Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Props for a great public school program

I went to public school K-12, and I am proud of any school that uses innovation and persistence to solve a problem or meet a need in their community. The Express Times highlighted March Elementary School in Easton this week. The school's programming to reduce delinquency and encourage positive behavior could soon become statewide policy.

FAME stands for Focus on respect, Always act safely, Make myself proud, and bE

Each grade has a set of behavioral expectations under FAME, ranging from keeping hands to oneself, walking in the hallways, helping others when asked and completing class work on time.

"The idea is if all the children understand what's expected of them and all faculty are on the same page about it, we get the desired end result," (Principal Judith) Steinberg said.
I know two women who work at March (429 Reeder St, on College Hill in Easton) and they are great examples of educators making schools a better place for kids in the Lehigh Valley. Bravo!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Cementon and Laurys Station are now connected"... and where is that, exactly?

When I first moved to the Lehigh Valley, I first learned my way around my home city, the route between home and work, and of course, our house and Home Depot.

As we settled in a little more, I heard about small boroughs and townships and wondered where they were. Beata got a kick out of the fact that I wasn't familiar with Weisenberg Township in Lehigh County. It was established in 1753; how could I miss that one?

I read this morning in the Morning Call that a new section of trail is open between "Cementon and Laurys Station" and admit that while I've heard of these places and knew they were somewhere north of Route 22, I didn't know how to get there. So assuming that some of you might not know where these Lehigh County towns are, either, here's a map. Enjoy the trail this weekend!

View Larger Map

Monday, March 29, 2010

An Organic Manifesto

It was a pleasure to hear Maria Rodale speak about her new book, "Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe," today at Lehigh University.

In her book, Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., based in Emmaus, PA, "examines the unholy alliances that have formed between the chemical companies that produce fertilizer and genetically altered seeds, the agricultural educational system that is virtually subsidized by those same companies, and the government agencies in thrall to powerful lobbyists, all of which perpetuate dangerous farming practices and deliberate misconceptions about organic farming and foods."

Today I learned a lot about organic farming. I now know that peaches are especially full of pesticides (even ones not allowed by the USDA) and that less than 1% of all farms in America are organic. But I have a lot more to learn. I picked up a (half-priced) copy of Maria's book and she signed it, "Demand Organic! Maria Rodale."
My parents have always had large, productive herb and vegetable gardens, as well as fruit trees and bushes. I have fond childhood memories of picking peas and harvesting sunflower seeds with my dad. We can't visit them in the growing season without returning home with a bag full of sour cherries, blueberries, lettuce and kohlrabi.
My little backyard garden is definitely organic, from seeds and natural fertilization techniques to harvest and crop rotation. Some night this week, we'll sit down and order our seeds. We usually order gorgeous heirloom seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, but Hillary tells me that even Target has gotten in on the action with a line of organic seeds. I couldn't find a link to the products online, but I'm definitely going to check it out.

In my own garden this spring, I plan to tear out some of the thyme and mint that has taken over half of the garden, tend the chives, rosemary, purple sage, lavender and oregano that have already started to wake up, and plant basil, cilantro, parsley, lettuce and mini bell peppers again. Who knows what else!

If you're interested in learning more about Maria's efforts, check out her blog or pick up the book at a local bookseller like Moravian Book Store or Lion Around Books (302 West Broad St, Quakertown). I also recommend that you read local blogger Garden in Bethlehem PA for inspiration - I do!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Free concert at DeSales

A lot of the events I mention have a ticket price, so I am happy to share the information about a free concert at DeSales on Sunday, April 11. The show is at 3 p.m., so you can stop by Copperhead Grille (5737 Route 378, Center Valley) or one of the great restaurants at the Promenade Shops (2845 Center Valley Parkway) for dinner after the show.

The Performing and Fine Arts Department at DeSales University (2755 Station Ave., Center Valley) will present a free Faculty Recital in the Schubert Theatre of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.

DeSales voice faculty members Megan Smith, Jessica and Judy Tomsko, Rebekah Graver, Lou Lanza, Joey DiMarco, and Ben Durham, Director of Choral Activities, will present a varied program of jazz, art song, opera, and musical theatre repertoire in the intimate space of the Schubert Theatre located in the Labuda Center on the DeSales campus.

