Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Allentown Art Museum: The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design


In today's mail, we received the quarterly newsletter for the Allentown Art Museum (31 N. Fifth St., Allentown, one block from Hamilton St.). I'm excited to see the two new exhibitions opening February 7, all about "green" residential design. Green House will feature 11 models and drawings, and photographs of 21 homes. Lehigh Valley Going Green focuses on local examples of residential, commercial and institutional building projects that are LEED certified.

The exhibition's "Preview" party at the museum is inexplicably scheduled to be held after the exhibition opens on Thursday, February 11, from 6-8 p.m. It's open to the public, but non-members must pay a $15 cover to enjoy food, drink (generally cash bar), live music, and a fun evening in Allentown. RSVP is requested. If I were you, I'd go to the party, then check out the scene at Allentown Brew Works (812 Hamilton St., Allentown). The bar is hosting an Over the Hump Wednesday happy hour, and also a martinis and manicures event until 8, and I'm sure the crowd will hang around after.

If a preview party is not your scene, the museum will likely be much less crowded on weekdays, and non-members pay just $7 to see the show. If you can make it on March 3, you can take advantage of a free (with price of admission) gallery talk led by chief curator Jacqueline M. Atkins at noon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Secret Art Space in Bethlehem

Ninjessa

Fursaxa

Want to know a secret?

The Secret Art Space is on Rink Street, near Vine Street, on the South Side of Bethlehem (very close to Deja Brew Coffeehouse - look for the green door).

The first-ever LV Ladyfest will be taking place there on January 2, featuring Fursaxa, Bad Temple, Ninjessa, Dark Circles, and Mad O, "a celebration of bands in the Lehigh Valley that have female musicians." Fursaxa is the only artist I'm familiar with; Tara's music is considered "acid folk." Overall I'd say they're mostly punk rock/indie but most indie groups defy classification in my mind. Check out the links above for more information and free previews of each group's music.

Randi from Comfort & Joy (105 East 3rd Street, Bethlehem) was bragging about her daughter's band, Ninjessa; she said that in addition to being insanely talented, the members are beautiful women and good cooks.

Secret Art Space is home to some of the the most free form, creative art gatherings in the area. If you have an itch for some original music (and it seems like some of you might, based on your recent comments), this would be a good place to scratch it. Doors open at 6 p.m., bands go on at 7. Cover $6-8.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CitySlips at Mixed Bag on Main


While doing some after-Christmas shopping on Main Street today, I noticed this display in Mixed Bag on Main (450 Main St., Bethlehem, PA) for CitySlips. Their tagline is "Compact, portable, foldable ballet flats with expandable carrying case. Helping soothe sore soles from killer heels." Such a good idea - after running in heels at a late-night work event or at a wedding or prom, these would be golden. They come in three sizes and three colors. I'm pretty sure I saw them featured on NBC's "Today" Show before the holidays, a promotion by Oprah's buddy Gayle King about great gifts for under $30.00. I couldn't help but thinking that this was the kind of thing that you'd have to Google to find, then order online from a web retailer.
I was so happy to see them in a local shop, and sure enough, the price was just $27.00. That is less than the sale price on the ShopNBC site, because there's no shipping and handling.
Mixed Bag has great gift items for babies and kids, too - the kind of stuff a mom would probably never buy for her kid but is unbelievably adorable. Need to remember that for some upcoming baby showers!
Did anyone else find a good deal locally before or after the holiday?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Challenge to Metromix

Neko Case, who will likely never play a concert in the Lehigh Valley



Dear Metromix,

I picked up your latest issue in a plastic box outside Christkindlmarkt last week, and I'm writing to let you know that I have a beef with your "Best albums of 2009" article. I realize that Andy Hermann is the national music editor of Metromix, and he's probably never been to the Lehigh Valley, PA. But your list of the best albums (online content via NYC Metromix - TMC has not posted it online yet) does not even remotely reflect the musical sensibility of most Lehigh Valleyans.

If your intent was to educate the masses about "real" music, it falls on deaf ears. We in the Lehigh Valley have lots of opportunities to rock out to live music, but most of it is by way of cover bands. Some are more metal, some are more classic rock, others pop or punk; however, I doubt any of them covered a song from your #1 album, "Middle Cyclone," by Neko Case. If one did, I would be belly-up to the bar singing "Man-man-man, man-man-man eater" at the top of my lungs with the one other Neko Case fan in the Lehigh Valley.

But Neko Case didn't stop in our at any of our great local venues like Godfrey Daniels (7 East Fourth Street, Bethlehem), Porter's Pub (700 Northampton Street, Easton), or Crocodile Rock (520 Hamilton Street, Allentown). She did perform at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside last April. She also played two shows at my favorite live music venue in Washington, DC, the 9:30 Club, where I once took in performances by artists like Ryan Adams, Kasey Chambers, Basement Jaxx, Zero 7, Pete Yorn, Old 97s, Mindy Smith, and Keane. She never came to the Lehigh Valley, because her record company believes that there is no audience for her here.

People like me, displaced music fans, have a couple of options:

Metromix, I am disappointed. Your writers could have spent a few hours researching an article on the top 10 list of the best concerts that came to the Lehigh Valley in 2009 - it would have been easy enough, since you print their listings every week! By publishing this list, you have proven how little local content you are actually interested in providing to readers, and I think that's a shame.

Sincerely,
Lehigh Valley Transplant

Friday, December 18, 2009

Potbelly


I read this week in Retail Watch about Potbelly Sandwich Works looking into opening franchise locations in the Lehigh Valley. If you have never been to a Potbelly, let me tell you from experience, they serve up some tasty sandwiches and milkshakes.

From their web site:
Potbelly started in 1977 when a little antique store on Lincoln Avenue in
Chicago started selling toasted sandwiches (right along with vintage stoves, old
books and other knick knacks) to boost business.
Besides toasted sandwiches, they also offer chili and salads. But my favorites are the freshly-baked cookies, hand-dipped milkshakes with a cute little butter cookie on the straw, and to-die-for ice cream sandwiches. Potbelly restaurants are unique in that they always feature antiques in their decor, especially potbelly stoves, but they also offer live musical entertainment, every day, all day long. In small stores, like the one near my office in DC (14th St. & NY Ave.), the artists actually perform above the line of people that inevitably formed below. Once or twice I thought there was recorded music playing, until I saw the artist climb down a ladder next to us.

