Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Weekly Sparkle

I attended an awards ceremony last night, and though some professionals think the whole "awards" circuit is overplayed in the Lehigh Valley, it always inspires me to hear what the winners have to say. Many are truly touched and humbled by the recognition. Some don't say much. Others, like a woman I had never heard of before named Aurora Beani, take the opportunity to share their personal philosophies.

Aurora, the inaugural winner of the Lehigh Valley SUITS award/United Way Emerging Leader award, reminded all of us that "It's Not About You." If you haven't read A Purpose-Driven Life or Aurora's blog, The Weekly Sparkle, I encourage you to check out her blog. And Aurora - congratulations on your award!

You only have one life to live and plenty of opportunity to make it count for something great. My belief is that we all must do what we can, whenever we can, to make a difference in the lives of those around us and ultimately, the world. My entire life revolves around the idea of making a positive change and paying forward kind acts that deliver a Sparkle in someone else’s life. This website is a testament to these beliefs and proves that each one of us has the power to make positive, sparkling, change. I’m leaving my mark. Leave yours. #LIVING

PS - I haven't been doing a great job maintaining this blog, but that's mainly because I've found a really great platform for picking up and sharing transplant info - Twitter. If you don't already follow me, please stop by and check out what @lvtransplant's 2000 + Twitter followers are enjoying.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

An Afternoon with Ian Holmes & Friends in Allentown


Guest post by Barbara A. Ballard

I was never a big fan of American Idol – not because of the lack of talent from the contestants, or because I thought it constituted “bad” music – it just wasn’t my thing. I, like many other people, followed the show enough to root for the home-grown talent from the Lehigh Valley area that made it through the preliminary rounds. I never gave the show much more thought than that, until I met, and began working with, the first person from the Lehigh Valley to make it to the Top 50, Ian Holmes.

Ian, like many other contestants on the show, used it to launch his musical career. While building his connections in the biz on both coasts, Ian began teaching at Community Music School (CMS) in Allentown in 2008. CMS is a non-profit organization which was founded in 1981 by four music teachers.  Since then, it has grown to serve more than 1,000 annually in the Lehigh Valley.  The organizations offers financial aid to students who want to pursue music studies but are unable to afford it;. Last year alone, CMS provided over $80,000 in financial assistance and scholarships.  In addition to offering private lessons & ensemble work, CMS offers music therapy as well as outreach programming in both Allentown & Bethlehem School Districts.   

Ian directs the Vocal Fusion group at CMS, which performs pop, rock, soul, & other contemporary selections. He also teaches private lessons in voice and piano. In addition, Ian has led outreach programming at Central Elementary School in Allentown through CMS, providing a chorus ensemble class to students whose music education budgets have been cut. Ian often travels to the West Coast to work with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas. He performs locally, in Philadelphia and New York City, and has recently joined the Latin Grammy Winning Pop/Rock group Camila. 

Before Ian leaves the Valley to go on a nearly two-year world tour with Camila, he will be performing a Benefit Concert for Community Music School, “An Afternoon with Ian Holmes & Friends” on Sunday, November 10, 2 pm at the Rodale Community Room in Miller Symphony Hall. The concert will feature CMS’ student ensemble Fusion, with a reception to follow. A free will offering will be taken at the concert to support CMS programs, and a percentage of all CD sales will also go to CMS. For more information and to reserve your seat, call 610-435-7725. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jury Duty

When I lived in DC, I received a summons for jury duty at least once a year. I guess there were a lot of courts in DC that needed jury members, and not a lot of registered voters or licensed drivers to cover all the trials going on. 

I didn't always have to serve, but I did get selected for a jury once. It was regarding an automobile crash, two people, and a stoplight with questionable timing. The judge warned us not to drive through the intersection on our way home unless it was on the way. I didn't, but every time I passed through after the trial was over, I checked it out thoroughly and always stopped on yellow. One of the drivers was a big guy with a leather jacket, the other, a sweet looking lady, and the case settled before we could deliberate. 

Despite being a registered voter and also a licensed driver in PA, I have not been called to serve in Lehigh County. I know after writing this blog post, I probably will. 

Has anyone served on a jury in Lehigh County or Northampton County? How was the experience?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reader Letter

I recently received this email: 

I was recommended your blog and wanted to ask a question of you-
First of all , I recently moved my 22 year old daughter to Emmaus PA.
She was home for Labor day weekend, to Michigan.  She confessed how very difficult it has been to meet young people.  Her work seems to be mostly married folks, or at least 10 years her elder.  She has a boyfriend, long distance, loves to go running, and is very active.  She is working a lot of hours, and has a quiet life at this time.
Any ideas I can pass on to her for how to meet folks, outside of work in the Lehigh area?  Just tying to get her some ideas- Thanks for your time, love your blog-just sent it to her to catch up.

