Seeing Sochi clearly & a chance encounter with Mr. Malkin

Written by Brady McCollough on .

sochi mountainsThe view of the Caucasus Mountains from my hotel area.
Maybe it's because I have wifi in my hotel room now. Maybe it's because I have a working door latch. Maybe it's because I have heat. Maybe it's because I've finished my feature story on Evgeni Malkin and Magnitogorsk, which has been stressing me out all week (in a good way!). But now I am able to see Sochi very clearly.
I can see the sun setting on the Black Sea to my left, and breathtaking snow-capped mountains to my right. I can see the cool, futuristic stadiums fashioned with Putin's billions in Olympic Park, and I'm wowed, while at the same time thinking, "How in the world are they going to use all of this stuff enough in this remote part of Russia to make it worth their investment?" Luckily, that's not my problem. 
Sure, there is the occasional stray dog, and the threat of terrorism, and broken hotel elevators when you really just want to go to bed at 5 a.m. after a long day. But this is Russia. This is any place. It's good, and it's bad, and it's complicated. 
How about we look at it through the eyes of Vladimir Malkin, Evgeni's father? I happened to run into him walking back to my hotel from lunch, and we talked in broken English. Vladimir was ebullient, so happy to be out of the arctic temperatures of his home in Magnitogorsk. Sochi was 50 but felt like 90. He and Natalia were headed to the team figure skating event tonight, and he seemed excited for it. Evgeni gets to town on February 10, he said. Vladimir's television in the hotel wasn't working, but he didn't seem to care too much. After all, we're not in Sochi to watch TV. 
I'll be at team figure skating on Sunday and possibly U.S. women's hockey on Monday. That should be fun, but the Games won't really get going for me until the men's hockey tournament begins on Thursday.
Some quick pix: 
sochi bolshoyThe Bolshoy Ice Dome, where hockey gold medal will be handed out in two weeks.

sochi stadiumFisht Olympic Stadium: miniature JerryWorld without the humongous TV screens.

sochi blackseaThe Black Sea shoreline just a mile or so from Fisht Olympic Stadium.

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Pittsburghers at New York Fashion Week: 2 women share their love of shoes, style

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Nikole Li and Janelle Cutler cultivated in Pittsburgh a passion for style and shoes, respectively. Now they're taking their talents to the Big Apple to promote at New York Fashion Week.

Ms. Li, a lifelong Pittsburgher who now resides in Carnegie, is a stylist who started in 2011 her own business, AstonishingStyle. Since then, she's grown a clientele through her work with local fashion and beauty events. By attending New York Fashion Week, she hopes to broaden her business' reach and recognition, she says.

Ms. Cutler, a Green Tree resident originally from Wheeling, W.Va., founded about a year ago the online shoe boutique, a site that offers "unique styles for divas picked by divas," she says. At New York Fashion Week, Ms. Cutler is the shoe sponsor for designers Brandi Russell of Sacred Heart Collections, Briana Dione and Jason Scott of ByJLoren. Models in these shows will be wearing shoes from ShoeDIVA Boutique. 

"My goal is to become internationally own," she says. "I want to eventually start my own shoe line." 

Below, find more from Ms. Li and Ms. Cutler on fashion, Pittsburgh style and surviving New York Fashion Week. 

Q&A with Nikole Li ... (pictured at right)

NikoleLi 160How did you get started as a stylist? I felt it was time to share my knowledge, creativity and passion for fashion and accessories. I wanted to make people feel good inside and out. And when you look good, you feel great!

I'm most looking forward to at New York Fashion Week ... the fashion shows and the major networking opportunities.

If I could spend a day with any member of the fashion world, living or deceased, it would be ... Anna Wintour. She is the ultimate fashion icon in my book. I would drive her delirious with questions!

My favorite part of my job is ... seeing the smile of satisfaction on my clients' faces after their transformation. Whether it be hair, makeup or wardrobe, they are amazed at the true beauty and/or style they've had all along, which I've helped to accentuate. My company tagline is "Making your entrance ... grand."

My NYFW survival tips are ... first, have a planned agenda and keep in touch with social media. Also, I suggest packing lightly to attend shows. It's not necessary to have the biggest handbag in the room or the highest heels. There is lots of walking in not-so-great weather, so dress stylishly but comfortably and cautiously at the same time. Be sure to have your cellphone and/or camera chargers on deck, memory cards and business cards. 

