The 2017 Online Auction Baltimore Center Stage Opens for Bidding March 26

The 2017 Online Auction for Baltimore Center Stage will be open for bidding March 26 through April 2. Items can be previewed March 24-25.

Now in its 40th year, the auction has raised more than $5 million for Baltimore Center Stage’s artistic, education and community programs.

More than 500 items have been donated this year, including vacations, restaurant certificates, sporting events, home décor, clothing, jewelry and more. The auction features donations from The Classic Catering People, Amtrak, Alex Cooper Gallery of Rugs, The Smile Design Center of Dr. Myron Kellner, Snowbird Ski Resort, Sea Dream Yacht Club, Mt. Washington Mill DYE House, Jones Lighting Specialists, Kramer Portraits, PNC Bank, Ella Pritsker Couture, WYPR, Holland America, Elite Island Resorts, Madonna Seafood, The Puptrait Studio, Iron Bridge Wine Company, Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grille and others.

Registration with Bidding for Good is required in order to participate. For more information, visit or email Auction Coordinator Sydney Wilner at

The 2017 Baltimore Sun Online Auction for Center Stage is sponsored byThe Baltimore Sun.

About Baltimore Center Stage

Baltimore Center Stage is a professional, nonprofit institution committed to entertaining, engaging and enriching audiences through bold, innovative and thought-provoking classical and contemporary theater.

Named the State Theater of Maryland in 1978, Baltimore Center Stage has steadily grown as a leader in the national regional theater scene. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE and Managing Director Michael Ross, Baltimore Center Stage is committed to creating and presenting a diverse array of world premieres and exhilarating interpretations of established works.

Baltimore Center Stage believes in access for all—creating a welcoming environment for everyone who enters its theater doors and, at the same time, striving to meet audiences where they are. In addition to its Mainstage, Off Center and Family Series productions in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, Baltimore Center Stage ignites conversations among a global audience through digital initiatives, which explore how technology and the arts intersect. The theater also nurtures the next generation of artists and theater-goers through the Young Playwrights Festival, Student Matinee Series and many other educational programs for students, families and professionals.

2017 MINI Cooper Countryman: Versatile Impact

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The burgeoning love affair with the MINI brand continues with enthusiasm as more hits are released and prior generations are updated with powerful impacts on consumer perception. MINI owners are proud and dedicated and marvel at the warmth, friendliness and brilliance their vehicles offer during every drive. Never do you tire of the monotony of the same old thing because never does your pride and joy ever seem to grow old. And now there is more to rejoice with the introduction of the 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman, the biggest and most versatile MINI to date.

To enjoy the adventurous nature and attributes of the new Countryman we headed to the raw Pacific Northwest lands of Oregon to mesh the outdoorsman environment with the authenticity of the vehicle. From fresh waterfalls, to snow laden trails, to uphill trots to reach our campgrounds the MINI displayed its versatile impact in full force. Especially since we were blessed with the S Countryman ALL4 which is their all-wheel drive technology. A few times I thought a Subaru would be better suited until the Countryman disproved my theory. I like the idea of leaving the pavement to hit the woods in a MINI.

“The MINI Countryman has been a top selling model since it was first introduced in 2010 and we expect this new generation will be even more popular with existing owners, while also attracting new customers to the brand,” said Thomas Felbermair, Vice President MINI of the Americas. “The new Countryman not only provides customers with additional space for cargo and passengers, but also offers a new plug-in hybrid option with performance attributes that underline the fun to drive go-kart handling that MINI owners know and love.”

When it hit the scene the Countryman was the first MINI with AWD and four doors and now represents as the 2nd best selling MINI ever. The brand will continue to focus on their core pillars in the form of performance, versatility and individuality. For one, MINIs are fun to drive so power and excitement are necessary attributes. Two, with the wide variety of exterior colors, wheel options and accessories it would be challenging confusing your Countryman with the next. Lastly, what’s the joy of having such a neat vehicle if your homies can’t have none. So of course it is designed for transporting multiple friends and their gear (8.1” longer and 5.4 cubic feet more cargo space than the predecessor), say, for a weekend get-a-way to hike in Yosemite National Park.

With new architecture — uses a great amount of high strength steel — new engines and new transmissions the 2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 was a blast to drive all day in Oregon and Washington. Its handling and acceleration were impeccable. Even with the addition of a few hundred pounds the ALL4 is much quicker than the FWD. The all-turbocharged engine lineup starts off with the TwinPower Turbo 1.5-liter 3 cylinder engine with 134-horsepower that can be paired with either the 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic (Cooper) or the 8-speed automatic (Cooper ALL4). On the drive in an Island Blue Metallic MINI I was able to experience the peppy TwinPower Turbo 2.0-liter 4 cylinder with 189-horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. It was blessed with the optional ($1,750) 8-speed sport automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Also available are the 6-speed manual (S ALL4) and the 8-speed automatic. For the 2.0 and ALL4 expect 31 highway MPG and 22 city MPG. Also at the bottom of the tall gear shifter you can click left for Sport mode or right for Green mode.

