Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Day 278- Happy Earth Day- Rachel Carson Challenge-Training Hikes- Endurance

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to try a 7.5 mile training hike for the Rachael Carson Challenge.  Rachel Carson was one of the first "nature writers" whose book, Silent Spring (1962), is credited with fueling the environmental movement. The Rachel Carson Challenge
 is a 35 mile one day hike on rugged terrain on June 23, 2018 (the longest day of the year which makes sense because you need all the daylight that you can get to finish it). Since  this  blog is all about trying new things and obtaining your personal best, I thought admitting with some trepidation, that  I would  at least attempt  the first 7.5 mile training to see if I had what it takes to endure.

  My initial reaction to this  daunting Challenge was that attempting it would be crazy because 1) I am really not in superwoman shape and 2)  walking from sun up to sun down seems a little too "Forest Gump like" to me, not  to mention feet aching, muscle burning, literally never ending.   The weekly training hikes  progressively increase in length to prepare you for the mother-lode hike.  The training hikes seem to be a better choice for me.

The Racheal Carson trail is known for its "tortuous hill climbing through primitive rugged terrain”  and there are no grading of the surfaces on the trail.  The 35 mile Challenge is meant to be a  test of endurance and an accomplishment  to be able to  finish it in one day without getting lost in the woods. 

For me finishing the  7.5 mile training hike would be just as momentous as the Challenge because I rarely hiked much until this past year. Like some other activities, I began to really enjoy walking in the woods by osmosis since this was a  repeated event with a friend but I rarely hiked farther than a few miles. This was my own personal challenge!

 I was  fearful that I would not be able to complete the training hike. I asked  everyone  I knew that remotely walked or hiked to come along but  I had no takers. I was going it alone. I felt  just like Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild who had no outdoor experience before she set off to conquer the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail.

Crew met at the start of hike

I arrived at the meeting point to find over  50 others, some in pairs and some solo like me, ready to hike.  My nerves fueled my motor mouth which was revved up in high gear while I meet a bunch of hikers. A lot of hikers were in the same boat as me, just trying the training  to see what they could accomplish but many had finished the Challenge several times. I also learned that  today I was going to hike one of the steepest hills in the Challenge.

Goes straight down to steep valley
When they   say  that  this is a “primitive trail” they mean it. There were parts that were  mud swamps, parts that crossed over creeks and there was a hill  that produced my  outburst, “what the fudge is this” (just like Ralphie’s  “Fudge” outburst in The Christmas Story movie). The hill dropped straight down into a valley,  barren of trees to hold on to, with a long steep upward swampy climb. I was grateful that I seem to be  “the universal size of ex-wives” and thus I have been given, coats, ski equipment and more, but my best gift was the water  proof  Timberland boots on my feet that helped me tackle this hill. 

During the hike people walked with me for periods of time and then some went ahead or hung back. Fortunately,  a  spunky young woman, also going it alone, accompanied me for most of the day  and helped pace my hike. This year would be her third Challenge so I lucked out  because I am sure that I would have gotten lost without her.

My spunky hiking partner that kept me moving
I noticed that  when you walk with strangers they seem to reveal a lot about  themselves during the hike. It’s similar to strangers sitting on an airplane  who chat the entire flight never to be seen again.  My spunky hiker told me about her work, family, that she was in a mushroom identifying club  and a bird watcher.  I am really not a fan of birds but I selfishly thought that if  I kept her talking then maybe she would continue to walk with me.  She did.  I really enjoyed her company and  surprisingly learned some interesting things about the birds. It was a “win win” situation, at least it was for me.

As we came down the last hill, my spunky friend and I started to jump and high five as we had finished! She said that I "crushed it" but I think she just was trying to be nice. We finished the training in 2 hours and 55 min and I don't know if I "crushed it" but  I sure endured it. Now all I have to endure is a few aches and pains.  

 If you want to try to endure it with me, the next training hike (8.5 miles) is on April 29th.   Who knows maybe  I  will tackle the  Challenge next year!

Spiritual Reflection
More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produced endurance.
(Romans 5:3)

Other Sources
Rachael Carson Challange

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Day 277 Carnegie Science Center's Rangos Giant Cinema-Hollywood Experiences and 3D Films-Immersive

*The Carnegie Science Center’s Rangos Giant Cinema is literally a giant theater. They have started evening movies or “Hollywood Experiences” and also have 3D educational films. I recently viewed the  80’s icon Prince film, Purple Rain  as part of the Hollywood Experiences and the 3D Amazon Adventure  that chronicles Henry Bates’ 11 year exploration of the Amazon rain forest. I have not viewed a movie on this mega  screen in many years but  was excited for an immersive experience!
Purple Rain  
As a huge Prince fan and back in the day, a wanna be groupie, I recalled that his performances were always than life. A giant screen with high tech sound is the perfect place to experience a little,or should I say, gigantic Prince!

