FRESH PERSPECTIVES with Jaime K: Lehigh Valley Style November 2014 Issue

Snag your print copy of Lehigh Valley Style magazine for my latest column with some unique gift ideas and back stories on three of the most creative locals I know:

LVSTYLEnov14

Wendy Landiak of Shankara Vegan Restaurant, patron saint of LV vegan food since as long as I can remember! Learn about how she got started in cooking (she catered for Deepak Chopra!), the many incarnations of her eateries, and how to get hands-down the best brunch on earth right here in South Bethlehem;

Andy V. of Andy Vasquez Furniture, local skater/nice guy who makes the most jaw-dropping gorgeous handcrafted furniture and home accessories from wood. If you like midcentury modern, rustic chic, or kitchen cutting boards shaped like the state of Pennsylvania, he’s your guy;

Marissa Wetzel of Everlasting Image, miracle worker who uses photoshop to create beautiful portraits of babies who passed away before photos of them without medical tubes and wires were ever taken. I was in awe the first time I saw her work

PLUS! A vegan recipe created just for LV Style readers.

My column “Fresh Perspectives with Jaime K” is a bi-monthly column where I get to personally choose to shine the spotlight on creatives, small business owners, unique shops, community builders, and the best vegan eats in the Lehigh Valley, PA. If you know someone who would make a great fit, I’d love to hear about them.

 

 

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LINKS to LOVE: 4 July 2014

You may notice things are lookin’ a little different around here. I’ve wanted a redesign forever and in the name of DIY, personal empowerment, and a teeny tiny budget (and, um, all my designer friends are very busy) I am slowly redesigning things myself. It’s pretty liberating!

I’m also ready to bring back the ol’ Links to Love series, because one of my great joys in life is finding a blog from a writer who just “gets it”, and then being able to plop down on a Sunday morning with a coffee and click on every link they share because holy wow, they have impeccable taste in internet reads, you know? There are SO MANY talented, thought-provoking voices online and we’re better off for spending some time with them. And I believe in cooperation over competition, so I hope you’ll stay on some of these sites and look around.

LINKS to LOVE savethekales

Melanie so sincerely describes the feelings of being a silly, optimistic, girly + feminine woman who is growing older. “Will my loud outfits and glittery makeup seem desperate, pathetic even, as I age? Will be my light-hearded child-like enthusiasm be read as unintelligent and sad as I advance? “

The always-eloquent and achingly brilliant Lacy shares how learning to love her body changed her relationship. “The relationship I wanted to have with my partner gave me the courage to grab the relationship I wanted to have with my body. Deciding to have a better relationship with my body gave me the relationship I got with my partner.”

Art is so weird and wonderful. A Man Takes His Cabbage for a Walk  (video)

walking a cabbage

 

The most adorable weather forecast

Finally, a film about a young woman who has an abortion and she’s portrayed as a normal person.  Get to a theater and see Obvious Child (and if you’re in the Lehigh Valley, it’s playing at Steelstacks)

Buzzfeed nails it with this one, and shines some light on the exceptionality that sometimes comes from a community that touts the idea that everyone should be free to love whoever they want: 30 Bisexual Women Discuss Their Long-Term Relationships With Men

YES, THIS: Why You Shouldn’t Take People’s Facebook Lives Seriously (video)

Here is What You Do When You Are Grieving. “You remind yourself how breathing works, how sleeping works, how going to work works. You teach yourself basic lessons as if you were a child: It is time to clean up after yourself, time to take a shower, time to behave, time to leave the house today. ” (thanks Meridith)

… And to end on a positive note, next week starts Lehigh Valley Girls Rock! Camp which is going to empower young women to feel supported, creative and make music! I’ll be teaching a class on Positive Body Image and all week the girls will learn about healthy minds, bodies and self-expression. The week ends with a live rock show called Shine Like Diamonds and you can buy tickets for $10!  They are also selling the cutest merch, including these tote bags for $10. You can order online:

lvgirlsrocktotebag

 

I hope your weekend is beautiful! America!

xo Jaime K

 

 

Desperately Seeking Beauty in Everything

“Even posi people get sad”, a friend once said when I expressed that sadness feels like failure when your default mode is optimistic.

