Blogger Roll Call

Bob BatzMelissa BenderEmily ChiodoJennifer CurranLizzie DillerJo FrangouMaria FruscelloAbigail GaryAimee GirodLisa A. GoldsteinMark Griskey • Beverley GrayCathy KaplanThespine Kavoulakis • Maura LinehanMia McPhersonNichola MorettiCarolyn NewkirkRob PapkeJennifer Papale RignaniMarina SiegertNancy SmithCliff TuttleShannon Venditti • Al VrabelDiane VrabelYvette Yescas


Bob Batz Jr.


Bob Batz Jr. is writer and editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and, where he likes to write about craft beer among many other topics. He’s active in the Association of Food Journalists, which he now serves as vice president. He’s a regular at both Mt. Lebanon farmers markets, but considers the Mt. Lebanon Lions market to be “his” and rarely misses a Wednesday. He and his wife and son live in Sunset Hills in a Spanish-style stucco house he bought in 1994. One of their hobbies is growing organic fruit, vegetables and flowers for the neighborhood deer. Return to top


Melissa Bender

Melissa Bender is the founder of, a free online health and fitness resource used by people all over the world. Melissa is also an Occupational Therapist, and Adjunct Instructor at Penn State Beaver, teaching Kinesiology courses in Yoga and Jogging. Melissa moved to Mt. Lebanon at the ripe old age of 11, and graduated from Mt. Lebanon Senior High School in 2001.

Although she originally hails from New York, Melissa is a Pittsburgh-er at heart. She has a BA from Point Park University in Psychology, with a minor in English, and a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Chatham University.

Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband, Jesse, and son, Maverick. As a family, they can often be found running races throughout the Pittsburgh area. Maverick gets to ride in the stroller on race day, and takes turns being pushed by Mom or Dad. Melissa is passionate about reading, writing, and anything health/fitness related.
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Emily Chiodo

EmIly_Chiodo2_websizeEmily Chiodo is a Lebo native and Carnegie Mellon grad who moved away for a few years and, not surprisingly, returned to the area.  Now she makes a valiant effort to delight in all that this city and its wonderful neighborhoods have to offer.  A copywriter by trade, Emily has worked for local architecture and engineering firms, as well as Carnegie Science Center and The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.  She also has blogged for the Cultural Trust and the Three Rivers Arts Festival.  Between all the writing, Emily can usually be found talking up a storm.
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Jennifer Curran

Jennifer is a CPA currently staying home with her two children, Joseph and Nora.  She and her husband met in college at the University of Notre Dame and currently reside near Beverly Road.  Jennifer enjoys traveling, cooking, knitting, and restoring their 90-year-old home.
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Lizzie Diller

Lizzie is a former practicing attorney turned stay-at-home mom. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University School of Law, she would rather live in Pittsburgh than anywhere else. Lizzie met her husband, Derick, online. After dating for about a year, they got married, bought a house, moved, had a baby, and Lizzie stopped practicing law, all in the same year. They even managed to squeeze in their baby’s baptism. It was a hectic time. Her goals are to read to him and take him for a walk every day. She also spends embarrassing amounts of time shopping online for comfy mom clothes and trying to find people to hold her baby so she can swim laps and bake cookies (which cancel each other out calorie-wise).
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Jo Frangou

Born and raised in the heart of Athens, Greece, Jo is a recent transplant to Mount Lebanon. She holds a BA in Psychology and Philosophy from the American College of Greece, an MSc in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and a PhD in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, University of London. After completing a thesis about Greek and US soap operas, she decided she’d rather be making television than teaching about it. She went on to develop dozens of series for Greek television, but also created and wrote her own – most notably the popular Greek version of Ugly Betty.

Jo is excited to be starting a new chapter in her life and enjoys exploring her new hometown. She is an insatiable culture vulture and loves the Pittsburgh cultural institutions: from the PSO and Broadway at the Benedum, to Mr. Smalls and the Row House Cinema. She enjoys cooking and tasting fine foods and wines with her baker husband Devin, and reading and creating stories with her son Elliot. She can speak four languages and wants to learn how to play the banjo! Return to top


Ria Fruscello

Ria Fruscello, better known as Motivational Mom in the world of blogging, grew up in the small, college town of Indiana, PA. Maria FruscelloShe moved to the South Hills of Pittsburgh after college and is currently a Stay at Home Mom to three kids. Ria is happily married to her wonderful husband, Nick.

