Thursday, November 15, 2012

CULTURE: 10 Things To Do During the Holidays in Pittsburgh

The holidays are in full effect, so don't let the cold weather get you down!  There are tons of festive, fun and affordable things to do for the holidays in Pittsburgh.  Bundle up, grad your buddies, your significant other or the kids, and explore the city during the holidays.  Here are ten awesome ways to enjoy the holidays in Pittsburgh!  Hope yours is wonderful!!

PPG Plaza ( Post Gazette)

The official kickoff to the holiday season starts this weekend on Friday, November 16th, with the 52th Annual Light Up Night.  The entire downtown area dazzles in lights as the city celebrates the holidays with the lighting of the PPG Plaza tree and other areas downtown, followed by performances by locals artists on three different stages, and of course a spectacular firework show.  This two-day showcase is free and open to the public and holds as one of the largest events in Pittsburgh.  Click here for more details. 

Pittsburgh Seasonal Parade ( Post Gazette) 
It's not the holidays without a parade full of beautiful floats and performers. As a continuation of the Downtown Pittsburgh Light Up Night weekend, the festivities continue with First Holiday Saturday on November 17thBottom Dollar Foods' Sounds of the Season parade presents marching bands, horse-drawn carriages and plenty of entertainment.  More details and parade map here.


Small Business Saturday and Holiday Shop +Rock
Support local business in Shadyside on November 24th for Small Business Saturday - a national event sponsored by American Express to help promote small businesses during the notorious "Black Friday" weekend.  70 + small businesses on Walnut, Ellsworth and South Highland, will have treats, refreshments and tons of deals throughout the day.  Also check out Holiday Shop + Rock on Walnut St. November 30th, for the official Walnut St. light up night and block party featuring Donora and Radio Tokyo, followed by a Shadyside fashion show.  Find out more info about these events here.

People's Gas Holiday Market (
From November 24 - December 23, the People's Gas Holiday Market is a traditional German-style market inspired by the Christkindlemarkt of 1545 in Nuremberg, that turns Market Square into an illuminated village of wooden chalets full of vendors selling authentic gift items from around the world.  A variety of performers, dance groups, choirs and carolers  keep the festive feeling alive throughout the day. Not mention frequent visits from Mr. Clause himself.  Grab a cup of hot cocoa and get lost in this Christmas village.  Find out more information here

Sharron Needles (Photo by: Jeremy Kost

Break away from the usual boring holiday shindigs and come party like a superstar as local celeb and RuPaul's Drag Race winner Sharron Needles finds out who's naughty or nice on December 1st at the Naughty or Nice Holiday  Bash. Mix and mingle with your friends and be sure to check out the special exhibition Jeremy Kost: Friends with Benefits.  For tickets and more info click here

The Holiday Promenade on Walnut
Immerse yourself in Pittsburgh's art scene as Continuum Dance Theater and Evolve Productions  presents The Holiday Promenade - a collaboration of dance, fashion food and art all in one.  On December 2, at Nadia Salon, sashion and dance blend as local designers showcase their latest wears inspired by Continuum Dance Theater's recently debuted performance work THE MOVEMENT. Stick around for the Chinese auction featuring tons of amazing goodies and enjoy delicious homemade treats at the bake sale and order your holiday goodies!  There's a little something for everyone!  For tickets and more info click HERE

Find all your holiday gifts at the I Made It! Market in Bakery Square December 8th, which features tons of local vendors specializing in gifts, ornaments, holiday cards and more! Santa makes a pit stop here too so bring the kids!  Plus a beer garden by Tapped!  Click here for more info.

Looking for a cool date n'at? Check out City Theater's South Side Stories by Tami Dixon.  From now until December 16th, this one woman show of monolouges portrays the life of the neighborhood through stories of mischief, the steel mills and local hauntings.  Get ready to hear some stories about the 'Burgh!  Click here for tickets and more info.  

PPG Ice Skating Rink (livejournal
What are the holidays in the city without ice skating in the heart of downtown?  The rink surrounds the 60 ft PPG Christmas tree and is surrounded by the beautiful glass PPG building creating a gorgeous spectacle.  Skate rentals are available as well as a concession stand for snacks and warm drinks. Bring the kids, your friends or a date, no matter what, this always is a fun time! For information on hours, admission prices and special events click here.  