---------

I confess, I outsourced my reply to a fellow Michigan native-turned Lehigh Valley transplant-turned Michigan boomerang, and will post her reply shortly. But readers - any suggestions? And hey - early 20-something female readers - want to meet her? 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Dreaded 484

In the first Sex And The City movie, when Carrie has to replace her phone and realizes she can't get her 917 back, she whines, "But I've ALWAYS been a 917 girl."

Until 1993, all of southeastern and east central PA, including Philly and the Lehigh Valley, was 215 country. Then around 1998 the phone company started running out of 215s. So, the Valley got its own code - 610. Not too long after, cell phones became popular, and the advent of the 484/610 overlay area began. 484 and 610 cover the exact same geographic area, but... 610 numbers are scarce, so most newcomers get a number with 484.

484? What kind of an area code is that? 

That's what a lot of locals thought, and they've fought tooth and nail to keep their 610 numbers and get a 610 area code for their cell phone number, too. Area codes can be a status symbol. And for Lehigh Valley natives, 610 means: I've been here a while. Nothing is so quick to distinguish a newcomer, than filling out a form and entering 484 in the home phone field. 

This came up recently when an acquaintance was selecting a contractor to do work in her home. 610 means this guy's been in business for a while, she reasoned. 484... you never know about those people.

Natives, pray tell: have you held tight to your 610 number? Newcomers, had you even thought of this? 


Friday, July 19, 2013

Cosi

When I worked in downtown DC, I rode the Metro from where I lived uptown. The first year out of school, I lived in a great duplex (in PA I learned the word is half-a-double) with three other women. (Our landlord only knew about two of them. Shhh) We all took public transportation, a fact of life in DC, but two of us owned cars. From our house, we could catch the 30 buses north to Bethesda and south through Georgetown along Wisconsin Ave., or the D buses north to AU’s campus and Spring Valley (Starbucks!) or south into Dupont Circle and beyond. I commuted to my job on the National Mall by way of a handy little commuter bus route that only stopped a couple of times before dropping me by the IRS building on Constitution Avenue.

When I got my own apartment in Cleveland Park, I became a Metrorail girl. I hopped on the Red Line a block from my place and was usually at work in 15 minutes. Rather than getting off at Farragut West, which was technically my work stop but required a transfer, I’d get off at Farragut North and walk to my office further down K Street. 

It was because of this little half-mile walking commute that I developed a bad Cosi and Starbucks habit. There were two Starbucks on my walk to and from work, a Cosi on the way and another one around the corner on 14th Street just past Au Bon Pain and Corner Bakery. You think the lines at Starbucks and Cosi are crowded at the Promenade Shops? Please. There was no lingering over s’mores at the downtown locations – it was hurry up, pay and get the hell out of the way. In DC, everyone knows what they’re ordering before they get there, because you’ll get killed by the people behind you if you don’t. When Cosi opened in Center Valley I was stoked to get a fix of my “usual.” I walked in and rattled it off: signature-salad-multi-grain-no-gorg-add-feta-lite-shallot-sherry-dressing. The guy behind the counter in Center Valley wasn’t ready for my pro ordering style, so I repeated it again, more slowly the second timewhile happily chewing on “the ends” of the bread left out for squirrels Cosi patrons.

*Special note: Once for my friend Becky, I carried on a box full of Cosi bread from the store in Dupont Circle, DC, when I was flying up to visit her in Rhode Island. She had the oven warming when I arrived.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wawa

became a Wawa fan first “down the shore,” where no shoes no shirt no service does not apply. But it definitely is the kind of place where everyone and anyone goes in the Lehigh Valley for food and fuel. And lottery tickets, clean restrooms, cigarettes, and COFFEE. Yes, other gas stations sell these items, but they are not the community centers that Wawa stores have become.

I have a confession to make. I was a secret shopper a number of years ago, and Wawa was one of my clients. I studied the training manuals and knew when a fresh pot needed to be brewed. I took note of smudge marks on the windows and how many people were in line before me. I got free gas, sandwiches and coffee, and they paid me after I filled out an online reportand submitted receipts. It was pretty rad, but now I can’t go into a Wawa without noticing whether the coffee station is “free of debris.

