In response to my Homegrown National Park contest invitation this past summer, Mike Foster, who lives in Reading, PA, sent me some before-and-after photos of his property. I was intrigued by all of the stonework I saw in the photos, and any garden that contains a water feature is enough to catch my interest. (Foster’s landscape has two.) But I had no idea that I was in for such a jaw-dropping experience.
If you have kept away from the gym due to fears over safety concerns related to COVID-19, many gyms in the area are going to great lengths to make sure the environment is up to par with safety guidelines so you can work out and get back to good health safely.
CONSHOHOCKEN -- Last December, Hispanic Heritage Association of Southeastern PA’s colorful Parrandera parade added joy to Conshohocken’s Christmas season. Six months before, HHA sponsored the appearance of Los Bomberos de La Calle drummers and dancers and Pedro Villasenor-Mariachi Group at the borough’s annual Arts Festival and Car Show.
In a mad frenzy this spring, along with the rest of you, I hoarded cards and puzzles, found the old chess and backgammon games, compiled the best-of-all-time comedy movie lists, and heaped it all in the living room like a sanctuary of silly sanity in preparation for quarantine.
They answer to Nana and Grammy; Pop-Pop and Grandpa. Sometimes they’re called Oma or Babcia; Abuelo or Pawpaw. In the end, though, grandparents are pretty much all the same: Reliable sources of hugs and cookies. Endlessly patient listeners, story-tellers and game-players. Or, as one unknown pundit put it, “People reaping the reward they’ve earned for not strangling their own teenagers.”
Now that the kids are back in school, whether in person or remote, you might be looking for some motivation to get back on track after a carefree summer filled with indulgences when it comes to food choices and physical activity with less structure.
BLUE BELL -- The Scandinavian concept of hygge – essentially, contentment and well-being – is a familiar one in Danish culture, and Lynn Hoffmann hopes the sculptures she creates in her Hand and Wheel Pottery studio foster that sense of tranquility. The Blue Bell artist is currently guest exhibitor at Art in the Storefront, 14 E. Butler Pike, Ambler, and her work will be on display through Sept. 15.
My father was a born storyteller. He could weave the most delightful tales from his imagination, regaling my younger sister and me at bedtime, night after night. A favorite story was “Bells in the Night,” one of the ones that he was able to get published.
With crisp mornings taunting us that fall is just around the corner, you might be experiencing an extra jump in your step accompanied by some renewed energy to explore the great outdoors.
I’ve been trying to pick a good melon most of my adult life. I’ve asked farmers, watched videos, consulted perky produce people to learn how to make sure this thing you can’t see into at all, like a mystery waiting to be unfurled, somehow delivers oohs and aahs when you whack it like a festive piñata.
Earlier this summer, I proposed an informal garden contest, inviting readers to write and tell me how their property or gardens could be part of a “Homegrown National Park.” (Homegrown National Park — HNP — is the brainchild of Doug Tallamy, presented in his recent book, “Nature’s Best Hope.”) The idea is that if homeowners across the country, gave up a portion of their lawns to native trees, shrubs, and flowers, it would create the largest national park in America. With most of us spending more time at home during the pandemic, I wanted to know how people were planting, tending, and enjoying their own “parks,” without the hassle of reservations, entrance fees, travel costs, and standing in line. I also asked people to consider if their landscape reminded them of a particular national park.
People are spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and some adults are using the extra free time to go back to school virtually. Colleges and universities are offering classes on a variety of interesting subjects such as the science of happiness, but now is also a great time to learn about health and nutrition.
For 116 years in Norristown, we have celebrated the magnificent feast of La Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca, Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Sciacca, a fishing village in Sicily. That special day, which is the Sunday nearest to the 15th of August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary, begins with a Mass by Monsignor John Marine, a native of Norristown, that fills Holy Saviour Church and then a procession that follows winding through the streets of the town and with the air filled with the traditional sounds of the Verdi Band. The procession ends with benediction at the church.
