Category Archives: Lifestyle

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Holiday Gift Guide

By Kelly Kempf

Gift giving can feel great, but gift shopping is another story. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day it feels like the holidays never end. Don’t get your mistletoe branches in a twist this year. We have some simple and creative ways to get your holiday gifts done and dusted with a little twist on holiday wrapping.

If you’re looking for something for the spirits lovers in your life go for a mini oak whiskey barrel from Macy’s or Amazon. This is a great idea for whiskey nerds that want to age their booze in style. For your sippers, tasters and craft beer a cionados you can purchase a ight set. It’s the same kind you’ll see in many craft brewing locations that allows you to try a few beers off tap and not get stuck with a pint of something you won’t like. For wine loves there are whimsical and useful cork or bottle cap collectors sold at Target (and online) that allow you to pop bottles and save memories.You can nd plenty of variations from online stores as well. For those who are on the crafty side and have a large store of corks this December, look into creating a holiday themed cork wreath. All you’ll need is a hot glue gun, craft story pinecones, holly springs and ribbon and you can add this classy addition to your holiday decor.

For those who have a sports fanatic in mind, we have found a few options that may hit it out of the park. Fans who are always home on a Sunday the game might like a book on the history of their favorite NFL team. If you’re dealing with a baseball lover you could go the extra mile (and the extra dollar) for a blueprint of their favorite stadium. With a golf loving wife or husband that also loves a stiff when the green hasn’t treated them well, look no further than golf ball whiskey chillers. If they’re not into whiskey, but you still can’t seem to nd a tting golf themed gift take a look at custom golf link toppers. You can get their name, initials and phone number monogrammed so they won’t ever be fear of losing a club on the green.

You may have a travel obsessed friend, child in college or neighbor that has recently moved to a new city and is missing their hometown or favorite place. If this is the case but you can’t seem to think of a good gift for them you’re in luck. There are companies that have created great products for your giftees. Businesses like The Uncommon Green make an assortment of drinking glasses, slate plaques and cutting boards that can be adored with city maps, states and international spots. In the same vein there are jewelers like Talia Sari who take the city maps and create necklaces, rings and broaches. So, whether it’s the city they have moved from, a new state or country you can give a gift that allows them to appreciate their new surroundings or daydream about their old ones.

If you like the idea of jewelry, hand-crafted arts or handmade products be sure to look locally and you’re guaranteed to nd some gems. Buying from a local artisan who understands their craft and has a passion for their work means you’ll be supplied with quality goods that outstrip products bought from the big retailers. There are plenty of boutique shops to nd cute and cozy winter wear, creative and unique artwork or functional pieces like ceramic wear. A business called Taylor Made Polish, in Easton, Pennsylvania, has recently caught our attention. They’re a small business that is a great option for custom made nail polishes that can be made to match any out t, personality or event color palette.You can make a solo appointment, or book a small party, to mix your own pigments and be the creator of your own personalized nail colors.

Whether you’re an online shopper or prefer to nd local, handmade goods, hopefully you have a better idea of what direction you’re going to take for your gifts this holiday season. Yet, while we may have helped you brainstorm ideas that doesn’t mean you should slack on your gift wrapping. Keep yourself off the naughty list and skip the overpriced holiday wrapping. Swap those tired designs and colors for creative and memorable wraps that will have your recipient smiling before they even tear open their parcels. Whether it’s eight days of gift giving or a pile of presents for the entire family, this year allow yourself to spread your wings and tap into your creative outlets. If you don’t think you’re creative, no worries! We have a few ideas to help you get those pistons ring on all cylinders.

For a chic and fancy look, wrap your gifts in royal purple with silver ribbon bows or navy and gold ribbon so that even if the gift is a budget restricted coffee mug meant for a Secret Santa, it will look like a million bucks before it’s even opened! If you’re wrapping gifts for relatives get the kids involved, or even the dog, and work with butcher’s paper to create your own wrapping paper. Simple brown butcher’s paper can turn into some truly terri c wrapping with the help of markers, stamps and little helping hands with big creative brains. Try ink pads and puppy paws for cute prints to decorate your wrapping. You can use glue, glitter, markers, or crayons. Go wild or stay mild but it’s 100% up to you and your imagination! If brown doesn’t work with your concept, you can substitute butcher’s paper for stencil paper to give your gifts a white base color.