When you spend a lot of time in Wawa, you learn that the bakery goods are only delivered once a day, in the early morning. There’s a fundraiser going on, and if you donate, you can write your name on the cute little JDRF sneaker-shaped paper (or shamrock for MDA, or…), and they will post it on the wall. In case the cashier doesn’t ask, your coffee hot sleeve will remind you. There are at least 10 different coffee varieties in carafes, and a machine to mix your own “cappuccino” or add “winter spice” creamer into your coffee. Wawa’s ATMs don’t charge fees, but your bank might. Soup is the fastest thing to order from the bar, but getting a sandwich from the island with pre-made sandwiches is even faster. “Specialty” coffees from the bar take the longest. The coffee is tasty and is 1/3 the price of a cup of Starbucks.

Being forced to “notice” what’s going on at Wawa (instead of going in on auto-pilot), I learned that every store attracts all walks of life. Business people getting lunch. Politicians ordering hoagies on a touch screen. Construction workers pouring coffee.Moms with a gaggle of little kids in baseball uniforms gettingIcees. A college student texting while waiting for his mac and cheese. Some lady in her pajamas paying for cigarettes, Tastykakes and ten dollars of gas on pump four. There’s a story behind every face, in these ordinary transactions, at the Wawa closest to you.
Happy Hoagiefest, everyone.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pistachio Bar & Grille

Erin and I started our respective jobs at the same time. Maybe even on the same day. We had lunch two years ago shortly after we both started, and have bumped into each other a few times since then. I knew our roles were similar and I wondered what she was up to. I used our workiversary as an excuse to call her up and invite her to lunch. It turned out she is in the middle of two web site redesigns, something I did with Altitude Marketing a year ago. I consider that achievement my “first” child since it took 9 months to finish it.

We had planned to meet at Asia, a restaurant known for great Peking duck and serious Asian cuisine. Luckily, Erin checked, and it was closed for vacation when we wanted to go. She suggested Pistachio Bar & Grille (Allentown)I had always found it to be a little dark and expensive for what you get. Erin says she always orders the same thing, a practice which I don’t disagree about… there are definitely dishes that I order over and over again and never apologize for doing so. When you find something you like and can’t get it anywhere else, get it while you can and enjoy every bite. I feel the same way about Mayanminirittos with pork at Tulum. But I digress!

We were served bread and olive oil at the table – sweet, carbs. I ordered the gazpacho, which to my surprise, was served in a wine glass! Cute, and also delicious. I also had the grilled veggie wrap, which was pretty standard but tasty. 

The Yelp reviews were awful. You can read them for yourself. I’d say this place is a decent option for anyone who wants to meet someone south of Route 22 for lunch or cocktails, and maybe wants to run some other errands while they’re in the neighborhood. Very convenient to a good Wine & Spirits Shoppe and Weis Market… and Menchie’s FroYo… just sayin’.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guest Post: Jessi Edwards on The Center for Cultural Interchange

By Jessi Edwards
What makes your town or city great? Is it the people, the places, the experiences? For some of us who have lived in the Lehigh Valley all our lives, or even those who are newly transplanted, our little slice of the world is jam-packed with some of the most interesting and coolest places to be – but sometimes we get “blinded” and forget them, because we see these places all the time. I know I do!
How would you describe your area to someone from out of town, let alone from a different country? Would you talk about the Iron Pigs, maybe the Crayola Factory, Allentown Fair or Musikfest? Or would it be the smaller things like the many universities that call our area home or the ever bustling communities like Southside Bethlehem or downtown Easton?
Now what would you say if I could offer you the opportunity to help change the world for a high-school aged foreign exchange student looking to study in America for a year? By bringing one of these special kids to the Lehigh Valley, you will indeed have just that opportunity to show off our beautiful area and make some exciting new memories for you and your family!
My name is Jessi Edwards and I am what is known as a local coordinator for an educational non-profit organization called The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI for short). Our company has been in business since 1985 and every year grants over 800 students their dream of studying in the USA for a semester or academic year. To help facilitate this process, these students require a place to call home – families who are willing to host them and have them become an extended member of their own family.
My job is to find these special families and make what I hope to be a perfect match with one of our students! Through interviewing the family, learning their interests, concerns and reasons for wanting to host, I comb through my database and find a student with similar interests. Then that’s where the magic starts to happen. Once I believe I have a match (I present up to 4 students at a time) and the host family accepts one, now we get down to business and start on the adventure!
Host families can be just about anyone – from varied economic, religious and racial backgrounds and include working parents, empty nesters, singles and single parents. All that is required is:
  • Open communication, encouragement, patience and sound advice
  • A separate bed, which can be in a shared room with a host sibling of similar age and same gender, and a quiet place to study
  • Three daily meals (school lunch may be one of them)
  • Local transportation (students are not permitted to drive while on the program) 
  • Treatment as a member of the family, which may include household rules, responsibilities and privileges.