Nathan Diehl will accompany works composed by Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, Franz Schubert, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The Performing and Fine Arts Department is known for its high-quality theatrical, dance and TV/film presentations. Because of their great theater department and new musical theatre track, DeSales has a group of very fine voice teachers. All are local musicians and singers who have professional careers of their own and are active performers regionally. The recital is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I was just given a ticket to a special benefit screening of the film "Thread," next Wednesday, March 31, at Cedar Crest College (100 College Drive, Allentown). This one-time-only event will feature a screening of the short documentary film, plus give guests an opportunity to meet the director and producer and one of the women featured in the film. Also on the VIP guest list are several new Afghan/Americans to the Lehigh Valley and some of the men and women who have served in Afghanistan.

Thread is the inspirational story of five remarkable Afghan women who are taking control of their lives and their futures – and in the process are helping to rebuild their devastated country. (2008, USA, director Laurie Chock). Check out the trailer here.

I just finished reading Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the follow-up to Three Cups of Tea. The books detail how one American mountain climber founded a nonprofit organization that has worked to promote peace through education by establishing more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Tickets ($45 for the film and a dessert reception) are available online or by telephone at (610) 776-1676. Cedar Crest alumnae can receive free tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who says you can't get there from here?

The "Free" Bridge from Easton to Phillipsburg, NJ

Renew Lehigh Valley will host a Regional Transportation Forum on Monday, April 19, at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem (437 Main Street, Bethlehem). The program begins at 6:30 p.m. with an informal reception at 5:30 p.m., and is completely free and open to the public.

You'll learn about the prospects for restoring passenger rail service in the Lehigh Valley, and hear how a balanced regional transportation system can help promote economic development, the continued revitalization of the region's core communities, and sustainable growth in the Lehigh Valley.

The keynote speaker for the forum is Shelley Poticha, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). One of the nation's leading experts on transportation and transit-oriented development, Ms. Poticha oversees the Sustainable Communities program, a joint effort between HUD, the U.S Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining HUD, Ms. Poticha was President/CEO of Reconnecting America, and has also served as the Executive Director of the Congress for the New Urbanism.
The forum program will include a Presentation of Findings from the New Regional Transportation Study (commissioned by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and the two counties), which includes a preliminary feasibility study of extending NJ Transit commuter rail westward into the Lehigh Valley, followed by a Panel Discussion and Q & A on how the Lehigh Valley Moves Forward on Transportation.

If you come from a city that had comprehensive public transportation, you will especially appreciate the conversation at the forum. Find out what the transportation study found feasible for transportation in our region and put your two cents in. See you there.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Olio Trattoria and what else is up on Main Street in Bethlehem

Somehow the mainstream media hasn't picked up on four exciting changes to Main Street in Bethlehem. Here's an update.

  • I am not making this up: Seasons, an olive oil and vinegar tap room is open next to Tika's on the 500 block of Main Street. Update: Here are some articles from The Morning Call and Express Times that were published after you read it here first.

  • Olio Trattoria (555 Main Street), the long-awaited northern Italian restaurant in former Woolworth's building (most recently Bonte Cafe) is OPEN. Their soft opening was last week. The menu looks a lot like Sette Luna's - more fish and grilled meats than lasagna and meatballs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brain Awareness Day at Bethlehem Public Library

I just checked the weather, and the weather is going to be sunny and mild this weekend - FINALLY! Skip over the puddles in your driveway and head over to the Bethlehem Public Library for a free event on Saturday, especially if your brain is clouded by cabin fever.

My former Smithsonian co-workers (Kirwei, Kari, and Lindy) and I called events like Brain Awareness Day an "educational field trip." We signed up for events like a docent-led tour of a new National Gallery exhibition, instead of eating lunch in the break room (which, like the rest of our office, was completely windowless). But we never got an EEG of our brains! Cool. Check it out.

Saturday, March 20th from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
This special event will provide “hands-on” neuroscience activities for school-aged children and general neuroscience information for their families. Participants will be able to “build a vertebrate brain”, challenge their visual system, test their reflexes
and even record electroencephalographs (EEG) of their own brain! Join college
students and professors from Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, Cedar
Crest College, Lafayette College and Lehigh University as they promote public
awareness of the functions of the central nervous system and current advances in
neuroscience research.