I had forgotten how much Prince exuded sexuality and how much I had missed listening to his music. On this powerful screen, I was fully immersed in his performance. Just like I had always wanted to be, I was at the club as Prince sang, "I Would Die for You", "I'm A Star" "Purple Rain" and More!

Amazon Adventure
The Amazon Adventure is a 3D movie that chronicles Henry Bates’ 11 year exploration of the Amazon rain forest. I was surprised to learn that this man spent his life studying the changes in animal species. This adventure was an amazing story of perseverance and dedication.

In 3D, the butterflies few near and the foliage was almost touchable. The movie takes you to the tropical world of the Amazon, absorbing you into Bates' story and wonders of the rainforest.

The Science Center is not just for kids. The 3D movies educate as they mesmerize and the evening "Hollywood Experience" gives some iconic/cult movies a new twist. 

 I will keep the Rangos Giant Cinema in my survival tool box as an enjoyable immersive experience in cinematography. For tickets  of upcoming movies go to

* Blog integrity requires me to admit that I am reposting this post from April 17 because I somehow deleted it due to my lack of computer knowledge.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Day 276- Midtown Men with Pittsburgh Symphony POPS-Nostalgic Night

I have recently made the Pittsburgh Symphony part of my empty-nest repertoire (Day 266 and especially the POPS, that pair an array of artist  with our Grammy award winning Pittsburgh Symphony (Day 229). The Midtown Men are four original cast members from the hit Broadway show Jersey Boys. I was excited  to experience a little Four Seasons, Beatles, Motown, and more, as they harmonized, accompanied by our fantastic symphony.  This was a nostalgic night through the 60’s.

The Midtown Men, dressing alike in tailored dinner jackets and stepping in unison, exuded the class, sophistication, and  charm, of  the 1960’s  rock decade. Opening with Get Ready (Temptations), this foursome energized the room with their infectious smiles and dancing that continued throughout their show (preview here).

Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer brought the signature  sound  of The Four Seasons to the stage as they performed Dawn, Big Girls Don't Cry/Sherry, and Can't Take My Eyes Off of You . These classics  all sounded so much bigger and bolder accompanied by the symphony under the direction of Todd Ellison.

The Midtown Men gave us some Beatles (Can't Buy Me Love,, Happy Together, In My Life), a little 60’s psychedelic sound (California Dreaming, Time of the Season, For What It’s Worth) and a medley of Motown. These four men  traded taking the lead vocal as the others  injected   potent harmonies. Combined with the  full sound of the symphony, they took us back to the “greatest decade in rock n’ roll.” -Oh What A Night -a nostalgic night!

(Midtown Men with  Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall runs April 13-15, 2018. For tickets go to Don't miss the next POPS, May 11-13, 2018, Love-Lust & Rock n' Roll. )

Monday, April 9, 2018

Day 275 Mummenchanz-Imaginative Swiss Theater Troup

My blog inspiration book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book recommends that we “use [our] imagination”.  Mummenchanz is an imaginative Swiss theater troupe  that really thinks outside of the box. I saw them once in the 1980’s and I was amazed with their ability to use ordinary objects in very extraordinary ways. It was a visual explosion of acrobatics, mime, imagery, puppets, lights, props and more.  I have waited three decades to see them again and I could not wait to experience their recent Pittsburgh show, You and Me.


 Mummenchanz  has the ability to entertain and make you laugh as they push the limits of creativity. A towel attached to a mask was crinkled into varied facial expressions. A floor to ceiling  fabric balloon was pulled inward to smile, to frown and to come alive.  Rectangular  blocks formed two “beings” that interacted and belonged together.  It’s like using a common sock to make a puppet but Mummenchanz makes things come to life in such  inventive ways.      

The show had  vignettes of action that told mini stories. I particularly enjoyed how they used  long fabric and black-lights to mimic the ocean and added props for exotic creatures. Mime techniques of  rapid movements and pauses conveyed playfulness and even impatience in some of these creatures.  Violins with painted eyes were used as masks and produced audience  laughter as the violins interacted as a couple.

 The show is really “creativity on steroids” but it is not a “big production”.  The performance was a bit too intimate for the space of  the Byham theater in the absence of  music or sound effects but in any venue, Mummenchanz still  remains a unique imaginative experience!   
(watch  You and Me here).