Has anyone else experienced Potbelly, and what do you think? Is there room for a Potbelly here in the Lehigh Valley?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On 3 Imaging

There are photographers, and then there are photographers you can call at the last minute, set up a studio in their dining room, sweat it out in a building with no air-conditioning, spend hours making elected officials look good in ribbon-cutting photographs, and make sure you are happy with the photos of yourself, even though you are self-conscious and not photogenic.

I know of only one, and it's my friend Eric Gensel, who is a terrific photographer, former colleague, and dear friend. His company is On 3 Imaging.

Eric is responsible for the portraits on this blog, which are scheduled to appear alongside my first Lehigh Valley Style column in March. I am sincerely grateful. Also, special thanks to his beautiful wife Kinsey, whom I've known since high school, for the inspiration to use the Brew Works bar and for her patience!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

19th Street Allentown

the store's exterior at night

The Lehigh Valley has some great shopping districts, and I don't mean the Promenade Shops (2845 Center Valley Parkway, Center Valley) or the Lehigh Valley Mall (1491 Macarthur Road, Whitehall). I am referring to South Side Bethlehem, Historic Bethlehem, Downtown Easton, Main Street Hellertown, Downtown Emmaus, and my recent fave... 19th Street in Allentown.

Last week I joined a group of commercial real estate brokers and developers on the West End of Allentown for a walking tour of 19th Street and a preview of what's to come.

Frank Shipman gave us an update on what's going on in the former Shanty Restaurant. The building will soon be a salon and spa with a full-service restaurant. He is looking for a distinctive eatery to lease the 3,000 square foot frontage of their space. Then we visited the Civic Theatre (527 North 19th Street, Allentown), where my family will be enjoying the annual production of "A Christmas Carol" on Friday night. We heard about the West End Alliance's efforts to improve the quality of life in their urban neighborhood. The Alliance put together "19 Fun Facts About 19th Street," an inspiring list for any neighborhood, let alone one in Allentown! A few tidibits I didn't know: The Allentown Farmers Market attracts 25,000 people weekly, and the West End has its own dinner theater, Pines Dinner Theater (448 North 17th Street, Allentown).

When I saw the sign for Step in 4 Mor (1823 W Allen St., Allentown - a block off 19th Street) when I was turning around to go home, I pulled in to the parking lot. Niki told me about the store, which is owned and operated by her friend, Muhlenberg College alum Stephanie Morffi. I'd seen her ads, and I've been told that if I liked Shuze, that I should check out what Steph's got going on in Allentown. Steph and Vino, her adorable dog, were inside the store when I stepped in. Steph's done a great job selecting beautiful, of-the-moment shoes. I picked up a pair of Sam Edelman ballet flats with a crocodile-patterned leather and leopard-print fabric lining, and definitely selected an outfit to go with them today so that I could break them in! The store also has a fully-stocked wine fridge, some perfect housewarming gifts for holiday parties (including a girlie flask with hot cocoa mix), and great accessories you might just want to gift to yourself.

Check out little Vino, posing on the zebra-print settee!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Challenge: Shop Locally for the Holidays

It seems like the spirit of Christmas in a tough economy has everyone thinking about shopping locally. The Neighbors of Easton wrote about local businesses this week, and included some helpful links to learn more about creating and fostering a sustainable local economy. Then I received an email with a direct link to the SBNLV (Sustainable Business Network of the Lehigh Valley)'s new Internet video. Check it out on youtube by clicking here. A few of my favorite places to shop are featured in it! After that, I read Jana's blog for Lehigh Valley Style, and was inspired by her commitment to contribute to the local economy for the holidays:
It has become customary that my dad, sister, and I bear the selfish Black Friday crowds at the Lehigh Valley Mall for a few deals and steals, but this year I want to focus my energy into seeking out unique gifts while helping our local economy at the same time.
And today even the Chamber of Commerce asked for businesses to pledge to shop locally:
The pledge is simple: businesses, whether they are members or not, pledge to shift 5% of their spending from out of the Valley to back in. According to our statistics, if every business in the Valley took this pledge, an additional $100 million would be spent in the Lehigh Valley.
I realize that not everything on your list is going to be available in an independently-owned local business, but to the extent that it's possible, give it a shot. It might mean one extra trip in the car, but maybe you'll start a new holiday tradition of shopping in a downtown area, or discover a whole new shopping experience. If you have already done some local shopping, how did it go? Did you find anything completely surprising or unique?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Search of the Great Third Place

When I read about the outcry over an Emmaus coffee shop (Mas Cafe) closing, it reminded me of Dr. Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community." I read Oldenburg's book shortly after we moved to the Lehigh Valley: in it, he travels all over the United States, seeking out the "third places" (meaning, a place to go when you aren't at home or work) where people congregate.

The Great Good Place argues that "third places" - where people can gather, put
aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of
good company and lively conversation - are the heart of a community's social
vitality and the grassroots of democracy.
For people living in big cities, open space and community gathering spaces are key. Apartments are small and many people don't have cars or prefer not to use them to get around. So their little neighborhood joints become part living room, part kitchen, part remote office, part conference room. The people who work at these businesses, and the other people who hang out there regularly, become a second (or third) family.

In a region like the Lehigh Valley, it's easy to get into a rhythm of driving from home to work and back again without getting to know your neighbors or spending any significant amount of time anywhere else. There are a lot of private clubs in the area, where mainly locals meet for cheap eats and drinks, gambling (shh...) and sometimes entertainment. But what about those of us who are new to the area? Especially if we aren't the kind of person to hang around a coffee shop and strike up conversations with complete strangers who might just be there to pick up something to drink and head back home or to work?

Do you have a Third Place? Would you nominate some of the best Third Places that might be a good place for a transplant to meet other like-minded individuals?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Latin food in the Lehigh Valley

my lunch - a beef burrito (just eh) and chicken and cheese taco (YUM). Hot sauce on the left.