Moravian College's Brain Awareness week features programs addressing age-old questions like "why I woman can't be more like a man!". Their calendar of events is online here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bike shop in Allentown

Just catching up on my blog feed on Google Reader (my favorite), and read Retail Watch. Tyrone does a pretty good job, but I still miss Kurt Blumenau's humor. I get the sense that maybe Tyrone doesn't get to do a whole lot of 'reporting,' but rather, reprints the releases he gets and follows up on reader inquiries. So it may be that the indie bike shop Madera @ 45 North 7th St., Allentown (which I admired the other day when Veronica and I were at Cuchifrito) simply hasn't reached out. There certainly is precedent: Tyrone gave Cutters Bike Shop (418 E. Third St., South Side Bethlehem) some good ink when they first opened.

Second-coolest thing happening this week in the LV

Someone wisely pointed out that I have been posting a lot of entertainment scoop from The Morning Call recently, and scanning back, they are absolutely correct. While I read's First at One daily, I was not suscribed to all of the entertainment feeds like I should have been. The error has been corrected, and I already have a great event to share with you.

Kelly Huth's 10 Things To Do This Week column is a good place to start when you're looking for inspiration (e.g. more than just going to the movies every weekend like we did when we first moved to the LV. I KNOW FOR A FACT that one of my loyal readers and her husband did the same thing!).

This week she tipped off Express-Times online readers about a fashion show that would be cool by its own right, but also:
1. It's being judged by Pamela Ptak, the sort-of Lehigh Valleyan who was a contestant on the current season of Lifetime's Project Runway (sorry folks, she said herself she's from Bucks County, even if she does teach at the Baum School). Which is a little funny/sad, because one of the Project Runway episodes after Pamela got the boot was all about recycled items as fashion.
2. According to Kelly, "The green fashion show supports RecycleMania, a program to encourage campuses to become more environmentally conscious."

Date: Monday, March 15, 6-8 pm
Location: Alumnae Hall Auditorium, Cedar Crest College (100 College Drive, Allentown)

Full disclosure: I happen to love CCC. I advised a group of women on their senior capstone project last year and was very impressed by the school, their business program and the diversity of students who were in the class. Check out their events calendar!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

There is nothing cooler than...

Mr. Dyer himself. Photo borrowed from thedizzyfizz

There is nothing cooler than a cocktail dinner at The Bookstore (336 Adams St., South Side Bethlehem), hosted by revered NYC mixologist, Damon Dyer. Damon has worked behind some of the top cocktail bars in the city, including the Flatiron Lounge, Death & Company, Jack the Horse, and Louis 649. Damon and his drinks have been featured in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, and many other publications, and he's coming to Bethlehem for one night only.

5 gourmet courses paired with 5 cocktails (call a cab):

Tuesday, March 30, 6 p.m. $60 not including tax and tip

Reservations: 610-867-1100

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why a project sometimes skids to a halt

I've been lucky enough to play a small part in some exciting development projects in the last five years, and I thought I'd illustrate a classic example of why it sometimes seems like it takes FOREVER for a project to be built after it's announced. A project starts with the vision and persistence of developers, who must be resourceful and well-funded to make a project feasible in the first place. Then the success of the project often lies in the open-mindedness of municipal leaders and neighbors, the availability of the funding sources the developer was counting on (sometimes state or federal grants), and/or the developer's compliance with the red tape that goes along with getting anything approved by any government entity. If any part of this equation doesn't add up, the project stalls, or fails.

Sometimes, in an effort to move a project forward, a developer will have to make compromises. Slight modifications to the original plan, or additional amenities to the neighborhood, might be required in able for the project to receive approval. Meanwhile, the developer has investors and/or funders, as well as tenants and/or design/build clients to keep happy, not to mention the people who live and work near the project and the municipality in which it is located.