AMBLER – Just off downtown Ambler’s main drag is a new music school where owner Gary Grisafi is ready to welcome new students.
The COVID-19 global health crisis disrupted people’s regular routine including how they exercised. People have ventured out to try new and different ways of movement to overcome some of the challenges created by the pandemic such as limited capacity for indoor fitness classes.
CONSHOHOCKEN — In 2020, the conversation has evolved from whether women should be permitted to vote to the legitimacy of voting by mail. But the years have done nothing to diminish the magnitude of the Suffragettes’ achievement a century ago when they endured ongoing physical, emotional and verbal abuse to secure voting rights for women.
“Patch” Adams – the social activist-physician-clown famously depicted by the late Robin Williams in the film of the same name – once reasoned “People crave laughter as though it were an essential amino acid."
This summer, like those in the past at Crow’s Nest Preserve, campers have had the chance to play in the mud, swim in the stream and build swings in the woods. The difference this year, however, is that these activities aren’t intended just for kids. Instead, the approach they took was to create a family camp experience to enable parents to also have the chance to partake in the bounty of fun nature has to offer.
Summer is usually a season full of outdoor youth programs and camps, but COVID-19 has resulted in the cancelation of many events. The summer programs that weren’t canceled either transitioned to a virtual format or a revised in-person gathering with extra precautions in place.
COLLEGEVILLE — If you've been loyally rocking to the classic, charitable sounds of You, Me & Reenie at Davinci's Restaurant & Pub these many years you may have feared that the coronavirus would be lowering the curtain on the fun this year.
UPPER PROVIDENCE — The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in movie theaters across the country closing their screens while giving life to a budding phenomenon that is both warmly nostalgic and yet so 2020.
Of late, pandemic-inspired drive-in movie “theaters” and open-air church services have popped up throughout this area and well beyond. That said, longtime Conshohocken-Plymouth-Whitemarsh residents might recall the summer one local drive-in did double duty as both.
AMBLER – A typically week-long event known for spotlighting downtown eateries will take a modified approach this weekend during Ambler Restaurant Weekend.
What does it take to make you feel like you’ve gotten away? What lengths will you go to, to find relaxation, serenity, and natural beauty – that place where your psyche just goes, “Ahhhh”?
AMBLER – Nestled under a cheerful green roof, and a pink-and-white-striped awning, is an establishment that suits the quaint charm of downtown Ambler: Sweet Annie’s Candy Shoppe.
The 22nd annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is going to be an event not like any of the previous 21 sojourns. The community is invited to experience the revolutionary river through two evening video live streams on Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. The event also includes a tentative in-person guided paddling experience being offered on three separate days: Aug. 7, 8 or 9.
WHITEMARSH — Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, St. Thomas’ Church’s 2020 summer carillon concerts won’t feature any international musicians. But there’s plenty of local talent on tap for the Whitemarsh congregation’s annual Tuesday night series, beginning July 7 with Tiffany Lin and continuing July 14 with James Brinson, July 21 with Tom and Paige Gurin and July 28 with St. Thomas’ resident carillonneur Lisa Lonie.
GILBERTSVILLE — Suzanne Funk of East Coventry was excited when she received a group text from one of her fitness instructors from Final Results Fitness early in June.
The community has another week to register for a local residential garden contest and a chance to win up to $150 for their growing accomplishments.
My friend and Master Gardener Sharon Richardson is passionate about pollinators. Her interest started around the time she began volunteering at Longwood Gardens (2008), which inspired her to begin taking their horticulture classes. In 2015, she fenced in her back yard in Malvern to protect against hungry deer, and the following spring planted her first pollinator garden. I’ve visited Sharon’s property mid-summer, and found it full of the humming and fluttering of bees and butterflies busy at their work—the most alive garden I’ve ever seen.
Free online informational sessions to learn about providing child foster care and adoption will be hosted from 6 to 8 p.m. June 23 and June 24 by Diakon Adoption & Foster Care.