So if this sounds like you and I have grabbed your interest, I would love to speak with you! This year we have 815 students representing 28 different countries such as France, Germany, Finland, China, Japan and Brazil (just to name a few).

I already have a girl from Finland set to study in Bangor High School and a French boy in East Stroudsburg – but I’d like to give the Lehigh Valley some more international flair!
Our students are coming in mid-August and applications to become a host family are due by July 31, 2013.
Please contact me with any questions you may have – my email is lvcci.jessi@gmail.com and my phone number is (484) 544-3684. I look forward to speaking with you and welcoming you to our ever growing international family.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mesa Modern Mexican

I was complaining to my friend Allison that I ‘never’ get to Easton anymore (which is an exaggeration, but it inspired her to invite me to lunch so – yay). I had heard and read about Mesa Modern Mexican (42 S. 3rd St., Easton) but had not yet visited. I figured it would be worth checking out, judging by the owners’ other properties – you might have heard of them – Pacifico in the Promenade Shops and Tapas on Main in Bethlehem.


It was a random Tuesday at lunchtime and not great weather. If it had been, it would have been fun to hang out on the patio and people-watch. No Lehigh Valley city has better people-watching than Easton! When I arrived, Allison was already seated, which was a good thing, since the place was filling up unexpectedly fast. By this I mean, Sette Luna, Sogo, River Grille and Maxim’s 22 are also within walking distance of Centre Square and everyone already knows they serve a fabulous lunch. It wasn’t a seriously businessy scene. It was totally normal looking people who might have read a review in The Morning Call or something… or maybe… this place already has regulars? Am I that out of the loop or does this place catch on that fast? There were already 10 Yelp reviews posted, 8 of which were positive.Our server was great, also sort of a surprise (what restaurant puts good servers on Tuesday lunch shift?).


I ordered a lunch special – a salad vaguely reminiscent of myfave beet and arugula salad at Pacifico and soft tacos withtilapia. The special was a perfect lunch portion and cost just $9.95. The next time I go back, I want to hang out at that beautiful bar and sample tequilas (a special feature). There’s also a small private room with glass that would be perfect for a small party or business function.


Call to make a reservation… you might need it! 610-829-2101

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bye-Bye, Google Reader

For seven years, I have relied on Google Reader to keep track of all the web sites and blogs that I want to read.

Then, it dumped me. Us. All of us.

I've moved on, to The Old Reader, because I'm nostalgic and read blogs on a desktop computer most of the time. It still hurts.

But while I'm exporting and importing and getting used to the new/old platform, I am also saving and printing my favorite, or "starred" posts, which will not make the trip. I thought I'd share a few with you while I was at it! Enjoy!

Billy's Downtown Diner, Mama Nina's owners opening new Bethlehem restaurants

The restaurateurs are both opening new restaurants on Bethlehem's Linden Street.

The Big Secret No One Tells You

by guest blogger Renee James. As a former colleague of mine used to say—and I mean this in the kindest way to every recent graduate reading this column—"Listen to me very carefully." What you don't know about life, the workplace, relationships and love is a lot...

Renee James - THE ORIGINAL - writers like her have inspired me to write, and write better, from the heart. Her Morning Call columns were the first Lehigh Valley blog posts IMHO.

New Hookah Lounge Gets Planning Commission Approval


Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post: Diana Skowronski on Dating in the Lehigh Valley

Thinking about online dating in the Valley? Sure you are! Because if you’re single, and more importantly a Transplant, it is probably the easiest way to meet new people.

OK, maybe it’s not that easy. It can take some convincing to get started and you could spend countless hours compiling your most flattering photographs, but it’s all downhill from there J So you get setup, start browsing profiles, exchange emails… now what?

CAUTION: OBJECTS IN PICTURES MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.  Whoever invented the “6 degrees of separation” definitely did NOT live in the Lehigh Valley.  The chances are high when talking to a potential match online that you know someone who knows someone who knows that person.  This could be a great thing!  Perhaps you have mutual friends, know their coworkers, played together as little kids.  On the other hand, maybe their dad is your boss or you dated their roommate (oops).  The point is, after you gather a little information don’t be afraid to ask around!  An honest opinion from someone you trust could go a long way when deciding whether or not go to on a date!

So, all is good.  You haven’t managed to dig up any skeletons in your match’s closet and you’re ready to meet up.  Keep a few safety precautions in mind: drive yourself, meet in public and make sure someone knows where you’re going.  But where are you going?  Here are some great, local suggestions J

Date 1: Happy hour.  Grabbing drinks after work is a good way to test the waters.  It’s non-committal, it can be what you make of it. It’s breezy.

