Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mat Kearney @ Theatre of the Living Arts

I don't know about you, but lately it seems like concerts have gotten insanely expensive and somewhat annoying. I don't like when I pay $100+ for a ticket and can barely even see the stage. If you feel the same way, then you would love Philadelphia's Theatre of the Living Arts. 

We went to TLA for the first time last weekend to see Mat Kearney and were pleasantly surprised on numerous accounts. First of all, the ticket prices were incredibly reasonable ($29/ticket!!). What was even better was that the venue was small and intimate - TLA holds a maximum of 810 people - so you're not battling with the masses for a good spot. On top of that, the theater has a balcony and bar upstairs for the over 21 crowd. Since there weren't thousands of people to contend with, we were able to stand in the very front of the balcony with a clear view of Kearney. It was easily the best "seat" I've ever had at a concert...all for just $29!

Of course, TLA's location on South Street is a pretty sweet bonus too. Not only are there dozens of great bars and restaurants within walking distance, there's a parking lot just a block away. We parked by the theater a few hours before the show, walked around the city, had dinner and drinks and then enjoyed one of our favorite singers from a stone's throw away. 

If you haven't been to the Theatre of the Living Arts, I highly recommend you check it out. They don't get the really really big names, but they've always got a pretty solid line-up. Click here for their upcoming shows:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book & Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

I read The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, about two years ago and aboslutely loved it! I would even go as far as to say that it's one of my all-time favorite love stories. So you can imagine my excitement when a) I heard they were turning this wonderful book into a movie and b) the movie would feature Rachel McAdams, whom I've loved ever since The Notebook. If you ask me it was a formula for success, which is I'm distraught to report that you're better of saving your $10 and waiting for this one to come out on DVD.

In all fairness, this is a difficult story to tell because, as you can imagine, the element of time travel requires a lot of jumping around in the story line. One minute you're in the present, the next you're in the future and a moment later you're in the past. The book pulled this off magnificently but the movie had a tougher time of it. Unfortunately, there were a few parts where I had to tell my husband what was going on because it wasn't overtly obvious that Eric Bana's character, Henry, had time traveled.

On the plus side, the movie was wrought with emotion and did manage to reduce me to tears a few times. Although, considering that I get weepy at those damn SPCA/End Animal Cruelty commercials with Sarah MacLaughlin's Angel playing in the background, I'm not sure that's really saying much :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Review: Twilight

About three things I am absolutely positive: First, I love Twilight. Second, I love Twilight. Third, I love Twilight.

Okay, I admit, when the movie, Twilight, came out a few months ago, I thought nothing sounded dumber than a vampire love story. With the exception of Harry Potter, I've never been into fantasy movies or books and I didn't understand why everyone was making such a fuss. Until the other day...

I cringed when Dave came home from Blockbuster with Twilight in hand. I love him dearly but I couldn't help but think he had wasted one of our perfectly good trades from on a teeny bopper flick. I should've known it was coming, I suppose. After all, he had just finished reading the first book in the series and he had mentioned how good it was.
The movie sat on top of our TV, untouched, for a few days. But then on Wednesday he asked the inevitable question that I'd been avoiding all week: Do you want to watch Twilight tonight? I dreaded the blood, guts and fanged men in capes that surely made up this silly movie, but how do you say no to the best husband in the world who willingly sat through 27 Dresses, P.S. I Love You and a myriad of other chic flicks that I've subjected him to?

And so we watched Twilight.

And then we watched it again the next night. And again last night. That's right, 3 viewings in 5 days. And now I won't let him return it to Blockbuster until we buy a copy of our own because I'm absolutely addicted to it.

I just started reading the book and I'm hooked on that too. Dave is on the second book, New Moon, which he said is good but not as good as Twilight. I hear the third and fourth books are excellent. Needless to say, I'm counting down the days until the movie version of New Moon opens on November 20th.

