Why the Lady’s Gaga Over Lancaster County

Or, at least my take on why Lady Gaga makes frequent visits to Lancaster County.

Ever since her relationship with actor and Lancaster County (LC) native Taylor Kinney has become public, her visits to the area have not gone unnoticed. I can’t help but draw a stark contrast between the flash and glitter of her New York City existence and the laid back atmosphere she enjoys while visiting LC. As her visits increased, so has the presence of paparazzi, but not nearly what she faces in the Big Apple. Here, the photogs have to work harder for a photo since nothing in LC is routine.  Let’s see, she’s reportedly been to the Bull’s Head Pub in Lititz, the 915 Cafe’, Central Market, a grocery store and (this is my favorite) a private residence where she was videoed with Taylor and some friends target shooting. Gargantuan heels and all.

I’ve never spoken to the enigmatic pop star and I’m pretty sure I never will, so my thoughts on why she loves Lancaster County are just that, my thoughts. One thing I do know about her from interviews is that she has an incredibly close bond with her parents. In fact, the last I heard she was still living with them and when on tour they often accompany her. Lancaster County is nothing, if not known for its sprawling farmland and traditional family values. If it’s a little R&R she’s looking for, she’ll definitely find it here among the Amish.

But, there is also a little something extra that is very attractive to the many young and talented people who have chosen Lancaster City as a place to live, work and play.  Top-notch restaurants, eclectic variety of galleries and trendy bohemian shops has given the city a glow that has become a bright light in troubled economic times. The city has taken its place as a Lancaster County treasure along side quaint towns like Lititz and Strasburg.

Why do I think someone who could travel anywhere in the world would take a shine to Lancaster County? I could be way off base, but it seems to me she is looking for a little bit of what we take for granted in the midst of her unconventional, extraordinary life.

Oh, and there is the matter of a certain young man whose family lives here.

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TGI Monday!

It’s no secret among those who know me that I am a Monday person. To the annoyance of many Facebook friends I delight in welcoming the beginning of each new week. I’ve never been a TGIF type person any more than I am a career-driven person. I just relish in the possibilities of a new week. A fresh start, if you will. That’s not to say that I don’t have my share of Tuesdays when I question, “Shouldn’t it be Thursday?”

I guess that’s why I love the start of a new year. The possibilities. With all the ominous 2012 predictions and prognostications, I’m grateful that I’m not a “Girl Friday.”  To know we have the opportunity to do 2012 better than 2011. I am a firm believer in realism, but I also know that realism is based in now; what is. I also believe in what could be, what should be and what will be.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow.” but I’d like to think that they saw the possibilities in our mistakes. 2011 was riddled with them, from the Netflix debacle, to my own impatience resulting in a speeding ticket. Is there something to be gleaned from these mistakes? Of course, Netflix learned that when you make changes to your product or service that affect your customers, you better know your customers.  Or, like Netflix, you stand to lose a great deal. The movie rental giant lost more than 800,000 domestic subscribers in the 3rd quarter of 2011. What did I learn? Well besides that fact that my wallet was a couple hundred dollars lighter, even if I had not been pulled over, I would have arrived at my destination only three minutes early. Three lousy minutes. That means I was willing to pay $1.31/second for the additional time. So I eagerly approach 2012 with the belief that we have all learned something valuable from 2011 that will help us to do a better job this year.

If you’re getting a little queasy because I’m beginning to sound like an eternal optimist, I’m sorry. I’m that girl who annoyingly posts “Happy Monday” on her Facebook and Twitter pages.

Happy 2012!

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Christmas Joy in a Potato Chip Can

Each year, just after Christmas so many of us say, “next year is going to be different.” Yet, we rush from this circular to this sale from this store to this site, all in the name of spreading holiday joy. Joy? I think we can agree that getting a coveted item at Christmas is pretty darn awesome, but I think the word “joy” should be reserved for that which brings lasting happiness.

Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about my grandma’s Christmas cookies. Each year she would fill a large potato chip can with them. Yes, chips used to come in tin cans. Though she’s gone, the buttery deliciousness of her cookies still makes my mouth water. When I think of her I remember the smell of her kitchen, the occasional splash of something on the apron she always wore and her hands. Her hands were shiny, wrinkled and a bit crooked, but were able to create a treat that melted in your mouth. That is the joy of Christmas I received from my grandmother. There isn’t a single store-bought gift that can compete with that simple fond childhood memory.

So, as I contemplate how I intend to do things differently next Christmas, I’ll leave you with these iconic words…

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Merry Christmas!

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Top 10 Ways To Spark Your Holiday Spirit

If you’re feeling a little bit Scroogy this season there is help for you. I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite things to do in PA that are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.

10. Take the family to a tree farm and pick your own fresh Christmas tree. It’s a family tradition that never gets old. No matter how nice those pre-lit practically pop-up artificial trees are, they cannot compete with the wonderful smell of pine that radiates from a fresh tree. Thanks for the memories Frog Hollow Evergreen Farm.

9. If you long for a less-secular emphasis on Christmas, there is no better place to make the nativity story come to life than Sight & Sound’s inspirational production of “The Miracle of Christmas.

