Pittsburgh Fashion Week begins today

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

PittsburghFashionWeekShoot 400

Hey, Steel City ... ready to sashay the night away? How about the entire week?

Ready or not, Pittsburgh Fashion Week kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. its fourth year of festivities with runway shows at Highmark Stadium featuring designers with Pittsburgh ties. They are Alicia Akrie, Debbie Weiss and Faith Pongracz of Faith n' Khaos.

Head over to Highmark Stadium early to check out the Fashion Avenue vendor fair (free admission) from 2 to 9 p.m.

While it only lasts one week, Pittsburgh Fashion Week takes months of preparations and several people to pull it off. Here is a look at the event by the numbers:

Number of days: 6 fashion-focused days

MiyoshiAnderson 250Events: 8 chances to learn about fashion and beauty-related businesses and talents in Pittsburgh

Venues: 7 spots across Pittsburgh, each picked to show off the city's diversity

Volunteers: About 20, who are trained to help coordinate various aspects of events

Stylists: About 10 Pittsburgh-based hair and makeup artists

Models: Dozens! Each designer's runway show features about a dozen designers, and there are about a dozen runway shows this week.

Attendance: A few thousand in 2012, including guests and participants. About the same or more are expected this year.

The vision: "When I was modeling 10 years ago, I worked a lot," Pittsburgh Fashion Week founder Miyoshi Anderson said. "I saw in the past decade the decline of work and the fashion industry sort of lying dormant.

"I've seen [Pittsburgh Fashion Week] encourage them to open up and develop their own companies, just getting it out there. They're really pushing forward with the exposure."

Learn more or purchase tickets at

Photos: At top, models pose for a promotional Pittsburgh Fashion Week photo shoot along Smithfield Street, Downtown, in 2011. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette) At right, Pittsburgh Fashion Week founder and director Miyoshi Anderson.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Garden for seniors nurtures body and soul

Written by Doug Oster on .

Eighty-nine-year-old Bill Ferguson runs a rototiller down the center of six long beds in the community garden at Longwood at Oakmont. It's obvious he knows his way around the machine as he deftly navigates it around an area behind the retirement community that was used to grow corn. His love of gardening goes back to childhood.

"I had a little garden in the backyard in Kansas. I learned the hard way, all by myself," he says.

His parents had no interest in gardening, but the 12-year-old was hooked. For more than 40 years, he gardened on 61/2 acres in Murrysville. And when he discovered that Longwood had 48 plots reserved for residents, well, there was no doubt how he would spend his free time.

Mr. Ferguson is the chairman of the Plum facility's gardening committee, a job he rotates every few years with other members. He helps get gardeners into the right plot and tends to their needs. When a resident gives one up or can't garden anymore, another takes over the spot. He sees great health benefits for older people in gardening.

"It's good, healthy, invigorating for us to be as active as we can. It improves your life, it improves your health, it's better all the way around."

Like most gardeners he enjoys sharing his harvest, dropping off extra tomatoes at the front desk, where "they magically disappear," he says, smiling.

When asked how long he can keep gardening, he paused. "I don't know. I'm going to keep going as long as I can move."

Another of the committee's rotating chairmen, Peter Kiproff, 90, forgoes the tiller and turns his garden over the old-fashioned way, with a garden fork. "I feel very fortunate to be able to do it."

Like Mr. Ferguson, he gives away part of his harvest.

"It was a good year for tomatoes. I got more than I can eat," he says, adding that he has left more than 20 pounds of tomatoes at the front desk.

Melba Parris, 96, is the oldest person gardening at Longwood. She gives hope to all gardeners, as her passion for digging in the dirt still burns strong. "It's just like making mud pies when I was a child," she says with a laugh.

She grows beans, potatoes and giant 'Brandywine' tomatoes and says she's canned 30 quarts of tomato juice "so far." Mrs. Parris hopes the remaining fruit will provide her with enough juice to get her through the winter.