Yep, I'm joining the masses...I LOVE Twilight. If you haven't checked it out yet, give this one a chance.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Musikfest 2009

Like birds flying south when they sense the winter chill or sea turtles migrating dozens of miles to lay their eggs, there's something strange that happens in Bethlehem every July. It starts with the presence of parking signs in lots throughout the town. Then, magically, white tents appear under the Hill to Hill bridge and along Church and Main Streets. The energy in the town shifts and the locals begin to trade stories about the musical acts they're going to catch. And then, when the first week of August finally arrives, so do a million people from around the world. That's right, it's that time of year...Musikfest is here! 

For those of you who don't know, Musikfest is a 10-day music festival in Bethlehem, PA that attracts over 1 million people from around the globe. It wasn't always such a sensation though. Started in 1984, the first crowd topped out at just over 180,000 people. But over the years, Musikfest's popularity has grown by leaps and bounds. If you've never experienced the phenomenon that is Musikfest, this is your year. 

Here are some insider tips to help you enjoy your first Fest:
  1. There are both free and pay-to-see musical acts playing on 14 different stages (11 of which are free!) There really is something for everyone since every music style imaginable is represented, from Polka to Third Eye Blind. To check out this year's lineup, visit
  2. Musikfest is hip to social media. They've got a Twitter feed, a Facebook fan page and a MySpace page, all of which give you real-time updates on special events and any concert tickets remaining. 
  3. Musikfest pays homage to Bethlehem's Germanic  heritage, so all of the venues have a "platz" at the end of their names, which means "place." For example, Americaplatz, Martin Guitar Lyrikplatz, etc.
  4. Parking can be a beast and the Bethlehem Parking Authority preys on violators. Your best bet is to take advantage of Shuttleplatz, which allows you to park at one of the official off-site lots and take a trolley in. Round trip fare is $4/person, which is much cheaper than the $30+ you'll pay if you get a ticket. For more info on parking lots and Shuttleplatz, visit
  5. Don't try to approach a food vendor with cash, you need tickets for everything. Ticket booths are located throughout the festival. I recommend scoping out what you want to purchase first or else you'll have no idea how many tickets to buy and you'll end up throwing away perfectly good tickets. 
  6. The last night of Musikfest (Sunday, Aug. 9) is always celebrated with a fantastic fireworks display. It's definitely one of the highlights of the festival, however it's the worst night for parking, so do yourself a favor and leave extra time to shuttle in. The best views are from the library and the bridge. One of the most popular spots, is on the grassy knoll beneath the library. Just keep one thing in mind: people start putting out their blankets and chairs that morning. Don't show up a half hour before the show and expect to find a good spot there.
Musikfest 2009 started yesterday and will be in full swing through Sunday, August 9th. For more information, visit Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book & Movie Review: My Sister's Keeper

So many people I know LOVE Jodi Picoult, but until a couple weeks ago I'd never read her work. So I was thrilled when I had the chance to read My Sister's Keeper right before the release of the movie. Normally, when I read a book and then watch the movie I tend to be disappointed. But when I heard that Nick Cassavetes, director of The Notebook, had directed the movie version of Picoult's novel, I was hopeful. The verdict? The movie was GREAT! It's one I'd consider buying and watching again and again. The only downfall was that some crazy person in the theater kept blowing her nose during the tear-jerking scenes...oh wait, that was me. (P.S. bring tissues!)

The movie definitely differed a lot from the book (don't worry, no spoilers) - certain characters were changed, a couple were left out, a few sub-plots never made it to the big screen and the overall story works itself out differently in the movie than in the novel. After the movie, Dave asked me which version I liked better and my honest answer was that I really loved and appreciated both. One thing that I applaud Cassavetes for was that he used a good amount of the author's voice and dialogue in the movie (he did this with The Notebook too). Picoult is definitely present in the movie, which made me like it all that much better.

Overall recommendation: Definitely worth the $10 to see it in the theater.