Paper itself isn’t completely necessary when wrapping presents. For other out-of-the-box options you could forget the box (and the paper) and instead raid your cupboards for mason jars. Fill them with the dry ingredients for a holiday cookie mix, wrap the jar with a simple bow and string on an instruction card! Leftover fabrics are a great soft-to-the-touch option and for unusual name tags, skip the card-stock normality and try tiles from an old Scrabble set. Arrange your letters, glue them vertically or horizontally on top of a ribbon and then tie to your gift. Additionally, any old atlases or maps lying around could make great wrapping for any geography or travel nerds. With smartphone apps directing us everywhere, who is really going to miss those paper directions? Now that you’re better prepared, don’t let gift panic get you this year, spread your holiday cheer!

Donate What You Don’t Need

As summer comes to a close, we pack up our swimsuits and flip-flops and pull out the sweaters and boots that were just a cold distant memory a month ago. With every seasonal transition we find ourselves swapping these items in and out of our visible closets, but when do we actually sift through them and pull out the dresses and shoes we unpack and repack every year that haven’t made it out into the sun during their 6 month wearable window. Instead of packing them away for another winter of being unworn under the bed, take the time to clear out the clutter and help those in need.

When it comes to donating clothes there are usually two questions, “Where should I donate” and “Can I get money for these?”. There are plenty of places that would be more than happy to accept your donations although it’s important to check their online guidelines before dropping off anything or scheduling a pickup to make sure what you’re donating is appropriate for the charity. As a rule of thumb, while sifting through piles of old t-shirts and items that just aren’t for you; Look for clothing that still remains intact. If it’s missing buttons, ripped (but not intentionally), fray- ing, stained or just severely outdated put it in a separate pile.

There’s nothing better than a little “getting back” with your “giving back”.

While brainstorming places to take your donations there are a few “oldie-but-goodies” that may come to mind like The Salvation Army and Goodwill. Both are excellent choices. If you’re concerned about tax-deductions, The Salvation Army’s website has a comprehensive list of cloth- ing and its estimated taxable worth on their website. Goodwill on the other hand has a great drop-down list on their site that allows you to enter the belongings you wish to donate and details how those donations will positively impact lives of those they help. Regardless of which avenue you might decide upon you should always get a receipt for your donations because there’s nothing better than a little “getting back” with your “giving back”.

If you’re a woman with office attire that you won’t wear next season, you can consider donating to Dress for Success. With locations throughout Pennsylvania, Dress for Success has a goal to provide women the condense to interview for employment and remain employed. DFS Clients receive one suit for a job interview and can return for a second suit or separates when they find employment. More information can be found on their website.

It’s always best to call ahead and ensure they take used clothing donations.

If you like the idea of Dress for Success but would like a place that accepts men’s work attire, look no further than Career Wardrobe in Philadelphia. They not only give job seekers the ability to show a presentable and professional appearance at interviews; they also offer education courses to help men and women become more knowledgeable on applying for jobs and retaining employment.

Easton’s Salvation Army profits are used to supply food for feeding the homeless breakfast and lunch daily.

While you may feel inclined to donate to your local women’s and children’s or men’s shelters, it’s always best to call ahead and ensure they take used clothing donations. For example, a quick call to Third Street Alliance for Women and Children of Easton resulted in a helpful talk with a receptionist. She informed me that while they don’t accept used clothing due to storage concerns, they personally suggest donating to the Salvation Army. Easton’s Salvation Army profits are used to supply food for feeding the homeless breakfast and lunch daily.

Additionally, if you’re in the Philadelphia area and in need of a place for gently used children’s clothing consider Cradles to Crayons. They have a comprehensive list of accepted donations on their website which include other items such as diaper bags, baby carriers and bibs. Similarly, Pregnancy Resource Center of the Poconos takes baby clothing donations and gently used maternity clothing. If those aren’t near you then Life Choices in Phillipsburg, New Jersey (just outside Easton and closer to our New Jersey readers) accepts the same types of items.