Allentown or Bethlehem Brew Works  - if your date is brand new to the Valley, he or she will enjoy checking out this LV hot-spot and sampling the local brews.  This is also a great location because if all goes well over drinks, you (or your date) might suggest sticking around for dinner!

Tapas on Main – This festive little spot on Main Street in Bethlehem has great happy hour specials – including a selection of $5 tapas and $20 sangria pitchers.  Advice: don’t plan on splitting the entire pitcher without a few things to munch on – the great flavors offered tend to mask the strength of what you are consuming. J

Frozen Yogurt – a different kind of happy hour.  If you prefer not to consume alcohol, this is a great date idea!  There are a lot of places popping up all over the Valley for self-serve frozen yogurt with an elaborate selection of toppings.  Look for a So Fun Yogurt, Menchie’s or Sweet Frog near you! Perhaps you will hit it off with your date when you both reach for the chocolate peanut butter swirl!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun, casual places to have a first date in the Lehigh Valley – bottom line: don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Go easy on the first date.  There is no need to commit to a fancy, expensive meal and hours of conversation the first time around.  If all goes well you will have plenty of time for that.

First date a success? Great! Stay tuned for another guest post on suggestions for Date #2!!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Computer Troubleshooters Bethlehem

I knew my laptop computer wasn't always so slow, but I sort of got used to it. Sort of. I admit that I kept it on a lot, to avoid the long time it took to boot up. Okay, I had been a little lax about maintenance. I had recently purchased Windows 8 and a newer version of Microsoft Office, but I hadn't gotten around to figuring out how to un-install what I had in order to install the new software. I mentioned wanting to get my computer stuff organized to my mom, who as it turns out, won a gift certificate for a tune-up at Computer Troubleshooters (51 E. Elizabeth Ave. Bethlehem), and offered it to me to use.


When I called, they told me just to bring everything in and we'd talk about the best way to move forward. I was afraid they'd tell me I needed to buy a new computer. As it turned out, I didn't need to buy a new computer, but I also couldn't use the gift certificate (boo) - what I needed was to have them install the new software and give my machine a good scrubbing. 

It was ready in a couple of days, and I only needed to download the software for my printer, and the anti-virus software (both updates, which I should have had anyway). It already had iTunes, and all my internet bookmarks, files and photos.

They recommended coming back in a year to use the gift certificate for a tune-up (just like I do for my car! brilliant), and I may have them set up my wireless printer in the meantime. The "store" in Bethlehem (near Liberty High School and Jumbar's) is open M-F, 9-5, but technicians are available for appointments almost anytime. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Take my half-full glass and put more in it.

Joan L. Benso, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said this at a recent luncheon honoring advocates for early childhood education: "Take my half-full glass and put more in it." She was referring to her perspective on her work, but I thought it applied to life in the Lehigh Valley as well. 

I am privileged to live and work in the Lehigh Valley. I feel safe in my home and neighborhood. I have lots of great options for healthcare, entertainment and professional services. 

I can't help but compare my life here to the one I lived in DC. Time has seasoned my memory of big city life. Yes, there was public transportation. But sometimes the bus didn't come or the Metrorail train broke down while it was in the tunnel... With no A/C...Full of people hurrying to get home from work or a baseball game. Yes, there were a million things to do every night. But as a young professional, I couldn't afford to go out all the time. And yes, there were so many more young (insert adjective that describes you here: single, married, fabulous, worldly) people than in the Lehigh Valley. But most people were only making DC a stop along their life's journey, as I was, and didn't put down roots long enough to really get to know other people. 

Each year that I have lived here, despite an economic downturn, things have improved. We have a Chipotle, Botox, Bikram yoga, a film festival. There are new transplants arriving daily: I see the hopefulness in their faces in the grocery store, at church, on Main Street when I walk Stella. 

Is there more to do? Yes. Are there people and institutions that could do more? You bet. But my glass is already half-full. The rest is just gravy. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

A couple of blog posts I wish I'd written

It's been a while since I've given a shout-out to some of my favorite bloggers. It's inspiring to read their work and I'm happy to learn about new things happening in the Lehigh Valley through their blogs.