Paddling and Peddling the Lehigh Gap

If you enjoying canoeing and biking, I highly recommend that you check out one of the PA Wildlands Conservancy's Paddle & Peddle events ( We did the Lehigh Gap trip this past Saturday and LOVED it! A small group of us (about eight people plus the river guides) launched our canoes in Bowmanstown shortly after 10 a.m. and paddled down to Walnutport, stopping for a bite to eat about halfway. The "paddle" took a little over two hours. Unlike my other canoeing fiascos, this trip was actually enjoyable because the water level was just perfect - the current kept us moving and we didn't get stuck on any rocks. AND we actually learned how to steer the boat! As stupid as it sounds, I've always gone canoeing without ever really knowing how to steer the thing. But this time Dave and I maneuvered through the rapids and rocks like pros. That was the other awesome thing about the trip - since it was on the Lehigh, not the Delaware, we actually got to enjoy the exhilaration of some rapids.

We arrived in Walnutport a little after noon, hoisted our canoes out of the water and climbed on mountain bikes for the ride back to Bowmanstown. The trail back was flat and graded, making for a nice, easy ride. We actually learned that the trail is part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy program (, which is creating a nationwide network of biking trails out of old rail lines. How cool is that?!

About 15 minutes into the "peddle" we stopped at the nature center where we divided into two groups. The first group continued following the flat path along the river while the second group hiked their bikes up the mountain and rode along a scenic ledge. Dave and I joined the second group and were glad we did. The trail up top had some obstacles but was a fairly easy ride with dramatic views of the mountains and river.

I've always wanted to do something like this and the Wildlands group makes it so easy, providing the boats, the bikes and anything else you need along the way. I'm convinced we would never have been able to execute such an enjoyable trip on our own, so it was completely worth the $35/person fee. I hope you'll check it out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Walk About: 6 Scenic Water View Trails in Eastern PA

Now that this extended rainy season has seemingly passed (although, as I type this it literally started raining!), we're taking every opportunity we can to get outdoors. One of our favorite things to do - especially after a long day at work - is to hit the local hiking trails, particularly those with a water view. We've been making an effort to find and explore more trails in our area, so I thought I'd share some of our favorites:

1. Sand Island. Bethlehem, PA.

As part of the Lehigh River Water Trail, this path extends for a number of miles in both directions, making it perfect for a long walk or bike ride. The trail is a well-maintained, gravel surface with views of the Lehigh River on one side and the canal on the other. If you follow the trail east towards Freemansburg, you will pass by the new Sands casino at the site of the former Bethlehem Steel. Venture westward for a more natural experience (except for the noise from the rail cars that pass through from time to time).

2. Northampton Canal Park. Northampton, PA.

This one-mile paved walkway is perfect for a leisurely stroll along the Lehigh Canal in the borough of Northampton. The area was recently updated to create an idyllic park setting, complete with picnic pavilions, park benches and baseball diamonds. If you're looking for a longer walk, the southern end of the path connects to a dirt trail that leads you through the woods to the Hokendauqua Creek. If you venture out in the hotter months, you might even be able to catch a glimpse of the local children perched on the wooden platforms high up in the trees, waiting for their turn to soar through the air on their rope tree swing and plunge into the water below.

3. Lakeside Trail. Tobyhanna, PA.
Follow the blue blazes for a 5.1 mile hike around the lake at Tobyhanna State Park. Not only will you enjoy numerous views of the pristine lake, but charming streams will surprise you every now and then, adding the meditative sound of trickling water to the chorus of chirping birds and rustling leaves. For the most part, the path is gravel and fairly level, however you will come across some patches that are uneven and rocky. You will also encounter some macadam, sand and grass surfaces as well.

4. Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. New Hope, PA.
Riverside trails can be accessed from the PA side (west bank) or the NJ side (east bank). Our favorite stretch is the Lumberville - New Hope, PA/Bull's Island - Lambertiville, NJ portion. However, as part of a 70-mile trail system, there is no shortage of pathways for bikers, hikers and joggers alike. Much of the trail is considered a wildlife corridor and contains over 150 species of birds. The trail is a well-maintained, flat, gravel path with various access points that offer up plenty of opportunities to stop for a bite to eat or a bathroom break.