Making a contribution that helps your local community may have more benefit than the risk of your good intentions being boxed and placed aside.

You may be wondering why there wasn’t mention of donating to disaster relief funds such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Multiple news reports have shown that the most useful and resourceful contributions during disasters such as these are monetary donations. Unfortunately, relief organizations end up with entire warehouses filled with clothing, blankets and toys that do not meet their specific relief needs. Those who work to organize and distribute donations are over- whelmed by the sheer amount of items received and while the gesture is undeniably appreciated, it unfortunately slows down the relief process significantly. Making a contribution that helps your local community may have more benefit than the risk of your good intentions being boxed and placed aside. All donations efforts are great but research prior to execution is a wonderful place to start and with finishing this article you’re already a step ahead!


A New Place to Travel

Picking a place to vacation can be stressful. Ironic, right? There’s so many options, literally anywhere in the world, and somehow we always find ourselves falling into a pattern of frequently traveled to locations. In the beginning of the summer, you start to see an in flux of vacation photos across social media and the most common question asked during small talk is,“Are you going anywhere this summer?”.

Where to visit and when to go? That’s a good place to start, but possibly the hardest part. Living in Pennsylvania, the summers are great because there are plenty of beaches an hour or so away that you can turn into a day trip or full vacation. Summers are also a popular time to travel, especially with kids, so any destination city will be packed with people from all over with the same idea as you.

It’s become especially popular over the last few years since they started filming Game of Thrones in the town of Dubrovnik.

This year we waited until schools were back in session to take a trip to a place that wasn’t on my radar until recently- Croatia. Some people are knowledgeable of Croatia as a vacation spot for the last decade, but it’s become especially popular over the last few years since they started filming Game of Thrones in the town of Dubrovnik. It’s still nowhere near as well known as Italy, Spain, France or Greece, but give it a few years and you’ll know at least one person who’s visited.

I knew we needed a mixture of historical sites for him, and beach time for me so we decided on Dubrovnik and Zagreb.

Croatia has a long coastline filled with tall cliffs and terracotta rooftops, multiple islands with beautiful beaches, and great historical sites to get your x of European culture and history. When breaking down where to visit in Croatia, there are three popular cities. The first two, Dubrovnik and Split on the coast and third, Zagreb which is their capital city. Based on what you want to get out of your vacation, each place has its unique benefits. When deciding where we were going to visit, I knew we needed a mixture of historical sites for him, and beach time for me so we decided on Dubrovnik and Zagreb.

There was so much to do and see in both cities, that 4 days each was barely enough. Inside Dubrovnik, you have the walls that wrap around the old town.You can spend days trying to cover and see each alleyway filled with different cafes, shops, and bars. Live music fills the streets and it’s almost impossible to pick which restaurant looks best. We ate at a ton of small places inside the walls but two really stuck out in terms of food, service and views; Dubrovnik 360 and Nautika. If I had to choose, I would say the food was better at Dubrovnik 360, but the overall experience was more memorable at Nautika. The night was made by the incredible views of the sea and walls, my drink coming out on rose pedals under a bird cage, each course being paired with a different olive oil native to a place in Croatia, and to the server being the incredibly knowledgeable about every meal, cocktail and wine on the menu. If you’ve got the time, I defiantly recommend visiting both restaurants.

If you’re looking for the best view in town, take the cable car up to the mountain top and watch the sun set over the city.

When you’re ready to relax, you can enjoy one of the many beaches in Dubrovnik or take a boat ride to any of the nearby island beaches.You can also take day trips to see the bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, an awesome way to add two more countries to your trip. We stayed at a hotel ten minutes from Old Town named Neptun that had a great rock beach perfect for watching the sunset. If you’re looking for the best view in town, take the cable car up to the mountain top, or an Uber to save a few bucks and skip the line, and walk out on to the mountain top and watch the sun set over the city.

When you leave the coastline and head for the capital, you won’t believe how clean and colorful the city is. Take a day to walk around and explore.You’ll want to see the Dolac Market, Ban Jelacie Square, shop on Illiac Street, eat on Tkalciceva, visit the Zagreb Cathedral, and ask the locals what festivals are going on nearby.