I don’t often use the internet to complain or express when things get hard, despite my strive to always be authentic. I am aware that, by deliberate omission, I am a part of the “everyone seems like they are doing better than they really are” illusion. I don’t find comfort in public commiseration, and most of the time, would rather shift my focus to something good than to rehash a problem every time I get a Facebook notification.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. And lately I feel a sticky lump of guilt lodge itself in my throat every time someone mentions how happy I am all the time. Listening to a recent podcast interview (we recorded over two months ago), I hear myself sound like a self-help book I need to read.

Last week, after months of deliberation and despite that it’s existed for over two years, I made my instagram account public. I had listened to enough podcasts and read enough articles to know that for creative work, networking and gaining business, it’s smart to have one. I never used instagram for it’s intended purpose (to share!) because I don’t like the “life is perfect inside this tiny flat square” false reality. I don’t want to be a part of that, and I don’t want to be affected by that.

instagram:  @SavetheKales

instagram: @SavetheKales

And yet, I spent hours deleting, editing, and curating my account. I got rid of 500 hundred pictures (shifted them to a new private account), some of which are my proudest moments of the last two years, because I don’t want to “brag”. I don’t want to be perceived as having things figured out more than I do. Is that a pathetic downplay of my accomplishments and most wonderful moments? If everyone else is using the internet to make themselves and their work sound AMAZING all the time, shouldn’t I? Is the rejection of that a noble attempt to bring some normalcy and honesty to the LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME culture that surrounds us all. the. time.? (Does it even matter?)

The truth is, anxiety and depression have been part of my everyday life once again, especially since the concussion. Emotional and mental health aside, my injury means I physically can’t do everything every time I want to do it. I need to rest, I need quiet, I can’t be on the phone too long without a migraine so intense that it makes me sick, sometimes I can’t stay awake past 9:30pm. People get frustrated and angry and call my involvement and enthusiasm into question. Then I feel worse.

The injury and lack of work (and money) from that has been stressful. There is the jumble of things it’s not my place to talk about publicly. And everyone is dying.

My immediate family has had five deaths in the last several months. When I called people to reschedule meetings, request extensions or explain I’d be out of town this week, I realized the phrase “I have to cancel, there has been a death in my family” has become commonplace in my correspondence. (More on this soon.)

A hard year. All around, a very hard year.

I think our capacity for loving is infinite, but our hearts and minds have a limit for pain and I have had enough for now.

In December, I wrote pages and pages of plans, projects and new ideas. “This will be my YEAR!” I triumphantly told myself, as I crafted a timeline of creative dreams and professional goals. This would be the year I got out of my own way and finally fucking made things happen. I thought so many more of them would be checked off by now. I’m disappointed in myself and frustrated by circumstances. Every time I get my footing there is another tragedy that  knocks me out emotionally and/or physically and, while I don’t like to sink into feelings of “why me?” and victimhood, my god it’s hard not to think that way.

 

wordoftheyear2014

And all this time to myself has been a balance of anxiety – knowing I can’t do things as well as I want to and living with the shame and embarrassment of that – and distracting myself so I don’t have to think so much. For this I have books and walks in the park. Trying to help my friends through their stuff.  Venturing in public for a few hours to be present and experience actual life. Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

While organizing my book collection I rediscovered a copy of The Writer’s Market from 2008, gifted to me by someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Now it’s years old, but the symbolism of that is too powerful and I can’t bring myself to add it to the “donate” pile. Maybe this is part of healing, getting past the blinding hurt so you can get to a place of sincere and simple thankfulness.

A lesson learned too late is still a lesson learned.

And I thought about the expectations we set up for ourselves, what we should have done by now, and the pressure we create where there was none.

Writer Cheryl Strayed said her whole life she had a book inside of her that she never got quite right. She was 32 when her mother died and with her grief grew “a second beating heart”, a book, that she could finally purge out of herself. It was published when she was 35.

I have to believe through intense life experiences (not always tragic, but often enough they are) can come our own second heartbeats. They force us to face ourselves and maybe maybe maybe, when we start to breathe again, we can finally create what has been there all along.

View of the Market St. Bridge in Wilkes-Barre

A few nights ago, my mother and I were having coffee in her backyard, and I admitted its very hard to see the point in anything right now. She said, “I think there is a point, and I guess we’re just supposed to keep going until we figure it out.”