First Night Puppet Parade (trustarts

Ring in the New Year at Highmark's First Night in Downtown.  It's a celebration of Pittsburgh's culture and arts.  Downtown becomes alive with live performances, the traditional puppet parade, and of the countdown into the new year!  This event is free and open to the public!  Click here for more information.  

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Are cardio workouts or weight training more effective for losing fat

Reading or watching TV while you workout is a joke! 

Seriously, if you can read or watch TV while doing any exercise, you're not concentrating enough on what you're doing, plus you're probably not working out hard enough to see any real results.

I challenge you to give the "traditional cardio" a rest for a month or two, and start training the way I explain in my internationally-selling Truth about Six pack Abs Program, and see how you start getting leaner, more defined, and your six pack starting to show through what used to be stubborn stomach fat deposits.

If you're interested in more reading about the topic of cardio training and better alternatives, here's an interesting cardio article I wrote previously. Click Here!
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

STYLE: The "Wow" Factor: An Interview with Jewelry Designer Ceasar Azzam of Ceasar's Designs

The biggest ring I've EVER worn from the Gelato Collection

"It's all about the 'wow' here," says jewelry designer and owner Ceasar Azzam of Ceasar's Designs.  His store on Walnut Street in Shadyside is a welcoming, boutique-like emporium of sparkling treasures.  There, you are greeted by Ceasar himself who offers his sound and honest opinion for a very personalized and unique experience.  As much as you would think a place like this is a hot-spot for newly engaged couples, Ceasar says he likes to focus more on those who treat themselves.  "Most jewelry stores depend on engagement rings as their most important category of business where as I depend on self purchases -women buying for themselves.  And that's reflected in everything I make, so I'm not going after the man buying her jewelry, it's more about treating yourself.  Whether they have a significant other or not - that's not the point.  I focus on the right hand if it's a ring - so I'd say the right hand is yours, do whatever you want with it!" 

Ceasar is also known for his signature butter ring- which is a very special design made for comfort and wearability.  The butter ring is used as a base for many of the rings, giving them a signature "Ceasar style." Recently Ceasar won honorable mention in the evening wear category in the 2013 AGTA Spectrum Awards for a breathtaking variation of the butter ring.  Here he tells us a little more about what he does and more details on his beautiful creations!  

Ceasar's Designs 

ThePGHLook: Tell us a little bit about your background.  How did you become a jeweler? 

Ceasar Azzam: I was born in a jewelry family, my dad learned the trade from his uncles and I helped my dad growing up.  And I went to school for economics, worked for a bank, and then went back to jewelry by attending the Gemological Institute of America - GIA - that's a world renowned jewelry school.  So I studied  gemology which involves the identification and grading of diamonds and colored stones.  That was in 1989, in Santa Monica, the school has moved since then to Carlsbad, north of San Diego.  I worked for a couple jewelry companies in Los Angeles before starting a small store north of Los Angeles with a partner who used to be the jeweler for the company I worked for so we became business partners.  So, that was going good until I came to Pittsburgh in 1997, and I've been in Pittsburgh since, I love what I do and I enjoy being in Shadyside.

Ceasar Azzam

ThePGHLook: You are known for your extraordinary designs and redesign work.  How do you come about creating your work? Do the clients have a lot of input in that or do you come up with the designs by yourself and if so, where do you feel you draw your inspiration from? 

Ceasar Azzam: It depends on the project, if it's something that I'm working with a particular client on, then it's definitely a collaboration that's totally welcome and the most important part of that process is listening and have them talk it out so-to-speak, figuring out what they like or more importantly what they don't like. So you kind of navigate your way into getting an idea that will totally work for them and then start it from there and then follow up in different steps of the process like sketching something, perhaps having it done in wax which they would see, approve, modify, and then the final product - the metal of choice, the gem or no gems, however it works out.  As far as the pieces that I make, I love gems! Many times the stones are the first things that kind of initiate that process, more so than claiming that some "sunrise" or something like that was the inspiration.  It starts with the gems and there's so much to start from in that there are so many varieties and colors - I love colors.  My job becomes creating a piece of jewelry that carries that gem and makes it wearable on the client's body comfortably.  I like my pieces to be present, so they're not shy!  Recently I've been using the expression "it's all about 'wow'!"  There has to be a "wow" in there, if it doesn't have the "wow" then it could be boring.  So I specialize in "wow!"  