In April 2008, Maria decided to make some life changes and in one year, went from being a couch potato to a marathon runner. That decision was, by far, the best decision she ever made and now she feels compelled to share her knowledge with others.

When she isn’t running, Maria can be found reading, spending time with her family, or volunteering throughout Mt. Lebanon with the Women’s Club of Mt. Lebanon.
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Abigail Gary

Abigail grew up in Mt. Lebanon, went away to college, and lived for decades in the New York area, where she raised three sons and three greyhounds and wrote copy for major ad agencies. She and her husband recently retired to Mt. Lebanon, where she appreciates the low housing prices, restaurant scene and lack of traffic. She’s still getting used to the Pittsburgh accent, however.

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Aimee Girod

Aimee and her husband, Jack, have lived in Mt Lebanon for the past 11 years. She is a nurse with more than 20 years experience in healthcare. She has her diploma in nursing from Washington Hospital School of Nursing, her bachelor’s in Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and her master’s in Nursing and Business from Case Western University in Cleveland.

She loved hands-on nursing but after her four children were born she went to the classroom and was an instructor for Waynesburg University in both their nursing and business administration programs.
Her passion for helping others took her back to health care but this time in the private sector where she received a certificate in Plant-based nutrition from Cornell University and is a consultant and blogger (meatlessmentor blog) in the Pittsburgh area helping families transition to a healthier lifestyle. She is also a certified spin instructor and teaches spin and fitness classes locally.

Aimee is active in the Mt Lebanon community and has served as President of St Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School and the Lincoln Elementary PTA. She coaches for the Mt. Lebanon Basketball Association and has also volunteered as a coach for soccer and basketball for the Recreation Department.

She is passionate about health and fitness and enjoys sharing her family’s success with other families.

In her free time (yes there is still some) she enjoys the outdoors with her four children who are all under the age of 11, husband Jack, their dog Charlie and cat Figaro.
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Lisa A. Goldstein

Lisa A. Goldstein may have grown up in Buffalo, NY, but hasn’t lived there since college, so snow jokes no longer apply. After college in upstate NY, she followed her now-husband Aaron Steinfeld — also a Buffalonian — to Ann Arbor, MI, where he was working on his Ph.D. Then it was his turn to follow her to Berkeley, CA, where she got her Master’s in Journalism.

Lisa Goldstein

When they were ready to start a family a few years later, they wanted to move back east to be closer to family and friends. When Aaron got a job at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, they moved to Squirrel Hill in 2001. They’ve been residents of Mt. Lebanon since December 2005 when they bought their first home. They have a son at Lincoln Elementary, a daughter at Jefferson Middle, and a cat who secretly plots their demise.

In addition to being a freelance journalist who specializes in writing about disabilities, parenting, technology, and health, Lisa volunteers for the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Advanced Bionics, Reading is Fundamental, and is a trustee on the Temple Emanuel board. She is also a voracious reader who loves TV, movies, games, travel, going out to eat, and avoiding snow whenever possible.
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Beverly Gray

Beverly Gray is a transplant to Pittsburgh, born and raised in Pittsburgh’s sister steel city, Bethlehem.  After meeting her husband, a Mt. Lebanon grad, she established her roots here, raising two boys and unofficially adopting another, in a house above the high school football field. A graduate of WVU and University of Pittsburgh, she worked as a training and development consultant before making the decision to stay home to raise a family. She now works for the school district and is a certified yoga instructor for the Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh, teaching classes, workshops, and private lessons as time permits. She is passionate about the healing power of yoga and meditation through the practice of self-awareness and shares this through her writing. Her loves are her family, yoga and meditation (both a must for living above a football field), reading and pretending to be a good cook.

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Cathy Kaplan

Cathy Kaplan grew up in Upper St. Clair and eventually made her way over to Mt. Lebanon, where she now resides. She graduated from Duquesne University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Communications. She works as a project manager, and also has spent time on the Steering Committee for Foundation Fighting Blindness Vision Walk.

Cathy squeezes in as much writing as she can at night. She lives with her husband, daughter, a dog and three cats … and of course, fish. When not writing or working, Cathy and her family spend the weekends hiking, camping and being outside. They do anything they can with their dog, Nukka.

