Monday, December 12, 2011

Lehigh Valley restaurant blog roundup

How was your weekend? See any camels? I did!

Coffee Shop Month #3: Re-Wired Cafe/Alando's Kenyan Cuisine
from Evans Eats: Lehigh Valley & Beyond by Heather Evans
Heather's quest to explore the area's coffee shops is a lot of fun. And I know most of you have never visited this restaurant or had Kenyan food, so read her blog.

Nights at The Roxyfrom By Gabriella Lee/Lehigh Valley Style
Gabriella gives a history of the independent, second-run, beautiful theater in downtown Northampton. If you haven't been... put it on your 2012 LV Bucket List!

Restaurant Profile: Chimpun Peru Restaurantfrom Lehigh Valley Food by Kelly Huth The Express-Times
See above re: Kenyan food - you probably haven't had this, either. Stop by Chimpun when you're downtown shopping at Boutique Easton, which is open Saturdays until 8.

Bethlehem to get two new Italian restaurantsfrom Lehigh Valley Food by Lynn Olanoff The Express-Times
For those who identify businesses based on what was once there, Molto Pazzo is on Main Street where Olio was after Bonte Wafflerie. Molinari's is where the Lucky Duck Diner and Steel City Bar and Grill were.

Art Museum Cafe Opening Tomorrow!from Allentown Good News by Matthew Tuerk
Everyone's favorite high-end caterer, Karen Hunter, enters the cafe scene and we can FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY get her delicious brown sugar chocolate cookies every day of the week. A Christmas miracle! While you're getting a panini and a cookie, visit the museum shop or even - since you're there - the newly-refurbished art galleries.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Starfish Brasserie – Dec. 11th

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Starfish Brasserie – Dec. 11th from What's Cooking, Lehigh Valley? by Matty If you love this tradition, as I do, but don't want to prepare seven separate fish dishes in your own home, as I have, you may want to visit this great Bethlehem restaurant tomorrow. Yelling at your relatives in Italian is optional.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Bethlehem Christmas celebrations

Bethlehem and your adorable holiday traditions!! I love you.

No tickets required, no cost, no paid parking, lots of singing, REAL CAMELS, (no kidding!):
33rd Annual Live Bethlehem Christmas PageantDec 10 & 11, 2 p.m.
Bethlehem Rose Garden Band Shell, off Eighth Avenue between W. Broad Street and Union Blvd. Info: 610-865-0274

One of my favorite *new* traditions in Bethlehem is Saturday's luminaria night, in which thousands of area residents light luminaries (white bags with sand and a votive candle) along the front of their homes.
14th Annual Luminaria Night
The fundraiser benefits New Bethany Ministries.
December 10, after dark
All over the City of Bethlehem and some surrounding areas - drive around, you won't believe how beautiful it is.

Having volunteered at a mall gift wrap fundraising event on the day before Christmas Eve, I can tell you: December 17 may be too early to hold this event. Most men are unapologetically procrastinators. But this is a very festive idea.
Men's Shopping Night in Bethlehem's Two Downtowns
Dec 17 5pm-9pm
During this event, the stores and restaurants of Bethlehem’s Historic District and SouthSide offer discounts on merchandise, free gift wrapping, refreshments and drinks (beer and scotch are on the menu at several locations), as well as personal shoppers offering advice for men looking to pick up the perfect gift for loved ones!
Info: 610-751-4979

Bethlehem is beautiful at night, but for visitors who are unfamiliar with the area, you may miss some of the "good stuff" without a guide. Great for anyone with mobility issues or kids in the "sweet spot" - old enough to sit still, young enough not to be texting the whole time:
Bethlehem by Night Bus Tour
Tours depart from Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center at 505 Main St.
Info: 610-332-3378 or online
$12 for adults; $6 for ages 6-12; Ages 5 and under free
A guide in period dress takes you back in time on a 45-50 minute tour of the Christmas City. Highlights include the unique religious heritage of the town under the guiding influence of its early Moravian founders and the progression of power and innovation that marked the city's later entrepreneurial and industrial spirit.

Check out everything that's happening in the Christmas City here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Best deals on Christmas shopping in the Lehigh Valley

Recently, I received a question via Twitter:

@RobRiveraPA: @LVtransplant where are the best deals to go Xmas shopping in
your opinion?

I am probably the worst person to answer this question, since I pretty much don't shop for Christmas gifts. I've given up exchanging gifts with my parents in lieu of a night at the theatre together. This year we're going to Pennsylvania Playhouse in Bethlehem to see "Broadway Christmas Carol." I usually find a couple of things for FH without looking and the rest of my gift giving is consists of one gift exchange with FH's family. I picked FH's cousin who wanted an iTunes gift card, which I got at the pharmacy. Done.

My reply, though, was this:

@RobRiveraPA I like shopping local: downtown Easton, Bethlehem(s). And
getting tix for local events and food from local producers as gifts.

I appreciate the brevity of Twitter Q&A's - gets right to the point. But I still didn't answer the poor guy's question. Any suggestions for great "deals?"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Chipotle in the Lehigh Valley

Next year, I will celebrate my sixth year as a Lehigh Valley resident. There are so many things I appreciate about my new home. And a lot has changed in these six years. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Coach, and Banana Republic arrived. But there are still a few things that I miss about Washington, DC.

Trader Joe's is one. Chipotle is another.

The wait is over for one of them. Chipotle is coming.

Yes, I love Cali Burrito. Lots. But Chipotle has some sort of weird hold on me. White Castle lovers say they feel something similar for the chain's sliders. Maybe it's because when I was newly-graduated and living on a really limited budget, a Chipotle burrito could feed me for two days for $10. Or that the one in Tenleytown had a liquor license. (I doubt the Lehigh Valley Mall location will.) I'd wait in line for 20 minutes to get one. On Halloween, people dress up like burritos to get a free one. Music playing inside is hip and the vibe is chill. Food memories are silly but powerful.

In the absence of our favorites, we muddle through, find substitutes or make them ourselves.

Now that Corner Bakery's closed its Lehigh Valley location, I miss their ham and cheese sandwich on pretzel bread - an indulgence I allowed myself when things got stressful at my fundraising job on K Street. But now I can buy pretzel bread at Wegman's, or order up the ham and bechamel on brioche sandwich at The Mint.

What stores or restaurants is the Lehigh Valley missing, in your opinion? And what do you do to get by?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wing Night at Christkindlmarkt

Some guys have a regular night for poker, or darts night, or get together at a sports bar for wing night.

Alyssa and I thought that sounded pretty good. An excuse to get together no greater than the bar's appetizer special. We wanted a "wing night," too. Now it's become an ongoing joke: anytime things get crazy, one of us will ask - time for Wing Night?

We organized a wing night - actually a wing "day" - Sunday on the South Side of Bethlehem, that had nothing to do with wings. We'd planned to go to lunch at Blue Sky Cafe, but the tables were full of Lehigh students and parents, and the line was out the door. The food at Blue Sky is fantastic, but the kitchen is only sobig. So we walked up the street to see if Horns was open. Nope. Back up 4th Street, we passed by La Lupita, Subway, Alexandra's Bistro, Nawab and General Zapata's (all open). We decided to visit Nawab since the $9.95 buffet was open and we were both hungry for something a little different. Eating at their daily lunch buffet is a great way to try out a variety of Indian dishes without commiting to one, and you can "order with your eyes" instead of off the menu, where you might not recognize the names of dishes. There were vegetarian and chicken dishes, and lots of colorful options, including a bright-red chicken tikka masala and a green saag paneer (but no wings).

After making a quick detour back home to let FH into the house - he'd locked himself out - we rolled over to SteelStacks to check out Christkindlmarkt. I have two ways to get in free: I volunteered at the event this year, so I can go anytime, and we are ArtsQuest members. She had a free pass from work.

When we arrived, we saw the admissions line snaked out the door, and heard Christmas music playing. We walked right in, and were drawn in to the booths with handmade crafts, ornaments, and silly kids' hats. In the center area, an artist wielding a chainsaw was carving a dog out of ice, and the glass artists from Banana Factory were making glass candy canes. In the second tent, a brass band was performing Christmas standards while the shoppers perused more gifts. Alyssa picked up something for someone which shall remain secret in case that someone reads this blog.