We chose to spend one afternoon in a cooking class learning how to make some traditional Croatian cuisine. Our instructor was great and taught us how to properly prepare everything from dicing up an onion to cutting the head and scales off a fish. The class ended with learning how to make delicious fritters with skuta that were so easy and so good I’ve pulled the recipe for you.

Add another stamp in your passport and head to Bled in Slovenia for the day.

Once you’ve done everything on your list in the city, you can take a day trip to see one of the most photographed places in Croatia, the Plitvice Lakes National Park, or add another stamp in your passport and head to Bled in Slovenia. Both places will not disappoint. If you visit during the busier months, I suggest booking a private tour so you can do everything on your own schedule and spend as much time as you need in each location to make the most out of your vacation!

If you’re looking for something different don’t worry, there almost 200 other countries out there and I’m sure one of them will be a great t and an amazing new experience. Keep exploring and let us know if you’ve found your own hidden gem worth sharing!

Fritters with Skuta 


50 g (1.75 oz.) raisins
3 tbsp. of prošek (Dalmatian dessert wine) 300 g (10.5 oz.) skuta (ricotta)
50 g (1.75 oz.) sugar
2 eggs
1 orange
1 lemon
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
100 g (3.5 oz.) soft our
Frying oil 

Soak the raisins in prošek. Mix the skuta (ricotta), sugar, eggs, cinnamon and grated lemon rinds of lemon and orange. Gradually add sieved our to the mix. In the end add raisins with prošek. 

Heat up the frying oil well. Use two spoons to put the dough in oil. Turn them during frying to get an even color. Remove the fried fritters with a slotted spoon and put on absorbent paper to remove the excess grease. 



The Meaning of Things


The way that those handsome Billykirk bags only seem to get better with age, that’s not by accident. That’s the sweet spot that Chris Bray, one of the two brothers behind the brand, has been chasing after his entire life. Here, he invites us into his New Hope home for a glimpse of his countless points of inspiration.

By Scott Edwards
Photography by Josh DeHonney

Bray, pictured with his family at their New Hope home. Above and below, some of his collections.

The large rooms and modest décor give the 18th-century New Hope home a lived-in, English manor feel. Chris and Tracy Bray moved their young family here from Jersey City, New Jersey, a few years back for the schools and, as Chris describes it, a “little bit of land.”

In the tiny plot behind their brownstone, he managed to nurture a rather robust garden. “I had plants that had, like, 250 different habaneros,” he says. And, “I was probably one of the only people that had chickens in my backyard.” Also safe to say: His rooster was not popular around his block.

Chris has spent almost all of his adult life in major northern and western cities, but he exudes an easy charm that stems from his Tennessee roots. He’s animated at turns, but he’s never rushing. A formal interview with him almost immediately becomes an organic conversation.

He and his brother, Kirk, founded the leather and canvas goods company Billykirk 17 years ago in Los Angeles. A little over a decade ago, they moved it east. And today, they maintain a studio in Jersey City, a flagship store in Lower Manhattan and a presence in fashionable boutiques around the world. This month, they’re launching a new line with J.Crew, a longtime partner. Billykirk is a brand that’s become synonymous with boundless utility, old-school craftsmanship and aging handsomely. And in those same ways, it’s also become a pure extension of Chris.

Losing ground

“This, right here, was found in our backyard in Jersey City,” Chris says, as he deposits the object in question in my cupped hands.

Is this a cannonball?

“Yeah. That’s Revolutionary War right there,” he says.

It weighs 12 pounds, but it feels heavier. Chris consulted a historian who told him that Communipaw Cove, which no longer exists, teemed with British gunboats during the war, and their yard was well within the range of their canons.

“He said there’s a good chance that it hit our backyard and it stayed there until now, because it was deep,” Chris says. “He also said, when they were leveling out the land, there’s a chance that it was dug up and planted there. I like the first story.”

He restores the cannonball to the mantel over a large fireplace in the more formal of two living rooms. Chris is a guy consumed with stuff, but not in the manner of a collector, nor in the way of a hoarder. He’s more of a historian, because it’s the stories that he connects with. The objects, whose value he cares little about, not that there’s much of it in most cases, are merely remnants and physical cues.