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Mark_GriskeyMark Griskey

Originally from Western PA, Mark graduated from the University of Maryland in 1993.  He lived in Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon before relocating to Mt. Lebanon in 2004.Telecommuting from his home office, he is the Director of Systems Architecture for the publishing arm of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. He is an open source software advocate who loves to grow heirloom tomatoes and peppers, take infrared photographs and travel independently.  Summer weekend evenings will find him sitting on his deck with a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris while tending to his hand built smoker.
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Thespine KavoulakisThespine Kavoulakis

A nearly life-long resident of Mt. Lebanon, Thespine Kavoulakis moved to a new home in La Jolla, California last year when her husband became Chancellor of UC San Diego. Thespine spends the school year in California with two of her three children, but commutes back to Pittsburgh with them during school breaks and summer vacation to catch up with her friends, family and older child, whose job it is to ship regular supplies of Mineo’s pizza, chipped ham, and Utz pretzels to California.Along with raising three children, Thespine has spent the last 25 years as a freelance writer, both in corporate and business communications as well as magazines. In her dreams, she would like to be organized and have a clean car, but at the moment she is distracted with a variety of endeavors that mostly focus on what each of us can do to make this world a better place for everybody.
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Maura Linehan
Maura is a native of Mt. Lebanon and a graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in Psychology. Outside her coursework, Maura has had a long interest in journalism and has been a student journalist at both Mt. Lebanon High School and RMU. Her journalism has been recognized by organizations that include the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, the Pennsylvania News Media Association, and the Society of Collegiate Journalists. Since graduating, Maura has returned to her home town and started her career with UPMC Asbury Heights.
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Mia McPherson

Mia McPherson is the Editor-in-Chief of by Oracle, a news site for customer experience professionals, and the Essence Best-Selling co-author of How to Succeed in the Publishing Game. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and an MBA from Ohio State.Mia was born and raised in Pittsburgh and recently returned to the Burgh as a proud resident of Cedarhurst. Mia is passionate about community involvement, organizational leadership, and the empowerment of women in technology. In her spare time, you can find Mia weed whacking or watching Netflix with her husband and cat.


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Nichola Moretti
nicholamorettiwebsizeNichola Moretti is an adjunct instructor of composition and journalism at Robert Morris University and the Community College of Allegheny County’s North Campus.  Among other roles, she has worked as a photographer, writer, editor, (and now blogger) embracing each assignment as an extension of her creativity. In 2005, she moved with her two boys, their dad and a beagle to Mt. Lebanon. All four Morettis now consider the community their home.
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Carolyn Newkirkcarolynsized

Carolyn Newkirk, an avid runner, is married to Mark, a reluctant runner (his words). They have two children and a dog named Piper.  Carolyn and Mark moved to Mt. Lebanon in 2000, because it was the ideal place to raise a family.In 2010, Carolyn intended to only run one full marathon and check it off her bucket list… 20 marathons later and counting, she has changed her goal to run a full marathon on every continent.When she is not running, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, paddling, indoor rowing, reading, hiking, and dining at restaurants fit for foodies. In addition, she raises awareness and money for ovarian cancer through fundraising and running the Pittsburgh Marathon. She is passionate about nutrition, fitness and creating a healthy balance of work, family and adventures.
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Rob Papke

Rob moved to Mt. Lebanon from Denver in 1995.  Prior to becoming a stay-at-home parent for the past 17 years, he spent 20 years in the restaurant industry. When his children started high school, the volunteer work within the PTA began to wane, so he decided to re-enter the work force and he took a job in the fashion world.Rob_Papke_websizeDuring his time in the restaurant industry he developed a love for cooking, especially with fresh seasonal ingredients and knowledge of French, Italian and Californian wines.  As a stay-at-home parent, he learned how to give a piece of furniture a second life by rescuing discarded items from the trash and transforming them into works of beauty. His time in the world of fashion has given him a new understanding of the interplay of colors, patterns and fabric.He enjoys cooking, gardening, photography, music, art, non-fiction/history, politics, visiting museums, environmental concerns and hiking.
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Jennifer Papale Rignani

Jennifer Papale Rignani published her first article in Pittsburgh Magazine in 1998.Jennifer_Rignani2 She is a professional writer and start-up flower farmer. The former resident of Mt. Lebanon lives in Mercer County with her husband, 15-year-old daughter Violet and twins who come home from college frequently.
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Marina Siegert