It was a great wing day, and a good example of how to "make a day" on the South Side.


The history: Christkindlmarkt used to be on the north side of Bethlehem, where Volksplatz is during Musikfest. But its new south side location includes plenty of free parking, access to the ArtsQuest Center with real bathrooms (vs. outdoor port-o-johns at Christkindlmarkt), great food, films and performances, and now - the blast furnace light show!

Cost: $8, but anyone can get a $1 off coupon from the ArtsQuest web site. Military servicemen and veterans also get a discount. Seniors and students get a $1 discount which cannot be combined with the coupon.

Parking: Free, across the street from the tents in a gravel lot.

If you want to volunteer, there are still shifts available. I enjoy helping out at the front of the house, at the information desk or the admissions area, welcoming everyone to Bethlehem and answering questions. Top 2 questions: Where do we go for lunch/dinner after this and where is Santa?

For more information on CK and other Bethlehem holiday happenings: Visit the ArtsQuest web site.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hookah Lounge

Hookah is kind of like smoking a bong, but with tobacco instead of pot (or in some cases, just tobacco-free, flavored herbs). You can get a little buzzed smoking it, but don't worry, Mom, it's not illegal. The hookah itself is usually glass with multiple flexible stems (everyone gets their own - and it comes with a disposable mouth cover for hygiene purposes). Often smoking is the centerpiece of activity at a lounge/nightclub that attracts a lot of young people of Middle-Eastern decent and/or hipsters. There's usually contemporary and Middle Eastern music, think lounge-y, more than clubb-y. And somehow backgammon usually follows. Needless to say, this is not MOST Lehigh Valleyans idea of a fun time (yet). But for those people who:

a) don't feel like wilin' out to Livin' on a Prayer for the 900th time at MacGrady's
b) can picture you and your friends hanging out on pillows, talking without screaming over music or the blaring distracting of the Phillies game
c) can get a sitter - (this is not a family activity)
and d) are down with a little variety in your cultural diet and don't mind the smell of fruit-flavored smoke

... this is for you.
The ones I went to in DC (Chi-Cha Lounge and... shoot, I can't remember the name of the other one, I am sure it's closed now, but it was in the Foggy Bottom area... pretty far west on K Street I think, somewhere in the 30's) served yummy, authentic food, tea and coffee, and it was cozy and low-key. I say: Gentlemen, bravo. You have the pleasure of educating the area locals on hookah and have committed to running businesses in urban neighborhoods, and I wish you the best of luck!
Get your Hookah fix here:
  • Gardenia Hookah (760 Hanover Avenue, Allentown) - go to Dragon Palace on Airport Road before for a bite to eat.
  • Bliss Hookah (209 Union St, Allentown) - go to Aci Halal (34 N 2nd Street, Allentown) for dinner before - trust me. Tasty Turkish food!
  • Sultana Hookah Lounge (3 E 3rd Street, Bethlehem) - on the corner of New Street and 3rd Street, where the Fahy Bridge meets 3rd, across from Tallarico's Chocolates and Glen Anthony Designs. Dinner at 23 East Asian Bistro, or General Zapata's, or the trendy new Horns!
  • Hookah Turka (44 W.Broad St., Bethlehem) - where the candy store was, on the same block as the (closed) Boyd movie theater. Dinner anywhere on Main Street. Have you been to the new Italian place, Molto Pazzo, at 553 Main Street?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Great Allentown Comic Con in Lehigh Valley

November 19 and 20, you are cordially invited to "Get UR Geek On" at The Great Allentown Comic Con.

The Lehigh Valley's largest comic & pop culture convention attracts artists, celebrity guests, dealers, and comic book geeks of all ages. Smurfs, Disney, Star Wars, zombies, Star Trek... this show has something for every comic lover.

At: Merchants Square Mall, 1901 S. 12th Street, Allentown, PA 18103 (just off Lehigh Street, behind the Toyota dealership) Hours: Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

Admission Cost: One-Day Pass $8 per adult, Two Day Pass $10 per adult
- free for children 12 years-old and under accompanied with an adult
- $1 per pass will be donated to epilepsy awareness
Don't want to pay? The GACC is looking for volunteers. You'll eat free and meet guests and dealers. Email for info.

And while I appreciate the show's effort to promote local attractions (Crayola Factory, Lehigh Valley Mall, Historic Bethlehem, Sands), there are a few places that are even closer to Comic Con that are worth checking out, too.

All of these recommendations are within a 3.5-mile radius of Comic Con:

Go to The Brass Rail for cheesesteaks (3015 Lehigh Street), Louie's Restaurant for Italian (2071 31st Street SW), or Amigo Mio Cafe for Mexican (545 Cleveland Street).

Drop in at Drop Me a Line Costume Shop (1050 Lehigh Street) and Double Decker Records (808 Saint John Street) - two unique indie stores. Catch a screening of "The Skin I Live In" starring Antonio Banderas at The Civic Theatre (19th Street) on Sunday at 1:30. It's a 2-hour film in Spanish with English subtitles. Then visit my friend Steph at Step in 4 Mor (1823 W Allen St) and try on some fabulous shoes.

Comic Con is also close to the South Mall, (3300 Lehigh St) which has the only Stein Mart in the Lehigh Valley. You'll also find a drive-through Starbucks in the parking lot and Gypsy Rose antiques mall inside.

May the force be with you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Indian cultural celebration in Allentown

Allentown Symphony Hall (23 N. 6th St. Allentown) is celebrating Indian Culture this weekend with two colorful and exciting events. If you have ever traveled to India, love opera or classical Indian dance, or just want to be transported to another land for a few hours, you may want to attend these events. Not to mention, for those of you who think the Lehigh Valley is not culturally diverse, I suspect this program's audience will be a good mix.

The Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series "The Met: Live in HD" features 11 live transmissions, including one at our very own Allentown Symphony Hall. Since the live shows are simulcast, you can enjoy The Met's Opera series without driving to Manhattan and paying high ticket prices.

This weekend, Richard Croft is Gandhi in Philip Glass’s unforgettable opera, Satyagraha, which the Washington Post calls “a profound and beautiful work of theater.” November 19, 2011 at 1pm - Tickets $20-22/$15 Students (Encore: December 21, 2011 at 6:30pm)

On Sunday, November 20, Ragamala Dance will present Sacred Earth at 8 p.m. Tickets: $25-50/$10 Students
Ragamala Dance, called “rapturous and profound” by The New York Times, blends ancient Indian visual art traditions with classical Indian dance in Sacred Earth. Performed against large-scale painted panels by master folk artist Anil Chaitya Vangad, Sacred Earth invokes a deep connection to the earth and illustrates the ever-renewing cycle of life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lehigh-Lafayette Football Weekend 2011

The beer distributors are all out of PBR. The Easton and Bethlehem police are preparing for the crowds. And the rumble of Mercedes and Lexus SUVs from New Jersey, Connecticut and New York is unmistakable. It must be Lehigh-Laf weekend.

For those of you who did not attend one of these schools, are not from the Lehigh Valley, or don't care at all about football, you'd still be wise to pay attention. This Saturday, November 19, the roads, neighborhoods and institutions around Easton and Bethlehem will be full of alumni and students gearing up for the 147th meeting of their two football teams.

Quick wiki lesson: Lehigh University and Lafayette College are located 17 miles apart in eastern Pennsylvania, and are both members of the Patriot League. Their football rivalry has been played 146 times since 1884, making it the most-played football rivalry in the nation. It is also the longest uninterrupted rivalry, since the teams have met every year since 1897.

The game is hosted at the stadiums on Lehigh's and Lafayette's campuses in alternate years. This year, Lehigh "welcomes" Lafayette to their home in Bethlehem/Saucon Valley. If you don't already have tickets, you could watch a live broadcast online, or at bars including Starter's Riverport, Bethlehem Brew Works, and JP Macgrady's in Bethlehem.

Friday night is always a big night to party on and off campus, since young alumni come back to town a little early to start pre-gaming. On Saturday morning, alumni meet up at their old fraternity house for a ceremonial beer or 10, and after the game is over, most will be swerving their way home from Goodman Campus. Many will stay the night in the region's hotels and enjoy a meal at one of their old favorite restaurants (beware, if you were planning to get breakfast at Billy's Diner or a burger at College Hill Tavern this weekend!).