Cyclists, paddlers and beginners will be able to get outdoors this Father’s Day weekend for the soft opening of a regional recreation company.
June is National Iced Tea Month, and while global analysts fret about COVID-19’s effect on the harvesting schedules and transport chains of top producers like China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka, local vendors appear to be well-stocked with everything from basic black and green teas to varieties flavored with fruit and spice.
With rain predicted here but not at the Jersey shore, we thought last week was a good time to pack the masks, Lysol, paper towels, plastic gloves, hand sanitizer, all our food so we wouldn’t need to risk takeout, all our emergency meds so we wouldn’t need to raid CVS, and find a cheap motel that had not yet served any other risky human this pandemic spring.
CONSHOHOCKEN — Members of Americans for the Arts believe public art “humanizes the built environment, provides an intersection between past, present and future, and can help communities thrive.” Of course, that art – like the artists who create it – varies: From monumental, centuries-old statuary to the edgy social images by Banksy and colossal installations of Christo, who passed away in May at the age of 84.
Counties such as Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware were some of the hardest hit in terms of positive COVID-19 cases. The higher rate of cases resulted in these areas having extended stay-at-home orders and remaining in the red phase of the governor’s three-part reopening plan for a longer period.
For his birthday last month, all my friend Elliot wanted was an apricot tree. Yep, just a tree, nothing else. That’s not really too remarkable, for someone to ask for one single, big, lasting thing. For myself, as I get “on in years” I find that there’s little that I want in terms of tangible presents. I’m at an age where health and financial security, along with family and friends, feel like the best gifts. With those in place, I don’t feel the need for much more—though I’ll never say no to something for the yard or garden!
PLYMOUTH MEETING -- They might be running low on beef, but there’s no shortage of seasonal vegetables, herbs and -- starting about now -- strawberries at Maple Acres Farm. Yes, farmer Gary McKeown acknowledges, his restaurant clients have been largely missing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he says, area residents looking to avoid “standing in long lines at the grocery store” -- both countless regulars and newcomers -- have been turning to the farm market on Narcissa Road as an alternative.
Despite school winding down for the year and summer on the verge of ramping up, one thing that will remain constant, now that summer camps are canceled due to COVID-19 and the opening of public swimming pools is in question, is that children will likely be more homebound this summer.
Early on in the stay-at-home period, I heard that due to the pandemic, lots of people were turning to growing vegetables, many of them for the first time. “That’s great!” I thought. But there was a dark side to the good news. When I went online to buy seeds, I quickly discovered that wherever I turned, the varieties I wanted were out of stock. Even ones I DIDN’T want weren’t available. Feeling a bit like I’d been locked out of my own house, I put my name on several waiting lists, settled for a packet each of lettuce and spinach seeds I found at the grocery store, and had some tomato, pepper, and basil plants — the bare essentials — delivered from a nursery.
POTTSTOWN -- Growing up in Pottstown in the 1940s David Shaner spent most of his spare time shoveling coal or working with concrete in his father’s businesses. During that time it never occurred to him that he would spend the rest of his life working with his hands, setting aside the shovel and the trowel for the potter’s wheel and the kiln, and that he would become one the most highly-regarded clay artists in America.
May is National Bike Month and like many other annual events, the celebration has transitioned from in-person programs to virtual activities. The League of American Bicyclists promotes the cycling holiday which began in 1956. The month-long observance is meant to inform the public about the benefits of biking and to encourage people to try the healthy activity. This year, the league is focusing on how cycling has both physical and mental benefits. People are encouraged to enjoy the activity through solo rides or rides with other household members. Below are ways regional organizations are celebrating National Bike Month with events, challenges and contests.
LOWER PROVIDENCE — It was fitting that the Lower Providence Optimist Club chose EMS Week (May 17-23) to honor not only EMS workers but the Officer of the Year.
Like many of you, this extra time at home is sending me on a sentimental journey down memory lane as I sift through boxes piled up in the basement, garage, high up on shelves that I’d fairly well forgotten about, hadn’t the faintest idea I still had.