Citrine in PANTONE color Tangerine Tango and Pink Tourmaline 

ThePGHLook: You're also well known for your "butter ring," you have ads that say "What on Earth is a Butter Ring," so here we go - What on Earth is a Butter Ring? 

Ceasar Azzam: The Butter Ring is my signature piece that I've been making for a number of years.  Recently we got the official trademark paperwork on it for the name.  It's a very smooth ring that - it started as a joke using butter because somebody said "Oh, it's like butter," and I said "Yeah it's the butter ring!"  It's very well balanced, the top and the bottom, when it's on the finger it doesn't spin, and I would love to show you one... 

ThePGHLook:  I'd love to see one!!

Iolite Butter Ring

Ceasar Azzam: This is an iolite - which is an indigo blue shade- it's not very well known.  I make my pieces in a number of gems and this is one of the less common ones.  

ThePGHLook:  It's like weightless and it..

Ceasar Azzam: Doesn't wobble?

ThePGHLook:  Yeah! Like I'm spinning my hand and shaking it, and it's not moving!  

Ceasar Azzam: And it's a big gem - it's not tiny so that's where the balance between the top part and the bottom part comes in.  And it has a certain feel that is perhaps nostalgic - maybe like a grandmother's engagement ring - it's just a simple setting that's no frills basically but that's the point, that's the while point behind it!  

ThePGHLook: So while we're on this topic, you recently won a very special award in something you said was like "the Oscars of Jewelry Makers,"- the 2013 AGTA Spectrum Awards.  Tell us about your piece. 

Ceasar Azzam: That means the American Gem Trade Association.  The piece - well I had acquired some bright green tsavorite garnet - it's a color of green that is very unique to garnets of this shape, it's a very rich green, and I didn't do anything with them until I came up with a modified butter ring that I started to call the "sprout ring" - it's like sprouts coming out of the ring. [shows me a base for the sprout ring] In the winning design, I added two more levels to it, the top is just over two-karats of bright bubblegum pink tourmaline from Brazil and then a rim of pearls around it.  

2013 AGTA Spectrum Award Winning "Printemps" Design

Ceasar Azzam: So the base is exactly this [the sprout ring base] without the middle one so now it only has five stones instead of six and then I put another level on top of another two levels, and I made it in rose gold, 18-karat rose gold.  So we got the honorable mention in the "evening wear" category.  They have a number of categories like bridal, men's, evening wear, day wear, and my pieces I usually enter- and I've been entering this competition for a couple of years now - are usually evening wear because they are like statement pieces more so than toned-down pieces that are day wear. Actually, I encourage my clients to wear their's all the time, most of my pieces are everyday and night wear because they can take the beating.  

ThePGHLook:  And the ring is called "Printemps?"

Ceasar Azzam: It's "Pra-ton!" It's French and I have to credit my neighbor downstairs Graciana from Gardell Designs for kinda suggesting the name.

ThePGHLook: What does it mean?

Ceasar Azzam: Primtemps means "spring" in French.  

ThePGHLook:  Oh ok that makes sense!  So, what is your favorite piece that you've ever created?

Ceasar Azzam: I think the butter ring is my favorite and variations of it.  I do many variations, the idea is the wearability and the uniqueness of it.  

ThePGHLook: Do you have any new pieces or collections coming out anytime soon?

Ceasar Azzam: I have a number of pieces using colored sapphires, mixed colored sapphires coming up.  Cuffs, pendants, and rings with mixed colored sapphires, and some bangle bracelets as well.  The bangles are on display, others are still in the works, so that's something new.  

A preview of mixed colored sapphires 

ThePGHLook: For the last question: what kind of things do you see trending or would like to see trending within the next year as far as jewelry goes? 

Ceasar Azzam: Color is still very strong, mixed colors as well as something I like to focus on which is unexpected mixtures of colors, which is not something you usually see in jewelry because most of the time people think about jewelry as something that's going to be timeless.  But then again, with trends and color trends especially changing, there's so many variety of gems that people don't think of when they think of jewelry, and especially when combinations of colors that are not your typical or traditional mix of colors that you would associate with jewelry.  But I love doing that, as a matter of fact I have several pieces coming up with combinations of colors for the holiday season but that is something that I'm going to continue throughout next year and we follow the color palates that are published for the fashion industry, and try to work to coordinate with that as much as possible.  

Wow indeed! 

Check out Ceasar's Designs:

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