The rivalry is so serious you can taste it in the tailgate beer. (Lehigh's bookstore sells a T-shirt that has "Lafayette" on the front, and "Because not everyone can get into Lehigh" on the back.) So figure out who you're for, and stay away from the people on the other side (and the drunk drivers!).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lehigh Valley Chorus of Sweet Adelines: The Sing-Off, Lehigh Valley-style

I met Michele because she had the good sense to join Junior League. She also happens to be a member of the same amazing collegiate sorority as I am - from Texas State, no less - and is a very talented singer (which I am not). I am in awe of musicians like her and my other friend Courtney, who are a capella goddesses, and of course the kids on The Sing-Off.
The Lehigh Valley Chorus of Sweet Adelines International will present its annual show, A Cappella A la Carte, at 7:30 PM on Saturday, November 12, at the Allentown Jewish Community Center’s Kline Auditorium, 702 North 22nd Street in Allentown, PA. Doors open at 7 PM.
We’ll be featuring music that spans every generation, including pop, swing, show tunes and ballads – all in a cabaret setting with refreshments and cash bar for wine and soft drinks. The Lehigh Valley Gay Men’s Chorus and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts Women’s Choir will join us as guest performers.
Show tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and $12 for children 12 and under. For more information, directions to the venue or to purchase advance tickets online, visit LVC’s website. You may also call 908-859-5796 or send an email.
Michele joined The Lehigh Valley Chorus when she moved to the area, and she let me know that the group has its yearly show this weekend, and it promises to be a great evening. She adds:
Also, for anyone interested in joining the chorus, I can attest that the ladies of the group are some of the sweetest and most supportive people I've ever met. Makes it easy for new members to fit right in. I'm still considered a guest singer but hope to audition formally very soon. I'll be performing in one song at the show.
Autographs are $5. Break a leg!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Westgate Mall Indoor Outdoor Farmer's Market in Bethlehem

The Westgate Mall (2285 Schoenersville Rd. Bethlehem) is probably best known for the time presidential candidate John McCain visited a few years ago, pushing a shopping cart through Weis Market with the common folk.

Westgate is not as glamorous as the Promenade Shops is - no Starbucks or fountains here - but the Bon-Ton department store is just fine, and Westgate Pizza is one of our favorites. It also has a store that repairs vacuum cleaners and sewing machines, and a drive through coffee trailer in the parking lot(Mocha Mike's - beloved by soccer and baseball moms taking their kids to the Bethlehem Municipal fields for games as well as commuters).

Now it's the first Lehigh Valley mall to open a year-round farmers' market! Westgate Mall Indoor Outdoor Farmer's Market opened today with much fanfare - including a visit from US Congressman Charlie Dent. It will be open every Wednesday from noon until 7 p.m.

Here's a partial list of vendors:
  • Valley View Farms products
  • Hereford Country Store - Gourmet Quiches, Veggie Tarts and Old Fashion Baked Goods
  • The Popcorn Pit - freshly made Gourmet Popcorn
  • Jett Produce -  year-long chemical free greens, holiday wreaths, fresh grain fed turkeys
  • Y Knot Alpacas  Alpaca gloves, socks and soaps
  • Verba Farms - Fruit baskets, eggs, produce
  • The Phillips Company - specialty and holiday flags
  • Hair Accessories plus Uniques -  Uniques hair clips and accessories
  • Apple Ridge Farms - Featuring Brick Oven Bread & Produce
  • Easton Salsa Company - Salski/Salsa
  • Christine's Secret Garden - fine teas and tea pots
  • Blondies  - designer cupcakes, haluski, tomatoe mac & cheese and pierogie casserole
  • Hum-Dinger Alpacas - yes, more alpacas! - alpaca fiber products, both handspun/handknit, and commercially processed
For more information, "like" the Westgate Mall on Facebook.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Roundup


I love using Google Reader to compile all the web sites, blogs and writers I follow. If there's a post I want to see, it waits patiently in my inbox until I get around to it. If you don't already have a Google account, you can get one for free. Then set up your Reader by adding sites like Lehigh Valley Transplant. :) Then, when you can't remember where you read something, you can search on a keyword in Google Reader to figure it out. (Usually when I can't remember, it's one of the little gems Kelly Huth unearths.)

Speaking of Kelly: read her Restaurant Profile of General Zapata : "Head to General Zapata -- a reincarnation of Zapata's -- for a deep-fried taco"

Then visit Jaime K's piece on co-ops, and envision one in Bethlehem.

Swoon over Abby Leigh's ode to Wawa.

E-visit Bolete Restaurant with Wine-Know.

And tonight, meet up with Twitter users at Starfish Brasserie in Bethlehem (7 p.m.). If you go, you'll meet a friendly bunch of media mavens. Even if you aren't hip to Twitter yet, they'll inspire you to be. #tweetup

Have a great weekend, and don't forget to vote on Tuesday!

Update: Sorry to have to remove the links on this post: One of them was linked to malware! :(

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Snowtober in Lehigh Valley for transplants

On Friday night, we gave away candy to 400 trick or treaters, including one cute little chicken and his parents, Paul and Katie. When we ran out of candy at 7:15 p.m., we turned off the front porch light and took Stella for a stroll to visit our friends Tyler and Jenna (who had 800+ kids in 2 hours- check out their video!) and our friends who recently moved to the neighborhood, Molly and Ryan.

The next day, in the midst of a storm, Lehigh Valley residents lost power as the heavy snow accumulated on the leaves and branches snapped under the weight, bringing down power lines and making a huge mess.

Most people lost power for a few hours. Many faced no power or heat for a few days. Some still don't have power.

Who do you turn to when you need help? A lot of locals stayed with family or close friends. Many seniors were able to tap into a network of social services. But transplants, many of you in apartments or rental houses, or living in new developments where you don't know your neighbors well, were left in the cold. As it is, it's hard to imagine asking a neighbor you barely see or know to house you and your pets, children and freezer contents. It's even harder when that neighbor is staying with family or friends elsewhere.

Now that most of you have power back, how would you do things differently? Would you buy a generator, a backup sump pump and/or a chain saw? Get a wood stove and a gas-powered range? Would you stay in a hotel? Would you get to know your neighbors better? Are you developing an emergency plan in case this happens again someday?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Young Lawyers in the Lehigh Valley

A bunch of young lawyers walk into a bar...

There's no punchline. It's really happening.

Check out a happy hour fundraiser for the Northampton County Young Lawyers Division tonight.

Mach’s Gute, 713 Linden Street, Bethlehem
Wednesday November 2, 2011, 5:30-7:30 pm
$20 donation pre-registered, or $25 at the door.
Paying guests receive a free drink ticket and free appetizers. Benefits: the Northampton County YLD Holiday Hope Chest Project, which provides Christmas gifts to underprivileged and needy children throughout the Lehigh Valley. 

At the event, you might win a raffle or door prize, and are pretty much guaranteed to meet well-dressed, community-minded, smart young professionals who live in the Lehigh Valley.

Friday, October 28, 2011

No Boys Allowed: An event for tweens, teens and moms

An event just for teen girls and moms is happening this weekend in South Side Bethlehem.

The Glam Squad's mission and purpose is to empower girls/women of all ages. The group's focus is on Body Image, Media, Hair and Makeup, Self-Care and Wellness, Fashion Do's and Don'ts. The genius behind the organization, my friend Rosalin, says the Glam Squad aims to create "a movement of Stylish, Strong, Secure Divas, one girl at time." Righteous!

The annual "No Boys Allowed" event is this Saturday, Octobe 29, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Comfort Suites on E. Third Street. Some programs designed for both moms and daughters, including Fashion/Styling Basics, Age Appropriate Skincare and Makeup, Priority Setting, and Love and Limits. Others are just for moms, including topics like dealing with relational agression and bullying and How to Talk to Your Daughter About Sex. At the same time their daughters attend a session that encourages the girls to DREAM BIG, and to learn how to become financially savvy,  and media literate.