Danielle and I had lunch at General Zapata (15 East 4th Street, South Side Bethlehem, a.k.a. GZ) last week. I'd been there a couple of times before (notably, once with the gang from RenewLV) and even ordered some quesadillas for a little office open house we held last Friday night.

The restaurant's name pays tribute to the former Zapata's Place (ZP) on Stefko Boulevard, where Rick worked for 10 years. Rick told me that even the hot sauce on each table is an homage to ZP's owner. Rick's extended family operates Amigo Mio (545 Cleveland Street, Allentown), a place known as much for its incredible food as it is for its strict rules (open 6-9 p.m., cash only, long waits because staff is limited). In addition to great Mexican, General Zapata's also includes cuisine from Rick and Carmen's Puerto Rican heritage. Rick makes the tortillas from SCRATCH, people. That means they are seriously fresh and chewy, not rubbery from refrigeration like the kind you get at many Mexican places. He also sources his beef and some other ingredients locally.

GZ open its 30-seat Mexican/Caribbean fusion dining room in May. When it's full (as it's been many lunches and dinners since it received a positive review from The Morning Call), it's tough to get in. I adore this size of restaurant; many are BYOBs and usually, the owner's in the back cooking up a storm or in the front, making sure everyone is comfortable. Sette Luna (219 Ferry St., Easton) started out about that size (before expanding into the space next-door). Sagra Bistro (620 Main St., Hellertown) seats about 30 in the dining room. The Cafe (221 W. Broad St., Bethlehem) probably seats about 50 in two separate, intimate rooms. You get a cozy feeling in a place that size. I know there are other restaurants this size - did I miss any gems?

Speaking of Mexican, Danielle told me that Fiesta Ole is opening where Fuddrucker's was (2955 Linden Street, Bethlehem), and then I read about it in Retail Watch. She is not the first person to tell me that Fiesta Ole is good stuff. But Mike at Beyond Scrapple (and Capri) panned it, so I'll need to investigate for myself. There are now three locations (in addition to Bethlehem, at 1116 Chestnut Street, Emmaus and 1808 MacArthur Road, Whitehall) in the Valley and two in Reading.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Nazareth Center for the Arts

I learned this week that an arts center has opened at 30 Belvidere Street in Nazareth Borough. Volunteers spent the past year renovating the building that previously housed the Vigilance Hose Company No. 1 into an art gallery and venue for musical performances.

The second annual Nazareth Area Holiday House Tour (to benefit the Nazareth Center for the Arts) is Saturday, December 12, 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. In addition to the Nazareth Center for the Arts, nine other properties in Nazareth and Bushkill Township will be included on the house tour. Each home will feature art by a local artist and live music. Tickets are $20.

The Center's blog has more information about the house tour, and lists a few upcoming events. Their current web site is a bit sickly. When you're in Nazareth visiting the Center for the Arts, check out one of these great restaurants (just one or two blocks from the new Center for the Arts):
  • Rios Brazilian Steak House (a meaty bonanza at 127 South Broad Street)
  • Hana Sushi‎ (just opened last month at 6 Belvidere Street)
  • Main Street Garden Cafe‎ (lunch only, 52 South Main Street)
  • Bistro on Main (replaced Dutch N Such at 47 South Main Street)
If you live in Nazareth, please investigate and report back! Or if you're involved in the project, let us know how it's going.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Middle Eastern Cuisine in the LV

When I was in Easton last week, I noticed a sign announcing Phoenicia Restaurant (154 Northampton St., Easton) would be opening soon. I saw on a blog this week that the restaurant recently joined the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber is hosting a ribbon-cutting event for them. I checked out the web site and learned that it will be opening on December 10, and the Grand Opening Friday & Saturday nights, December 11 & 12 , will feature live entertainment and belly dancing.

I was thinking to myself that it might be the only Middle Eastern restaurant in Easton. Both Olive Branch Cafe & Restaurant (355 Broadway, Bethlehem) and Petra Mediterranean (81 W Broad St, Bethlehem) feature Middle Eastern dishes, but I think Allentown has cornered the market on real Middle Eastern food in the Lehigh Valley: Damascus Restaurant‎ (449 North 2nd Street, Allentown); Habibi Sweetheart Restaurant‎ (1429 Lehigh Street, Allentown); and Aladdin Restaurant (651 Union Boulevard, Allentown). I know there are some loyal LVT blog readers who are big fans of Middle Eastern cuisine - what's your favorite? I know that Petra's food is a little Moroccan and a little Jordanian, Habibi is Jordanian, and Phoenicia will be Lebanese. From where in the Middle East do the others originate?

Also, does Easton have room for another fabulous restaurant? (Sort of a rhetorical question.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pay to Shop?

I volunteered a shift at Christkindlmarkt (C't) yesterday. I was initially signed up to help at the information booth, but was reassigned to "St. Nick's Assistant." (No, I did not have to wear an elf costume.) I got a kick out of seeing the little kids interact with Santa - I kid you not, our M.O. was to encourage them to 'Give Santa a High Five' - and surprisingly, seeing so many adults cozying up to the old guy. A few even paid to have their picture taken with him. The tradition of children seeing Santa, telling him what they want for Christmas, and getting a gift, evolved into a moneymaker once malls figured out they could milk you for another few bucks. Polaroid cameras made it possible to instantly have a momento of your child screaming because Mommy left him on the lap of some stranger. With the advent of digital photography, everyone's got a camera or a phone with a camera in it at all times. We don't need anyone to take our kid's picture. But not only will ArtsQuest volunteers take a picture, they'll take a few, and let you pick your favorite. Then they'll print however many you want in whatever sizes you need. I noticed that most people only got one 5"x7" photo; I'm sure most will scan it, put it on Facebook, and email Grandma. Some people didn't want to purchase a photo. One teacher held up the line of paying customers while she took pictures of her students with multiple cameras and cameraphones. But here's the problem - the proceeds from this annual photo op benefit kids' programs at The Banana Factory. While the artists profit from the purchase of the items in the booths and pay a small fee to exhibit, it's ArtsQuest that pays the bills (including St. Nick's salary). Many locals shun C't, because they 'don't want to pay to shop.' I justify the $7 entrance fee this way (we saved $1 using the coupon on the Artsquest web site): I paid $2 to park in one of the City's municipal parking lots. I figure that I would pay $5 or more in a bigger city. So that's a $3 donation for parking. Then I'd pay at least $3 for the entertainment - there's live music and performances all day inside, plus glass blowing and ice sculpting demonstrations outdoors, between tents. And finally, I'd make a $1 donation to the folks at ArtsQuest for creating a warm, festive holiday wonderland that has become an annual tradition. Then the $7 entrance fee doesn't seem so steep to me. Considering the large groups of visitors that come on tour buses from all over the mid-Atlantic, it seems like a lot of people agree. I went to C't today and purchased two wall-hanging pieces from an tile artist from Easton whose company name is BB Tiles. The artist's web site is a little outdated (shows listed are from 2004), but contact information is correct.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The danger of telling the world about your favorite place