Taste as You Go - Yes, I make a cameo in this one, but I didn't write about it. Michelle Rittler is the brains and the beauty behind this blog, which is one part cooking, one part exploring, two parts great writing. I also adore Olive Branch and need to go there more often. Their fatush salad is my favorite!  "Olive Branch Restaurant - Bethlehem, PA"

The Easton Eccentric - Christina Georgiou covers Easton news that you often won't find anywhere else. In this post, she introduces a new restaurant in Easton's collection. Brazilian BBQ is catching on in the Valley, and it is 100% due to the efforts of the DeMattoses. I will be in Easton for lunch this week, at Mesa, not Batuque. But I will definitely give it a slooow drive-by while I'm downtown.  "Easton's Newest Restaurant, Batuque, Offers Authentic Brazillian BBQ"

ArtsLehigh - Happy news concerning $75K in NEA grants to ArtsQuest, Touchstone Theatre, and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Sure didn't see this on the front page of MCall - it was tucked into the last two paragraphs of John Moser's piece on the RiverJazz Festival. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Silagh! "National Endowment for the Arts Grants in Bethlehem, PA"e

Liz in the LV - Bride-to-be Liz, born in Scranton-lived in NY, opens her heart and her laptop, writing an old-school journal blog that leaves me wondering what will happen next in her life and wishing we could meet for coffee. (All posts)

Valley 610 - Still my favorite MCall column. Emily Opilo discovered that Allentown is considered "flirty" among conservative cities. Her story concludes: "So there you go, you saucy minxes. You're all a bunch of crazy, albeit conservative, flirts. Now quit winking at strangers online and get back to work."

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mother's Day and Mom's Night Out


This Thursday, I might actually go to the mall. The Lehigh Valley Mall. I hear on May 9 there will be beauty demos, entertainment, and snacks. They had me at snacks.
From free makeovers at Boscov’s and complimentary hair styling by Metro Beauty Academy to product giveaways at JCPenney Salon and Zumba demonstrations presented by SFP Health and Wellness Center Allentown, Mom’s Nite Out celebrates motherhood by giving moms a guilt-free excuse to take the night off.
The presenting sponsor of Simon’s Mom’s Nite Out celebration is Rethink Varicose Veins, an educational campaign encouraging those who suffer from venous disease, including varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), to rethink their condition and recognize it as a serious health concern. It's an organization I wasn't aware of, and certainly isn't as jazzy as some other women's health organizations that get a lot of play. Kudos to Simon for having some imagination.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is a mom or has one. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Two thumbs up for Full of Crepe!

It just so happened that two of my FB friends went to Full of Crepe (335 S. New St., Bethlehem) on the same day, and posted about their experience.

One is Kathy Frederick, author of the hilarious blog, The Junk Drawer.

The other is Rebecca Olesen, owner of Milk and Honey Kids.

They both happen to be curly-haired, smarty pants, beautiful, creative ladies. And now they are both full of crepe, too. Love you ladies.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Warm Sugar Bakery bakes me so happy :)

Some tasty treats from The Artisan's Kitchen Project
You know when you hear about a place for the first time, and you tell yourself, yeah, I should definitely check that place out? And then you hear about it for 890th time and you think - this is getting ridiculous? That was me and Warm Sugar Bakery, until today.

I knew there was a place in Hellertown that made cupcakes. I'm all about cupcakes, so that was not a hard sell. Then I saw their whoopie pies at The Burger Shack in Whitehall. Then I started following @warmsugarbakery on Twitter, and @warmsugarbakery followed me back! Then Warm Sugar cupcakes started popping up at events I attended. And finally, I read that Carrie Havranek and John Toner started making their sweets in something called the Artisan's Kitchen Project, headquartered at... Warm Sugar Bakery.

A birthstone cupcake - diamond, for April! 
I finally sent an email to Amy, the brains behind the operation. I must see this place for myself. Since she is a very busy woman, and I guess I am, too, we picked a date five weeks away. A week later, I opened my Sunday Morning Call and saw... a huge feature on The Artisan's Kitchen Project! Scooped by Diane Stoneback, but not deterred in the least, I learned more about the project and was even more excited to see it for myself.

Today, as I walked in the door at 1308 Main Street in Hellertown, I was greeted by one of the artisans, testing a recipe for this weekend's Crepe Crusaders Cafe. I met Amy and forced her to sit down and have a cup of tea.

I won't cover all that Diane Stoneback wrote about so well. Just click the link above. What I will tell you is that Amy and Peter Wardle are not Trend-Setters. They are Trend-Spotters. And extremely thorough. So even though Diane depicts the Project as very sweet (see: naming your business after your kid and conceiving of a business at the school bus stop), this is serious business.