8. Join your neighbors and friends at one of the community tree lighting ceremonies. A thermos of hot chocolate is a take-along must. Check out this list of light up nights and other holiday events in PA.

7. The Nutcracker is the only ballet my husband ever sat through…and enjoyed. This timeless Christmas Classic with its beautiful sets can make tickets hard to come by. If you get a chance, see George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia. Amazing!

6. Bellefonte’s Victorian Christmas celebration is three days of old-fashioned holiday cheer. 2011 is the 30th year for the event and it just keeps getting better. Carriage rides, home tours, strolling musicians and a professional Dickens troupe of actors enhance the already beautiful Victorian architecture.

5. One of my fondest Christmas memories from my childhood is when the whole family would pile in the station wagon to go look at Christmas lights. I always wanted to sit the whole way in the back where there were no seats so I could see the lights even as we were driving away. So pack up the kids and hit the road – just make sure they’re securely belted in; this isn’t the 70’s.

4. Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville is a child’s Christmas dream. There are dazzling displays everywhere you look. Apparently, Santa likes it a lot because he’s always there.  I know I’m not doing this place justice. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

3. Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s) Christmas Light Show in Philly. The light show has been a Philadelphia tradition since the mid-50’s. The National Historic Landmark, Wanamaker Pipe Organ fills the air with special holiday music to make the experience even more festive.

2. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is called Christmas City for good reason. It was on Christmas Eve, 1741 that the Moravian settlement was named Bethlehem by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany. Today you can take one of the Lantern Tours of the historic city and immediately be transported back in time. There is so much going on in Bethlehem during the holiday season that it would make an ideal weekend getaway.

…and the #1 sure-fire, bet your bottom dollar, Scrooge-proof way to put you in the holiday spirit (insert drum roll)

The National Christmas Center in Paradise, Lancaster County. Seriously folks, if you come out of this place still feeling like Scrooge, I don’t know what to say. The 20,000 square-foot museum is the life-long collection of Jim Morrison aka Santa Jr. You simply cannot spend any amount of time around Mr. Morrison or his treasures without feeling like a kid at Christmastime. The displays here will take you back to your childhood no matter how young or old. My favorite display at the NCC is the Toyland Exhibit which includes a huge decorated Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling meant to recreate the magic of laying underneath the tree as a child. You can read my 2008 interview with Jim Morrison of the National Christmas Center here.

Oh, and one more thing. This post was meant to showcase things in PA that will make your Christmas, well, more Christmassy.  One thing I have always found to be true, giving of yourself by helping others in need is the fasted way to find true joy at any time of the year.

Merry Christmas!


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Remembering the Quiet Holiday With More Than a Blip.

Is it just me, or does it seem as though we go from Halloween directly to Christmas, with Thanksgiving barely registering a blip on our radars? I don’t want to get preachy here, but I feel it coming on…

Everyone complains that Christmas is too commercial and yet barely observes the one holiday that is the perfect precursor to Christmas. Perhaps if we stopped shopping long enough to take time to gather with family and reflect on all we have to be thankful for the Christmas holiday may be a little less commercial. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about stimulating the economy and I love the recent “shop local” sentiment out there. But, maybe if we focused on the meaning of the quiet holiday it would put us in a better frame of mind when faced with the frenzy of shopping, sales, and the constant barrage of advertising telling us what we must have this Christmas.

When the first Europeans arrived in the New World, the country was not in an economic down-turn, recession or even a depression.  It was in a constant state of “at the mercy of nature.” Other than the things they arrived with, (which wasn’t much) they had to hunt, fish or grow food for their survival. They chopped and cleared and labored for their homes. And hunted and trapped for clothing. Yet, as hard as life was, these early Americans set time aside to give thanks for what they had. It wasn’t a quick meal and off to the couch while the wife went pre-Black Friday shopping. The first Thanksgiving lasted 3 days with a feast of fish, fowl, venison, fruit and more. I imagine the gathering was much like those in my not too-distant past.  Present at the festivities were 13 Pilgrims and approximately 90 Native Americans. Yep, that sounds about right. Close family, extended family, non-family and those we think may have just wandered in.

Over the years our gatherings have gotten smaller, but I’m making it my goal to make this Thanksgiving more of a quake than a blip on my radar.

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The Horror of It All

Some of the most iconic horror films were made in PA – The Blob, Night Of The Living Dead, etc. I suppose that’s why we have events like the Pittsburgh Horror Film Festival in June, Blobfest every July in Phoenixville, the Eerie Horror Festival in Erie on Oct 27-30 and the Living Dead Festival in Evans City on Oct 30-31.

Since it’s nearly Halloween I’m trying to find an appreciation for a genre of film, I’ve never had. Tomorrow evening my husband, Daryl and I, along with another couple, are going to the theatre. You might assume that in honor of Halloween we might be seeing a performance of Wicked or Phantom or even Gaslight. No. We’re going full-on gore. We’re seeing “Evil Dead, The Musical” at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. Sam Raimi’s campy horror film is now a musical? What’s next? The new thriller, “Sound of Music, the Hills Really are Alive?”

On Friday, I’ll have a full report.

Oh, I almost forgot…we’re sitting in the splatter zone!


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Shameless plug for our Fall Issue

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