Go  for other events sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Spiritual Reflection 
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April Preview of Events

Potted Potter –Byham Theater- Friday April 27 to April 29, 2018 

I always loved reading the Harry Potter books to my son. So many of my adults friends ran to get the first additions of each book enjoying  the magical world of the Potter series. Potted Potter is a parody that covers all 7 books in 70 minutes! This should be a cleaver adventure of laughs based on these beloved books.   

Join me at the Byham on a whimsical parody for Potter buffs of all ages.     For tickets go to

Blog Post to Follow 

Word Play- April 13 and 14, 2018- Bricolage Theater

The Bricolage Theater  is synonymous  with “adventurous theater”.  It  is a forum were art can be  pushed to new limits.   In the show WordPlay, actors, writers, and just ordinary people, tell their own stories with the injection of music.  This is grown- up storytelling with literally a spin as a  DJ spins real-time soundtracks during the dialogue. This should be an intimate experience as  these strangers  share their  lives.   

Join me for the creativity and intimacy of  WordPlay at the Bricolage Theater on Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh. For tickets go to 
Blog Post to Follow 

Midtown Men with the Pittsburgh Symphony- April 13 and 15, 2018-Heinz Hall

The Midtown Men are four original cast members from the hit Broadway show Jersey Boys.  They bring the music and style of the 1960’s to the stage. I can’t wait to experience a little Beach Boys, Beatles, Motown, and more, as they harmonize with  our award winning  Pittsburgh Symphony.  This should be a nostalgic night through the 60’s! (preview here)

Join me for a  little 60's nostalgia with the Midtown Men and the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall. For tickets go to
Blog Post to Follow 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Day 274 Good Friday Stations- Revisit to St Anthony's Chapel -Troy Hill

On this Good Friday I am re-posting  the Station of the Cross experience at St. Anthony's Chapel. I revisited this Chapel again last week. The beauty of trying and sharing new things is the discovery of "new likes" on this journey.

During  this  Easter season, I venture to the little chapel in Troy Hill that I discovered last summer (see Day 35 )  and experience the Stations of the Cross. I have been to the stations of the cross, (the telling of the story to Calvary),  but it was a new experience at St. Anthony's Chapel  with life sized sculptures.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Day 273-Rent-PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh-Power of Love

Rent in 1996  was one of the first rock operas to hit Broadway. It chronicles an unforgettable and inspiring year  of seven poverty struck artists in a NYC Greenwich Village flat determined to follow their dreams (art for art’s sake) but  they can’t  pay  the  rent.  Being a practical person, my first thought about this plot was “get a job, so you can pay the rent” but, when I first experienced this  show, I  became immersed in the music. This rock opera  emulates the power to overcome adversity in the shadow of  HIV/AIDS with diverse forms of love.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Day 272- Pittsburgh Opera-Moby Dick-A Powerful Tale, A Powerful American Opera

I have recently added the Pittsburgh Opera to my empty- nest repertoire but I have only experienced one other American Opera (see Day 212 Summer King). Moby-Dick  is an American opera with music by Jake Heggie and lyrics by Gene Scheer.  It is based on the classic novel by Herman Melville. I have to admit that I never  read the book but I know the story of  Captain Ahab’s feverish pursuit of the great white whale that took his leg. It's the story of the whale’s defeat of  man. I was excited to see if the musical strength of the predominately male cast would match the power of this man versus beast story in this Pittsburgh Primer of Moby-Dick.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Day 271- Heisenberg-Pittsburgh Public Theater-Unpredictable Romance/Predictable Needs -O’Reilly Theater


 Heisenberg is a romantic comedy named after physicist Werner Heisenberg who pioneered the “Uncertainty Principle”- a particle’s position and momentum can  not be  measured at the same time.  The play applies this scientific unpredictability to the development of a relationship between a spirited 40 something year old American woman, Georgie Burns, and a 75 year old Irishman, Alex Priest. Heisenberg, by Simon Stephens, reminds us that although relationships may be unpredictable, human needs are the same at any age.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Day 270 Pittsburgh Opera Fashion Event “A Song of Thrones”-Medieval Meets Modern

The recent Pittsburgh Opera Fashion Event, "A Song of Thrones” featured some of their ornate operatic  costumes in conjunction with fashions by Diana Misetic of Shadyside fashion studio and boutique, Little Black Dress. What I enjoy most about the opera experience is that it’s  an extravagant production of set, costumes, and of course sound.  Mixing the pageantry of  the opera with  fashion is a dramatic way to display clothing. Since the theme for this fashion show was based on the epic television series “Game of Thrones,” the experience was a dramatic mixing of medieval and modern worlds.