What smells so good?

I have been the busiest bee! I’m mostly feeling excitement, but some exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed creep in. I’m curious to try some aromatherapy as a way to relax, slow down a little, and recharge my mind.

There are various aromatherapy products on the market, but the most basic form of use is to dip cotton in some of the scented oil and inhale through the nose, allowing the scent to take over your senses and calm you. Some of the most frequently used scents for stress and stress-related problems are:

Anger, Anxiety: Basil, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, ylang-ylang

Depression: Basil, clary sage, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Insomnia: Basil, chamomile, lavender, mandarin, marjoram, melissa, neroli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, thyme, ylang-ylang

Nervous Exhaustion: Basil, cinnamon, citronella, coriander, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, lavender, lemon grass, peppermint, nutmeg, rosemary, ylang-ylang

Nervous Tension: Basil, bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, rosemary, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Remember that scents are also great memory-triggers, so you can find one that brings up nice memories or that smell of a calming place to help you visualize something positive. And if you’re really lucky, you may be able to convince someone to give you a nice back massage with oil or oil-scented lotion!

Diffusers are also available, which are like small clay pots with a bottom half that holds a tea candle, and a top half above the candle where you can pour the oil of your choice, and let the scent fill a room, similar to a scented candle.

They won’t get all of your emails answered, and using scented oils may calm you down. If not, using aromatherapy certainly won’t have a negative effect! Scents can be found in some specialty grocery stores, health food stores, and online.

Check out Auroma’s website for everything you could ever want to buy or know about aromatherapy: www.auroma.com

What are your favorite calming scents?



WOW that a week! I feel like one of those high-stress people in business-casual clothes that always look annoyed about going to another meeting on television commercials. I was cleaning up my condo (for sale!) and the wifi had a glitch, so I’m making this post in a hurried flash from the Giant Grocery Store up the street. If you don’t have a Giant Grocery chain hear you, I cross my fingers and hope that you are imagining a supermarket for VERY TALL AND LARGE PEOPLE.

It’s past noon and I haven’t had any breakfast or lunch yet – not recommended! I’m going to have to grab something fast, which gave me the idea for this post. What are some standby snacks or meals you can get when you need food fast but don’t want to eat garbage? Here are my immediate ideas:

1. See if the closest grocery store has a salad bar. Most chain grocery stores, even the many of the older ones, have a salad bar. Not always the most appetizing, but you are sure to find fresh veggies and oil and vinegar for an easy (albeit not always entirely appetizing) lunch. If you’re lucky, the salad bar may have olives, grape leaves (make sure they have no meat!), hummus or cold grain salads.

2. In doubt, find a bagel. You should be able to find bagels almost anywhere, including cafes and fast food places. Unless you are able to track down a delicious whole grain-kind-with-the-little-seeds-inside bagel, a plain bagel isn’t exactly “healthy” but is likely vegan and will keep you from getting grumpy and annoying your friends. Let me note that you may still want to ASK if the bagel you are selecting is made with eggs. Most are not, but some are, and I don’t want it to be my fault if you find out the hard way!

3. Grab easy rations from a grocery store. If you don’t have luck with a salad bar, you should be able to run around the store and find a few easy foods to go, like some crackers in one aisle and hummus with the refrigerated food. Grab an apple and orange from produce and you have a little portable meal!

4. When the going gets tough, white flour may be your only choice. So if you’re taking a nice weekend road trip and end up in some wacky small town in say, I don’t know, Eastern Pennsylvania, and the gas station is the size of a closet with those questionable outside restrooms that require you to use a key with a ruler attached, you’re not going to find the most healthy and diverse vegan snack options. But try to look for these items before you give up hope and run screaming into the woods: a soft pretzel, a pack of peanuts, a bag of hard pretzels, a granola-type bar, non-cheese crackers with peanut butter.

Good luck out there!


Okay everybody. I’m so happy to share this news with you that I can’t even wait until it’s “officially” ready – though, somehow 65 of you already stumbled upon it in the past few hours, so the cat’s out of the bag… which is great, because cats don’t belong in bags.

Today is the site launch of my new blog, dedicated to the creative endeavors of the Lehigh Valley:

HEART OF STEELcity, while extremely personal to me, is about the place I live. My home. I’ve lived here for years with tentative ideas and skepticism. It seemed hard to get projects off the ground, to find supporters and like-minded people, and a move away seemed like the best option to seek inspiration.