One of the most attractive attributes of the 2017 Countryman is the amount of standard equipment MINI loaded it with. No longer do you have to sacrifice your favorite items due to additional costs. Included are a Panorama Sunroof, Sensatec Leatherette Upholstery which I like over full leather, the 6.5” MINI Connected infotainment system similar to BMW iDrive, a Rear View Camera with guidelines, Rear Park Distance Control (parking sensors), Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers which were needed in the snowy mountain weather, sliding and reclining 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats and satin-finished aluminum roof rails. A few options include the power opening tailgate, John Cooper Works Exterior Package, Off-road Appearance Package (cosmetic only) and the $2,250 Technology Package including Parking Assistant, MINI Connected 5.0 and MINI Head-Up Display which projects through a small screen onto the dash opposed to your road view ahead. I thought that was odd. The Advanced Wired Package adds the 8.8” Touchscreen Navigation, a new-Gen operating system and Qi wireless device charging although the iPhone Plus does not fit in the charging station.

But not only does a MINI look good, it also feels good. The cockpit emulates a high-end sports car than a friendly people traveler. A super sporty, aggressive and multifunction JCW steering wheel ($250) for example hinted at the vehicle’s performance nature and the typical toggle switches for such things as igniting the engine or turning ESP on or off gives the impression of a pilot than a driver. Other niceties are the mood lighting, door armrests, thigh extenders, heated seats, two USB ports up front and large HVAC knobs.

MSRP pricing starts at $26,100 for the Cooper and $28,100 for the Cooper ALL4 while the Cooper S initiates at $29,100 and $31,100 for the Cooper S ALL4 excluding the $850 destination charge. My test ride totaled $37,750 with the aforementioned add-ons. With the beauty of the Portland area and a bundle of driving technology at my disposal I could ride out all day in the 2017 Countryman without a qualm.

Fun, Fitness Activities between Fathers and Daughters

Fun for All

As a young father of a vibrant 10-year old daughter that devotes her entire heart into anything she tackles I love presenting activities that we can enjoy together while burning calories, cultivating character and teaching life lessons. Sometimes I am spot on and other times she clearly lets me know when it’s time to move on. This is why it’s important tuning in to your child’s behaviors, needs and desires.

When she is entertained and engaged you can hear the giggles, see the glowing smiles and feel the energy from her movements. On the other hand, if she is not having fun Xamari is constantly reaching for my cellphone, fidgeting or announcing that classic kid line that we all love to hear, “are we leaving now?” So the context of the message is not always what you decide to do together but more so how you do it. From my own 10-year Fit Father experience, quality time spent engaging in fun fitness activities has been the most rewarding. Here are a few of our pursuits when it is just the two of us.

Hike the Ball

It’s just a 2-man huddle so I whisper with aggression, “5 step button hook, pump fake, then run deep to the end zone and the ball will be waiting. You got that?” Xamari looks over my shoulder to see if the defense (her boy cousins) can hear the play call then leans back and shakes her head with confidence. “On 2 … Ready … Break!” We step out and run the play like we practiced it a million times but it was only the 3rd. Sports are a great bonding activity due to the daily learning curves that come along with them. With that said, my kid and I prefer football over any other sport. We practice route running, catching, play calling, defending and throwing. We can play the game with other kids or simply work alone on drills and skills. This is what we love to do and the blessing of an oval ball bringing us closer makes it that much sweeter.

Let’s Go Rock Climbing

“You did it! Now ring the bell and come down slowly,” was me yelling from the ground up to the top of the junior rock wall. I told Xamari it wasn’t hard to do while convincing her that she wasn’t going to fall the first time. After watching a few rock climbing videos we decided to try it out at an establishment for beginners. She was excited when we studied at home but as soon as we stood underneath the wall and looked up she suddenly became apprehensive. Fear wouldn’t be the right word but she definitely was assessing her risk management. Nonetheless, we conquered it after talking and working together. In Maryland there are a multitude of rock climbing facilities with some designed for experts and others that are geared towards kids. Climbing is a life saving skill which is also great for bonding because there is technique involved. So beware Dads, if your child can show you up in climbing then you aren’t using your muscles collaboratively with your brains!

