Tag Archives: lehigh valley

Thanks a Bunch!

Thursday night, as I was just returning home from an art event I was participating in at Moravian College, I felt my phone start buzzing like crazy in my pocket. I set down my artwork, dug out my phone, and flipped it open to see a couple of new messages:

“Hey there, winner!”—my friend, Jaime, of Save the Kales

“You won best neighborhood blog!”—my boss, Jane, whose nephew writes Laughing At My Nightmare

I logged into Facebook and read:

“Congrats on your award! Way to be awesome!”—my friend, Charlotte, who must have been following Lehigh Valley with Love‘s Twitter feed

Then, after a moment of reveling at the speed in which information travels via text messaging and social media, it all sunk in—FromHereNow had just been announced as the winner of the best neighborhood blog category on at the My Choice, My Voice blog awards! The Morning Call, one of the Lehigh Valley’s local papers hosted the contest. I had already committed to participating in an homage to Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” on the night of the awards ceremony, and, while I was bummed about missing it, I didn’t think too much of it, because I couldn’t fathom that this little eight-month old blog would win anything. I had been mostly disappointed that I wouldn’t meet some of the other local bloggers who had been nominated—There were many worthy nominees in each category. I was quite surprised to hear the news!

I originally started this blog for two reasons: to share the things I have learned to love about the Lehigh Valley, and to have something to do with my hands when I quit smoking (That’s the biggest win of them all! Still nicotine free!). I really didn’t think many people would read it, and I wasn’t even sure if I could keep it up (I’ve witnessed many blogs that start off strong and just can’t commit to the time or energy it takes to keep a blog fresh.) So, this recognition comes as a pleasant surprise, and a motivational boost to keep going.

Thanks a bunch to everyone who voted for FromHereNow!

P.S. Since I didn’t go to the awards ceremony, I have to go to the Morning Call office to pick up my plaque and have a picture taken. Once I have it, I’ll put up a picture! 🙂

 


Globe Trottin’ in the Valley (with Girls in Cages?)

Last night, Kevin and I got to experience the infamous Harlem Globetrotters thanks to Laini from Laini’s Little Pocket Guide! Chance timing and a random bit of knowledge (the Globetrotter’s theme song is called “Sweet Georgia Brown”) won us tickets to see these comic athletes at Lehigh’s Stabler Arena. I really had no clue what to expect, other than their theme song and tricks involving basketballs, but I have always wanted to see the theatrical display of athleticism. It seemed to me like one of those experiences you should just try to have sometime in your life.

Warmup

We got to the stadium just before the "game" started, and, as last minute spectators shuffled to their seats and vendors yelled for people to buy cotton candy and snowcones, we watched the athletes warm up.

The performance included exhibits of a wide variety of talents, from slapstick comedy to exemplary athleticism to acrobatics to choreography to acting. I was in awe of the number of skills these men displayed. At one point, I even leaned over and asked Kevin, “If one of these guys had to get another job, would they be athletes, actors or comedians?”

Howard Johnson Game

Like minor league sports games, this event included lots of family-friendly activities throughout. This race reminded me of the sleeping bag relay race I have my Girl Scouts do. It was sponsored by Howard Johnson hotels, though, which apparently now goes by HoJo. HoJo?! Really?! I am pretty sure the announcer even said to "Go to bed with HoJo." Um…

The game also included a penalty box, where unruly players were sent, usually after pants-ing a ref or throwing water on someone in the crowd. Spectators were encouraged to enthusiastically count down the seconds until these players were allowed back in the game. Circles on the floor marked special “4 point zones” where team members could make challenging shots. And, of course, a dramatic slam dunk or long shot always accompanied the sound of the buzzer at the end of a quarter.

Globie

The Globetrotter's classic mascot, "Globie," fired up the crowd from the sidelines.

Big G

This large, inflated character, "Big G," amused the crowd with self-deprecating antics. It was pretty amazing to see what this person could do from within a huge inflatable suit!