The Anti Pageant begins at 6 p.m. featuring a healthy competition that showcases girls' originality, commitment to community service, public speaking, and more. Fathers, brothers and other supportive males are welcome to attend the Anti Pageant.
Tickets are $10, and a portion of each ticket for expo will benefit the YWCA of Bethlehem. Visit for tickets and information.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Check out the #1 ranked US college theater program - in Allentown this weekend

Admit it, when you looked at colleges, you read the Princeton Review. You checked to see if a school was anywhere near the top of the rankings for "Party Schools," what the food was like, and whether your roommate was likely to be an aspiring senator. Those rankings often tell more about a school than the M/F ratio (not in my favor at my alma mater, or most colleges, for that matter), average class size and number of student organizations that you'll get in most college guidebooks.

Muhlenberg College, a higher education institution known locally for its beautiful West End Allentown campus, its active Jewish student population, and its drop-dead-gorgeous-looks-like-Hogwarts dining hall, is also ranked #1 in the US among the 376 college theater programs the Review inspected. (It only ranks the best 15% of all colleges and universities to begin with.)

Here's the Wood Dining Hall. When Niki and I had lunch there recently, it took my breath away.

Not #1 out of Mid-Atlantic colleges, or among Division 2 schools, or schools with Hogwarts-like dining halls. #1 in the nation, better than NYU, better than USC, best overall. In Allentown!

The college's summer musical series is unmatched in the region, and shows frequently sell out. Subscribe to the college's Calendar (iCal or Google Calendar) on the theatre department's web site to find out when the shows are announced. See the students in action in their latest musical production," Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," October 28-November 6. General Admission tickets start at $20. For mature audiences. Call 484-664-3333 or visit

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall fever: pumpkin picking and other fun autumn activities in the Lehigh Valley

image borrowed from The Gold Puppy - I adore the string at the end of the pumpkin stem.

From my window in Bethlehem this morning, everything is still green, green, green. But I drove up Route 33 to Wind Gap this weekend and it is definitely fall there already. Which means... next weekend is probably going to be peak leaf peeping time north of here.

Everyone seems to be itching to do fall-type activities, like stomping grapes, picking pumpkins and apples, taking a hay ride, and generally enjoying the anomaly that is the Lehigh Valley: Where you can enjoy a pastoral afternoon on a real working farm and a world-class farm-to-table meal and show in the evening, and never leave your county.

TMC and ET list the parades, parties and other fall festivities happening around the Lehigh Valley this weekend. Don't forget that Trick or Treat night in your neighborhood may NOT be October 31. Don't get caught unprepared!
Discover Lehigh Valley also has some great suggestions, including Pennsylvania Youth Theatre's October 29 “Thrill the World” event, where they invite visitors to break world records as you join tens of thousands of people around the globe all dancing “Thriller” at the exact same time, then stick around for music, dancing, movies and general zombiance.

I'd also suggest visiting Hawk Mountain, since the fall migration is in full swing and you'll likely see a lot of birds: yesterday, 151 were sighted off the various lookouts on the mountain. Even if you aren't an avid birdwatcher, the Mountain's trails are well-maintained and the views are breathtaking, especially as the leaves change.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dayglow Party at Lehigh University

Sympathies to The Morning Call newsroom, decimated by layoffs. What is written locally is put together by the few brave writers left, and some of the writing is very, very good. Andrew McGill and Spencer Soper are clever and self-deprecating. Reporting by Jenna Portnoy and Arlene Martinez is eloquently researched, written and edited. While I am no news reporter, I admire the hard work of the journalists who make their living covering our community's news. I subscribe to the paper seven days a week, and now also pay extra to read it online, because of their work (and to get a daily update of how bad it things are at Olympus).

But some of the writers...

Susan Gottshall's restaurant reviews are so overly descriptive and sweetly positive that by the time you get to the end, you feel full.
  • On a pizza place in Bethlehem: "Rosanna's cannoli ($2.75) was a sweet treat, indeed, its creamy, rich center fine contrast for the crispy shell. I enjoyed a cup of cappuccino ($3.25) just as much, thanks to its hot froth steaming the aroma of coffee into my olfactory senses."
  • On The Mint, a Bethlehem gastropub with 120+ domestic microbrews on the menu, one of its most distinctive features: "I found The Mint a bit noisy, but, even so, I look forward to watching how this restaurant matures, because it already qualifies for my 'must return' list. Including tax and tip, dinner for two without alcoholic beverages totaled $88."'

Tyrone Richardson writes the newspaper's Retail Watch column. I don't know why, but he seems to be the last to know. I know more than Tyrone does about retail happenings in the Valley, and it's not even my job. It seems like most of his sources are press releases and the business owners themselves. It wouldn't be hard to do a little research or get out of the office more. His predecessor used to slay me with his humor and insider information.

But the one that takes the cake - and the inspiration for this post - is John Moser.

He reviewed the Fuel and Buckcherry concert this summerAnd, he interviewed Hot Chelle Rae when they visited Crocodile Rock recently . In both cases, he sounded like someone's dad writing about his kids' kind of music.

But this weekend's piece about Dayglow, complete with this photo of a girl covered in paint (black and white in the newspaper), took the cake.

"Expect pulsating club music and body paint at Dayglow party... Dayglow, coming to Rauch Fieldhouse at Lehigh University Dec. 3, will be a rave-style party with club music and body paint."

John quotes three hard-hitting news sources: Temple University's online student newspaper, the promoter's press release, and Dayglow's web site.

What I really want to read is his personal review of the event. :)

P.S. Tickets: $45, general admission. $70, VIP. On sale now online. For more information, call 610-333-3987.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley Grand Opening - Part 2

Here are a few more photos of the newly-renovated Allentown Art Museum. Did you go to the festivities this weekend? Had you visited the museum before the renovation? Maybe you think you aren't the "museum type," but you are curious, and want to check it out in a social setting. If so, check out this event:

Art After Hours, "Celebrate the Renaissance," 5:30-8 p.m. Nov. 17, museum-wide event. $20; $10, members. During the Renaissance, life's milestones were marked in celebrations and light. Celebrate the museum's renaissance with an evening inspired by the "Shared Treasure: The Legacy of Samuel H. Kress" exhibition. Sample themed hors d'oeuvres, regional wines and catch a performance by a madrigal or two.

A view from the arts plaza

New glass facade and a brand new tree on North Fifth Street.

Heaven on Earth: Textiles of the Renaissance and Baroque, Goodman Gallery, through Jan. 15

An accompanying exhibition to "Shared Treasures," "Heaven on Earth" provides a further introduction to the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque through a group of dramatic textiles drawn from the museum's extensive textile and costume collection. Included is a selection of textiles that includes flat and cut velvets, tapestries and embroideries that reflect the important modes of textile production from the 15th to 18th centuries.

Salvatore Grippi: Invented Terrains, Rodale Gallery, through Jan. 15

Salvatore Grippi (b. 1921) uses everyday prosaic objects to convey an impressive sense of mystery, intensity and surrealism in a display of 29 drawings, collages and paintings from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s. The black and white drawings capture light and dark, hovering between still life and landscape, the physical and metaphysical, while the brilliant red paintings shout for a different kind of attention, presenting similar objects as both confrontational and remote.

No visit to the museum would be complete without a visit Artie in the Art Ways area for kids. Here, the museum's Chief Curator Diane Fischer checks on him before the museum opens to the public.

The Art of India and Tibet from the Permanent Collection, Fowler Gallery

Facing Fifth Street with lots of window light, the Linny and Beal Fowler Gallery is an ideal exhibition space for sculpture. The exhibit of sculpture and textiles dating from the sixth to early 20th centuries combines the Asian Indian and Tibetan works from the museum's Goodman Gallery with the recently gifted pieces from the vast collection of Drs. Peter and Caroline Koblenzer of Philadelphia.

A view of the museum's entrance on the left, with the Lehigh County courthouse in the far right and Baum School of Art in the foreground.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley - Sneak Peek

I got a sneak peek of the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley this week, just before its grand re-opening to the public this weekend.

A view of the museum from the rooftop of the Baum School of Art (courtesy of Allentown Art Museum)
The museum got more than a fresh coat of paint - there are new galleries, a new cafe (opening this winter during museum hours) and a host of new exhibits that are sure to entertain a repeat visitor like me and first time visitors like most of you.

If you've lived in a large city like I have, you know that museums can play a big part in the cultural calendar, and this museum aims to do the same. By increasing the number, size and capacity of its galleries, it is well-suited to host guests young, old, and in-between (the latter being the most elusive museum-going audience). Adding a cafe will entice attract visitors who don't typically visit museums and tempt museum-goers to stay a little longer... and maybe pick up a unique gift at the museum shop.