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

 

“WE DON’T NEED TO ASK PERMISSION”: Jaime K on the Tranquility du Jour Podcast

“Anybody who’s doing any sort of work they’re passionate about can relate to this – when you start something, you really have no idea where it can go or what it can be, but something in you just feels compelled to do it.” – Jaime K

Click HERE to listen to the podcast

It was a joy and an honor to have been interviewed for Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquility du Jour podcast, a podcast I discovered two years ago and have enjoyed as a listener. I met Kimberly unexpectedly (hear the story!) last year, and was enchanted with her. She exudes a compassionate confidence while looking like an eccentrically feminine yogini meets a vintage french film star.

She's just yarn-bombing, as one does.

She’s just yarn-bombing, as one does.

Her work includes a weekly podcast, an adorable and always-updated blog, several books and journals, a line of feminine eco-friendly clothing, and hosting retreats across the world. She is livin’ the dream. And she has a pug who is, thankfully, photographed often.

Le Pug. Look at that face. Can you even? No. You can't.

Le Pug. Look at that face. Can you even? No. You can’t.

Some things I talked about in the podcast:

You can also subscribe to Tranquility du Jour on iTunes. I’m on episode #316, which means there are 315 other wonderfully inspiring interviews to catch up on. Get started.

Hugs + lipsticked kisses to Kimberly for the lovely chat.

xo, Jaime K

 

 

 

 

FELL DOWN + BROKE HER CROWN: Living with a Concussion

One month ago (wow, it’s been that long), I went to the doctor to discuss sciatica pain and some annoying neck/shoulder tension in the hopes of getting a referral for some physical therapy. I was given four shots in my back + shoulder to relieve some of the pain immediately.  I was asked to sit on a stool with wheels, no back and no arms, and after the shots the doctors left the room and – woopsies!- I had a reaction, passed out, and hit my head on the floor. I was told they only knew I passed out because they heard the sound it made when I fell. Cringe-worthy, right?

All this to say, I’ve been living with a concussion for the last four weeks and have spent as little time on the internet as I’ve probably ever spent since since my Mom first got AOL dial-up when I was thirteen. (Backlit screens and florescent lights are still the worst symptom offenders.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 10.02.14 AM

Concussion Chic. Thankfully I got this summer hat and a bunch of sunglasses a week before this happened. Now I can grocery shop with protection + unwashed hair, but give the illusion of being pulled together. Smoke and mirrors!

The doctor said: “Don’t use the computer. Don’t text or be on the phone very much. Don’t watch TV or movies. And don’t read. (!!!) They cause eye strain.” I’m not an overly-gadgety person, but it was a wake-up call to see how much I rely on each of these activities throughout the course of a day.

Ya’ll know I love my books… So, no reading? NO READING! I became this guy from the most heart-wrenching of all Twilight Zone episodes, Time Enough At Last:

twilight zone time enough at last

 

The first week was a doozy, physically and, eventually, emotionally and mentally. All that time to myself without aid of my usual distractions was enlightening and terrifying. I felt free. I felt trapped. I felt unconstrained of obligations and sank into relaxation. I felt agitated that I had to cancel my work and responsibilities and worried everything would fall apart and everyone would resent me. I questioned the meaning of life a hundred times a day. Occasionally I found it while watching the rain from my front porch.

You worry that people are going to be angry because you have to miss deadlines, postpone interviews, not show up. You worry your absence will make everything else come to a screeching halt and the guilt of that is oppressive and lodges heavy in your guts. Then, when life goes on and the rest of the world continues to work and exist without you, you are left with the feeling that you don’t actually matter that much. A relief, a poison, in equal doses.

I’ve been dealing with the guilt of canceling appointments and having to bail out of obligations, projects and work. Getting rest is the only thing that will help, and while that’s how I’ve been spending most of my time, I’ve been able to take advantage of a few social events that have maintained my sanity. When you get most energized by spending time connecting to people in person, isolation is loneliness emphasized.

Fatigue sets in after only two or three hours, but I have been trying to find the silver lining, tarnished as it has been some days, and am grateful for:

Stumbling across one of my favorite book sales and getting 30+ titles (for about $10 bucks and all money went to charity!), including some truly exceptional gems that still make me feel smugly proud of myself, like: titles by Sylvia Plath, Richard Brautigan and Lorrie Moore I didn’t previously own; a first edition of Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love, one of my favorite books ever ever ever;  an extravaganza of queer authors like Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters and Oscar Wilde; an astrology book from the 1960’s with dreamy illustrations.  I was able to read again after the first week, thank goodness.

Get lost in the stars.

Get lost in the stars.