He used to be much worse. Tracy’s reined him in. A personal trainer with an online supplement program called Leany Greeny in development, she shares little of his fascination with artifacts. Moving cross-country has a way of doing that. And as a Briton, she’s done that and then some.

“When she first met me, she thought I lived with my grandfather because I had pipes and smoking stands,” Chris says.

There’s still some evidence of his collections scattered around the house—the cannonball, a candid portrait of Marilyn Monroe that was taken and given to him by the revered photographer William Woodfield, whom Chris befriended toward the end of his life in LA—but most of what remains has been relegated to his third-floor office and his workshop in the basement, where he crafts small sculptures with various found objects. So we head upstairs first.

On a wall outside of his small office that faces the third-floor landing, Chris has arranged a stylish vignette that could hold down the display window at the Billykirk flagship. It’s comprised of some of his oldest Billykirk possessions—a well-worn, black watchstrap that dates back to the company’s inception, a hand-stitched leather satchel inspired by a World War II-era Belgian map bag—and some of his most prized personal ones—swatches of olive drab canvas from his uncle’s Vietnam boot bag, a Swiss medic case.

Inside the office, beside a spare desk and an old lamp and chair, there’s an enclosed, built-in closest and a slim dresser that sits between them. The closet and the dresser are crammed with loose ends.

“These are my dad’s boots … Just an old switchblade, came out of my neighbor’s place. He passed away. Again, they were throwing everything out in that house,” Chris says, taking partial inventory of the dresser’s contents.

I spot a pair of Dorothy-looking, red-sequined girls shoes in a corner. “My daughter went through a couple pairs of these,” he says. “I just kept them because she beat the hell out of them, and I just liked that.”

Earlier, in the course of a conversation that intertwined references of this stuff with his and Kirk’s ambition to turn Billykirk’s bags, belts and cardholders into the kinds of possessions that get passed down, I asked, finally, where this obsession with heirlooms comes from.

“My family’s an old, old American family,” he says. The Daniel Bray Highway, that stretch of Route 29 that runs between Stockton, NJ, and Frenchtown, NJ, it was named after a relative. “When that happens, you’ve got just this huge family that, by and large, most of them kept stuff. We keep stuff. We pass stuff down. The connection we have with stuff, it’s just important. For me, it’s just important.”

And yet, even standing among these crowded shelves and drawers, the stuff’s not as important as it once was. Since Tracy’s intervention, Chris describes himself as “sort of a minimalist.”

“I’m not gonna kill myself trying to save any of it. I just won’t. At the end of the day, I’ve sort of realized it’s just stuff,” he says. “I mean, my wife really kind of helps me remember that.”

Do your daughters (Matilda, 11, and Willa, 6) have any interest in it?

“Yeah. You know, there’s something,” Chris says. “They want to go through my junk drawers. They’re not ready, because they’ll lose stuff.”

So there’s still some value to him, more than he’s likely admitting here, considering the ease with which the stories come and the degrees to which he lights up telling them. Matilda and Willa are curious kids, even though they hardly act their ages. Matilda’s working with a former Bucks County Poet Laureate to publish her first book of poetry. And Willa, “She’s a piece of work,” Chris says. “Fiercely independent.” It’s inevitable that some of his sentimentality is likely to rub off on them, but Matilda and Willa appear to be firmly entrenched on Team Tracy.

A beautiful mind

The sculpture, Chris has been doing for a while now, “getting my mind off stuff.” From the third floor, we’ve descended many steps to reach a cave-like room in a corner of the short but sprawling basement. Chris’s collections have migrated, literally, to the extreme reaches of the home.

Relatively organized clusters of found objects are scattered across a workbench just inside the doorway. Within arm’s reach, there’s a small table, atop which sit several assembled pieces, all about the size of a fist.

“I’m just making shapes here,” he says. “Here’s a piece I just did. That’s a frog gig. This is part of a wooden loom.”

Chris retreats to the other side of the room—in order to do so, he shimmies around a massive, old nautilus machine that occupies at least two-thirds of the floor space in this room—to retrieve a weathered lobster buoy so that he can assemble a loose mock-up of a lamp he plans to create. I’m cynical until it comes together. There’s an unlikely cohesiveness in his creations, even the lobster buoy lamp.