Coming soon - Doodlebug Cookies
Most of the Project's participants have full-time jobs and/or kids at home. They had an idea and needed commercial kitchen space to test recipes, develop a marketing plan and incubate a business. But fear not: these bakers are no amateurs (anymore). The "birthstone" cupcake (pictured above) sparkles like a blingy diamond, and tastes light and lemony. Worthy of a birthday present! A sweet surprise in the center literally took the cake. I tasted Snickers fudge, whst a candy bar would taste like if the Snickers bar hadn't sat on a warehouse shelf for half a year before you bit into it. I had a two-bite cake truffle that was a two bites of coconutty heaven. And I ate a chocolate chip cookie so chewy and crispy at the same time that it made me nostalgic for a glass of milk and a front porch swing.  I'm writing this between doing a thousand crunches, lunges and squats, but it was so worth it.

A few of the Project's participants are already collaborating. You'll find granola made in the kitchen inside a special crepe. One of the newest participants, a vegan baker, will be baking vegan cupcakes and topping them with Warm Sugar's (already vegan) icing. Warm Sugar experimented with baking using Project-made Freckle Face Fudge (oops, fail) and is toying with some other tasty pairing ideas. Amy looks forward to seeing where each of the Project's participants takes their ventures. Some may open their own shops, others may want to sell their product wholesale locally and nationally. And who knows, someday, if the Lehigh Valley's municipal leaders ever change the crazy limitations they put on small business owners, maybe we'll see a cupcake truck (a girl can dream). I'm going to keep an eye on Amy and Peter - I have a feeling they'll be spotting the next trend and capitalizing on it long before the rest of us catch on.

You can visit them on Facebook, but it's not nearly as tasty as visiting in person. Go any Friday between 12-5 or Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and experience The Crepe Crusaders Cafe, offering a full menu of crepey goodness, and take home a variety box of Artisan Kitchen Project goodies.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

First-ever Lehigh Valley TedX event - sold out!


Theme: where people MEET & ideas FLOW

Bethlehem, PA, United States
April 6th, 2013

VENUE AND DETAILS

TEDx Lehigh River
830 East First Street
Bethlehem, PA, 18015
United States
April 6th, 2013
1:00pm-5:00pm (GMT 0hrs)
Event Type (what is this?)Standard
This event is invite-only. Tickets are sold out.
Ticketing policies vary by event.

About this event

TEDxLehighRiver is a community-based initiative planned around the goal of bringing together a diverse group of speakers and audience members to participate in a program of engaging and thought-provoking presentations and conversation.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Kashi Johnson
    Associate Professor of Theater, Lehigh University
  • Dr. James Peterson
    Associate Professor of English, Director of Africana Studies, Lehigh University
  • Dr. Katherine Ramsland
    Professor of Psychology, DeSales University
  • Frank T. Smith
    Corporate Executive and Photojournalist
  • Dr. Paul Wieand
    Founder and Chairman, Center for Advanced Emotional Intelligence

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Historic Partnership between the Big Three Lehigh Valley Libraries

I love a library, and especially love a strategic partnership. Kudos to the libraries and the Community Foundation for making it happen!

The Lehigh Valley Community Foundation has awarded $22,500 for the purchase of a delivery van for the Millennium Project. The Millennium Project is a cooperative effort of the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton public libraries to share resources, save costs and more efficiently serve the public. The project was conceived by the directors of the three libraries. The directors and staff have been meeting for over a year to facilitate best practices and identical borrowing policies. The three libraries already share an online catalog system. The van will enable daily deliveries between the three libraries. The delivery service will be less expensive than interlibrary loan which is the current method to fulfill patron requests for materials from other libraries.

The Lehigh Valley Community Foundation is a collaboration among area philanthropists to improve the quality of life in our region. They awarded a substantial number of grants to area nonprofits totaling $1,748,935 last year. The South Side Branch of the Bethlehem Area Public Library benefitted from a Lehigh Valley Community Foundation $5000 grant for the recent renovations to the first floor.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Back Door Bakeshop To Open in Downtown Bethlehem

Congratulations to Gail and Dina on moving the baking operation "downtown" to 92 East Broad Street in Bethlehem! You may recognize the name Back Door Bakeshop from the stands they've had at multiple farmers' markets in the area. They'll be open soon: 
This space will allow us to sell retail, and will have two walk-up windows for our customers to order and pick up from – kind of like a stationary food truck. Since there’s no indoor seating, everything will be “to-go”. During nice weather, we’ll pop a few cafe tables out on the sidewalk.
Along with all of our baked goods, we’ll be offering soup and sandwiches for lunch (just wait ’til you see our sandwich menu) and quiche and muffins for breakfast. Keep an eye out for our daily cakes and pies – and we’re reviving the Bundt cake. Oh, and our coffee will be supplied by a great roaster based in Monmouth Beach, NJ.Booskerdoo Coffee  offers quite a few delicious blends, and we’ll be brewing it fresh just for you. We’ll also have tea, hot cocoa, and other soft drinks.
I love Gail's cappucino brownies and peach jam, and Mark has a weakness for her granola. I can't wait for BDB, retail-style. I predict it will bring some life to East Broad Street and inspire some other businesses to get spruced up!