 

Mornings spent on my cozy front porch, working through The Artists Way, getting uncomfortable and vulnerable and angry and then inspired, focused, driven. Salads for breakfast. Tiny pieces of paper tucked into my Chinese takeout that make me feel hopeful.

Avocados on everything, morning pages, sunshine.

Avocados on everything, morning pages, sunshine.

A Mother’s Day surprise from Chubby and Pierogi (my dog and cat) left on the kitchen table, discovered when I woke up to make coffee. I’ve been told they must have stolen the car with Pierogi at the wheel, Chubby at the gas + brakes (his arms are too short to operate the wheel) and took themselves shopping. What sweet angels.

Typewriter necklace and a handwritten (paw-written) card from the cat and dog. They are so talented!

Typewriter necklace and a handwritten (paw-written) card from the cat and dog. They are so talented!

I went to the Spiritual + Holistic Expo which was like a warehouse full of healers, luscious self-help books, massive jewelry pieces, and hundreds of things I’ve never seen and still don’t entirely understand. I ran into friends, the kinds of friends who give meaningful hugs and words of support and encouragement. There’s another expo in September and I’m already excited.

Healing energy in crystals, or at the very least, beautiful things for your eyes to see and hands to touch.

One of the most meaningful bands of my life, Modest Mouse, played a mile from my home in front of the iconic Bethlehem steel mills and I felt every feeling from the tenth grade to present day in one hour and forty minutes. They played Trailer Trash three songs in, and my soul hovered out of my body and into the crowd. It reminded me of my past and how far I have come. In those minutes I intensely missed everyone I have ever loved. I wondered what they are doing now, and felt such peace that I have moved passed the point of hurt and anger to sincerely wishing them well. I wonder if they felt it, wherever they are.

"Eating snowflakes with plastic forks And a paper plate, of course You think of everything"

“Eating snowflakes with plastic forks
And a paper plate, of course
You think of everything”

 

I traveled to upstate New York to see my beautiful cousin get married in front of a magnificent waterfall, followed by a reception at summer camp site (!!!) where I get to reconnect with my family and celebrate a beautiful day. It was one of the cutest weddings I have ever seen, and I’m so proud of her.

The beautiful Ellwoods, such a great rock'n'roll last name.

The beautiful Ellwoods, such a great rock’n’roll last name.

My Mom has come to visit, and seeing her always makes me feel better, too. After the deaths of my Gram and my Stepdad just four months apart, I feel a new sort of connection to my Mother. And this is my Babchi (“Bob-she”), my Dad’s mother, who is over 80 years old. She has survived seven children, a seemingly infinite number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and cancer. Even after her cancer treatments when she lost all her hair, it grew back thick and full. She doesn’t color it. Now you know where I get it from.

Babchi is Polish for "Grandmother".

Babchi is Polish for “Grandmother”.

I went to an art show in Easton that was so spectacular, so well-attended, I felt like I was in a big city. Everyone there was uniquely beautiful and friendly, the quality of the art was of such a high caliber, my heart swelled with pride for the Lehigh Valley. There is something to be said for sticking around to see your community step into it’s fabulous self. Even better if you can participate in some way, even if that way is to stand with your mouth agape looking at a painting that makes you feel something deeply, and telling people about it, especially the artist. Thank you.

 

BOOM art show in Easton, PA. This quiet cityscape is by Bill Hudders.

BOOM art show in Easton, PA. This quiet cityscape is by Bill Hudders.

 

… Each day I’m working on finding the balance between doing my best to be productive without pushing myself to the point of physical pain. Healing is immensely important as it is already taking longer than expected. When I think about the concussion, this stupid and preventable accident, I get so angry, but anger has never helped anyone to feel better. So while I figure out how to go about my days until I can be normal Jaime K again, I have my books, some really wonderful friends, couch naps while the sun streams in, lavender tea and guacamole, podcasts and shoulder-warming walks in the sun.

And along with a mental and physical overhaul, Save the Kales! is getting one as well, from the inside and eventually out. This hasn’t been simply a “food blog” since the beginning, but going forward I will write about non-food issues with even more intent. It is our stories that connect us.

xo Jaime K

 

DIY Jewelry Holder Display Using an Old Frame

This is the perfect snow day craft because it’s useful, beautiful, only cost $3.00 (THREE DOLLARS!) and took fifteen minutes to create.