The museum has already scheduled a series of events, including lectures, festivals, and the return of my favorite cocktail party in the region, Art After Hours (save the date: November 17 is the first one). The museum will re-open its doors this Saturday, October 16th, with a Preview Party from 6-8 p.m. Free admission to museum members, $15 for non-members.

As for the art you'll see if you visit: Chief Curator Diane Fischer has gone for baroque with Renaissance era paintings from the museum's permanent collection, plus additional works collected by Samuel Kress to complement them:

The museum’s inaugural exhibition Shared Treasure: The Legacy of Samuel H. Kress celebrates the 50th anniversary of the gifting of the Kress Collection of Early European Art. It features forty (40) key selections from the museum’s permanent collection as well as thirty (30) additional works borrowed from other museums and institutions such as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Gallery of Art. A few examples (also courtesy of the museum):

For more information, visit the museum's web site. Thanks to Elsbeth and Jen for making my little visit possible!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Boy's Baking moving to Stoke Park Road

I wrote about my favorite cookie in the universe a while back, My Boy's Baking's toffee chocolate chip treat that is everything a cookie should be: sweet, crunchy, soft and light.

This year, a box of them was a birthday gift to myself that I savored over many weeks.

While I was inside their shop, the owner let me know that the business will be moving to a bigger location soon. They're leaving their shop at 196 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem, for space next to Dave's Deli and Patrick McIvor Studio at 310 Stoke Park Road in Bethlehem. It's around the corner from the Bethlehem Wegman's. If that's too inconvenient, you can also place your order online. In the new spot, they'll have visibility from Route 22 and more space to bake their signature biscotti and cookies and ship them around the world.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Romance novel discussion in the Lehigh Valley

I subscribe to Bethlehem Area Public Library's blog, and receive regular updates about  new books, e-books and DVDs in stock, book sales (ridiculously great and 6+ x/year) and events like this one. I had to smile at the headline: CALLING ALL ADULTS!
If you have read any Nicholas Sparks’ books or have ever wondered about his books, join us for a fun evening of discussion about this genre: ROMANCE.

Refreshments will be served.

So join us at the South Side Branch for this book discussion group on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 from 6:30-7:30 P.M.

Please register by calling 610-867-7852.
This would be a great event for individuals who enjoy the romance genre and don't know anyone else who does. And the South Side Branch is within walking distance of The Bookstore Speakeasy, a place where a romance novel might be set... sounds like a fun night out! If you go... let me know how it was!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Nothing to do in the Lehigh Valley

I stopped by an expo hosted by the Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal earlier this week, and was glad to see so much enthusiasm for the growth of business in the Lehigh Valley. Lots of local businesses and organizations that support local businesses were there showing off their stuff.

I paid close attention to two booths in particular. The Lehigh Valley International Airport’s marketing staff and Discover Lehigh Valley ambassador extraordinaire Nancy were giving away swag and information about what’s happening next.

The airport is concerned that with Southwest Airlines’ purchase of AirTran, that the low-cost carrier will leave the region. Wouldn’t it be great to have Southwest Airlines in the Lehigh Valley? If you have never flown Southwest, it is an affordable option that makes up in charm what it lacks in amenities. No meals, no assigned seats… but you'll enjoy the friendly and accommodating staff, and fast boarding and deplaning. To let Southwest know what you think, click here.

Nancy was distributing its 2011 Map and Guide and new Lehigh Valley Dining and Discount Guide in the Discover Lehigh Valley booth. I always learn something new talking to Nancy and reading the organization’s helpful materials. For instance:

  • Did you know there is a clothing-optional resort in the Pocono Mountains? Oh yes, Sunny Rest Resort is available for your nudist enjoyment year-round.
  • Have you heard of the Macungie Institute? I hadn’t, but then again, I don’t live in Macungie. It’s a meeting and conference facility with an auditorium, conference room, and classrooms, for both business and social events. 
  • What about Landhaven Bed & Breakfast in nearby Barto?
  • ...Lehigh Valley Tour Group’s haunted tours?
  • ...Flint Hill Farm AG in Coopersburg and Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm in Stroudsburg? Pay a visit, and you and your family can experience everyday farm life.
Still think there's nothing to do here?

Thanks, Discover Lehigh Valley! As always, I encourage Lehigh Valley residents new and not-so-new to explore this region as if you were a tourist.

Weekend in the Lehigh Valley

Last week, FH was out of town for a few days, and immediately after he returned, I was out two nights in a row with a Junior League meeting and statistics class. Friday night we stayed in and caught up on DVR TV, including The Sing-Off. We love to cheer for the a capella performers and mock Nick Lachey. (See, we're not socialites every night of the week!)

Here's where my insatiable curiosity and blogger tendencies kick in. I wondered whether there were any a capella groups in the Lehigh Valley, so I searched the 'net and found:
Sweet Adelines
Lehigh Valley Harmonizers
Muhlenberg College's NoteWorthy
Lehigh University's Melismatics
Lafayette College' Soulfege, Chorduroys, Quintessence and Cadence
I think the Lehigh Valley could have its own Sing-Off!

When Saturday rolled around and it wasn't raining, I took the opportunity to buy some mums and garden stuff from Lowe's (now that I don't have a Dan Schantz Greenhouse nearby - Boo) and pretty up the front of our house. Stella supervised, of course.

Then in the afternoon, we met our friend Sara at ArtsQuest's Oktoberfest, taking place on the SteelStacks campus. It was $10 at the gate. We bumped into Molly and Ryan and Katie and Paul, both with extended families in tow, and saw lots and lots of little wiener dogs. We missed the dachshund races, but they were darn cute even just walking around. We enjoyed a couple of drinks (me and Sara = spiked hot cider; FH = an IPA). The Oktoberfest continues this weekend, too.

Then, because we were craving something more than a sausage and schnitzel, we stopped by The Mint for dinner. The new fall menu is out, including wasabi pea soup (YUM) and brisket sliders (TRIPLE YUM). Like most places serving microbrews these days, demand far exceeds supply, so the beer list is new all the time, too. I had a stout that tasted like creme brulee and a hefeweisen that tasted like bananas and cloves. (So I didn't need dessert.) The vibe was relaxed but busy inside the restaurant, as it began to pour outside.

On Sunday, Dad, Lauren and Stella joined me on one of my Lehigh Valley expeditions. Until I read this blog post, I had never heard of Columcille Megalith Park, let alone realized it was in nearby Bangor, PA. It wasn't a long hike, but the path was surrounded by stones large and small. If you haven't been, check out the web site, then go explore.

This weekend will look a little bit like last weekend, except there will be more studying for the GRE. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Restaurants near South Bethlehem: Advice to a chef visiting this weekend for Oktoberfest

My friend Lori works for Revel in Atlantic City – the newest and most fabulous casino resort at the shore. Her friend, the executive chef at LaSalle University recently asked her:

I'm thinking about visiting Chris in Bethlehem this weekend and seeing his new kitchen and checking out the Oktoberfest thing going on… Are there any places to eat worth visiting while I'm up there? I don't think that Chris is the right guy to ask, as he doesn't really live there, and his idea of a great restaurant is someplace with large portions of meat. (he loves those Brazilian places) Any thoughts? Sunday brunch would be worthwhile.
Since she knows I love food and the Lehigh Valley, she asked my opinion, which I will share with you, too:
Dear Chef,

Welcome to the Lehigh Valley! This weekend’s weather is supposed to be perfect for Oktoberfest, fall harvest activities and general outdoor merriment. Yes, the weather is always this beautiful!

Knowing you are only in town for one weekend and are based in South Bethlehem, I’d recommend you visit a couple of places that we love, not too far from the ‘Fest:

Lunch – Maybe you’ll eat lunch at Oktoberfest – traditional German fare. If you’re in the mood for something else, I’d recommend the not-so-best-kept-secret of West Bethlehem (<5 minute drive), The Mint. Sit at the bar, order the wasabi pea soup or the Bank Burger, and enjoy 127+ domestic microbrews and craft cocktails. (610-419-3810, 1233 W. Broad St., Bethlehem).