So, all parts of the Globetrotters performance provided a fun, lighthearted, family-friendly atmosphere. And then, there was the halftime show. I doubt the Globetrotters themselves had anything to do with selecting this dance group or approving their routine, but whoever did approve it, in my opinion, dropped the ball (no pun intended!). I couldn’t catch the name of the dance school over the half-time chatter and echo of the sound system, but it was a local group, and I think the announcer said they are performing at the 2012 Olympics! I hope this isn’t what they are performing to represent the US.

As the group of dance students (children, looking like they ranged from older elementary school to high school) gathered, I first noticed their outfits—dark, kind of goth, pretty suggestive, although several girls had leggings underneath. I didn’t think much of it—I don’t get bent out of shape over costumes. Then, I noticed two large black boxes. I then realized they were huge dog crates and wondered what they might be using them for—perhaps an animal component to the show?

I wish there had been an animal in the half time show. Instead, three young girls crawled into each cage and shut the door.

Child dancers in dog cage

THERE ARE LITTLE GIRLS IN THIS CAGE! And parents were okay with this?!

The rest of the group went on to do some sort of choreographed routine to a medley of songs, including “Roman’s Revenge” by Nicki Minaj, featuring Eminem. I am not sure if the part of the song they played included these particular lyrics, but to get a taste for the message of the song, here is a segment:

I’m a bad b*tch, I’m a c*nt
and I’ll kick that h*e, punt
forced trauma, blunt
you play the back, b*tch, I’m in the front

I don’t even know exactly what sort of choreographed routine the rest of the group did because I couldn’t get over that there were little girls in suggestive clothing in dog cages on the court. This went against every Girl Scout leading fiber of my being.

Finally, after several other girls laid themselves over the tops of the cages, the girls inside were released. But, upon their release from the cages, they dramatically crawled towards a dancing solo male.

girls crawling to man

Where the person stood up in the middle of this picture, there is a single man dancing. The girls are crawling, dog-like, towards him.

Perhaps I am wrong in my interpretation of this routine. I hope I am wrong. I hope that the dance instructor is instilling confidence and self-worth in these girls, rather than submission and low self-esteem. But, if the instructor is instilling those things in them, it’s certainly not coming across in their performance.

So, Globetrotters= Fun, unique, laid back and enjoyable (We really had a great time. Thanks, Laini!!!)

Halftime show and whoever booked it= Discouraging and disturbing


Drawn to the Quest?

Last night, while ordering my second gin & tonic at the bar in the lobby of the Artsquest Center at Steelstacks, it hit me that I had visited this space—in fact, spoken to this bartender—3 times in the past 3 days. This is not to say that I’ve been on some sort of ridiculous bender where I’ve been frequenting bars, but I have had various reasons to show up at this venue over the past couple of days.

This arts center in south Bethlehem has proven to be a pretty major point of contention among several people I know personally. A friend’s partner found steady enough employment here that they could adjust their lifestyle to suit their passions. A colleague refuses to visit the facility because of its connections with the casino. A man a spoke to tonight referenced the casino and this center as a reason he likes this area, even though he never gambles himself. I’ve made money designing graphics for a gambling addiction group that formed after the entertainment complex opened. I’ve also spent money seeing movies, dining, attending concerts and purchasing drinks from this center.

Who would have thought that an arts and entertainment complex on one of the largest brown fields in the region would cause so much controversy? I can’t say that I was thrilled, or even mildly supportive, about a casino opening in south Bethlehem. But, it’s not something I am going to argue now that it has opened, and I have to say, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with my interactions with the Artsquest Center to this point. However, I suppose wherever there are large sums of money being spent to develop a part of any town, disagreements and controversy will arise.

