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PLYMOUTH — A recent Nestle Toll House TV promo called chocolate chip cookies “the original way to share love.” On the other hand, sixth grade history teachers at Colonial Middle School saw the cookie world’s most popular entries in way more practical terms when they reimagined them as archeological sites for students confined to virtual classes before Colonial School District’s hybrid sessions began.

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UPPER MERION — The pandemic certainly hasn’t been kind to restaurants this year, but at least those that participated in King of Prussia District’s annual Restaurant Week were able to salvage most of the event last March, benefiting not only their own businesses but also raising money for a good cause.

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The small, quiet neighborhood of Black Horse came to life on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 despite the rain and chilly weather, to celebrate the birthday of one of its oldest residents, Louise Piccirilli Basile, as she celebrated her 103rd birthday.

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At this time of year, when pine trees are shedding their old needles, my neighbors Mark and Olga are happy to have me rake up the needles that fall from their trees onto the street and their driveway, and trundle them off in my wheelbarrow to use as mulch. What the couple may not know is how much I enjoy working with this tree debris.

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Despite everything going on, many new attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels have opened in the Philadelphia region. That's one reason why National Geographic named Philadelphia to its list of best places to visit in 2019. And why Irene Levy Baker felt there was a compelling reason to update her book, 100 Thing To Do In Philadelphia, which is one of the best-selling in the national travel series published by Reedy Press.

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BLUE BELL -- Forty-five years ago, on October 5, 1975, the congregation of Grace Baptist Church Blue Bell opened its doors in Blue Bell as the Baptist Temple after 103 years at Broad and Berks Streets on the Temple University campus in north Philadelphia. Sixty-four members made the move from north Philadelphia to Blue Bell. Eleven of the current members were members at the Philadelphia location.

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The other day I saw a driver giving his middle finger a serious workout, thrusting his arm straight up outside his car window, the digit held like an ornery balloon. He even waved it at people passing by, blaring his horn for extra entertainment, scooping them up in his pop-up party. There appeared to be no hands on the wheel.

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If you’re struggling with menu ideas to cook up these days, there is no need to look any further than the farmers' markets, farms and farmstands in and around Pottstown. With fall produce at its peak, you can let things like butternut squash, cabbage and turnips guide you to recipes that speak to the season.

LANSDALE -- Over the past 5 years, Gwynedd Square Presbyterian Church has dedicated a week in the spring and a week in fall to helping those in need within the local community by organizing hands-on service activities in partnership with local organizations.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted individuals requiring skilled nursing care. Not only are these individuals experiencing facility lockdowns and isolation from family members but there have been noticeable disruptions to care. The Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services declared a public health emergency (PHE) on January 31, 2020. On March 13, 2020 Secretary Azar authorized waivers and modifications under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, retroactive to March 1, 2020. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing blanket waivers consistent with those issued for past PHE declarations. These waivers prevent gaps in access to care for beneficiaries impacted by the emergency. As a result of these waivers, Medicare beneficiaries who qualified for skilled nursing facility coverage may be eligible for an additional 100 days of coverage.

BLUE BELL -- Grace Baptist Church of Blue Bell recently celebrated its 11th Year for Faith in Action. Church members participated in various activities reaching out to the community. This year the opportunities spanned a week instead of one day to make a greater impact and allow for social distance.

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The changing colors, falling leaves and cooler nights are all signs that fall is here. Fall is a great season for fitness as it’s the last chance to exercise outdoors before cold, snowy days return for the winter.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.