But over the past few months, as I have worked every day to be the best version of myself and while humbly accepting my flaws and working to change them, the same transformation happened in this place, as well. Creative, positive people seemed to storm the streets at the same moment. Young entrepreneurs are taking risks and building successful businesses. Artists are finding ways to share what they do with others, outside of formal galleries, creating beauty where there was none. Musicians are collaborating, communities in the truest sense of the word are growing, and there seems to be an optimism shared by everyone.

I don’t think it was planned, but there is a revolution happening in this city, and it’s my goal to document it. I have met so many people that share the same excited outlook. Things are changing for the better. And if you live here, you are lucky enough to be a part of it.

And so, HEART OF STEELcity is born: www.heartofsteelcity.wordpress.com

The first official post will be an interview with Andy Po, Homebase Skateshop owner, about the overwhelming community response to the Bethlehem Skateplaza project, and how the grassroots movement has pushed the project into national spotlight.

I hope you, all of you, can be a part of it.

And I want to thank every reader of this blog, for helping to encourage me through your always-kind words and readership. I can say something I have always wanted to say with dignity and accomplishment: “I am a writer”.

You will never know how much all of this means. Thank you.


SECRETS REVEALED! I am so happy to share with you one of my big secrets! I think I’ve built suspense long enough, so let’s get right to it:

I’m honored to have become a contributing writer for Laini’s Little Pocket Guide website! If you live in the Lehigh Valley, you’re likely familiar with the printed books. If you’re not familair, let me explain: Laini and her team have assembled handy pocket-size guidebooks for the three big Lehigh Valley cities – Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.

These books are full of town history, quirky facts (like the proper way to drive around the Easton Circle) and list many of the businesses, shops, galleries and restaurants in the area. Everything mentioned is an independent or family-owned business. The books can be picked up at said businesses all over the Lehigh Valley, and sell for $4.99.

I met with Laini last week and within seconds of knowing her, her vibrant personality and passion about this part of Pennsylvania came through. Her wild red hair suits her perfectly, and her excitement for all the incredible things happening in the Valley stirs up a contagious thrill.

The print guides now have a corresponding website that just launched about a month ago, and I have jumped eagerly on board to write for it!  This project is so exciting because it’s about promoting and supporting the community. It’s about getting people excited to live here, and revealing all the little places tucked away that even us natives aren’t familiar with. (Thanks to the Easton guide, last night I tried a new thai vegetarian restaurant I’ve never been to! It’s only been about eight miles away all this time!)

Please keep an eye out for the pocket guides at independent business everywhere (and Wegmans, too). They make great references for people that seek to fall in love with the Valley all over again.

My first article was posted today. You can find that and more information on the pocket guides here (and become Facebook fans for latest updates and events!):


(STAY TUNED later today for the unveiling of a brand new project!!!)

United States of Arugula

In this whirlwind of a week, I got my days mixed-up and thus, tomorrow is shaping up to be a hugely exciting day in terms of blogging. I’ve put most of my time this week into preparing for the projects, but on my downtime I’m still food-minded. Today I wanted to mention this fantastic book I’ve just started reading!

The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp    This book is an excellent historical narrative for anyone interested in food of any kind. Can you remember when The Food Network didn’t exist? Can you try to comprehend a time when the average American never even heard of salsa?

Food Culture has paved many new trails in the past 50 years alone. A cook went from being considered a low-class, unimpressive job to, potentially, someone without formal training that produces television cooking shows while skyrocketing to celebrity status. Among this, interest in food trends, diets, and ingredients have spanned the gamut from the weird to the expensive to the rebirth of gardening as something young, hip people are taking on as a hobby.

Chapters cover the history of French cooking and it’s influence on most other cuisines since the 1800’s, modern supermarkets, free-range and organics, fast food, speciality and gourmet shops, and general feeling of excitement about where food culture contines to go. Kamp quotes the Beastie Boys in one chapter, and quotes food revolutionaries like Clementine Paddleford in the next. (The latter who wrote a food-adventurer column called Queer Fish, in which she encouraged people to visit ethnic markets and spent days driving around to stop at eat at any cafe or restaurant she could find on a back road. She said  “Be a kitchen rebel and glory in rebellion. Raise the eyebrows of your friends.” YES!)

“Food is a fundamental fact of our cultural life, a part of the conversation, something contemplated as well as eaten.”