5. Tekening Trail. Martin's Creek, PA.

Follow the blue blazes for the Scenic River Trail, a 2.1 mile hike along the Delaware River in Martin's Creek. The Tekening Trail is a 5-mile network of pathways in Martin's Creek Preserve. Though there are three other trails to choose from, the Scenic River Trail has the most to see and is the only one with river views. It is a dirt hiking path through the woods with many uneven surfaces and obstacles. Be sure to wear hiking boots or very sturdy sneakers. The trail is great for hiking or mountain biking and there are several scenic overlooks along the way. The only downfall is the din of electricity being generated at PPL's nearby power plant. Luckily, you only hear it for a few minutes in the beginning of your hike and by the time you reach the river views, the sound is long forgotten.

6. Bushkill Falls. Bushkill, PA.
Also known as the "Niagra of Pennsylvania", Bushkill Falls features a network of hiking trails that wind through the woods and past eight spectacular waterfalls. The trails are rugged (hiking boots recommended) and require a good deal of climbing. This area is more commercialized than some of the other trails and tends to get crowded on weekends and holidays. Plus, unlike the other trails on this list, Bushkill Falls charges an admission fee ($10/adult; $6/child). However when you're standing at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, you'll agree that the price is totally worth it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book & Movie Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that is so bad that my husband actually bans my movie choices. My worst offense of all time was when I dragged him to see Solaris (I've never lived that down). Unfortunately last night's rental of Confessions of a Shopaholic came in a close second.

I read Sophie Kinsella's novel about 7 years ago and LOVED it, but the movie? Disappointing, to say the least. My biggest complaint is that they changed the story line way too much. For example, the novel is set in London and the protagonist, Becky Bloomwood, is a cheeky Brit with a hilarious rationale for her spending behavior. The movie, however, was set in NYC and Becky came off more clumsy and shallow than her lovable literary counterpart.

The movie also fell short when it came to the relationships between Becky and the other characters. For example, her conflict with Alicia Bitch Longlegs was underwhelming and I didn't really buy the attraction between her Luke Brandon.

Bottom line: save the rental fee, read the book.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book & Movie Review: Revolutionary Road

I recently read Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road and then rented the movie. The verdict...depressing, on both counts. In fact, a gray cloud literally hung over my head for a week after reading the book. And when I finally had the courage to rent the movie, the woman at Blockbuster tried to convince me not to because of how depressing it was. While I appreciated her advice, I completely ignored it and rented it anyway, determined to see for myself.

Not to sound cliche or like some sort of literary critic, but the movie wasn't nearly as good as the book. It wasn't nearly as depressing either, which was a major failure on its part because it's supposed to be depressing. I was also disappointed by the lack of on-screen chemistry from Leo and Kate. I mean, I bawled my eyes out at Titanic, but they didn't manage to pry even an ounce of emotion out of me in Revolutionary Road. Needless to say, when I returned the movie to Blockbuster, I warned the woman not to read the book. If she thought the movie was depressing...the book might actually push her over the edge.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea; the book was actually quite good. Richard Yates did a brilliant job capturing the characters' conflicts and his descriptions were so vivid you could practically taste each scene. If you're considering the book or the movie...go for the book, you'll get so much more out of it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

10 Things to do on a Rainy Weekend

It's been rainy and gray here for so many days now that I've lost count. To make matters worse, thunderstorms are threatening to wash away the weekend too. The worst part about a rainy weekend is not knowing what to do with yourself, so I put together a list of 10 things to entertain yourself while you're cooped inside (and none of them require a television set):

1. Break out an old board game (or buy a new one).

2. Prepare a theme dinner complete with centerpiece, menu and costume.

3. Make homemade greeting cards.

4. Crack open a book you've meaning to read.

5. Take a well-deserved nap.

6. Call an old friend.

7. Learn some basic words in a foreign language.

8. Organize old photos.

9. Bake something tasty.

10. Create your own cocktail.

Wishing you a fun weekend despite the weather!