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.