He also powdercoats everything and anything that looks like it would be improved by being powdercoated. He picks up a little iron weight plate. “I like olive. So I powdercoated this little weight olive,” he says. “It takes sort of a weird brain to go for it. That’s sort of what makes me tick.”

You can find Billykirk (@billykirkinc) locally at The Selvedge Yard in New Hope, Modern Love in Frenchtown and Art in the Age in Old City.

Hauntings for the Timid


You like a good scare, but you’d prefer not to wet your pants. Follow us.

By Christine Olley


Halloween, like salsa, is an occasion that’s served at various intensities. Some of us may kick back with The Wizard of Oz and then call it a night. Black-and-white if we’re feeling brave (or buzzed), Technicolor if we’re alone and especially paranoid, with all those trick-or-treaters roaming around. Others may opt for a haunted hayride. Just enough of a fright to cause a spike or two of adrenaline, but never too threatening. And then there are those whose every action over the coming weeks suggests that Halloween is, in fact, the dawning of the end of times.

Our compilation of some of the coolest Halloween attractions now playing favors the mild-to-moderate side of the palate. We figured if you were seeking something hot, you weren’t going to refer to a magazine called Home + Table. Still, there are ample reasons to feel afraid. Just think more along the lines of goosebumps than night terrors.


Nassau Inn | Princeton, New Jersey

If you tend to weather your hauntings better on a full stomach, the Nassau Inn, which sits across from Princeton University, in charming Palmer Square, is offering private dinners for groups of 20 or more chased by a tour of the campus’s most notoriously haunted nooks. ($75 per person.) You’ll be armed with EMF meters, dousing rods and night-vision flashlights and fed lots of graphic stories for dessert.


The House in the Hollow | Newtown

If not for Halloween, we’d likely never realize that we’re surrounded by so many turn-of-the-century asylums and orphanages. And thanks to whichever reality TV-ghost hunter you favor, we’re all now well aware of the horrific treatment that played out within their walls. So what we have here at Malfate Manor, a.k.a. The House in the Hollow, is the perfect storm: Our own ridiculous preconceptions colliding, head-on, with lots of dark corners and costumed teenagers jumping out from them.


Waldorf Estate of FearLeighton

Imagine a haunted house where you and your friends are the attraction. That’s the idea behind Waldorf’s newest scene, the Zombie Escape Room. You’ll be offered refuge from the encroaching apocalypse and then given a half-hour to figure out the clues that’ll lead to the exit. Think “The Walking Dead,” but without the armfuls of guns. If there are enough of you—10 are admitted per turn—make a game of it. Slowest to exit buys dinner. Then align with your Type A friends.


Temple of Terror | Pottstown

The legend has it that Damon DeMonio returned home after fighting in the Civil War only to discover that his new wife was, um, nurturing an army of her own. He lost his head. The result was not pretty. Skip ahead 150 years: An actual freemasons lodge sits atop the plot where DeMonio’s home once stood. Strange things, reportedly, happen there, like freemasonry. Also: a three-story haunted house. But, really, freemasonry is plenty creepy enough.


Costume Dash 5K/10K | Philadelphia

When you’re moaning your way up a small hill, barely maintaining a walking pace, do you ever think, What could make this jog even better? A bulky, awkward-fitting costume? Yes! Then the Costume Dash is just the opportunity you’ve been looking for to further sabotage your fitness. And if that wasn’t already a weird enough site, there’s a pub crawl afterward. Nothing says, “You’re a man now,” to a 10-year-old like forcing him to witness Iron Man and his super friends stumble out of a bar in the middle of the afternoon.


PAFA After Dark | Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is hosting a “Stranger Things”-themed party (Will!) October 19, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., (free with museum admission; registration required) complete with pumpkin decorating (resistance is futile) and tarot card readings (find out when you’re going to die through a party game!). There’s also going to be ghost tours of the galleries, including one of Fernando Orellana’s ghost machines. It’s a site-specific installation where Orellana’s configured four robotic machines through which he’s attempting to interact with the ghost of Thomas Eakins.