When you find a truly great place, a tiny gem in a field of rocks that look like chain restaurants, you cherish it and visit it often. While you love it, you are often hesitant to tell people about it, lest it become played out, crowded, and suddenly, a different place altogether.

For stores, or events, who cares if there are 100 people there. If you know the store owner, you might even get a heads-up when new gear arrives. But a restaurant you like to go to on Friday nights? Or a coffee shop with four seats? Dilemma.

There's a restaurant near the house I rented with friends in DC called Two Amys. When it first opened, it was a neighborhood gem. Tucked on a side street behind a popular Mexican restaurant, it subsisted mostly on overflow from that restaurant and maybe Cafe Deluxe. It had great pizza and a cozy little bar in the back that was perfect for meeting friends or a date, but it also had no parking and no "lobby." All of this made it charming and kind of a local favorite. Then it was discovered by Washingtonian in 2003 and picked for the cover of its Cheap Eats edition. Suddenly, the place was overrun by suburbanites desperate to escape the duldrums of their strip-mall Pizzeria Uno and California Pizza Kitchen. You couldn't get a table there on a weeknight, let alone a Friday. Even takeout was a problem, since the front of the restaurant was clogged with people waiting for a table. Parking in the neighborhood, already at a premium, became a nightmare. We stopped going there and found other neighborhood places that were just as good, but undiscovered.

Imagine my horror when the place all the hipsters have been buzzing and Twittering about was discovered by the Morning Call's Retail Watch. Word on The Bookstore Speakeasy (336 Adams Street, South Side Bethlehem) is out.

it's a book...
...actually, it's the drink menu.

When Beata, Jorge, Courtney, Mark and I went last week for cocktails and microbrews after work, we were impressed. The place is cool - can't say I've ever been anywhere like it - but it isn't cheap. But that's what everyone said last week: The El Vee, Lehigh Valley Style blog and LV Scene all wrote reviews, Lehigh Valley With Love gave it a shout-out, Channel 69 stopped by, and Retail Watch proves again just how out-of-touch The Morning Call is. If you are thinking about going, check out the menu online and read at least one of the reviews so you don't look like a rookie. Here are a couple of tips: It is located between Fourth Street and the Trans-Bridge bus station. There is no dedicated parking, just meter parking at lots and on the street. The door says "THE BOOKSTORE" and you have to push open a curtain inside to find the bar. The Bookstore offers a limited menu, but the owners just introduced a prixe-fixe dinner menu, $35 for four courses (not bad), Thursday-Saturday between 5-7 p.m.

Best cocktail on the planet: the sidecar. At The Bookstore, it costs $11.00.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Goosey Gander & the Lehigh pep band

Last Friday, Donna and Mark and I were picking up lunch at Goosey Gander (102 W. Fourth Street, Bethlehem) when...





See the drum major's baton? It's a tiki torch.






Check out the gander sandwich (above, right).


Lehigh beat Lafayette in their 145th meeting on Saturday, 27-21 in overtime. Theirs is the most-played rivalry in all college football history.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comment Moderation & Lehigh Pub

This blog received a number of negative comments in a row this afternoon about Lehigh Pub.

In case you hadn't already figured it out, this blog's purpose is to educate people about what the Valley has to offer and to encourage Valley natives and transplants to visit local businesses. I'm not fond of publishing anonymous negative comments (though as long you aren't shilling for profit, anonymous positive comments, and shilling for a good cause or because you genuinely like something is okay by me).

The Express-Times recently covered the story of two college students who refused to pay a mandated tip at the restaurant. There are two sides to every story; however, the restaurant refused to comment in the article, so make up your own mind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Easton After Five

For my first Style column, I plan to highlight a few things to do "after 5" in Easton. I think most people already know about the Easton Farmer's Market and cute downtown retailers, and Easton's fabulous restaurant scene. Add to that: Townies know where to go to see a cover band and drink a beer, and Lafayette College students know which places will serve them underage.

I'm gathering a small group of transplants and natives to have dinner at Sette Luna (a place where we love to take our friends from out-of-town) and then explore downtown Easton at night. I already have a list of no fewer than EIGHT things happening that night and plan to encourage everyone to do what they like and report back. I'm also taking suggestions from the floor (read: you). Then I'll compile everyone's thoughts into a 1500 word column for the magazine.

If it's okay with you all, I'd love to preview at least part of the column here, to get your feedback before my December 15 deadline. You'll have to tune in to Style in March to get the full story.

Let me know what you think! Want to join us?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve in the Valley

I'm sure it's not just a Lehigh Valley phenomenon, but Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest party night of the year around here.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. First of all, expatriates return home for some mandatory time with family who stayed in the Lehigh Valley. One can only handle so much of that, so after a few hours of unpacking and getting caught up on family dysfunctions, a stiff drink may be in order. For those who are not traveling out of town, it's a chance to catch up with old friends who are only in town for a few nights. Since it isn't a religious holiday and there's no reason to wake up early on Thanksgiving, it's prime for staying out late. Most people tend to stick close to home (and to the bars that were second homes), but some will flock to the bigger entertainment venues. Either way, it's a good excuse to get dressed up and show everyone how well you have done for yourself since the days of braces, driver's ed, and passing notes (which I doubt kids even do anymore w/ the proliferation of text messages). Here are a few fun parties I have heard about:

Pigpen Bar & Grille (702 Union Blvd., Allentown) has The Large Flowerheads, "Groovy '60s Music You Love," and no cover for ladies.

