Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ornamental Tin Stars

Someone asked at dinner the other night, "What is up with the big stars on some people's houses?" I noticed when I moved to the area that in addition to the PA Dutch hex signs,
some locals were mounting gigantic tin stars on the sides of their suburban homes.
I don't recall seeing any in the cities, but I haven't exactly been hunting for them.

She said that she heard they were good luck. I wondered whether size or
color mattered. I did a little research online and found on Americantinstar.com:
The tradition of the barn star in America can be traced back to the 1700’s, and
to at least the 1820’s in Pennsylvania. Barn stars were most popular after the
Civil War. On many older American barns, particularly German farms, one could
see a large decoration in the shape of a star mounted on the face of the barn.
Sometimes they were just aesthetic, but sometimes they represented the trademark
of a specific barn builder. It is our understanding the original star shape was
a three-pointed star but has changed throughout the years. Colors had
significance with Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch barn paintings. These folk art
designs, many of which were star shaped, were painted directly onto each end of
the barn, and date back to the 1850’s. Black - Protection, also used to blend or
bind elements together; Red - Emotions, passion, charisma, lust and also
creativity. White - Purity, power of the moon, allows energy to flow freely.
Blue - Protection, peace, calmness and spirituality; Green - Growth, fertility,
success in things and ideas that grow. Yellow - Health in body and mind, love of
man and the sun, connection to the God. Brown - Mother earth, also can mean
friendship and strength. Orange - Abundance in career, projects and matters
needing an added push. Violet - Things that are sacred.
On one forum, a number of people wrote that they heard that the star indicated there was a sex offender living in the home, and the color and size indicated the severity of the offense. If that's the case, the family that owns this house must be a bunch of criminals.
Some people really believe this stuff, so if you are thinking about mounting an 8' red star on your garage, beware.

A story in the MetroWest Daily News breaks it down for us with some hard-hitting reporting:

"It's for decoration and it's very countryish. The inside (of my house) is very
countryish. (The star) also matched the paint and doors," Army said.

There you have it. Countryish. Have you put a star on your house? What does it mean to you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WineScool

On Julie's recommendation, I joined the WineScool Meetup Group, which meets monthly at Starters Riverport. Last night was the first time I attended any kind of Meetup group event - a wine "school" that taught/reminded us how to taste wine (but we didn't need any help learning how to drink it). I registered online and could see who else was going in advance.


When I showed up, I saw my friend Christine, and the two of us found a seat at a table with Julie, her boyfriend Jake, and their friend, Kim. Soon our little group was surrounded by friendly people on either side. The instructor, a rep from a company that imports and distributes the wine we tasted, talked over loud sports bar noise about the wines we were tasting, where they were made, and how to pair them with food.

We started with a Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara. Flavors of grapefruit and freshly cut grass, we were told - hmm. We all helped ourselves to the generous buffet and moved on to an Italian Pinot Grigio from a winemaker called Bollini. Round Hill's Oak-Free Chardonnay was next (definitely more my speed than the buttery, toasty chardonnays from Napa and Sonoma Valleys). We enjoyed a glass of Malbec from Elsa, made in Argentina (which we learned is made from mostly cabernet sauvignon grapes), and finished back in California with a bold Cabernet called The Show, from Three Thieves. The last wine was definitely my favorite.

After dinner and five half-glasses of wine, we were feeling pretty good, so we all had dessert (included). Note the empty bottle in the foreground of this photo. We left just before 10 p.m. and there were quite a few people still hanging out, finishing the open bottles. Not bad for $25! This kind of group would be great for anyone looking to meet people in a social environment, without the pressure of making awkward introductions. Everyone there is game to meet new people. The only problem with an event that is structured like this is that you only really get to meet the folks seated near you. Meetup groups like the ones for pet owners or people who enjoy outdoors activities are probably better for mass mingling, but groups like these are great for people like me who enjoy small-group conversation.


Most of the crowd appeared to be in their 30's and 40's, and maybe a couple were older, and a few younger. It was hard to tell who came with who, since conversation seemed to be flowing at all the tables as if everyone were old friends. The next WineScool is September 23 at 7 p.m. at Starters - register here and check out the other Meetup groups while you're on the site.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lehigh Valley InSite

I was recently recruited to contribute content to a blog hosted by Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. Since transplants like me feel like visitors for a while after we land here in the LV, I think it's a good match.

You won't find any new content there - I'll post everything on this site first - but hopefully it will lead to a broader audience for LVT. I promise not to sell out. You'll still find my made-up words and references to the people I love, and honest assessments of places I visit.

My post about Green Harvest Cafe was picked up first. Please join me in a toast to celebrate - and thanks very much for reading, commenting and sharing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Voracious Deli, Firehouse, Olio, Movies at the Mill, and more

Not too long ago, when I was working in downtown Bethlehem, I stopped in at Voracious Deli for a sandwich to go. I chatted with the owner for a few minutes as he was wrapping up my sandwich. They do off-site catering and a brisk lunch business.
Some other updates:
  • The Firehouse (217 Broadway, Southside Bethlehem) is opening soon. I was impressed by their use of social media to spread the word...a banner outside instructs you to "Text the word FIRE to 83361 to become a member of the VIP text list."
  • Olio Trattoria in the space of the former Bonte Cafe (553 Main Street, Bethlehem) is slated to open "late summer 2009." I walked by the storefront today, and it's still covered up. The Italian restaurant is a project by Sal Biundo - yes, the same Sal Biundo who ran Bacio in Allentown, and current operates Ciao Baby Cafe in Quakertown. Busy guy. The restaurant (smartly) had a stand in front of the restaurant during Musikfest.
  • Save the date: There will be a truly special event going on in Easton on October 9. My colleagues working on the Simon Silk Mill project announced "Movies at the Mill" last week.
  • You might be seeing Lehigh Valley Transplant in a couple of new places... we've been invited to guest-blog for Lehigh Valley InSite, and to write a column for Lehigh Valley Style.
  • We're heading to Emeril's tonight to celebrate my birthday!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Musikfest - Candlelight Series

I am going to let you in on a little Musikfest secret.