We Love Ice Skating

Do you want to build a genuine connection and really find out how close you and your kids are? If so then please try something unique for the first time together. While growing up in the late 80s and early 90s roller skating and skateboarding were essentials. But for some reason I never made it to the ice rink and it shows to this day. However, Xamari really wanted to hit frozen waters and I had no reason to say no to the new adventure. The ride to the ice rink was different than other activities since we had no clue what it was like inside a real ice rink. She was still gullible at this ripe young age and full of excitement. Learning to skate, recording the moments and keeping her from harms way made for an afternoon of wonderful memories. She would fall, get up, and fall again… then get up again. It hurt a bit but now we trust each other that much more.

Let Them Shine

Last but certainly not least let them shine. Bonding and creating quality time with loved ones sometimes can be over thought. Find out what your kids enjoy and help them get better at it. Whether it’s reading books on the subject matter, watching tutorials or consulting an expert let them build self-confidence. My daughter loves to dance so Zendaya is one of her favorite entertainers. She has read her book and continues to learn about her story from more levels than just TV. Helping her grow her knowledge base on what she desires is key, but the confidence she gains from the independence you showcase welds strong bridges between parent and child.

At the end of the day get up, get out and get moving as a family unit, but ultimately ascertain that everyone has fun!

Experienced by Styves Exantus


2018 Toyota C-HR: Coupe High-Rider Enters the Stage

By Kimatni D. Rawlins

To experience what Toyota dubs their Coupe High-Rider Fit Fathers ventured to the diversity of Austin where the eclectic vibe is more like Portland and Venice Beach than Texas. The all-new 2018 C-HR CUV fulfills a niche market that clamors for value, fuel efficiency, and daring designs. Entering the stage this April newcomers will be introduced to an array of technological standard features presented in two renditions: the $22,500 C-HR XLE and the $24,350 C-HR XLE Premium.

With strong creases, sharp curvilinear lines, robust wheel arches, snazzy rear fins with a rear spoiler, and tough body cladding, the C-HR looks like its about to take form into something else like a GoBot. Designers flowed with the “Distinctive Diamond” theme of the gemstone to substitute for some of the vehicle’s characteristics. Toyota definitely wanted to ascertain C-HR’s silhouette was engaging and attention grabbing. There are nine hues in total to decide from with samples for the passionate customer including Ruby Flare Pearl, Blizzard Pearl, Silver Knockout Metallic, and Blue Eclipse Metallic. Also on deck is the $500 R-Code package with its white roof, side view mirrors, and A-pillar to contrast with either of three base, but special body paints. All R-Code interiors are black.

Five-leaf clover 18” alloy rims (vortex-styled) wrapped in chunky 225/50R18 Dunlop tires get the compact utility rolling while a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine with a reasonable 144-horsepower and 139 lb.-ft. of torque authorizes the FWD structure. Keep in mind there will be no AWD option because this vehicle was initially slated as a Scion. The 2-liter is paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence and Shift mode (CVTi-S). Toyota engineered the CVTi-S with ECO, Normal, and particularly Sport mode since the vehicle’s Deputy Chief Engineer, Hiro Koba, loves to race. In fact, Toyota actually tested the Coupe High-Rider at the famed Nürburgring circuit to showcase that spirited driving could be one of its attributes. Interesting! Sport mode specifically focuses on CVT, steering, and throttle adjustments. On winding Texas back roads the steering was on-center and the suspension was firm enough to handle the roads with aplomb (built with a rear stabilizer bar and front and rear hydraulic shock absorbers). However, a turbocharger would be a nice addition for better acceleration.

With a rigid body due to the use of high tensile steel and aluminum for weight reduction expect 27 city, 31 highway, and 29 combined MPGs for your 3,300-pound C-HR. Also adding to the aesthetics of the chiseled body are bulging rear taillamps, projector-beam halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, a front chin spoiler, rear lower diffuser, and unique rear handles which are embedded within the top corner of the doors. Whether close-up or from afar the C-HR definitely looks tough as nails!

Inside the unique cockpit are bolstered Sport Fabric-trimmed front bucket seats, a 7” touchscreen sitting atop the dash, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, backup camera integrated within the rearview mirror, and dual-zone climate control. The power windows are one-touch up and down but the seat and steering adjustments are manually operated. Since the C-HR is an entry level vehicle intended for younger buyers the CUV is devoid of a sunroof, Satellite Radio, and navigation which is fine since everyone uses their phone for directions anyway. I connected both through Bluetooth and the singular USB to listen to my phone’s music. The system also syncs up with your text messages and address book. Aha is Toyota’s main music app for this vehicle but I do not use that service. I also missed CNN 116 and The Joint 42 on SiriusXM while cruising along the Texan roads. While the front seats were comfortable, the rear looks tight until you craw back there and witness the vehicle’s ample space. More utility for items like bikes is accomplished by simply laying the second-row seat flat.