Allentown Brew Works (812 W Hamilton St, Allentown) has its regularly-scheduled Trivia Night, Whitehall High School 5th Year Reunion, and more.

Starters Riverport (17 W. Second St., Bethlehem) has DJ Cap Cee, no cover, and a naked chick rolling in leaves on the invite. (?!)

Sands Bethlehem (77 Sands Boulevard, Bethlehem) has Lauralea & Tripp Fabulous in the Molten Lounge, 8:30pm - 12:30am, no cover.

Blue Monkey (1092-1094 Howertown Road, North Catasauqua) is feature live music from Common Bond.

Drinky's (5 Centre Square, Easton) needs to update their web site, but I am sure they will be having a party.

Metromix is hosting a Thanksgiving Eve Bar Crawl at Firehouse, PigPen, Mezza Luna and Roosevelt's 21st, beginning at 7 p.m.

Natives, is there a spot that your high school friends have claimed as their own?

Transplants, will you be celebrating Thanksgiving Eve out of town at your old watering hole? Or will you be out in the Valley, laughing at all the awkward reunions or tagging along with your significant other to their reunion?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I miss Trader Joe's



In DC, there were great grocery stores (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods), bad grocery stores (Safeway, Giant), and corner markets.

I really miss the variety and relatively low prices at Trader Joe's. They had some classic items which I stockpile when I have a chance to go. These include Big & Chunky Applesauce, a million Indian items, frozen goodies including to-die-for mac and cheese, Avocado's Number guacamole, soups, Dunkers cookies, tiramisu gelato, and French Market Lemonade. Their cheese section is drool-worthy. And I'm always game to try something new there, because the cost is so low (me: Do I like New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings/Indian Fare Punjab Choley/Pizza Parlanno? friend: Get it, it's only $2.99!). A Facebook group 1,500+ members strong hopes a Trader Joe's will open in downtown Easton, and I concur. I am tired of making the pilgrimage to King of Prussia and Westfield, NJ (where they have wine! Three Buck Chuck!).

I don't miss the prices at Whole Foods, but I did like the samples and staring at the bakery displays. And, they always had a good beer selection and the most beautiful organic produce.

I never miss Safeway. Each store has a nickname. The one near Georgetown is called the Social Safeway since it is such a pickup joint. It's been called that since before my parents lived there as young professionals. The Tenley store is Secret Safeway (obscured by trees) and the Dupont store is Soviet Safeway (because there is never anything on the shelves and there are always long lines). There may be others I can't remember, but I've blocked most of my memories of Safeway, primarily because the service was so awful and the produce was so peaked. DCist does a good job of outlining all the names and their reasons.


This week, I took an extra look around at Wegman's. The store has done a great job of buying and stocking items that are... dare I say?... Trader Joe's-esque. The organic aisles are reminiscent of Whole Foods, too. I'm impressed. I picked up pumpkin butter, soy milk and frozen organic burritos.

I still like going to small natural foods stores, however. There's something about the smell (is that ginger? patchouli?) and the idea of a local market that I like. Plus, when I find a new one, I like to take the time to explore, and often go home with treasures.

One of my favorites is Nature's Way Market on 143 Northampton St. in Easton. It's been open for 34 years and offers a good mix of fresh produce, pantry items, supplements and beauty products. They also frequently host educational workshops and have a great book and magazine section. This weekend, Courtney and I stopped in to pick up some vitamins, chocolate, mushrooms and energy bars.
Frey's Better Foods‎ at 1575 Main St, Hellertown is right across the street from the Exxon station. On top of everything you'd expect, it has a great frozen section, a ton of grains and nuts, and lots of good organic cleaning products. They have also been around forever, and the staff is very knowledgeable.

Queen's Nutritional Products is a little off the beaten path, near the Giant shopping center at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. in Allentown. I have heard about Garden Gate Natural Foods at 17 S 9th St. in Allentown but have not visited personally.

Transplants, do you miss your old grocery store?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It Must Be Christmas...


Marie, one of my favorite local bloggers who writes about gardening in Bethlehem, tipped off her readers about the Bethlehem Garden Club Juried Flower Show happening this weekend. Visitors can peruse and purchase house plants, baked goods, holiday decorations, and books. The Club has also designed Christmas & New Year's table settings and decorated Christmas trees for your enjoyment and inspiration.
  • At Advent Moravian Church, 3730 Jacksonville Rd. Bethlehem
  • Friday, November 13, 3-8, Saturday November 14, 10-3
  • Free admission, and free coffee, tea and cookies
  • Proceeds from the garden sale and raffles benefit the BGC Scholarship Fund.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

She's Crafty

My SIL and I were chatting recently about what there is to do in Memphis. She's a recent transplant there and is looking to make friends and get active in her new city. I started Googling away and found a bunch of Meetup groups in her area. I figured she's kind of crafty so a knitting group might be fun. I don't know what it is about young women and needlecraft. Courtney has been talking about learning to stitch-n-bitch forever. I used to make pretty awful counted-cross-stitch designs and give them as presents, but I've hung up my needles for a while. I could be persuaded if the yarn had a really cool name (like Mauch Chunky!) and was made locally!

There are knitting stores that host knitting circles and classes on site, and libraries that invite patrons to BYOK. Classes are cheap - often $5 or less - and the stores often offer discounts on your purchase of supplies.

I found a few knit shops in the Lehigh Valley. Did I miss any good ones?
- Tangled Yarns, 519 Main Street, Bethlehem
- The Knitter's Edge, West Broad St. at 15th Avenue
- Knitwitz & Sew Much More, 828 Main Street, Hellertown
- Conversational Threads Fiber Arts Studio, 8 S. 4th St., Emmaus

There's a Whitehall Knit Wits Meetup Group that gets together weekly at Barnes N' Noble. Also, Allentown used to have an S-N-B group, but their web site is outdated. Happy stitchin'!