Dinner – If you need a break from the ‘Fest, or if you’re done for the night, visit Horns, just six blocks away. The vibe is local, organic, sustainable, eco-friendly, compostable, vegetarian friendly and casual. Your meat-loving friend might not find piles of steak there, but there’s a lot to love. BTW, it is BYOB. You can pick up a bottle of wine or liquor at the Wine and Spirits store one block south of the restaurant, get a six pack to go from JP MacGrady’s, or dry out from your day of wild Oktoberfest antics. You can walk there in <15 minutes. (610-867-5818, 123 W. 4th St, Bethlehem)

Brunch – Go all out at Bolete, with a fancy brunch menu including oysters, lobster, duck eggs, seasonal regional produce, and “(Soon to Be Famous) Ghost of Mary Martinis.” It’s only 10-minute drive from the Oktoberfest grounds. (610-868-6505, 1740 Seidersville Rd. Bethlehem
Enjoy – and let us know what you think!
Readers, how did I do?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

From Cali to the Valley (part 2)

In response to my recent post about Lehigh Valley residents who are from California, I received three comments from ladies, with specific complaints, questions and wistful longings. While I can't manufacture a Japantown in Easton, I have a few ideas that might make life in the Valley a smidgen more Californian for them.
Shari and Jill: Dim sum - what about Eastern Palace Chinese Restaurant on Linden St. in Bethlehem? Everyone I know swears it’s the best Chinese in the Valley, too. I haven’t been, so if you go, let me know how it is!

I can’t help you two with the weather or the ocean… what you see is what you get here. I love three of the four seasons, perhaps even more so because I despise winter so much. I always think that if there was a winter sport I loved, I might feel differently. Instead, I run on the towpath with my Michigander friend who doesn't feel the cold and my dog who will run in any weather. But we are close to some NJ beaches, including some in state parks that aren’t commercialized, to at least get a little “fix.”

Shari: there are outdoor movies all summer long in Bethlehem – the North by Northwest group puts on one series in parks all over the north side, and the Downtown Bethlehem Association screens films in the Sun Inn Courtyard. Sign up for their Facebook fan pages to get updates next year!


Thanks for your comment, and please accept my belated “welcome to the Valley!”

Food: I have found cheap and delicious “world” cuisine in on Seventh Street in Allentown. Central and South American cuisines, plus Caribbean (Winston’s), Turkish (Aci Halal) and Thai (Kow Thai) that rival my favorites in DC. All are casual, most are BYOB, and would be suitable for kids. Most do a brisk takeout business, too. For vegan/vegetarian stuff – do you follow Jaime K and all her vegan/vegetarian activities in the Lehigh Valley? Have you been to Horns, Blue Sky Cafe or The Mint? All are vegan and veggie friendly.

Kid stuff: ArtsQuest is awesome, but it is definitely not the only thing going on. Do you subscribe to The Morning Call or The Express Times? Do you follow LV Little Ones? Are you connected to a LV area MOMs Club?

Movie theaters: We’ve got an IMAX now – yes, here in the Valley! – at the Rave movie theater at the Promenade Shops. And I’m sure you’ve seen the Banko Cinema at the ArtsQuest Center. The Civic Theater in Allentown also screens indie films, and so does the South Side Film Festival.

Museums: The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is about to re-open! Stay tuned here for a sneak peek. The DaVinci Science Center is great, and the Sigal Museum in Easton is also open to the public. Visit Discover Lehigh Valley for more ideas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brangelina in Bethlehem?

Bethlehem celebrity gossip news??
In a town where "Celebrity" Scholastic Scrimmage and "Celebrity" bartenders are people you see shopping at Wegman's, reports of a true global celebrity appearing in the Lehigh Valley are pretty rare.

The word is that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and kids somehow avoided every cameraphone in creation and managed to have a normal family outing to Alando Kenyan restaurant on Main Street in Bethlehem. No word on whether elaborate disguises were employed. Regardless of whether it's true, it's fun to speculate about.

In Washington, political celebrities are everywhere, and every famous person visits Capitol Hill to lobby for their cause eventually. I saw George Stephanopoulous every morning at my local Washington Sports Club, reading The Washington Post on the elliptical trainer. When Michael Jordan was coaching (and later playing for) the Washington Wizards, we spotted him at restaurants all over town. A good friend worked for a company that worked for NBC News, and I once helped deliver a package to a bathrobed Tim Russert at his home.

Did anyone see them, or any other celebrities, this weekend?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Morning Call will require subscriptions to its web site

I can't say I was surprised to read that The Morning Call is going the online subscriber route. The announcement in Sunday's paper explained that starting October 10, one of the Lehigh Valley's two major newspapers will begin selling subscriptions to its web site:
"Digital subscriptions will be available at an introductory rate of 99 cents for the first four weeks. After that, digital subscribers will pay $2.49 a week or $49.99 for half a year.

Readers who already subscribe to the print edition of The Morning Call will be able to buy a digital subscription at a reduced rate of 75 cents a week or $29.99 a year.

Readers who do not subscribe will be able to view 10 free articles, blogs, videos or picture galleries each month.

Some content, including the home page, news, sports and entertainment section fronts and classified advertising, will remain free to visitors without a digital subscription.

The Morning Call joins about 55 newspapers around the country, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News, and at least 15 in Pennsylvania, such as The Pocono Record and the Erie Times-News, that charge readers for some or all of their online content."
I've gotten "stuck" using the New York Times web site more than once, and I have subscribed a few times. I read the print edition of The Morning Call most days, and use the web site primarily to link to articles I think other people would enjoy reading, and as an archive. I don't plan to subscribe until I find myself getting "stuck" enough times to make it worthwhile. What do you think? Will you be affected, that is to say, are you someone who reads the newspaper's content exclusively online?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The woman you didn't say hi to in your yoga class last weekend

I recently chatted over email with a 25-year-old woman who moved to Allentown from NY back in June when her boyfriend got a new job in the area. She's a freelance illustrator and works from home.

Her first email stated:
I haven't had a lot of interaction with other people since moving, and I didn't know anyone in the area to begin with. Any suggestions for things to do, clubs to join, classes to take, etc. that would help me meet people? I joined a gym and a yoga class, but they're not quite doing the trick. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
(Does this sound like you? Or maybe sound like someone you saw in yoga class and didn't say hi to? I'm guilty of this too sometimes.) After I quit beating myself up, I asked her:
You mentioned the gym and yoga as two interests, but what else do you like to do? Would you take an art class at the community college, PSU or ArtsQuest? Or teach one? Would you join a sports team with a bunch of strangers? Do you like wine and beer? Irreverent comedy?
What age range of people and gender are you looking to meet? Couples to hang out with your boyfriend? or girlfriends? Mentors? What area do you live in?
She replied:
I'm 25. I live in west Allentown a few blocks north of Muhlenberg, though my boyfriend and I have found ourselves in Bethlehem a lot, especially when we want to go out to eat. We're both sort of foodies. It would be great to meet people we can both hang out with, though of course I wouldn't say no to girlfriends either.

I actually looked into some art classes to take and teach, so you kind of read my mind! I would LOVE to take an art class. My main issue with that is I'm not exactly rolling in money, so I'd want to make sure it would be worth my while as a class as well as an opportunity to meet people. I do have extensive art training so I don't really want to take a beginner watercolor class, for example. I would definitely be open to teaching too, if I could fit it in my schedule. There is a JCC a couple of blocks from my apartment and I went there asking about teaching opportunities, because back in high school I took a figure drawing class at my local JCC. This one didn't have an art program set up. I don't have a master's degree, so I guess it would have to be a more casual sort of class if I were to teach.

I played softball for many years, and I could definitely join an adult softball league. I could probably persuade my boyfriend to do that too, if they take people of all talent levels. I've been coaching softball and teaching pitching for the past 7 years too. I completely left that back in NY. I don't think I can make the time commitment to coach a team, but I would love to continue giving lessons if I had a place to do it.

My boyfriend and I also swing dance, and would LOVE to get back into that again. We met a lot of people that way in college. I have looked into this, and any weekly or monthly dances I've found have been in Philly. Any idea if there are any around here? We do east coast swing and lindy hop.