Preventative safety measures come in the form of Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) which is a suite of standard and active systems that help keep you and other drivers safe on the road. TSS-P enhances your C-HR with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Then there is the Star Safety System providing Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology. Wait, there’s more. I can’t forget about Hill-Start Assist Control, the 10 airbags, and Brake Hold Function that manages the braking force at each wheel to maintain the C-HR’s stationary position.

As you can see Toyota’s Coupe High-Rider is distinct in many ways and offered at an affordable entry price. It doesn’t cover all areas such as infotainment but it is pretty menacing.

Chickpea Tacos

Please enjoy these delicious Chickpea Tacos from Serve with leafy greens, in a bowl, or stuffed in taco shells. Serve this mildly spicy (or not!) taco filling in taco shells with Avocado Cream, lettuce, and other fresh veggies like chopped tomatoes, jicama, or cucumber. Or serve the filling simply over rice with the toppings, or tuck all into a whole-grain tortilla. [Read more…]

Mango and Salsa Bean Salad

Fit Fathers and family, please try this Mango and Salsa Bean Salad from

Makes 6 cups (5 servings)

 1 to 1 1/2 cups cubed fresh mango (1 medium mango), see Note

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

[Read more…]

Sesame Quinoa Salad

Fit Fathers and family please try this Sesame Quinoa Salad from #CheeseTrap #DairyFree

Makes scant 3 cups (2 main-dish servings)

2 cups cooled cooked quinoa

1/2 cup thawed frozen green peas or steamed sliced snow peas

1/2 cup grated carrot (standard grate, not fine) or store-bought shredded carrot

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped green onion (green portion)

[Read more…]

Pineapple-Citrus Green Smoothie

Hello Fit Fathers and family. Please try this nutrient-packed Pineapple-Citrus Green Smoothie from

Makes 2 large smoothies

 2 cups (loosely packed) baby spinach (see Note)

1 1/2 cups frozen pineapple cubes or chunks

1/2 cup thickly sliced cucumber

1 large lemon or small orange, peeled

1 to 1 1/2 cups sliced overripe banana (frozen or fresh)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water (or more to thin as desired) [Read more…]

Men’s Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 2: Run Free

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It’s been a mild winter in Maryland with the first day of March being no different. Yet, as spring approaches I begin to transition back into full running mode after mountain biking, indoor spinning, and strength training during the colder months. So of course I was anxious to try out Nike’s new LunarEpic Flyknit 2 running shoe for men which I received in grey with the black swoosh along with a fresh, matching outfit. Launched in early February the 8.8-ounce shoe (size 10) currently lists for $160 at various retailers including Road Runner Sports.

The second iteration of the LunarEpic allows runners to go farther more comfortably if distance is the focus. I typically put in 120 miles a month during running season when preparing for various Half Marathons. With an array of technologies to its credit part II came at the right time. Nike’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, inspired the LunarEpic FlyKnit 2 for the intent of mimicking the sensation of striding on pine needles. Indeed it feels something like that when you spring from each step, an impression that could ultimately increase your speeds. It certainly did for me, in particular during the end of my runs when I sprint to finish strong.

Its white sole is engineered from the lightest and most condensed foam (both soft and firm to soak up impact) that Nike offers while the outsole features raised rubber and laser-siped pods — similar to tire tread — for better traction and flexibility. The Lunar brand was envisioned by Nike, as you can imagine, to represent the net effect of astronauts landing on the moon with soft bounces while dispersing “evenly spread” energy. Additional design techniques include Lunarlon cushioning and a 10 mm drop which simulates a near minimalist feeling.

The LunarEpic Flyknit 2 is basically an extension of your foot. Though, some runners may not like the initial suffocating feel of the slip-on shoe that basically imitates a pair of thick socks. But after a few minutes and strides the material expands and becomes breathable due to laser perforations in the forefoot. It’s also more of a neutral shoe so if you need structure it could work and it may not. I wear structured shoes for longer distances but did not find the FlyKnit 2 uncomfortable after the initial 50 miles. Only time will tell. I also have wide feet and didn’t have to compromise since they conform a bit.

As I mentioned, Nike also provided a Dri-FIT running shirt and running tights with embedded reflectors and two pockets for my car keys and iPhone 6 with the case. Connecting to a pair of BOSE SoundSport Pulse Bluetooth headphones I was fully connected and felt as hands-free as a bird. The only problem I can foresee is keeping the Flyknit fabric clean. Of course I need to look good which makes me feel good which makes me do good. Dion Sanders said something like that! Enjoy the run.


Fit Father Tip of the Day: Natural Baby Foods

Fit Father Chris Anderson has two simple but very important health tips for your baby. The first is to use frozen fruit chunks in place of ice cubes in your water bottle to hydrate them with minerals and vitamins all day. Secondly, please skip the processed Gerber. Simply puree real fruit in your Vitamix for your kids from day one and they will love eating them for life. Truth!