Friday, November 06, 2009

November First Friday in Bethlehem

Now that the election is over, please turn your attention to the monthly First Friday celebration in Bethlehem (November 6, 6-10 p.m. on the South Side). I picked up an event guide at Cleo's when I was in shopping for a birthday gift for Mom.

Tonight, there are:

  • Six places to catch live music and enjoy art and shopping: Stone Soup Studios (301 Broadway), Comfort Suites (120 W. Third St.), Cleo's Silversmith Studio & Gallery (21 E. Third St.), Lehigh Bookstore (Campus Square), Fox Optical (28 E. Third St.) and of course, a DJ at Home & Planet (25 E. Third St.)
  • Five great places to shop for holiday gifts: Shuze (17 E. Third St.), Tallarico's Chocolates (26 E. Third St.), Monsoon (11 E. Third St.), Loose Threads (9 W. Fourth St.), and Cutters Bike Shop (418 E. Third St).
  • Two new exhibitions at The Banana Factory (25 W. Third St.) and Fox Optical
  • Two live theatrical performances: The Tempest at Touchstone (321 E. Fourth St.) and The Lord of Misrule at Zoellner Arts Center (420 E. Packer Ave.)
  • One wing-eating contest at Lehigh Pizza (13 W. Third St.) to benefit Meals on Wheels of Northampton County
  • Two ways to work off those wings: Dancing at Northampton Community College's Fowler Family Center (511 E. 3rd St) and skating at the Steel Ice Center (Corner of Polk & 1st)
  • A million places to have dinner within four blocks: 23 East Asian Bistro, La Lupita, Tulum, Alexandra's Bistro, Lehigh Pub, General Zapata's, Nawab Indian, The Olive Branch, Thai Kitchen, Starters, Michael's Steaks, Sal's Pizza, Lehigh Pizza, Campus Pizza, Sotto Santi, Goosey Gander, Blue Sky Cafe, Wildflower Cafe, and Dave's Deli and Gelato (I am sure I have forgotten some, but those are a good start.)
  • Eight places to booze up after all of the other activities "officially end" at 10 p.m.: Starters Riverport (17 W. Second St), Comfort Suites, Looper's Grille & Bar (313 E. 3rd St.)afeaturing a winter wine tasting, JP Macgrady, Funhouse, Firehouse, Tally Ho, and the brand-new Bookstore Speakeasy

Sunday, November 01, 2009

LV Elections

As promised, TMC's voter's guide was published online recently. It's not comprehensive, but you can "meet" the candidates for PA Supreme Court, Lehigh County Commisioner (sic), Lehigh County Executive, and Northampton County Council by downloading PDFs. I've seen some other "meet the candidates" features recently, so I wonder if they will be online soon, too.

The Express-Times' guide is an interactive site. First, you'll enter your address so that the site can populate your online "ballot." (It didn't include any of my Lehigh County races.) Each ballot page has a full bio as well as an area to cast your "vote." You can even make notes for yourself and print a sheet to bring with you on election day.

There's no reason not to be informed before you hit the polls!

First Mondays in Allentown

Vanessa tipped me off to a monthly event in Allentown called First Mondays.

November's First Monday (on November 2) will be held at Made In Brazil, the restaurant that will be opening soon inside the Holiday Inn (9th & Hamilton Sts., Allentown).

Once it's open, Allentown will be able to boast that it has one of nine churrascarias in the state of PA. Stop by between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to preview the restaurant, and to sample Brazilian foods and drinks.

When I was looking for the link, I found the Allentown City calendar of events. I was impressed by the diversity of everything that is going on mid-week. Next Wednesday night after work, you could:
  • Learn what encaustic painting is by visiting Lee Leckey's “Layers” exhibition in the Cressman Library Gallery at Cedar Crest College
  • See A Serious Man at Civic's 19th Street Theatre
  • Enjoy Wacky Wednesday Bowling Night at AMF Legends and Parkway Lanes for $1.00
  • Meet other people interested in Downtown Allentown at Over the Hump Wednesdays at Allentown Brew Works (the Leadership Lehigh Valley alumni will be meeting up there that night as well)
  • Attend a panel discussion on the 2010 Census at Muhlenberg College
  • Be a smarty pants at Trivia Night at Jack Callaghan's
  • Raise funds for United Way by shopping at the Women's Leadership Initiative's Power of the Purse event

That is just ONE NIGHT - a WEDNESDAY - just in Allentown! Visit the Allentown Calendar of Events for more information, and get out there.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Consignment, Vintage and Thrift Stores

I have always found bargain hunting to be a great way to save cash and hone your "gatherer" skills. I still have a couple of finds from thrifty excursions with Leanne, Sara and Anneke in high school. I always get compliments on the tweed suit jacket I "borrowed" from Mom, which I had tailored to fit my modern sensibilities. Holly and I competed for space with drag queens in the consignment boutiques in Dupont Circle. I even went thrift shopping in Costa Rica when I realized I didn't have enough long-sleeved shirts to get me through my study abroad trip. I have no problem buying "gently used," but lately, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to sort through racks of has-beens and cast-offs to find the gems.


I want a new bag for the fall, and new Coach just isn't in the budget this year. I want to get out and explore a few shops this weekend. Here are the places on my shopping list:

These shops are every bit as good as the others, and their proceeds benefit nonprofit organizations.

* Lehigh Valley Style just posted about thrift store shopping on their blog. They missed some of the ones I mentioned, but included a few I missed (or thought were a bit too far away to be considered "Lehigh Valley"). Incidentally, I did find a fall bag, but it was in the going-out-of-business sale at Head Over Heels at the Promenade Shops, not a thrift store!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Singles Happy Hour at Looper's

Update: Some photos of the singles happy hour are posted on Lehigh Valley Style's web site. I hear the place was wall-to-wall women. Go figure.

A few of my favorite bloggers have inquired offline about the Singles Happy Hour happening tomorrow night at Looper's (313 E. Third St. Bethlehem, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15).