DIY Jewelry Holder from a frame

After seeing some super simple DIY jewelry holder displays on Pinterest (which you can make out of just about anything you can put a nail into), I remembered I had this old wooden frame from some thrift art. Years ago, I painted it dark pink and then put it away in the basement when we moved last year. It would be the perfect thing to help me organize my necklaces and earrings, and surprise! bonus: it looks gorgeous, too.

Here’s how I made it for only $3:

Supplies

  • wooden frame, already painted, 2′ 6″ wide and 2′ tall, about 1/2 inch thick
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • power drill with the smallest drill bit
  • twisting screw hooks / a pack of 36 Utility Hooks or “cup hooks” by Arrow in 7/8″

Because I had everything else, I only bought the hooks for $3.00 at Target.

The frame seemed large at first, but once I finished, I realized one of my longer necklaces just fit inside perfectly, so make sure your frame is at least two feet tall if you have long jewelry!

You can find wooden frames in thrift stores for super-cheap, and a small container of paint in a craft store for about $0.69, so even if you have to seek out those supplies, you should be able to do this for under $5.00.

Or, ditch the frame altogether and try one of these great ideas: slice of tree + coat hooks | thin tree branches | clothes hanger + hooks | antique garden rake | thick tree branch + hooks 

diy jewelry holder from wooden frame

Step 1: I measured 1-inch increments across the back of the frame, making small pencil marks. One inch increments was enough to keep my jewelry separated and, because the frame is large, allowed me to fit 27 hooks.

Step 2: I used a power drill to make make small holes in the frame. You don’t have to drill very deep, just enough to let the hooks catch so you can twist them into the wood.

*Note: Make sure you drill in the middle of the wood, not too close to the edge, or the wood will split when you screw in your hooks.

Step 3: Twist in hooks, making sure the open ends face the front side of the frame (to hang your necklaces over them).

That’s all!

DIY jewelry holder from a frame

It’s OK if the hooks are a spaced a little uneven. Once you have your jewelry on, you won’t notice if something is off by a centimeter. Arrange your jewelry so it looks visually pretty and prevents the frame from being too heavy on one side.

(Obviously, this only works for earrings that don’t have post backs.)

This helps me to see what I have and makes it easier to put together an outfit, keeps everything untangled, and ensures I don’t spend money on a piece very similar to one I already have. Plus, I think it looks pretty.

Not bad for three dollars and fifteen minutes!

Thoughtful (Last-Minute) Gifts in the Lehigh Valley and Bethlehem

In a place that bursts with artistic creativity, small boutique retail shops and is literally, hello!, “The Christmas City” (check out the locally-viral Buzzfeed post) with seasonal holiday pop-up markets, I can’t begin to write a comprehensive gift guide. There’s too much. A good problem, no?

But if you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas that are special and unique to Bethlehem/The Lehigh Valley area while supporting small businesses, these are the gifts and shops that immediately come to my mind.

Share some of your favorites in the comments!

giftguidecollage

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Best Budget-friendly Holiday and Local: Moravian Star Ornament and/or Pickle Ornament from Moravian Book Shop

moravian ornaments

A Moravian star is classic Bethlehem tradition in a small, affordable package. You can learn about the significance of the Moravian Star and then choose a beauty from a variety of sizes, materials, and price points. From this site,

The stars were used as craft projects to help demonstrate geometry lessons to young boys attending Moravian school. The stars were quickly adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem.

A small elegant, handmade glass ornament will set you back about $20 (give or take), but you may also find them in paper, plastic, and sizes that could fit in your palm to elegant lighting fixtures priced in the hundreds.

As for the pickle ornament(!), this is a little more kitsch but just as traditional. The German tradition says that parents hung a pickle in the Christmas tree after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning, the first child to see the pickle on the tree would get an extra gift from St. Nicholas.  This is one of my favorite go-to gifts when you want to give a little something to someone who lives out of the area, as a cute reminder that someone in Bethlehem loves them.

Moravian Book and Gift Shop: website | facebook

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Best Shop for Unique Gifts (Upscale): Artfully Elegant

artfully elegant

If you’re not quite sure what to get someone but want a very special gift and you have a little more wiggle-room in your budget, this is the store to browse. They specialize in jewelry that is unique, interesting and handmade, and one-of-a-kind artwork from photography to ceramics. Always classy but with a chic, bohemian twist, you can’t go wrong with anything from this shop. Take a peek at their Pinterest page.

Artfully Elegant: website | pinterest | facebook

.   .   .