The cover is an clever reinterpretation of The Last Supper, with James Beard in the prestigious Jesus position, surrounded  by culinary movers and shakers like Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck and Rachel Ray.

It’s Kamp’s almost juvenile optimism for the direction of our current food culture that feels inspiring. By eating, we are doing something so much more important than nourishing ourselves. We create identities, build communities and invent our own life stories – all of these happen when we shop, prepare, cook and consume food. Simply by being alive right now, we have more food opportunities than any other time in history. And it’s very, very exciting.

It is, in short, a great time to be an eater. And how often do we get to say something as unreservedly upbeat as that? …food is one area of American life where things just continue to improve. If we’re cooking at home, we have a greater breadth and higher quality of ingredients available to us. If we’re dining out, we have more options open to us. It’s okay for the traditions of peasant cookery to inform those of haute cuisine, and for haute flourishes to inform regular-guy food. (from preface)


A great big THANK YOU for readers Sarah Schimeneck and Nathan Krisanda for sending me this excellent photo of themselves posing with their spring roll creations, inspired by the last cooking video!

I hope they were as yummy as they look! Good job!

Psst… Want to hear a secret?

This is something I hadn’t previously factored into my hush-hush surprises, still to come (new one revealed tomorrow, Yay!), but this is something monumental for me, and could turn out to benefit you, too.

So, this is my kitchen. This is where all the magic happens. It’s small but mighty, and I put that floor in myself! And here’s why I’m posting it…

I’m moving. I’m selling my home, and moving!

Not out of town, though for a long time that was the option. Things are getting so good here that my aim now is to continue to cultivate a community and identity in the Lehigh Valley. But I have decided to take residential opportunities elsewhere, and with that comes the filtering through my life for the past five years.

(I sort through boxes of books I intended to read, clothes that no longer fit, letters that were worth more than all the money in the world… these artifacts make up a unique collection of my life, a gallery of every taken opportunity or mistake learned from. When I hold them in my hands, I can view them with new perspective on the role they played in my life and how lucky, sincerely lucky I am for everything, all of it, every last part.)

So: IF YOU, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW, WOULD LIKE TO BUY A ONE-BEDROOM CONDO (rather than rent, but trust me it’s the same cost) A PLACE IN BETHLEHEM, PA – please ask them to contact me at savethekales@gmail.com. This place is IDEAL for a single person looking to build their credit as a owner, for the price of a renter!

I’m making up fliers and can post one soon,  listing all the benefits and approximate monthly cost. I’m asking $50,000 but will negotiate with a fair offer! My monthly living expenses right now for everything – literally everything from Wifi to trash costs, is $700. Yup. Good deal, right?

It’s a really lovely home and I’m only moving/selling because I want to see what this new path has in store for me. More photos available upon request, of course.

“Full, but not Satisfied”

Please excuse my scattered brain today! I’m busy getting things together for my two surprises, which are on track to revealing themselves by the end of the week Yay!

If you’re in the Lehigh Valley and you’re free tomorrow evening, consider attending Part IV of Lehigh University’s Food Film series. Tomorrow will be the screening of “BUFFET: All You Can Eat Las Vegas”. While prior films in the series have been more direct in their effort to provide insight for eco-food causes (such as films about the repercussions of overfishing, and farmers that aim to re-invent the food system), BUFFET seems more like an observation of American indulgence.

We get so excited about food – I certainly do. But there is something grim in watching people gorge themselves sick on it. Viewing the thousands of pounds of waste from plates people filled and couldn’t clean is, to be a bit melodramatic, heartbreaking. Consider the animal raised for food that becomes trash, or the hours of labor that go into harvesting, prepping and cooking the food that ends up in a landfill.

This may not be for the weak of stomach (or anyone hungry, for that matter) but I’m curious to know what my feelings and thoughts will be afterward. There is a discussion to follow the film which is likely to be observational as well as political.

View the official film website, and watch a trailer here: http://www.buffetmovie.com/

The screening and discussion to follow are FREE. Event begins at 6:30PM tomorrow, Wednesday April 7th, in Lehigh U’s Whitaker Laboratory.

Stay tuned, as the final film in the series is the mind-blowing FOOD, INC. Please read what local environmental blogger Andrew Kliener had to say about the topic of sustainability and that film: http://rememberkleiner.blogspot.com/2010/04/environmental-consciousness-little.html