Inquiring minds wanted to know:

Is it exclusively for singles? Well, the restaurant's open to the public, and I doubt they're checking for wedding bands.

Are there going to be good people there? I don't know, are you going? The crowd at LVStyle happy hour tends to skew towards the thirties - some a little younger, some a little older. If it's lame, then head over to Starters Riverport. I'm sure the US Open will be on. :)

Is it going to be sketchy? Will it be a pick-up joint like LA Fitness?* Hey, it's a singles happy hour. People who want to meet other single people should go. This is not exclusively a dating thing. Hello, ladies who complain that all your friends are married... here's a great op to meet other single women. Just say hi! If conversation lulls in seven minutes, order one of their fabulous Cosmos and toast the ladies from Sex & the City.

Bottom Line: JUST GOOOOOO. And let me know how it is. My married self will be on a treadmill thanks to my fabulous trainer, Becca, and the need to fit into aforementioned mermaid-shaped dress at Courtney's wedding in two weeks.

*I hear that LA Fitness is a pick-up joint that has workout equipment. I know that Kim and Kacie work out there, anyone else? Weigh in?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christmas has arrived in Bethlehem!

The trees are going up, so it must be Christmas! So what if it's not even Halloween yet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hyatt Place in Bethlehem

I happened to be visiting the new Hyatt Place (45 W. North Street at Guetter Street, Bethlehem) at the same time as WFMZ reporter Jaccii Farris and her camera guy. I barely escaped the lens as I visited with Maria in the sales office. Click the link above for the story.

The hotel's grand opening is next week, but I had a chance to see it before the crowds. After managing housing for lots of people in my last job, and traveling quite a bit myself, I can appreciate the amenities the hotel offers visitors to Bethlehem.

First, technology and contemporary living style rules. There's a check-in kiosk (like you'd find at an airport). Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel. Two computers in the lobby provide free faxing and printing for guests. Each room has a mini-fridge. The gym and pool are small but modern (so the whole building does not smell like chlorine). And, the property is 100% smoke-free.

I was most impressed by the hotel's 24/7 "Guest Kitchen" (pictured below). At any time of day or night, the same staff that can check you in or get you another pillow (they call them gallery hosts) will also make you a hamburger, ice cream sundae or cobb salad. You can place an order on a touch screen that is reminiscent of Wawa's. You can also grab a cup of real Starbucks coffee and something to eat in a case that looks a lot like the kind you'd find in a Starbucks cafe. Nothing they're offering is revolutionary, but touches like those make traveling more comfortable.

In addition, there are lots of little nooks, including in the lobby ("gallery") and in each of the rooms. The sofabed in each room has a huge cushioned ottoman that would be perfect for curling up with a book, or to watch bad late night TV on your 42" flat panel screen (see below).
There is a 70-person flexible meeting room, as well as some space off the dining area that could be set for a 20-person dinner (including on the patio) - perfect for a rehearsal dinner or other private meal. Some catering is done on-site, but the Apollo Grill will cater a full menu for private events.
So with all these amenities, you are probably wondering - how much? I checked the rack rate for tonight, and it's $139 for a room with a queen bed, about the same as Hotel Bethlehem.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tango Tea at Moravian


The inaugural "tango tea," a dance lesson with cheesecake & tea, will take place this Sunday at Moravian College. No partner or reservation necessary.


October 25

4-6 p.m. Bahnson Center @ Moravian College (60 W. Locust St., Bethlehem)

A free intro class will be held at 3:30 p.m. Then to stay for the tea and tango event (the "milonga"), it's $8 for general admission, and $3 for full-time students. The group also meets on Thursday evenings in the same place. There's a minimal cost for the Thursday night events as well. Email Andrew Kaye for more info.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Young Professionals get together in the LV

If you haven't heard, young professionals in the Lehigh Valley are getting together on October 29 for a forum about... ourselves. (How very Gen X of us.)

If you are not clued in to what's going on in the Lehigh Valley, this event should be a great intro. It's free, at a fun venue (the baseball stadium), and is guaranteed to be good networking. And, I predict there will be an after-forum social at Pig Pen across the street.

Check out the event's web site, and I'll see you there.

YP Forum 2009: Your Voice, Your Valley
Date: October 29, 2009, 5-8 p.m.
Location: Coca Cola Park, Home of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Register: theisler@lehighvalley.org or 610-266-2217

What's a "young professional" or "YP"? Technically, for this event it's anyone who lives and/or works in the Lehigh Valley and is from the Generation X (born between 1961 and 1981)and Millennials (born between 1982-2003); however, everyone is
welcome!

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation wants:
-To learn about the key areas of interest for retaining and attracting graduates and younger talent to the region.
-To develop focus groups around those key areas and put you in touch with the appropriate groups, like our elected officials, community leaders and area employers, who can bring about change;
-To create new and innovative ways to reach out to YPs and tout the assets of the Lehigh Valley; and
-To get more young professionals, like you, engaged in the Lehigh Valley community.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween for Grown-ups (III) - Zombie Prom

What's a Zombie Prom?

First it was a comic book. Then it was a film, and an off-Broadway musical.

Now it is a phenomenon, apparently sweeping the Lehigh Valley. If you missed the Zombie Prom at Crocodile Rock last weekend, there's at least one more opportunity to dance like you're dead this month.

On Oct 24 at 9 PM Sotto Santi Restaurant (10 W. Fourth St. South Side Bethlehem), invites you to a Zombie Prom celebrating Eskandalo Hair Salon's 2nd Anniversary party. $5 gets you in to enjoy DJ Brown Nick spinning punk rock as well as a noise band called TILE (performing at 10 PM).

