Friday, July 19, 2013


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


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

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

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

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pistachio Bar & Grille

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guest Post: Jessi Edwards on The Center for Cultural Interchange

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mesa Modern Mexican

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bye-Bye, Google Reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Secret No One Tells You

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

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

New Hookah Lounge Gets Planning Commission Approval