Every year since we moved to the Valley, we have made sure to pick up a pair of tickets for one of the Candlelight concerts at Moravian College's Foy Hall (in one of the buildings close to Moravian Book Store, not all the way up Main Street on main campus). The shows we've seen there have been on par with the ones we'd catch at the 9:30 Club, The Birchmere or Iota Club: Jonatha Brooke, Over the Rhine*, and now Dar Williams**.

Dar Williams is one of those artists I've listened to since I discovered non-commercial radio in high school. When I saw her name on the list of artists I jumped at the chance to see her, especially in a small venue (428 seats, to be exact). It's almost the anti-Musikfest. You won't find crowds or food vendors; you will find padded seats, air conditioning, great acoustics, candlelight, and a whispered hush across the audience. True, you pay for this experience, but considering I wouldn't get to see this artist in the Lehigh Valley otherwise, and it's sponsored by WDIY, AND in the end everything benefits ArtsQuest, I am happy to contribute.

*I had never heard of Over the Rhine until they appeared on the Musikfest calendar. Since I knew I liked the series, I looked them up on iTunes. I enjoyed what I heard online enough to get tickets, and we loved the show.

**I asked someone yesterday if the die-hard Dar Williams fans from outside the region had any idea what they were getting themselves into when they bought the tickets to this show. Why is there no parking in this city, and what is going on here?!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Musikfest and Singles in the Valley

I volunteered at Musikfest the other night, providing bouncer services for one of the special hospitality areas. I got to see a great concert up-close for free (and ate for free, too - bonus!).

What astounded me was just how many young people were out en masse for this show. There was a big group of guys from a local company hanging out, talking about how they never meet any single girls, that the girls in bars aren't the kind of girls they want to marry, etc. It made me laugh out loud, since that's what the single girls I know say about meeting guys.

I wondered what opportunities exist for single people to meet outside the traditional ways (bar, church?) here in the Lehigh Valley. Do people date online? I know of one couple from the area that met online last year and are planning their lives together. How about matchmaking or blind dates?

Is finding a mate in the Lehigh Valley like finding a job when you're unemployed? Do you need to "put yourself out there" and tell everyone you know you are looking, risking looking desperate? Or do you immerse yourself in activities like kickball, Network of Young Professionals, or graduate school? Or, do you hang around Deja Brew, Hava Java or The Quadrant waiting for Mr. Right to walk in and order the same coffee drink you like?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Musikfest

When you first move to the Lehigh Valley, one of the first places you learn about is Historic Bethlehem. It's easy to find, so you go to Bethlehem Brew Works and walk up and down Main Street.

Soon, depending on the time of year, you may hear about Musikfest. You wonder what's up with the "K" and why everyone is so passionate about it (one way or the other). When Musikfest approaches, you read the long lists of performers in the newspaper and you don't recognize any names except the ones that you have to pay to see.

You think, what is this, a battle of the bands? This event is not for me. And maybe you skipped it.

Fortunately, someone showed me the way. In my opinion, the key to enjoying Musikfest is 50% preparation and planning, 30% footwear choice, and 20% weather. I always wear a little backpack. I don't care if it isn't "cool." I have stuff to carry, and I don't want to lose it or get my purse dirty (I won't say stolen because I've never heard of any kind of theft at the Fest, but I'm sure it happens). The "stuff" I carry is everything from my purse plus my Fest tickets, extra tissues for the Port-o-Potties, wet wipes, and a bottle of water (sorry, I know it's illegal, but I do it anyway). I also take a few minutes to look on the Musikfest web site to plan what I want to see. I wear shoes that can take a beating on the hills of Bethlehem and through mud puddles or dust. And I always, ALWAYS plan for the weather, bringing day supplies (hat, sun block, fan) or night supplies (flashlight), and an umbrella if there's even the slightest chance of rain.

It may sound a little like camping, but that's because unlike going to the mall, you are not going to see your car for a long time. There is covered seating at a number of stages but some aren't covered at all (Americaplatz) but are worth going to for the view of South Mountain. A lot of the food is generic but there is some good stuff out there, so walk around and peruse before deciding (my personal favorite "row" of vendors is near Volksplatz, there's just so much to choose from).

Parking is everyone's favorite subject to debate about Musikfest. Some lucky people know someone who lives close to the Musikfest grounds with a driveway. The rest of the world pays $10 to park in a lot or takes the shuttle from Martin Tower. Traffic is pretty tight in downtown so it's usually easier to park on the outskirts of the direction you're coming from. Actually, the shuttle is kind of fun and reinforces that camp feeling.

I'll be volunteering at Musikfest tonight for the first time ever. Maybe I'll see you there.