If you're going to be a zombie prom-goer, why not be queen?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Valley Social Magazine

If you hang out at someplace trendy, there will inevitably be a pile of Valley Social magazines wedged somewhere near the entrance. (I have yet to see a lit rack in a night club.) If you don't visit anywhere that is trendy, or if the trendsetters have wiped out your hot spot's pile, you can read it online. It's not nearly as glossy, but it's a little easier to handle than the massive mag. There are a few local features, interviews with famous faces (some even have "regional" connections - e.g. Chelsea Handler is from Livingston, NJ), people posed in front of a step-and-repeat banner, and an aspirational fashion spread. Also, really beautiful photography. While you're online, sign up for their email updates. Since the magazine's deadlines are so far in advance (they're just getting around to putting a female golfer from the US Women's Open on the cover), they can't promote their upcoming events in the printed version. For instance: Tomorrow (October 22), Knopf Automotive will celebrate the launch of "the highly anticipated 4-door sports sedan, the Porsche Panamera. Enjoy live entertainment, Octoberfest (sic) inspired hors d'ouerves, and German beer & wine..." Head out to Yianni’s Taverna for a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser on November 03, which is mysteriously promoted as a Grand Opening.

Halloween for Grown-Ups (II)

Since I posted my search for grown-up fun for Halloween, I have received a couple of suggestions off-blog that I thought you all might like. Feel free to add your own suggestions!

First, the GlassWorks Halloween Party is at the Banana Factory (25 W. Third St., Bethlehem) on Friday, Oct. 30, starting at 8 p.m. Enjoy glassblowing demos, specialty beers, treats by Chocolate Lab, martinis by Marani, music, dancing, and a costume contest. Tickets are $50 (must be 21 to attend).

Also, members of the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild will be telling scary stories at Godfrey Daniels (7 East Fourth Street, Bethlehem) on October 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets $5.50, children 5 and under free.

And finally, I forgot to mention Dorney Park Halloween Haunt (3830 Dorney Park Road, Allentown)? The park offers a variety of Halloween-themed attractions (some for little kids, some truly gruesome and scary for big kids and adults). Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 1. Tickets start at $22.99.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Competing Events

My dance card is never so full as on a night when I have purchased tickets to something.

Tonight is no exception: I'd already registered for the Power of Women fall networking event, when the opportunity to go to Celebrity Scholastic Scrimmage (benefiting Communities in Schools) came up.

LVT correspondents Courtney and Julie will have to report on how CSS went - I hear it can get quite competitive. I'll be checking the PBS schedule to see if I can catch it later!

Instead, I'll be hanging with the ladies at the Banana Factory, delicately stuffing my face with whatever the gang at Sagra Cooking are serving up, and listening to Tina Bradford talk about social networking.

(It's not too late to register for either event, so visit the embedded links above if you're interested in attending!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Boy's Baking

I was running an errand for a client and stopped by My Boy's Baking (196 Nazareth Pike, "Bethlehem" - just north of 22 on Route 191). I had heard that Rachael Ray was a fan, but I hadn't stopped in, since their bakery hours are 10-5, M-F. I had seen this sign many times:

...but this time I actually pulled into the parking lot.


The outside may not look like much, but the inside smells like... heaven. Bright and clean, there's no place to "eat in" - probably dangerous for those of us with a sweet tooth anyway. A ton of colorful baskets, trays and plates were displayed, just waiting to be loaded up with freshly-baked goodies. I picked up a box of cookies to take back to my client and a few fliers. The chocolate chip-toffee cookies were still warm and I am salivating even as I type this the next day.



If you order a pound, you get a box with this many cookies (minus the two I ate in the car on the way home - oops) for $11.

Visiting their web site reminded me of another great way local businesses diversify. I'll bet they get a lot of online orders from biscotti and rugalach fanatics, especially now since Rach has introduced them to the world, but locals should know about MBB too!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boutique shopping in the Lehigh Valley

I work dangerously close to Shuze - as in, I can hear the UPS truck departing after making a delivery of new goodies. I am tres jolie about the new pair of knee-high black leather boots Jennifer suggested and am wearing them any chance I get. I love shopping there, because there's always something new, she's hand-picked every item in the store and can give you the back story. She's also effortlessly fashionable herself and has a great eye for style, and like a real friend, will give you an honest opinion. Shuze has established relationships with local jewelry designers and always has the of-the-minute acessory you didn't know you were looking for.

I got a similar vibe at Boutique to Go/Boutiquetogo(522 N. 19th St. Allentown). I was exchanging some tickets at the Civic Theatre box office across the street; next Saturday night, we're going to see Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Since I had a few extra minutes, I wandered in and looked around the store. Despite the fact that the other patrons in the store were old enough to be my (very fashionable) grandmother, there were many, many items that are very much "this season," if you follow these things:

Chainmail and mixed metal, multi-strand bracelets and necklaces.


"Statement" pendants similar to this one.


A huge wall of handbags including Jewel-toned totes similar to these.


There are also quite a few special gift items. I adored the wine "cases" in the upper-right hand corner of this photo. (Yes, this would be an upgrade to the paper bag from the state store that you have been using.)

The mommies-to-be in my life (Jill, Kim, Kristen, Jessica) should drop some serious hints about this place. This is definitely a baby gift zone - nothing essential, just fun, designer baby blankets, toys, and decor. Mixed among the items in the girl/baby section (pictured below) were terry cloth-covered flip-flops designed to get you home from the spa in style - a thoughtful gift for Mom!
The prices were more than you'll find at Target, but still not outrageous (and there's a sale going on now). But for that special thing, a unique piece for yourself or a one-of-a-kind gift, the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting a local small business, and a great story to boot, both Boutiquetogo and Shuze should be on your short list.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Alternative Medicine in the Lehigh Valley

Lucky dog getting Reike treatment.


We received a postcard in the mail today about a local animal therapy center. I thought it might be a training center for therapy animals, but actually it's a therapy center FOR animals, right here in the Lehigh Valley. The center offers alternative medicine for your pets, including reike (hands-on healing) for your German shepherd's injuries, acupuncture and aromatherapy for your cat's anxieties, and underwater treadmill for your labradoodle's rehabilitation after surgery. I'm not sure whether any other local animal hospitals offer these kinds of treatments - if they do, please comment!

The Animal Therapy Center on the Companion Animal Campus of Wright Veterinary Medical Center (3247B Wimmer Rd., Bethlehem, at the intersection of Butztown Road). Check out the new center on October 17 & 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Our cat, who thinks that he is a person (or at least, that we are cats).