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Unwind and shop post-holiday sales in Squirrel Hill

| Monday, Dec. 22, 2008

Following all the rush and anticipation of the big day this Thursday, spend some time this weekend in Squirrel Hill.

Now that the pressure is off to pick out all those gifts for loved ones on your list, you can enjoy browsing the sales and finding a few treasures for yourself.

Squirrel Hill is a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, but also one of the most diverse in the city because of its proximity to Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities. The shops in its business district attract customers from all over the region, and its restaurants cover a wide range of ethnic cuisines.

Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes, because you'll be on your feet most of the day.

10:30 a.m.

Park at the public lot under the Squirrel Hill Branch of the Carnegie Library (5801 Forbes Ave.). The entrance is on Murray Avenue just north of Forbes. Don't forget to feed the meter, because they're checked fairly frequently.

Cross Forbes and walk a half block to your left to reach Coffee Tree Roasters (5840 Forbes Ave.), a good place to gather with your pals and begin shopping. Coffee Tree imports two dozen varieties of coffee beans -- largely from the Americas, Africa and Asia -- and roasts them to light, medium and dark degrees. It also sells decaf beans and ones with added flavors such as hazelnut, for the non-purists. Coffee brewing equipments and coffee grinders are also available. Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. 412-422-4427.

Some stores will be quicker stops than others.

Don't miss Littles Super Shoe Store (5850 Forbes Ave.), which has shoes for the whole family, but check out the accessories, too, such as fine leather belts, winter gloves, a good selection of socks and shoe care products. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. 412-521-3530.

Give yourself plenty of time in Ten Thousand Villages (5824 Forbes Ave.). Forget brand names. This chain sells products made by artisans in Latin America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia. These goods -- and there are lots to consider -- stand out for their individuality of design and artistry. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. 412-421-2160.

12:30 p.m.

By now it's time to take a break. Go back to your car, put your purchases in the trunk, and walk two-and-a-half blocks south on Murray Avenue to Smallman Street Deli (1912 Murray Ave.) for an ethnic lunch. The seating area has a cozy feel, conducive to conversation. Corned beef on rye is a classic choice for $7.45, but try it with potato latkes instead of French fries -- $2.99 each -- for a more ethnic touch. Share a dessert because they are rich and the servings are large -- and you have more shopping to do. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. 412-421-3354.

1:45 p.m.

Cross Murray Avenue, turn left and walk to Barnes & Noble Booksellers (1723 Murray Ave.), where you'll find a large selection of books and magazines arranged by topic, as well as calendars, chocolates and other smaller items. The calendars are on the main floor near discounted books. But don't go by price alone. For example, the reduced price of a volume containing William Shakespeare's complete plays is less attractive after you open the book and see the cramped type that would be a drag to read. 412-521-3600.

Head back to Forbes Avenue and turn right to catch stores on the block you missed earlier.

3:30 p.m.

To make your day one you won't forget, indulge yourself with a massage at Massage Envy (5836 Forbes Ave.). It opened two years ago and has 800 members, but one-hour massages are just $39 for first-time visitors. Be sure to call ahead for an appointment. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. 412-420-5188.

4:45 p.m.

With all of your stress erased for now, finish your day by returning to your car and driving down Murray Avenue. Make a left on Philips Street to pull into the parking lot behind stores facing Murray. Don't forget the meter.

Walk back to Murray Avenue and cross it to visit Jerry's Records (2136 Murray Ave.) It's a trip to memory lane, where you're sure to find an old favorite among the 500,000 LPs and an equal number of 45s. There's plenty of jazz and classical as well as rock and pop. Although eBay.com and other sites for purchasing old records can involve much more money than you might expect, Jerry has kept his prices in the $3 to $5 range. He also sells turntables and cartridges for playing old vinyl. For some, the thrill is in finding a favorite jacket cover and framing it as a piece of art.

5:30 p.m.

Finish off your day right next door to Jerry's with dinner at New Dumpling and Sushi House (2138 Murray Ave.). The menu will be the final choices of the day. The Chinese entrees, such as Shrimp with Lobster Sauce or General Tso's Chicken, are priced around $11.95. Sushi platters are mainly $15.95 to $22.95, although the Royal Boat, piled high and deep, is $20 to $31. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 412-422-4178.

Otherwise, stop at Mineo's Pizza House (2128 Murray Ave.), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and take home a pie. Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 412-521-9864.

But if you're not quite in the mood to connect with family just yet, delay youir return home after catching a movie in one of the neighborhood moviehouses -- at The Manor (1729 Murray Ave.) or Squirrel Hill Theatre (5824 Forward Ave.). Nothing says dessert like Red Hots and buttered popcorn.

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