Photos courtesy (from the top) Waldorf Estate of Fear; Nassau Inn; Waldorf Estate of Fear; Costume Dash

A Personal Connection, for a Change


Brandi Granett’s mastered the fickle art of nurturing grassroots support for her novels. With her latest, she’s taking a different tack: turning away from her computer and trying it in her backyard.

By Scott Edwards


It’s early 2000, and everything in Brandi Granett’s world is right. She’s fresh out of graduate school and her first book just dropped. The world is opening up before her. Until it abruptly flips upside down. Her publisher, William Morrow and Company, is bought by a larger publisher, HarperCollins, and overnight, everyone she works with is dismissed. Just that quickly, she’s alone and adrift.

“So, I didn’t want to do it again for a very long time. I walked away from it. I was saying, ‘I’ll just be a teacher,’ ” Granett says. “But then I started competitive archery on a lark.”

Her daughter was aiming to star in either the Olympics or a renaissance fair, so they scoped out a school in Lambertville, New Jersey, near their home, and the director confided in Granett, with a wink, “You know, women are better at this than men.” She was hooked from that moment. With writing and then publishing, everything Granett thought she knew deteriorated to nothing. But archery revealed itself to be surprisingly profound. The more she practiced, the further it grounded and focused her in the rest of her life, including the writing.

“There’s a coach that I admire, Jim White, out of Georgia,” she says. “And he teaches his people, relationships determine results.”

It became a kind of mantra for her as she gradually worked her way back to the thought of taking a run at writing another book. The rules are different now; the book’s only part of the pitch. “You’re expected now to have a platform,” Granett says. “If you go to a publisher and you have two Twitter followers and one of them is your dog, they don’t want to hear from you.”

So she joined a peer group called the Tall Poppy Writers, comprised of 45 women fiction writers from across the country. And she launched an author profile series for The Huffington Post, for which she’s a frequent contributor. The aim of both is one and the same: To establish a self-sustaining community. The authors, these days, who draw a marketing budget that’ll reach mainstream America could be listed in a single breath, and there’d be some air leftover. The rest are left, largely, to find their own ways. And as with all grassroots efforts today, that means social media networking. A well-placed Retweet is as valuable to these workingman writers as a New York Times endorsement.

When it came time to promote her latest novel, Triple Love Score, published last month by Wyatt-Mackenzie, Granett was inclined to make it a group affair, naturally. Over the last few months, she’s organized what’s become quite a massive book fair, for lack of a better term. In all, 45 mostly-Delaware Valley-based authors spanning a range of genres, including children and young adult, will present themselves and their books October 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Prallsville Mills, in Stockton, NJ, as part of the event Granett’s dubbed River Reads.

[divider]River Reads[/divider]

WHAT    A book fair featuring 45 mostly-local authors. Plus, crepes and a Unionville Vineyard tasting

WHEN    Sunday, Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE  Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ


“I didn’t want it to be about my book,” she says. “That sounds so—I don’t have this mysticism about, like, oh, I wrote a book, so I’m somebody special, because thousands of people, every day, hit publish on Amazon Createspace. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. But what means something is connecting people to readers and sharing books with other people.”

Some of the authors, Granett knows—a few Tall Poppies will be there—but the majority simply answered her public call. The total number of participants doesn’t even represent the true extent of the interest. It’s only where she was forced to cap them for lack of space to accommodate any more.

Spread across both floors of the mill’s main building, each writer will have his or her own display. And there will be brief readings performed every 15 minutes or so downstairs and up-, “like a little commercial blast of what they have to offer,” Granett says. Also, nearby Unionville Vineyards will be hosting a tasting and the Bonjour Creperie truck will be stationed outside.

A community, virtual and actual, is currency in modern writing. The larger the population, the more likely you are to publish another book. But it’s also become a support system for a profession that’s notoriously isolating and disorienting. For many aspiring and established writers alike, Granett included, the former is the icing, the latter, the cake. Granett expects River Reads, if nothing else, to reinforce the following: “I know that I’m not the only person that had an agent break up with her. I’m not the only person who’s struggling to find time with writing and being a mom.” And that, she says, “kind of keeps me invested in the process.”

