Eating in Connellsville, PA


Ruvos stretches out to the back of the building


entranceRuvos Italian Restaurant

As I recently wrote about, we stayed in Connellsville in southwestern Pennsylvania and used it as our base to visit the many wonderful sights around there—for example, Frank Lloyd Wright houses, the Laurel Highlands, the Flight 93 Memorial.

Connellsville is not very big but is an interesting city on the Youghiogheny River (how do you pronounce that?!), with a couple of good places to eat or stop for a drink or cup of coffee. One is Hutch, which I wrote about before. Another is Ruvos, which serves good food and highlights the strong Italian influence around here (see an earlier post).



Vera G enjoying the dishes


Note all the posters and photos

We could walk to Ruvos from our hotel, so we decided to do that one evening. It offers a large menu, but we discovered is not licensed. However, you can BYOB, so Rod walked back to the hotel and brought a bottle of wine. This is not a big restaurant inside, although there is a large seating area outside, unused that night as it was raining heavily.

The décor is Italian-inspired, with posters—notably of Frank Sinatra in Italy—and photos, many of the owner’s family in Italy. One of the young servers told us he was the owner’s nephew and we heard a little of the Italian history of the family.

So, it came as no surprise that the menu offered all kinds of typical (in our opinion) Italian-style dishes. We chose a number of different ones to share between the three of us, as that way we could get a taste of more. Good plan.


foodThe food was pretty good, the service excellent and the ambience very nice. If we are ever in Connellsville again we would definitely return.


Butterfly Wall




With my granddaughter

Columbia, MO: Butterflies

We love butterflies and all that that stand for and symbolize. So, it’s a treat to visit the Sasha Butterfly House in St Louis, which we did a couple of weekends ago (I’ll post that in the St Louis blog soon).

So, on the theme of butterflies: Recently we spent a day in Columbia MO, visiting our grandson who is a law student there. After a nice sushi lunch we all wanted coffee, so he took us to one of his favorite coffee shops called Shortwave Coffee, at 915 Alley A. It’s in an alley that leads off Ninth Street (one of the main shopping/eating streets in Columbia). The alley also has Speckled Frog Toys and Books.


Nath M


Our little granddaughter photographed these words

signAlong the wall of the alley we were delighted to find a mural of large colorful butterflies. As the sign tells us, they are called “Kindness Butterflies” (2019) and they are pretty new. Above one of the big butterflies are the words, “kindness changes everything”. What a lovely sentiment. The lead artist is Madeleine Le Mieux; assistant artists are Aveen Gadban and Ember Piersee.

Because I love murals and public art, I of course stopped to take photos. What was so


Our granddaughter took this sign too…

lovely on this day was that my little 3-and-a-half-year-old grand-daughter asked me for my phone and also took photos of the murals and of the signs! And then of the Speckled Frog! She has copied us before with taking photos, and this spontaneous picture-taking was delightful. Maybe we’ll have another budding photographer/writer!


…and the frog!



The first wall of murals we see


We have tea at our hotel, overlooking the Youghiogheny River

Connellsville, Italian Influence, and Murals

As I just wrote about, we stayed in Connellsville in southwestern Pennsylvania and used it as our base to visit the many wonderful sights around there—for example, Frank Lloyd Wright houses, the Laurel Highlands, the Flight 93 Memorial.

Connellsville is not very big but is an interesting city about 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the Youghiogheny River (how do you pronounce that?!), a tributary of the Monongahela River. As we walked around we noticed some huge, lovely murals, notably on the Italian Independent Social Club Building, so we wondered what the story of these was.


The river through our hotel window

Connellsville was founded as a township in 1793 and as a borough in 1806 by Zachariah Connell, a militia captain during the American revolution. It was in the mining and steel working area of the state and has had 5 railroads at various times, and still seems to have a busy railroad yard.


During our stay, many many trains passed by on the busy railway line


We walk around the building—the mural goes from the worker to a large group of Italians



And then wraps round to a Connellsville station scene

Between 1880 and 1930 a flood of immigrants from Italy and other European countries arrived in Connellsville and vicinity, mainly to work in the coal, coke, steel and locomotive industries. Many of the Italian immigrants settled in the area that is now Connellsville and their Italian-American descendants continued to do so, which is why the area became known as “Little Italy”. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the neighborhood has a patron saint, Saint Rita of Cascia. Apparently the Italian influence continues to be strong here (as we saw in Ruvos Restaurant, which I’ll highlight in the next post).



Amazingly realistic!

These are stunning murals that wrap around three sides of the building really tell a story, both of the Italians and of their lives, and the passenger train station.