What else is (already) worth checking out in that neighborhood?
Panache Skin Care & Makeup
Sew On & Sew Forth tailoring (in concert with Underwired vintage store!)
The Other Fish Sushi Bar

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Third and Ferry Fish Market

The former Lipkin's building in downtown Easton has been under renovation/reinforcement/construction for far too long. The team behind this development is also part of a couple of places you already love - Vintage Restaurant at The Club at Morgan Hill in Easton, and Green Pepper at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. 

Adding seafood to the mix, the Third and Ferry Street Fish Market is scheduled to open by early spring on the first floor of Lipkin’s building, 44 S. Third St., said Mike Pichetto, proprietor of Vintage at the Club at Morgan Hill in Williams Township.
Featuring a raw bar, it will also have a retail fish market, Pichetto said. It may eventually offer oven-ready dishes for sale, he added.
On the upper floors, building owner Pal Reality is starting to rent six 1,000-square-foot duplex apartments on the third and fourth floors and two 1,300-square-foot second-floor apartments, Pichetto said. The company plans to have tenants by February in the old furniture store, he said.
A chef — Javin Small, formerly at The Farmhouse in Emmaus — has been hired, Pichetto said.
Meals to go, fish market, raw bar... all new things to the downtown Easton restaurant scene, plus a talented chef and experienced ownership team. A winning combination. I can't wait for this place to open. And when it does, it will make four fantastic restaurants on one block - Ocean, Sette Luna and Mesa. Progressive dinner, anyone? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guest post: Colors make running fun! - Bethlehem Color Run

by Diana Skowronski


As a Lehigh Valley transplant of almost 3 years I am always looking for things to do in the area with 2 goals in mind: to build my social circle and to have new experiences.  Last year I decided to make one of those new experiences running a 5K! I was never a runner so if you’re new to running too I hope I can inspire you!  I would jog here and there but I had always counted myself out of the running game based on my asthma diagnosis and the onset of shin splints in high school.  Then I realized the only reason I wasn’t running was because I said I can’t… but what if I said I can?

And so began my journey to completing a 5K, and I took advantage of all the Lehigh Valley has to offer to get there.  First, I signed up for the Runners World 5K that took place on October 20, 2012.  Next I went to Aardvark Sports Shop on Main Street in Bethlehem as recommended by a friend to get supportive running shoes.  Unbeknownst to me this would alleviate pain from my shin splints!  The employees there are great and I left with a pair of sneakers that completely changed my running experience.  Finally, I trained on the great trails here in the Valley!  I ran mostly on the Saucon Rail Trail from Hellertown because it is closest to my house, and occasionally on the Muhlenberg College track because I love any excuse to visit my alma mater J

Fast forward to the 5K.  The morning of October 20th at the Runners World Festival setup in front of the Steel Stacks was awesome!  I heard people talk about the energy of a race but I didn’t really understand it until I was there.  I had set my goal at 32 minutes (ten minute miles) and I was anxious to see if I would make it.  After a great run around Bethlehem’s South Side I came in at 31:57, just under goal.  I felt very accomplished and proud of myself, yet I continued to tell everyone it was my first and last race.  It was just something I wanted to check off my bucket list and I’m not competitive by nature so I wasn’t concerned with running again and beating my time.  I was just glad I did it, had fun and achieved the goal I set for myself.  But as it turns out, I lied.  I will be running my second 5K this coming May, but this one will be a bit… brighter?

Color Me Rad is coming to Bethlehem.  This is a race in which runners are blasted with “Color Bombs” throughout the course, leaving you looking a bit like spin art when you come out.  Maybe I wasn’t interested in participating in another race to beat my own time, but interested in getting covered in colorful paint and having it be socially acceptable? Absolutely.  So with no more than 2 seconds of thought I signed up for a team captained by a friend of mine.  I feel like there is no way this wouldn’t be a blast and I am hoping the fun atmosphere of this event will bring out some more new runners like myself!  Setting a goal and having something to look forward to is the best way to get started.  If nothing else, it will provide you with some great photos to impress all of your Facebook friends!  I hope to see a lot of you Transplants (and natives!) out there – be on the lookout for me. I’ll be running with Team: Do these colors make my butt look big? And hopefully the answer to that will be no J