Make friends -- seriously, meet up with people. Introduce yourself. You never know who knows who. 

In five years, I'd like to be ... a well-known industry name. I would like to have acquired a celebrity clientele and continue to travel the world styling the stars!

My advice for aspiring stylists is ... don't be afraid or think you're too good to start from the bottom. Yes, volunteer! Put in the hard work to gain the inside knowledge and experience necessary to eventually succeed on your own. 

Look, listen and learn. Stay on the scene. Attend as many fashion shows and/or fashion-related events as possible. You want to be sure your name, face and services are known to everyone in the industry. 

Remain professional at all times but have fun in the process. It's a journey, enjoy it!


Q&A with Janelle Cutler ... (Pictured at right)

JanelleCutler 160I was inspired to work in fashion because ... I love fashion, especially shoes. My closet exceeds 150 pairs.

My designer inspiration is ... Christian Louboutin.

In my closet, I can't live without ... heels, heels, heels!

At New York Fashion Week, my goal is ... to network and meet as many people in the fashion industry as possible.

Below, find some of the ShoeDIVA shoes that will be featured this weekend at New York Fashion Week.

Photos courtesy of ShoeDIVA Boutique.

ShoeDIVA1 400

ShoeDIVA2 400

ShoeDIVA3 400

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Chance meeting leads to a lifetime of saving seeds

Written by Doug Oster on .

Bob-JancaBob Janca with Baylee. I had never seen anything like the shiny black seeds that covered Bob Janca's kitchen table back in 1985. They were 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' pole bean seeds, and they were my introduction to heirlooms and seed saving.

The two of us hit it off while we talked about his collection of heritage seeds, and he gave me a small packet as I left his house in Spencer, Ohio. Every season since I've grown 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' from seeds I saved the year before. The bean is prolific and beautiful. It has a wonderfully unique nutty flavor.

It started a seed-saving obsession that threatened to grow out of control. In the corner of my basement, old metal shelves were filled with an odd selection of glass jars jammed with seeds. There are big and small Mason jars, old baby food containers and even some pickle jars.

In an effort to clean house and figure out what was still good for planting, I carried every one of those jars upstairs one day recently. The entire dining room table was crowded with 30 or so jars filled with thousands of old seeds. Even though I had this stockpile of seeds in the basement, I was still ordering new and different varieties each season from a multitude of seed catalogs. It was time to get them organized and then plant as many as possible. What doesn't get planted will be given away.

There's no way to tell if seed is still viable by looking at it. One thing is for sure: Fresh seed is always the best. But there's still life left in many of these varieties.

20140207cherokee2-1When 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' gets mature, the pods turn purple. Photo by Doug OsterTo test their germination rates, I took about 10 seeds, put them on a wet paper towel and sealed them in a plastic bag. The bag goes on top of the refrigerator (where it's warm), and then in a week or so it's time to see what percentage sprouted. If it's lower than 50 percent, they go into the compost. If it's higher, they can be planted.

The stash of seeds also told a story, the history of what I found interesting to grow and save. I found thousands of tithonia 'Torch' seeds, also known as Mexican sunflower. 'Torch' can reach 10 feet or taller and is filled with deep orange 3-inch blooms that are irresistible to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

'Cherry Blossom' salvia was one of my favorite annuals for years, providing pretty pink blossoms all summer long. I guess I just forgot about it, lately falling in love with varieties like 'Wendy's Wish.'

One packet was filled with 'Hungarian Ox Heart' tomato seeds, sent from a reader a decade ago. I remember how much I loved the tomato, which was meaty, thin-skinned and delicious. There were hundreds of other packets; seeing some was like being reunited with an old friend. Others brought back no memories at all. I even found some of the original pole bean seeds I received from Mr. Janca. I never plant every seed in a packet in case of crop failure.

When I first started saving seeds, they were organized by type. One jar held tomato seeds, another peppers. I've decided to change the way I store seeds. Now they are sorted by the date they were planted. One bag is filled with inside sowed flowers, another with spring outdoor seeds and so on. I think it will allow me to get more seeds planted and avoid overlooking varieties.