Best Shop For Unique Gifts (Budget-Friendly): Mercantile Home

merchaus collage

Nearly everything in MercHaus in handmade in-haus. *wink* This is where you can find my absolute favorite scented candles, neon-colored ceramic animals, fabric products like scarves, bags, aprons, and about a trillion other things you never knew you loved until you walked in. This store is a treasure of the Lehigh Valley (located about 10 minutes outside Bethlehem in beloved Easton), and it’s all the better that owners Ken and Ron are the sweetest peas and you’ll leave with hugs and perfect gifts in tow. Is it weird to want to live in a store?

Mercantile Home:  website| twitter| facebook 

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Best for Someone Who Loves His/Her iPhone: Homebase Skateshop Bethlehem iPhone Cases

homebase610division

Listen, put a picture of the steel mills on anything and you’ve found a way to my heart. But Homebase does it again by turning their popular 610 Division design into cases for iPhones 4 and 5. Brilliant. BRILLIANT.

In case you haven’t seen it, Homebase Skateshop sells t-shirts with one of the greatest outcomes of graphic design history: a mash-up of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover art, and the Bethlehem Steel mills. They’ve turned that genius design into a portable and practical phone cover, and if you love Bethlehem as much as I do, you’ll get one immediately. Quantities limited.

Homebase Skateshop: website | twitter | facebook 

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Best Non-Wine Gifts: Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom

seasonsoilandvinegar

If you’re looking for the sophistication (and, um, practicality) of a bottle of wine but want something a little more out-of-the-box, consider a bottle of one of the many flavored oils or vinegars from Seasons. If oil and vinegar don’t sound special, get yourself to this shop, start at one end, and sample everything in the place. They really let you do this!

For more details, take a peek at this article I wrote about Seasons a few years ago.  A full bottle will set you back an average of $12-15, but can go higher as you look to truffle oils and such.

Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom: website | facebook 

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Best Coffee Gifts: Wise Bean Cafe Gift Coins

wisebeancafe

My favorite local coffee shop, and longest running indie coffee shop in Bethlehem’s Northside, has unique ceramic gift coins that function like gift cards – but they’re cuter! They come in a tiny mesh bag, perfect for gifting, and while you’re at it pick up a pound or two of one of the Bean’s excellent coffees to brew at home.

The Wise Bean: website | facebook

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Best Gifts for Babies, Kids, New Parents: Ju-ju Monkey

jujumonkey collage

What began as a handmade cloth diaper company is now a full brick-and-mortar retail space in Allentown. Here you can find anything a baby or toddler would need or want, and best of all, products are eco-friendly! Clothes, toys, personal care products, and more can be found at the store. And if you want to give an experience, check out the classes offered by Ju-ju Monkey, from Baby Sign Language to Mommy and Baby Yoga.

Ju-ju Monkey: website | twitter | facebook

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Best “Little Something”: Jolene’s Jar Pickled Foods

jolenesjar collage

Made in small batches in Easton, PA and sold at locations around the Valley (including The Wise Bean, see above), these jars of pickled goodies would be perfect when you want to give a little token of appreciation to someone and that candy cane taped to a card just won’t do. Who doesn’t like pickles!? With flavors like Pickled Za’atar Cauliflower and Spicy Bloody Mary Garnish, stock up on a few for yourself, too. Bonus: toss your own veggies in the leftover brine after you’ve devoured the jar. The gift that keeps giving! Buy them at these locations.

Jolene’s Jar: website | where to buy | facebook

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And if you’re looking for a vegan + organic Christmas dinner but want someone else to do all the work, call on Chef Wendy! She’s taking orders for Christmas dinner through this Saturday, Dec. 21st.

balasiaxmasdinner

Chef Wendy of Balasia/The Honey Underground: facebook

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Note: I debated writing this list because, as mentioned at the top, there are so many wonderful businesses in the Lehigh Valley and I’d never want anyone to feel snubbed! A huge part of my work is advocating community involvement and small business support.  

I started to feel like I was four years old again, in bed and anxious to say goodnight to my stuffed platypus, because then I’d have to get out of bed and kiss + say goodnight to every other stuffed animal (there were a LOT) so none would feel left out.  Then you grow up and become an adult with mild OCD!

Lists can sometimes feel like that. 

My column in Lehigh Valley Style (coming in 2014!) will include not only recipes, but a deeper exploration of the people and places that create the vibrancy + community of the Valley.  Love and respect to small businesses and their owners, working hard every day to make me proud to call this place my home. xo