Artsquest Center

Artsquest Center at Steelstacks, image courtesy of Architect Magazine (Click the image to read a pretty interesting architectural review of the building)

Politics and opinions aside, I have visited the Artsquest Center several times over the past couple of days. Saturday morning, I visited the winter farmer’s market, which paled in comparison to the summer market (understandably), but still packed a punch and allowed me to purchase some fresh, local veggies in these cold months. I was thrilled to see the press coverage of the reopening of the market (after it unfortunately was pushed aside for the Christkindlemart tourist attraction).

Farmer Thad from Jett's Produce

A still from a video of Farmer Thad from Jett's Produce harvesting some winter lettuce.

You can read more (and watch a video!) about the market here and here.

Saturday night, I headed back to the center for dinner and an amazing Everclear concert.

Everclear

Everclear, in front of the colorful blast furnaces of the old Bethlehem Steel.

To read more/see more pictures of Everclear, click here.

Finally, last night I attended the first Lehigh Valley bloggers meetup, also at the Artsquest Center. Sponsored by Lehigh Valley Live, the event allowed local bloggers from various backgrounds and interests to step out from behind their screens and meet others who fill the blogosphere with impassioned content. Food bloggers, political activists, news journalists, special interest writers and non-profit organizations gathered to share their thoughts on ethics, accountability, anonymity, and content. It was great to see the amount of energy people have for sharing their passions and encouraging conversation and the diversity in styles, approaches and attitudes. Lehigh Valley Live took a few minutes to put in a plug for their blog hosting services, and a young man presented his initial vision for Bloggleverse, which seems to be a hybrid of WordPress and Facebook. The site is in it’s earliest days (created 12/30), but it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

Lehigh Valley Live Bloggers' Night at Artsquest

Bloggers discuss their opinions about all aspects of "amateur journalism."

I wish I would have had the chance to talk individually with each blogger, and I wish even more that there would have been a list of everyone’s blogs available, but these are the products of some of the cool Lehigh Valley-ite bloggers at the event (if you were there and I missed you, please feel free to leave your blog address as a comment!):

  • Laughing At My Nightmare: A brutally honest and often hilarious documentation of this 19-year old man’s life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a debilitating disease that has left him in a wheelchair since age 2.
  • Remember: A well-informed blog written by a fascinating environmental scientist centering on the Allentown parks system, plant life, and life with anxiety, with a call to action for all people to get involved in environmental service.
  • Neighbors of Easton: A blog of enormous content and scope, this woman touches on all aspects of local democracy, food, and businesses.
  • No Room For Seconds: A foodie through-and-through, this gent shares recipes and reflection through witty-titled posts.
  • The Corner Seat: This woman offers comprehensive coverage of the Lehigh Valley Roller Derby scene, as well as entries about local art and music.
  • Save the Kales!: I’ve already told you about this fantastic vegan cooking and lifestyle blog.
  • Lehigh Valley With Love: A satirical look at news in the LV, with an eye for the absurd and a good heart, supporting several charities.

I know there were lots of other talented and fascinating folks at the meetup, that I just didn’t have a chance to talk with! This event definitely reinforced the notion in my mind that there are awesome people doing great things in this area. I can’t wait to meet more of them (maybe at the Artsquest Center, since it seems to be the place to be these days!).

Now, to go finish the tortillas I am making so I can post another recipe soon!


Veg Fest & Feast

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Weekend Hodgepodge, this Saturday was spent enjoying vegetables, plain and simple. I am an omnivore, and a locavore, no longer vegan or vegetarian, but I love vegetables and was happy to be able to see them in the spotlight this weekend.

Jaime K

Jaime K of Save the Kales!

First of all, let me say that Bethlehem Vegfest was a knock-out success and I hope to see it continue for years to come. Many thanks to the Downtown Bethlehem Association,  Jaime K of Save the Kales! and everyone else who contributed for bringing this sort of festival to Bethlehem. I heard rumor that 10,000 people attended the fair, which stretched for several blocks down South Bethlehem’s Greenway. I arrived at 12:10, just ten minutes after the festival began, and a large crowd had already amassed. I had never actually visited the Greenway before and was quite happy to see such a well maintained rail-trail through the heart of the city! I had heard of the trail before, but tended to stay away from the area due to its previous reputation as a skeevy part of town before the tracks were paved.