The Sheetz gas station that everyone was so excited about on Route 248 in Palmer Township is getting the axe (for now), thanks to the Township's concerns over a study that showed that the corridor (once a sleepy two-lane farm road connecting Nazareth with Easton) can't handle the expected traffic from the addition of the so-called "Mecca on the Go." Instead, the developer will move ahead with the bank and CVS planned for the project, and the area slated for Sheetz will remain undeveloped.

Just a reminder: on Route 248 between Route 33 and Route 22 , there are already nine banks and five pharmacies for people driving the 14,000+ cars that travel the 3.5-mile route daily, but only two older, traditional gas stations. No Wawa. No 7-11. And at least for now, no Sheetz.

(But you can still get a Sheetz Snuggie at their online store!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday night gallery openings

Marta Whistler

We recently began receiving a paper copy of The Morning Call on Thursdays (free!), in addition to the paper's Sunday edition (which we actually pay for). Maybe they are trying to get us to subscribe all week, or want to increase its circulation... either way, I'm happy. I enjoy reading their weekly Go Guide.

I read that there are a few art gallery events tonight! They are free and open to the public, and would make for a great stop before or after dinner with friends or your significant other. You can meet the artists and people-watch, and maybe even enjoy free wine and cheese!

Save the date for some other upcoming gallery opening events!

  • New Arts Program (173 W. Main St., Kutztown)
    Annual New Arts Exhibit featuring painter Don Voisine. Show runs through May 1.
    Gallery Talk/Opening Reception March 19, 7 p.m.
  • The Beveled Edge (518 W. Broad St, Bethlehem)
    Landscape, Portrait and Still Life: Works by William S. DeRaymond. Show runs through May 7. Opening Reception March 26, 6 p.m.
  • Banana Factory (25 W. Third St., South Side Bethlehem)
    Family Pictures...Untold Stories: Photographer Lydia Panas goes beyond the family portrait to examine the complexities and emotions that make up the individual. Show runs through May 23. Gallery Talk/Opening Reception April 2, 6 p.m.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Running in the Lehigh Valley

I participated in a triathlon relay race a year and a half ago. My teammates and the rest of the athletes at the Marshman Triathlon really inspired me. So with the assistance of my trainer Becca, I am attempting to train for a triathlon race on my own.

My road bike is from Action Wheels Bike Shop (530 West Broad St., Bethlehem). John, the guy who sold it to me and has given me some really good advice, now owns a shop on the South Side of Bethlehem, Cutters (418 E. Third St.), and I recently paid him a visit to get a spring tuneup and get a long-sleeved jersey.

My awesome running shoes and accessories (I'm a girl) are from Aardvark Sports Shop (571 Main St. Bethlehem). Santa brought me a Garmin watch. Being able to graph the data from my run sometimes is the only thing that gets me out the door (and running that last half-mile). No cheating! I looked up the Lehigh Valley Road Runners recently. I remembered that they hold monthly 5K races at the Lehigh Parkway in Allentown during the summer, and I might sign up this year. I've also been getting some good information from Jill's blog posts on Lehigh Valley Running Scene.

I have yet to start my swimming training but am open to suggestions. I hear the Swim-In Zone (Saucon Creek Road, Center Valley) and Bethlehem Township Community Center (2900 Farmersville Rd. Bethlehem) both offer triathlon training support.

Wish me luck! Please share your words of wisdom or encouragement!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ocean Restaurant's Wine Dinners

I had the chance to introduce some friends to Ocean (235 Ferry Street, Easton) last week. We were in the city for an all-day seminar and wanted to unwind a little before heading home.

The bar was empty and only one booth was full when Pete, Zeynep, Todd, Jolene, Jessica, Marc and I arrived. The staff quickly pulled the long center table together for our group of seven. Some ordered drinks, some a couple of tapas, one or two picked an entree. I love that about Ocean: they have domestic drafts and microbrews, a great wine list and innovative cocktails. Their menu ranges from an out-of-this-world burger and salads to short ribs and lobster mac and cheese. I had just finished saying I would not order a salad at Ocean because there are so many other dishes I can't make at home, when Chip, the GM, jokingly challenged me to make the berry vinaigrette in the Arugula & Mache Salad with seasonal berries, celery, and goat cheese. Touche! Some of us shared our dishes, while others hovered protectively over their plates.