Standing in one of the garden paths, she holds a letter she sent to her college roommate in 1943. Jessie Messemer Blomquist, who went to MacPherson College with Mrs. Parris, stumbled onto the letter and sent it back to her. Inside are details of the garden Mrs. Parris grew in Kansas during World War II. The letter reads in part:

"We have had quite a lot of rain, but our garden still isn't very good, I guess we just planted it too late."

She went on to describe what she had put up from the first part of the season. The list is impressive: 6 quarts green beans, 1 quart blackberries, 2 quarts strawberries, 3 pints beets and 8 quarts sauerkraut. One has to wonder what she would have put up if the garden had reached her expectations.

Gardening has always been a part of her life. "I can't remember a time I wasn't following my mother around in the garden."

Mrs. Parris didn't know about this garden when she moved into Longwood. She told her brother she was probably done gardening, then called him back when she discovered it. Both were overjoyed.

"I can't imagine you not in the garden," he said.

Robert and Flo Conville didn't do much gardening before moving to Longwood. Their two beds are a mixed bag of flowers and vegetables. Tomatoes and basil share space with calla lilies, a hydrangea and a peony plant they inherited from the plot's previous tenant. Their four tomato plants produced much more than they could use; they gave away the fruit to their church and family.

"It gives us a chance to spend a little time together," Mr. Conville says.

After the couple finishes for the day, they hold hands as they walk slowly back to their home. Mr. Conville holds his wife with his right hand and two fresh garden tomatoes in his left as the sun slips away.

blog oster longwood brandy portraitMelba Parris who is 96, poses with one of her large 'Brandywine' tomatoes.

blog oster longwood letter tightThis is the letter Melba Parris sent to her college roommate in 1943.

blog oster longwood roto wideBill Ferguson, 89, tills the communal corn patch.

Blog oster longwood flowersAlthough most of the gardens are filled with vegetables, this one is a spectacular garden of flowers.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Fall greens are planted now for winter harvest, try it!

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog fall greens coldframeThis is one of the mixed greens I bought at Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery in Wilkinsburg. These plants are in a cold frame and will thrive all winter long. Photos by Doug Oster

Don't stop gardening! This is just the start of the third part of the season.

I love spring, but fall is a close second. Over the next few weeks there will be lots to do in the garden.

For the past several seasons I've been harvesting year round by planting cool loving crops by starting them in the garden now.

I've planted leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard, corn mache radicchio, arugula, endive, orach, mizuna, kale, tatsoi, spinach, radishes, beet greens, turnip greens, cilantro and more.

There's still time to throw down some seed, but if you can find plants, that will get the fall garden going even quicker.

The only place I know of which sells young, fresh plants is Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery in Wilkinsburg (here's the special number for readers of this blog (609) 290-3779). The nursery open by appointment only this time of the year.

I love going there in the fall and looking over all the cool stuff to plant. I spent $22 for a couple hundred plants. They have the greens sowed tightly together in four inch pots. They can be gently teased apart and planted. Since they are small and young, the plants respond well to being transplanted.

By choosing plants which can survive a frost, they can be harvested all winter.

When things get cold in a month, I'll protect the plants in many different ways. Some are grown in an outdoor greenhouse called a cold frame, others will grow under floating row covers. The spun bound, translucent fabrics act as a greenhouse. We'll talk more about that when the time is right.

There are lots of good reasons for growing crops in the fall. It's cooler, less pests, more rain and it's so fun to brag to gardening friends about what your harvesting after they put their garden to bed! There's nothing like heading out to the garden during a thaw to fill a harvest basket with fresh greens.

I'll fill every bed in the vegetable garden with greens and fall planted garlic. The greens which over winter will take off in the spring and last into next June.

Gardeners will be able to find seed, usually at a discount this time of the year. I scatter a whole packet on a bed prepared with compost to create a carpet of greens.

Try some cool weather crops in the garden, it's fun and wonderful to be picking when "normal" people have closed the garden down for the season.

blog fall greens leafy lettuceEach one of the cells in this container is filled with six green, leafy lettuce plants. The young transplants respond well to being teased apart and planted in good compost.







Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.