Vegfest Entrance

The start of Vegfest

Emeril's Booth

A chef from the local Emeril's restaurant serves samples.

The festival grounds were divided into several themed areas (think platzes from Musikfest, but without the sausages and obnoxious people) housing about 200 vendors. There was a pet area, a farmers’ market, a food court, a sustainable energy area, a lecture tent, cooking demo area, and music stage, among others. Vendors peddled goods, services and wares while entertainers put children inside huge bubbles, and vegetarians could eat free samples without having to ask “Is there meat in that?”

Local Dub

This band, Local Dub, played some chill reggae music, and even used the word "irie" in their PR for the gig! Irie is our cat's name, meaning the ultimate positive, powerful, pleasing, all encompassing quality. I've never heard anyone else use it.

Cooking Demo

While catching a few minutes of this cooking demo, I got to taste grilled watermelon. Mmm! Definitely keeping that in mind!

Smart Juice

Bethlehem-based Smart Juice company

I was on a pretty tight budget since Vegfest fell between paydays, but I did indulge in a bottle of yummy organic no-sugar added peach-apricot juice from Smart Juice, a Bethlehem-based company that I first encountered when they donated juice for the Iftar dinner I attended (read about that here). This juice made me feel like I was James in a giant peach, that’s how real it was.

I also found a book that I must purchase, From Asparagus to Zucchini. It is a comprehensive guide to produce, listing nutritional information, storage and cooking techniques and recipes. One of the best parts, though, is in the back, where it lists recipes using seasonal ingredient combinations. SO, when you get your CSA share and wonder what to do with a bunch of eggplants, a tomato, and several ears of corn or something, you can just check the book! Wishing there was a book fairy right now …

Vegan Treats Display

My sister-in-law works the Vegan Treats table.

Vegfest didn’t carry any hints of the pompous attitude vegetarians are sometimes unfairly labeled with. Instead, it exuded a warm community vibe, inviting people of all sorts to take a look and try something new.

Later that evening, my in-laws came over for a very belated Christmas gift of a dinner & game night at our house. My mother-in-law recently began moving in the vegan direction, so I wanted to prepare a meal that honored that decision. However, my husband and I are fairly opposed to many of the “fake meat” and “dairy” products on the market. A lot of those products are so highly processed and full of genetically modified or laboratory-created ingredients that I cannot justify eating them. So, I made a meal highlighting vegetables, with no meat, dairy or egg substitutes. It’s also very important to me to use local ingredients, so everything in this meal is from this area with the exception of cooking oil, salt, pepper, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and polenta. Nothing on this menu will require a trip to the health food store or a large amount of money.

Normally, I leave the vegan meals up to Save the Kales!, but I will share this one with you.

A Vegan Feast:

Vegan Meal

An all-local vegan meal, with no "fake meat": salad, roasted tomatoes with garlic & herbs, tri-color potatoes & beets, polenta & beet green stuffed zucchini, and pear crisp.

In the interest of avoiding carpal tunnel, I am going to list the vendors I purchased ingredients from once, here, instead of immediately following the ingredient: Heritage Farms CSA, Apple Ridge Farm, Bechdolt’s Orchard, Jett’s Natural Produce, Cardamom & Curry, and Jumbars.

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic & Herbs

Roasted Tomatoes

The contrast between the slow-roasted flavor of the tomatoes & garlic and the freshness of the herbs balances wonderfully.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6 or so basil leaves
  • a few sprigs oregano

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut tomatoes into 6-8 wedges each and place in glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Chop garlic cloves and sprinkle over tomatoes.
  4. Remove thyme leaves and sprinkle over tomatoes.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Bake 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and begin to turn golden.
  7. Chop basil and oregano and mix with tomatoes before serving.