I borrowed this pic from Ocean's web site. It's the view from the kitchen door in the back of the restaurant. Family-style table in the center, bar in the middle, entrance to the far right.

Before we left, I inquired about the availability of a table for this week's monthly wine dinner. Silly me. The event usually sells out a month in advance. Shortly after we moved to PA, Brian and Melissa introduced us to this six-course gastronomic tour, accompanied by six custom wine pairings led by a fearless sommelier and served by Ocean's first-class staff. The next one is on Thursday, April 1st. If they aren't sold out already, check out the menu and call for your reservation (610-559-7211). Soon. If you can get in, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

March First Friday in Bethlehem

March First Friday features a great lineup of special events in Bethlehem, and I've designed three itineraries for your pleasure:

If you are on a first date...
Start your night at Blue Sky Cafe (22 W. Fourth St.) for a bite to eat or cup of tea at 6. If she doesn't look like her profile, you can always make an excuse and head home then. If you are both up for more, stop in at the Banana Factory (25 W. Third St.) to hear live music, see glassblowing demonstrations and to meet the artists in their studios - there will be lots to do and see that will spark conversation. If you're ready for some hand-holding, head over to Steel Ice Center (Corner of Polk & First Sts.) for some ice skating... you can pretend you're Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Finally, head over to Looper's (313 E. Third St.) or Bookstore Speakeasy (336 Adams St.) for a nightcap.

If you are with a group of girlfriends... (as I will be)
Start your night at Banana Factory, since everyone will be arriving at different times. Then wander down Third Street to Monsoon Gallery to see their new pottery, jewelry and artwork. Stop in at Shuze, because what girl doesn't love shoes and accessories? While you're there, toast Jennifer and Rich on their expansion to Main Street Bethlehem. Visit Marla Duran's studio and ask her what she thinks of the new season of Project Runway. Finally, roll up to the Sands Casino Resort (77 Sands Blvd., Bethlehem) and try your luck at the slots, or just cozy up at one of the bars. The band M-80 will be playing 80's covers at the Sands' Molten Lounge from 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

If you are flying solo...
Check out some of the music playing on Third Street. Dina Hall is making her first acoustic appearance at Tallarico's, and Christy Jefferson is playing at Cleo's. Home & Planet will have a DJ. There's usually a band accompanying the glassblowing demonstration at Banana Factory's GlassWorks studio. The One Stone Collective exhibition debuts on Friday in the front windows of a number of stores on Third Street. Look for the Crazy Cat Lady. Finally, grab the new friends you've met along the way and head over to Starters Riverport to dance to DJ Cyn and enjoy some tasty food and drinks.

Have you ever been to First Friday? Any chance we'll see you this week?

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Of Mice and Men" at DeSales

We were members of the Kennedy Center and enjoyed our fair share of performing arts before moving to the Lehigh Valley, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and diversity of options here, as well as the affordability and availability of tickets to non-subscribers. Many shows in DC sold out to members before going on sale to the public, so if you wanted to get tickets for popular shows, you had to join in advance.

DeSales University's Act 1 student productions may not be at the level of professionals, but it's pretty close. The Labuda Center's theater is packed every time we have seen a show there, and a roster of impressive alumni accomplishments scrolling in the lobby.
A night at the theater is always a fun night out. I saw a musical and a winter show at DeSales (2755 Station Ave. Center Valley) before deciding to subscribe two years ago. Now I have the same seats each time, exactly where I like to be in the theater, and sit elbow-to-elbow with some really nice people. For the price of three shows, I received tickets for four productions, including the current production of "Of Mice and Men." I also really enjoy seeing some of the same faces on stage, and watching the students take on new roles and challenges.

Although the plot was as dark as I remembered from reading John Steinbeck's novel a decade ago, the students pulled it off with a maturity and grace not usually seen in young actors. I always enjoy Act 1's costumes and sets, and this show also featured two convincing fight scenes choreographed by a professional.

Tickets are still available for next weekend's performances of "Of Mice and Men." The run closes on Sunday, March 7, with a 2 p.m. matinee. (Check out WFMZ's piece on the show!)

P.S. I'm already looking forward to the spring musical, "Guys and Dolls."