Visiting Hiroshima in Japan


A-Bomb Dome


Peace Memorial Park


Strings of paper cranes at the Students’ Memorial 

I’ve just posted an article about Hiroshima on another blog I do, called Our Visits to Japan. I believe that this is such an important place in the world, especial today with all the political turmoil. So, I’m posting the link here, as I’d love for more people to see this.

Please do take a look through it. https://ourvisitstojapan.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/visiting-hiroshima/



Rod inside Hutch’s

signdoorWe were recently visiting southwest Pennsylvania, mainly to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water and his other houses in the area. We decided to stay in Connellsville, as it seemed to be fairly central to the places we wanted to visit, and that was the case. Connellsville is southeast of Pittsburgh (where we flew to), so it wasn’t too difficult to navigate the rental car to the town. We stayed at the Cobblestone Inn and Suites, right on the Youghiogheny River (an unpronoucable name!), and our room overlooked the river, which was great.

A number of places to eat are listed in the local brochure from the Visitors’ Center, but this one was recommended by a local woman who served us in the Liquor Store. She raved about it, and the French onion soup and steaks in particular, and the other server agreed, so we decided to try.


French onion soup



Part of the collection

Hutch’s Tap Room and Supper Club looks fairly unassuming from the outside, but is totally different inside. There is a large bar area to the left as you go in, and table seating to the right. Lighting is not very bright, but what immediately catches your eye is the eclectic collection of “things” all around the sides of the large room and on the walls. It’s a really motley collection, with old family photos, posters of Superman, busts and lamps of Elvis, Halloween stuff, lighted beer ads, …you name it! It was fun to roam around looking, wondering who collected it all and whether they had some kind of theme in mind.




Veronita enjoys the French onion soup

But, besides the interesting collection, the ambience was very pleasant: pretty crowded, but friendly people, all chatting. Our waitress was sweet and helpful, explaining the menu and some of the old photographs when she realized that we were new to town.

The food was also pretty good, the French onion soup indeed outstanding—one of the best we’ve ever had! We’d happily return.


Tall-grass Prairie in Town



IMG_8614Our town, Urbana, has a number of places where we can see swathes of re-created tall-grass prairie. One is at Meadowbrook Park, which I’ve written about before (see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2004/07/30/meadowbrook-park/ ), another is along part of the railway line, and another is along Florida Ave next to the house of the President of the University of Illinois. They are gorgeous, especially in summer and fall, when the plants are tall and beautiful with swathes of bright mostly purple and yellow flowers.

IMG_8615Why is this important? One of the nicknames for Illinois is the Prairie State (of course, another is Land of Lincoln). Prairie grassland was once the dominant ecosystem in Illinois, but prairie is largely forgotten and almost non-existent in our agricultural and urbanized landscape. About 60% of Illinois (approximately 22 million acres) was once prairie. Now, only about 2,500 acres remain. The rest became corn and soybean fields, pastures and hayfields, mostly in the period between 1820-1840, as more and more settlement of prairie areas in Illinois took place.

Various conservation groups want to continue to pay homage to the prairie and we are IMG_8609very happy that our town is part of that, so that people can still imagine what the state might have once looked like. There are other benefits to re-planting the prairie vegetation, such as increasing habitats for insects and wildlife.

Here are a few photos from the plot close to the president’s house.



Matthias Church, Budapest


The Mosque, Paris


St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), Vienna

Houses of Worship

As I wrote about before in my Eastern Europe blog, I am not a particularly religious person, but wherever we travel we make an effort to visit places of worship. We’re drawn to holy/religious/sacred buildings, regardless of which religion, not because of faith but because of the faith of those who built them—people who were so willing to give their time, efforts, and money to build these beautiful places, places that should be the most beautiful possible. What also draws us to them is their history and sense of sacredness, as well as their photographic charm. From a small white-steepled church in New Hampshire, to the grandeur of a Gothic cathedral in Europe, to a mosque in Bosnia, to a Buddhist temple in Korea these spiritual gathering places are wonderful sights to visit.


Church in Dublin, New Hampshire


Shinto Shrine, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan


Cathedral, Merida, Mexico


Buddhist Temple, Seoul,  Korea

Interiors often overflow with detail and color, and are rife with ornamentation, although some are dark and plain. Photography is usually permitted, but often with no flash, but it’s easy enough to steady the camera on the back of a pew or against a column.

Over the years, and in many cities around the world we’ve visited many of these spiritual places. In months to come I will spotlight some of them. For now, here is a small selection of some of the many beautiful or interesting that we’ve visited in various places.




Notre Dame, Paris (before the fire)


Inside Stephansdom, Vienna


One of the many mosques in Mostar, Bosnia




art. popular since 10,000 BC


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