Thanks SO MUCH for your help!
Wow! I thought. A swing dancing, softball coaching artist working from home in the West End? How many of those amazing, multi-talented, interesting women do you know? And to think, you didn't even say hello after you did 400 sun salutations on a mat three feet from her. Armed with that information, I did a little thinking and sent back this response:
You live in such a beautiful neighborhood, and the JCC is a tremendous resource there! I am actually surprised there's no art program. Here are my thoughts:
Yoga: I'm not sure where you're taking yoga now, but the Yoga Loft of Bethlehem is pretty social. They have a lobby with couches where people hang out, especially on weekends and especially before and after special workshops.

Art classes: The Muhlenberg College arts department may be a good place for you to look into. They have so many programs in the arts. Have you looked into teaching at ArtsQuest/Banana Factory? There are also artist studios there. You could work there alongside other artists.

Dancing: The only regular dance program I know of is in Easton, at the Third Street Alliance. "Dancing on the Thirds - Every Third Friday, 7:00-10:00pm September 16th - Lesson: Night Club Two-Step Enjoy a one-hour lesson in Night Club Two Step with instructor Christine Kam, followed by an evening of open dancing with DJ, Carol Coffinger. Come practice all your favorite ballroom dances! Casual dress, all ages, singles and couples. (Half price admission with college ID). No reservation neccessary, just c'mon down for an evening of good fun and great excerice. It all happens at Third Street Alliance, 41 N. Third Street, downtown Easton.Questions? Call: 610.330.9942. Enjoy dinner or drinks downtown before or after the dance!"

Softball: Not being a softball player myself, I don't know too much about coaching. I do know that The Velocity Sports Performance Center offers coaching for all kinds of sports. I am sure there are lots of leagues out there, but the only one I know of where you can join a team with other random folks is the Roc Social Club. It tends to have a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, vs. the geezer leagues.
Readers, what do you think? What did I miss?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

California transplants roll call

Wow, for those of you natives who read the blog just for fun (I know you know all this stuff and find my discoveries amusing), and think that all transplants are from New Jersey (I kid you not - more than one person has said this to me), I share with you an email I received from a LV Transplant from California.

I just read your article in Lehigh Valley Style and was so grateful that you've paved the way for us transplants. I recently moved here from Berkeley, CA for my husband's job. I am an architect and green building consultant trying to find my place now in the valley. Your article and list of blogs help give me a start to connect with others who have a new perspective and looking to love this new place we want to call home.

I've kept a blog since 2004 when I first studied in Europe. It's gone through ebbs and flows of writing but being in this place and a slower pace of life, I can tell will soon lead to more words and musings. Hope it adds to your collection of transplants to Lehigh and I look forward to joining your tribe.
Roll call: Any other LV transplants from California out there? How is life suiting you here in the northeast? Are you finding the pace any different? Cuisine? Diversity?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via

I spent a few hours yesterday in the back seat of a minivan, chasing my friends as they ran a relay race from Allentown to Easton in the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via.

The day was overcast and humid, but the humidity did not dampen the spirits of the race participants. The race, a Boston Marathon qualifier, is best-known for its full 26.2 mile challenge and half-marathon distance race. My five friends comprised one of 225 relay teams, which meant picking up and dropping off a runner at five locations, and cheering like crazy. The variety of stops required some sweet minivan maneuvering by Rob, the team's official driver. I had planned to run a leg, but was sidelined for medical reasons. Since I was the only van passenger who had participated in the race before, I became the team's parking director (aka backseat driver) and cheerleader with Jamie. It was a lot of fun to share the experience with the team, marvel at some of the costumed runners (red ball gowns? a purse and boa? gotta keep your gels somewhere, he said), and talk about each leg's unique terrain.

At the finish line, I took a minute to watch the medal ceremony. It was pretty inspiring to see the faces of the people who'd finished hours earlier... people in their 70s not only completing the marathon, but keeping pace with (and sometimes smoking) runners half their age... moms and dads and dog owners who shared the moment with their loved ones... athletes who have sacrificed a lot in order to be among the best runners in the field. And although it was reported that a large number of out-of-towners participated this year, it certainly didn't sound like it from the announcements.

I hope to participate in the race next year, and give a lot of credit to my friends on Team Bobbo:
  • my (and Stella's) loyal running buddy, our captain Lindsay
  • another loyal year-round running buddy, and the runner who took on the longest leg (with the shortest legs on the team!) Dana
  • Rob, our minivan driver, Lindsay's husband and FH's best friend, who we learned is an angry runner
  • the speedy Eileen (so speedy we almost missed her at the exchange looking for parking in Freemansburg), our pinch-runner
  • and Lindsey's friend Jamie's husband Chris, who had completed the Spartan Race the previous day 
I shared this thought with Dana at the finish line - not to take the race too metaphorically or anything: it's hard to believe that in a region where people balk at driving from their home in Allentown to a business or event in Easton, that 3,000 people would pay to run the distance instead!

Friday, September 09, 2011

LVT Reader Mail

I received this kind email today from a magazine reader:
I read your article in the Lehigh Valley Style. My daughter is a sophomore at Moravian College , and I'm always looking for good places to go to when I come down to visit . I'll have to definitely go through the article again and highlight info, so the next time I could surprised her with somewhere neat to go. I ordered this magazine for my sister as well who as lived in Allentown for prob 30 years, and I don't think she knows half of what goes on down there! I think she feels one-upped when I come up with something she didn't know about. Hopefully, with your info, she can tell me a few things that she finds out!
Readers, any suggestions for a college sophomore and her mom? Must-visit places to one-up the Allentown auntie? ;)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Activities in the Lehigh Valley, advertised

As much as I love reading the news online, I still subscribe to the paper(s) every day. Since most of my online reading is done via subscribing to specific RSS feeds, I have a customized online newspaper of sorts in my Google Reader every day. Just the writers I want to read, and the topics I want to read about. And no ads.

When I am holding newsprint in my hands, I actually look at the ads. I noticed these advertisements in the last week and thought they were worth sharing. Enjoy!

Most Valuable Players, a documentary film centered around the State Theatre’s 2008 Freddy Awards (the Tonys of local high school musical theater), is airing tonight on OWN, September 8, at 9 p.m. We don't have fancy cable, so we don't get OWN. Hoping it will be shown at SteelStacks Cinema or the South Side Film Festival. (TV)

The 25th annual Easton Jazz Festival is this Friday night, September 9, at 8 p.m. at Lafayette College. Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group is playing. Tickets $20. (It makes me crazy when ads don’t include a web page URL. Despite their best efforts to hide it, I found it anyway.) (Easton)

Penn State Lehigh Valley is offering noncredit art classes for the first time, including drawing, photography, jewelry making and collage. Noncredit classes are taught by college faculty. Classes start the week of September 18. This would be a great way to meet like minded people… just sayin’. (Center Valley)

PBS Channel 39 is hosting a grand opening at its new public media and education center on the SteelStacks campus this Saturday (September 10). There’s a family fun bike ride, free concerts, and a “celebrity” Scholastic Scrimmage event. It might be kind of crazy down there since the Via 5K Walk starts at SteelStacks, at 9 a.m., too - family-friendly crowds guaranteed. (South Side Bethlehem)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

An Amazing Race

Nothing to do? Nowhere to go? Been there, done it all?

How about a Road Rally in the Lehigh Valley?

Take part in a Fundraising Event to Benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Saturday, October 15th, 2011.
The starting point is to be announced. All checkpoints and final location will be a surprise!
Create a teams of 2, 3 or 4 people or register solo and get matched up with new friends.

Before September 15: $25; September 15-October 12: $30; October 13, 14 and day-of: $35

Participants will receive a goodie bag, post-race refreshments, prizes to top finishing teams and for team originality, costumes, creative challenge completion and more.
Then when you go and have a blast, make sure you tell Kim (the organizer) you read about the event on this blog!

Friday, September 02, 2011

After the Rain

Hurricane 0, Megan 1. We survived with a small amount of water on the property and are grateful not have to have been evacuated from our home via motorboat like the holdouts we saw on Action News.

With all the preparation and cleanup happening this weekend, I couldn’t help but reminisce on my last major hurricane experience. I was living in Washington, DC, working at my First Big Job at Smithsonian, responsible for the Institution’s young professional membership program. The group’s annual fundraiser was (and to my knowledge, still is) a black tie gala inside a museum.
Isabel was coming, whether we liked it or not, and if I recall correctly, she hit early in the week – Monday or Tuesday. Our gala, naturally, was the following Saturday night. Everything in the city was a wreck. Metro was operating only on certain tracks to certain stations. Buildings were closed. Power was out to thousands of city residents. Many people lost their homes to flooding, winds or both. We returned to work and had to decide whether to have this silly black tie gala.