Dr. Marina Siegert received her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of California at Davis in 1996.  She then completed an internship at the Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic near Sacramento, CA.  The internship program provided one year of intensive trainingMarina_Siegert_websize in several specialty areas including Internal Medicine, Surgery, Radiology and Emergency Medicine.  Dr. Siegert also completed a fellowship at UC Davis in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care.Originally from Southern California, Dr. Siegert practiced at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, a 30+ doctor facility, for 10 years.  There she worked alongside many specialists, assisted in training nearly 100 interns, and was the veterinarian for a number of celebrities.  In 2008, she and her husband decided to move their family back to his hometown of Mt. Lebanon, PA.Dr. Siegert shares her home with her husband, two young children, two dogs – George, a Pit Mix, and Jack, a German Shepherd, and her cat, Chicken.  In her free time, she likes to run, hike and spend time with her family.
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Nancy Smith

Master GardeNancy_Smithner Nancy Smith has been designing gardens since 1990. The former art teacher in Maryland public schools graduated with a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. Her home has been on the Mt. Lebanon Library garden tour twice and on the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Tour in 2009.An active volunteer, she also has served in leadership positions in the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, The Mt. Lebanon Parks Advisory Board and the Friends of the Mt. Lebanon Library.
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Cliff TuttleCliff_Tuttle_websizeCliff Tuttle is a long-time resident of Mt. Lebanon.  He is celebrating four decades as a lawyer in 2013. Check out his blog at
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Shannon Venditti

Shannon, a 2004 Graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, worked as the mtl Art Director for two years after four years at FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm. Previously, she was the production manager for Aspen Magazine in Aspen, Colorado. She has a masters in Media Arts and Technology from Duquesne University, where she also played Division I soccer. Shannon lives in Murrysville with her husband, Mike, daughter Eleanora and son Milo! Return to top


Al Vrabel
Al Vrabel was born in Clairton, Pa., to a family of 11 children. Though he has lived in Mt. Lebanon for 39 years, he remains proud of his Clairton roots and often writes about growing up in a steel town where everyone’s dad worked in the mill. Al attended Duquesne University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975 and also attended graduate school. He pursued various career paths throughout his life, including being an insurance agent, stockbroker, and piano salesman.An avid runner and fitness enthusiast, Al has competed in the Pittsburgh Marathon and has run in every Great Race since that event started more than 30 years ago. Besides writing poetry, essays, and short stories for his own enjoyment, Al loves music, playing both the piano and guitar and singing and composing songs.Now retired, Al enjoys golfing, traveling, spending time with his wife Diane and son Mark, and taking classes at the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Return to top


Diane Vrabeldvrabel
Diane Vrabel is a Pittsburgh native who has lived in Mt. Lebanon for 36 years. A baby boomer, she grew up during the ‘60s in the nearby neighborhood of Brookline.After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in journalism from Duquesne University, she started working for the Internal Revenue Service in 1977. Throughout her 36-year career, she held various positions within the agency, including tax specialist, manager, instructor, newsletter editor, and training coordinator. She also obtained a master’s degree in communications from Duquesne in 1991.Since retiring in 2013, Diane has been immersing herself in a wide range of fun activities. She does freelance writing, volunteers at the Mt. Lebanon Library’s Book Cellar, takes art and exercise classes, and is learning to play the piano. Other things she enjoys are reading, drawing, traveling, hiking, and bicycling. She has been a volunteer for the Mt. Lebanon School District PTSA and is an active member of the National Treasury Employees Union.Diane lives on Arden Road with her husband Al and 18-year-old son Mark. She is thrilled to contribute to the Mt. Lebanon Magazine since writing is her biggest passion.
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Yvette Yescas

Yvette Yescas grew up a long way from Mt. Lebanon. Her earliest memories are of a grandmother who would come home Yvette_Yescas_websizecovered in soot and sweat after working all day at a copper smelter in Arizona. Unlike grandma, you won’t find Yvette operating a crane. You will find her walking, occasionally tripping, on the sidewalks of some of the most historically significant neighborhoods of Mt. Lebanon. She serves on our Historic Preservation Board, and you might find her speaking to the Commission amongst her duties. For Yvette, Mt. Lebanon is a long way from home, both figuratively and literally, but she is delighted that her kids have roots here.In her not-so-free time, she works for a charitable organization. Her husband is a computer geek, and their two daughters attend Mt. Lebanon Public Schools.
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