Tri-Color Potatoes & Beets

Rustic & colorful

Rustic & colorful

Ingredients:

  • 5 potatoes of different colors (I used purple, red and white)
  • 10 small beets (or 3-4 large ones)
  • 1 red onion
  • few sprigs thyme
  • few sprigs rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Wash potatoes and cut into 1″ chunks.
  3. Peel and trim beets, reserving greens for zucchini recipe or to sauté on the side. Cut into 1″ chunks.
  4. Cut onion into thick slices.
  5. Combine potatoes, beets and onion in 9×13″ baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, rosemary, salt & pepper.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  8. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Polenta & Beet Green Stuffed Zucchini

Polenta and Beet Green Stuffed Zucchini

A hearty vegan entrée

Ingredients:

  • 2 big zucchinis
  • 1/2 c. coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1.5 c water
  • 10 small beets’ worth of beet greens (or 3-4 large beets’ worth)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs thyme
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut a v-shaped opening, going the long way, into each zucchini, removing in one piece and setting top aside. Scoop out insides, discarding large seeds but reserving pulp. Scrape pulp from removed top, too.
  3. Salt hollowed zucchinis and tops and place, cut side down, in greased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring water to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low. Slowly add cornmeal, stirring with a whisk. Stir until thickened and creamy looking.
  6. Add thyme leaves to polenta and stir.
  7. Dice onion and garlic. Sautée in olive oil over medium heat until tender.
  8. Chop zucchini pulp and add to onion and garlic mixture. Cook for 4 minutes.
  9. Chop beet greens, removing tough stems, and add to zucchini mixture. Cook until greens are wilted.
  10. Remove zucchini from oven and spoon thyme polenta into zucchini boats.
  11. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over polenta.
  12. Place cut out tops of zucchini over filling.
  13. Bake 20 more minutes, or until zucchini are tender.
  14. Let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Pear-Granola Crisp

Pear-Granola Crisp

You can make this dessert ahead and serve at room temperature or pop it in the oven when guests arrive and serve warm.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium pears
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger (I ended up using some turmeric tea (with ginger in it) from Cardamom & Curry that I had already steeped a few times instead. It’s a great way to get the most of your tea—Use the leaves to make 2-3 cups of tea, then add them to a dish you are cooking—They still have flavor!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 c. granola (double check that it is vegan)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar, divided
  • 5 T. canola oil (walnut or coconut oil would be even better)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Peel and slice pears. Place in deep, square baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle pears with 1/4 c. sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (or tea leaves!).
  4. Add vanilla extract and 1/3 c. sugar. Stir until evenly mixed.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, remaining 1/4 c. sugar, and granola.
  6. Add oil and stir until mixture is wet.
  7. Spread topping evenly over pears in baking dish.
  8. Bake 40 minutes or until top is golden.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Why helloooo, there!

Welcome! Thanks for checking me out. This seems like an awkward first meeting where I am not sure whether to lay it all out on the table or let you discover little tidbits about me as time goes on.

Me, swinging

Look! I am so happy you are reading this, I am swinging!

My natural skepticism is poking out a bit because I am wondering why/how you ended up here … Do you know me? Did you feel obligated to read this? Are you from the Lehigh Valley, looking to move/visit here? Are you also trying to fall in love with the place you find yourself in right now?

Whatever your reason for landing here, I hope you’ll enjoy what you find. This blog is all about what I am finding to love in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Take a look at the “About” page for more on why I started writing this. I’ll be posting recipes (or sometimes just flavor inspirations—I am not much of an exact measurement gal) using ingredients from right here, commentaries on local places I dig, maybe some interviews with cool Lehigh Valley-ites, and whatever else may strike my fancy as something cool about where I am from and where I am now.


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