We agonized. Should we refund tickets? Reschedule the event for another day? Forfeit our deposit on the caterer (Cap City Brewing) and band (Gonzo's Nose)? I lost sleep. I argued with co-workers and volunteers and unhappy patrons who demanded refunds. Despite the fact that our organization's executive director (pictured below, second from right) did not have power at her home and was forced to shower at the gym for weeks, and everything else in the city seemed to be cancelled, we figured we had more to lose by cancelling, so the show went on. The venue had power and all of our vendors were ready to go.

I can't say it was perfect (the T-shirts didn't make it - they were on a flooded loading dock somewhere), but it was an awesome party. Everyone needed a reason to celebrate and get out of the house. I danced to cover tunes in my ball gown and sneakers. I collected money at the silent auction. I broke up a couple making out inside one of the exhibits. It was a success.

For old time's sake, here's a photo of aforementioned boss lady and the volunteer board members of the organization getting a kick out of my emotional response to the check presentation ($100,000 - not too shabby for a rainy day). Hope everyone is safe and dry.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Outlets to open this year at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem

Thanks to Lynn Olanoff and Matt Assad for this tip. Even my FMIL - who knows a lot about these things but is smart enough not to share before her client's news goes public - wouldn't dish about the stores earlier this week.

Talbots, Guess and Nine West are among the 30-35 stores opening in the Bethlehem Outlet Mall in the next year. There will also be at least one more full-service restaurant inside the shopping center.

Ariej and I made a run on the Tannersville Outlets a little over a month ago, mostly for work attire but I also found some great bags at Coach for a steal. Since it was a weekday, the center was pretty quiet, despite some impressive sales. On the weekends, the parking lot is packed with cars bearing New York and New Jersey license plates, and the stores and sidewalks are full of shoppers toting multiple bags on strollers, wheelchairs and any free appendage.

In response to Alyssa's question, I would love to see Banana Republic, Calvin Klein and Ann Taylor outlets like the ones in Tannersville. The outlets in Leesburg, VA, near Washington, D.C., include Pottery Barn, Le Creuset and Williams Sonoma outlet stores. When I shopped there, the stores were full of seasonal decor, gift items and beautiful housewares. Great deals on furniture, too.

That still leaves lots of room for a Trader Joe's outlet (just sayin').

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Junior League: An opportunity to get involved in the Lehigh Valley community

Ladies, you often tell me that you want to get involved in the Lehigh Valley community. You want to meet other like-minded women, but it's hard to meet people after college or in a new place. You want to make a difference. You want to meet women outside of your place of work. You are busy, and you want someone else to plan social events and seek out service opportunities.

Those are all reasons why women join the Junior League.

The local chapter has definitely made its mark in the region. Members founded the Weller Center for Education, DaVinci Center (once the Discovery Center), Perfect Fit for Women, and a number of other organizations that continue to serve the community. Members volunteer in many different ways at a number of charities Valley-wide, and are trained as community leaders. The group raises funds to support its community initiatives (including Kids in the Kitchen and Strong Moms, Strong Girls) and to grant funds to community nonprofits. They also have a lot of fun together at social events. The variety of events on the calendar shows the diversity of the group's membership.

When I lived in DC, I thought that the Junior League was for society women only, with expensive membership dues and fancy events. In the Lehigh Valley, it's a group of women, many of whom are newcomers to the region or who live here and work at a distance, who are committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

If this sounds like your kind of people, send the group an email or visit the web site to apply for membership.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Musikfest 2011... better than ever, and it's not even over yet

It's been a busy few days, full of music, walking, friends and beverages in a plastic mug.

Friday night, FH and I met up with R&L at their place on Main Street. They are prisoners to Musikfest and are pretty good sports about it. They did leave for vacation yesterday. (I might need a vacation, too, if I could never go to sleep before 1 a.m. or find a place to park near my house.) We saw Diego's Umbrella at Volksplatz and strolled around, taking in the sights and sounds of Musikfest. We visited the Sun Inn Courtyard for a bit but didn't hang around for the music at Liederplatz (just Gale's brownies). The boys had a taste for gyros. We noticed the Michael Adams menu at the Sun Inn and will be back for a meal sometime this week.

On Saturday it rained quite a bit, and though I'm not afraid to get wet, Maroon 5 sounded pretty good from the kitchen window. We hit up a Musikfest after party at The Mint and got to bed at a decent hour.

After a day of yard work and errands, we were looking forward to a relaxing Sunday night at Musikfest. So last night we met up with FH's mama, and our friends Elena and Beth at Volksplatz for an encore of Diego's Umbrella (Mexi-cali-gypsy-polka did not disappoint). We saw Freak Owls at Lyrikplatz, as the sun set behind the stage. Then it was off to the Bethlehem Dairy Store tent (chocolate almond for me), which we ate while watching the venerable Red Elvises back at Volksplatz "out" the 'Fest's closet disco dancers. After we parted ways with our friends, the two of us took in the last set of Cabinet at Liederplatz, not far from where our city's mayor and his first lady were sitting. Some enthusiastic fans and hoopers danced animatedly, and the laid back music lovers like us reclined in their folding chairs to listen to the show. Thank you, Downtown Bethlehem Association, for sponsoring Liederplatz. It is shows like last night's that make Musikfest history in my mind. What a talented group of young bluegrass rockers! I hope we see them on regional stages again soon. It was a quiet walk home, full of anticipation for seven more days of 'Fest fun.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Musikfest is almost here!!!

Bethlehem residents and business owners either LOVE LOVE LOVE Musikfest or despise it. Most of those who despise it figured this out years ago and now close the store or go on vacation during the 10-day music, food, and overtaking madness that is 1 million visitors to your neighborhood.

We are lucky to live close enough to walk to the festival, but not so close that we have to deal with litter, trespassers, noise, and parking wars. (Remember my post on saving street spots during a snowstorm? During Musikfest, you'll see the return of the recycling bin and folding chair as placeholder.) Maybe a little more traffic and some street closures downtown, but nothing that would make me want to miss a minute of the Fest.

For me, Musikfest is The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year. It's 10 days straight of some of my favorite things:

  • Free, outdoor music performances

  • Ethnic food

  • Drinking outside

  • Discovering new things

  • Traveling on foot or bike

  • Meeting up with friends

  • Making new friends

  • Celebrating Bethlehem
Last year I wrote about the coming SteelStacks project (maybe you've heard of it now?). The previous year, I gave some helpful tips for navigating the event.

Even if you have visited Musikfest before, there will be a few changes you should be prepared for. Stay tuned to the Express-Times and Morning Call web sites. Both papers cover the event in detail, and will suggest great shows to check out and the best ways to get in, out and around. Or, visit the Musikfest web site, which offers printable schedules, links to artist web sites, and more.

This year I resolve to plan my concert schedule in advance and share it with LV Transplant readers. Maybe I'll see you there!

On Friday night, I want to check out:

  • 6 p.m. Frankenpine - Main Street (street performers who play original bluegrass, country and folk). While I'm on Main Street I should be able to get Take-a-Taco for dinner.

  • 7:30 p.m. maybe Sandlot Heroes, if I can get anywhere near the stage, which will be mobbed with tween fans screaming, and my friend Amanda - Plaza Tropical

  • 9 p.m. Diego's Umbrella - Volksplatz (Mexi-Cali-gypsy-pirate-polka!? I must investigate) or Peter Karp & Sue Foley at my favorite stage, Liederplatz
If you're one of the lucky thousands who has tickets to see Stone Temple Pilots play at Sands Steel stage, give yourself ample time to get to the new venue. If you find you get there early, you can enjoy the free music playing at the town square and Levitt Pavilion in front of SteelStacks and get something to eat and drink before the show.

Here's a little Musikfest blog roll FYI:
Musikfest Photo Scavenger Hunt by LVWithLove
How to get around the South Side by Eskandalo!
Musikfest Preview - History in the Making by ArtsLehigh
Lineup at Brew Works during Musikfest by Bethlehem Brew Works