The most important aspect of saving seeds is to avoid moisture. Silica gel is a powder I use to keep the seeds dry in storage. Some seed savers bring their seeds upstairs for a few days during the winter when the air is dry in the house. Then they will seal them back up and store them somewhere cool and dark.

With all my seeds in order, now in plastic bags, they'll be kept in a covered plastic bin until it's time to get them started. I'm thrilled to see many of my old favorites, and I'm looking forward to trying the forgotten varieties, too.

Over the years, I have searched for Mr. Janca on the Internet. I recently stumbled onto his obituary -- he died four years ago. I never got a chance to tell him what meeting him meant to me.

As I was getting my seeds organized, I found one small jar filled with 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' pole bean seeds. My oldest son, who was 5 then, helped me save them. I can still remember how he carefully printed his name on the label. He's now 30. Maybe he'll help me plant them this spring in honor of Janca.

Every season brings with it hope. But this one will also be filled with the memories of a lifetime saving seeds and the man who introduced me to a love of heirlooms.

blog lot of seedsThis was every jar of seeds from the basement. Now they've all been organized differently. Photo by Doug Oster

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Empty Netter Assists - 02-08-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .



-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "They were the better team for probably 58 minutes of the night. We were probably fortunate to get one point." - Brooks Orpik.

-The New York Daily News' recap. “We gave ourselves a chance to win by how we competed." - Rangers forward Brad Richards (above, scoring the game-winning shootout goal against Marc-Andre Fleury).

-Newsday's recap. "I don't know if it was desperation, but we understood how important this game was to us. We have a long break here and we definitely wanted to end it the right way." - Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

-The Associated Press' recap. "Not a good game for us. We need to play better; we were lucky to take one point. The last 10 minutes we played, I think, better than the Rangers. But we need to play 60 minutes, and for 60 minutes we weren't that great." - Evgeni Malkin.


-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-New York's Mats Zuccarello > Fleury:

-"We're soooo going to beat you in Sochi:"

-Matt Niskanen speaks:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-"Terrible news. Scary news. I mean, he's my age. It's hard to believe. It was a big surprise. I'm shocked, but I'm happy that he's OK." - Niskanen, 26, on Kris Letang being diagnosed with a stroke.

-What causes patent foramen ovale, a condition which can lead to strokes such as the one Letang has suffered?

-“Maybe there’s a slight advantage for European teams, but lots of our guys have played [in North America] for 10 or so years, so they’re used to the small ice, too. But we grew up playing on the bigger ice. I’m sure that’s going to be one of the keys.” - Jussi Jokinen on the Olympics being played on a larger ice surface.

-“I don’t need to see any of my teammates score any goals against Canada. They can score against anyone else, just not against Canada.” - Brandon Sutter, a Canadian, on his non-Canadian Penguins teammates in the Olympics.

-Andrew Ebbett had two goals and an assist for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who routed the Portland Pirates, 5-1. Nick Drazenovic, Dominik Uher and Simon Despres each recorded two assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while captain Tom Kostopoulos added a goal and an assist. Eric Hartzell made all of 12 saves in the victory.


-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins forward Andre Roy. A free agent signing following the 2004-05 lockout, Roy, worked as the Penguins' primary enforcer for parts of two seasons. In 2005-06, he appeared in 42 games recording three points and 116 penalty minutes. Roy would appear in five games and fail to record a point in 2006-07 before being put on waivers and claimed by his former team, the Lightning. In 47 games with the Penguins, he scored three points and 128 penalty minutes.

-Happy 61st birthday to former Penguins forward Kelly Pratt. A free agent signing in the 1974 offseason, Pratt's NHL career amounted to 22 games with the 1974-75 Penguins. He recorded six points.In the 1975 offseason, he was sold to Hershey of the AHL.

-Happy 29th birthday former Penguins forward Trevor Smith. A free agent signing in the 2012 offseason, Smith's Penguins' career amounted to one game and no points in 2012-13. This past offseason, he joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent.

-After the Jump: The Olympics begin.

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New York Fashion Week Day 2 recap in tweets

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Sunny skies shined on this second day of style, where top designers such as Nicole Miller, Charlotte Ronson, Nautica and Jason Wu were among those who drew large crowds with their fall/winter 2014 collections.

For another day, the hashtag #NYFW continued to trend on Twitter as fashion fans took to the social media site to document the highlights of Day 2. Here is some of what they had to say:


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