. I like to know people on deeper-than-surface levels and feel lost by the lack of individuals I know well where I live. We have some neighbors we chat with, a few we hang out with, and a whole bunch whose dogs we call by name, but whose owners we don’t. It’s how the suburbs seem to work.

Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Forbes

I’d move to Squirrel Hill in a minute—as I repeatedly tell my husband. I’m captivated by the small town sense of being that the place emits. I’d think I’m bugging him, but guess how many times I catch him hunting the real estate sites for that area?

Spending a day in Squirrel Hill makes me more aware of community and an easy mingling of multiple ethic backgrounds and religions. I like mixing people together, getting along because that’s the way it’s always worked. With just over 25,000 residents, it’s the largest neighborhood within Pittsburgh’s city limits, and that’s about the perfect size for a city I want to live in.

The descriptive name supposedly comes from the first folks to reside here, Native Americans. The squirrel population was such a large one that they dubbed the hill with that moniker. With the number of red, fox, and gray squirrels inhabiting our yard, perhaps I shall name it SHS — squirrel hill south. Why not? I always wanted a name for our property like they bestow on Welsh cottages.

Nearby Parks

Frick and Schenley Parks were donated by wealthy landowners and added to over the decades. Schenley Park has the honor of being the site for summer’s Vintage Grand Prix—both a car show on the largest scale and a street race. The park’s winding roads are closed. Vintage cars go speeding along with great pizzaz and enthusiasm. It’s fantastic fun and proceeds benefit two local charities.

If you know Pittsburgh at all, one of the best parts of living in Squirrel Hill—for a person with family east of the city—is not having to drive through the infamous, notorious, wretchedly clogged-for-no-reason, Squirrel Hill Tunnel on the parkway. In many years of living here, I’ve never deduced why people slow to a crawl going through this tunnel! It’s a total mystery to everyone. 

Who does it first? There are no lights on either end of this tunnel and the highway is as good as any in Pittsburgh. If you’re reading this and you’re that decelerating person? STOP IT. No, speed up—yes, that’s what I really mean. Get your butt in gear and keep going. It’s exhausting to take forty-five minutes to get through a small wedge of mountain.

So, when are you planning to explore Squirrel Hill and get a bit of that small town vibe from a truly distinctive part of Pittsburgh?

*Read, About Pittsburgh