Photos courtesy Wyatt-Mackenzie

Summer’s Parting Shots


A few of our favorite Instagram’d scenes from across Home + Table Country.

Braden Airpark, Easton: inordinate_ / instagram

Brandywine River; Peace Valley Park, Doylestown: brandywinevalley / instagram

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square: brandywinevalley / instagram


Musikfest, Bethlehem: musikfest / instagram

Padilla Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Allentown: missylynntran / instagram

Tyler State Park, Newtown: chrissybutnotinsane / instagram

Marquand Park, Princeton, New Jersey: ffolkes / instagram

Tyler State Park, Newtown: gregory_allen_kear / instagram

West Chester Growers Market, West Chester: wcgrowersmrket / instagram

10 Minutes of Hell (Plus 60 Minutes of Restraint)


Burning through fat really is this simple. But don’t infer that simple means easy.

By Todd Soura


We live in an interesting time. A lot of the long-held conventional thinking about exercise and nutrition has been debunked in rapid succession over the last several years in favor of methods that are, for the most part, more conducive to our nonstop lifestyles. Never really able to make time for those 10K training runs? Good news. Turns out that 10 minutes of sprinting are more effective anyway.

A lot of what seemed radical at first glance, like the above, now feels closer to common sense. Yet, the onslaught of so-called revolutionary workouts and diets just keeps coming. Understand that it’s a business, first and foremost, and you’ll begin to see it for what it is: an attempt to profit off of misguided information.

To show you just how simple it can be, I’m going to outline a 10-minute workout that’s designed to boost your metabolic rate long after you finish, as well as a recovery plan for the hours immediately afterward. No gym’s required. Nor is a nutritionist. If you’re cramped for time, you can do the workout and leave it at that. But if you supplement your current regimen with it, save it for last. You’re not going to have anything left in the tank. For that reason, my clients have come to refer it as the “10 Minutes of Hell.”


10 Minutes of Hell

1 minute          Kettlebell swings
2 minutes         Step-ups
30 seconds      Mountain climbers
30 seconds      Push-ups
1 minute          Jump rope


Perform the circuit twice and without rest between the exercises or the rounds, unless you absolutely have to. Aim to do the maximum amount of repetitions you can within each timeframe. If you’re not thoroughly exhausted when you finish, try the advanced version next time:

1 minute          Kettlebell swings
45 seconds      Burpees
45 seconds      Mountain climbers
45 seconds      Clapping push-ups
1 minute          jumping lunges or box jumps


Once you pull yourself together, try not to head straight for the kitchen, unless you need to grab some more water. I know. The popular thinking is to eat within 20 to 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Your metabolism’s still raging, and anything you consume is more likely to be used as fuel rather than stored at fat. That’s all true. But it neglects the other half of that equation: You stop burning fat as soon as you eat.

In other words, you just ruined yourself for 10 minutes, and now you’re going to negate those gains in a single bite. What you should do instead is abstain for the next hour. Let your body eat into its fat stores while you go shower and prep your meal. Then, reward yourself with a palm-size portion of lean protein and all the veggies you can stomach. (Note: If you’re building muscle or trying to enhance your athletic performance, a different set of guidelines apply.)


Todd Soura is the owner of the Doylestown-based Action Personal Training

Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard


Sure, you know where to eat, drink and be seen around Philly. But what do you really know about the city you call home? Irene Levy Baker and her lengthy bucket list are happy to show you around.

By Scott Edwards

Baker’s Philly field guide was 25 years in the making.

When 100 Things to Do in Philadelphia Before You Die, the latest installment in the expansive series by Reedy Press, dropped earlier this month, it was the fruition of over 25 years of near-constant research by its author, Irene Levy Baker.

See, she started working at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau a few weeks after moving to the region by way of Pittsburgh—which she arrived at by way of Durham, Richmond, Kalamazoo, Cincinnati and Youngstown. There, she was charged with showing travel writers around, most of which were likely as familiar with the city at that point as she was. Travel writers have a reputation for being a bit cynical. The constant wining and dining, it tends to feed a sense of entitlement. So whenever they displayed an unguarded interest, Baker took note. And she never really stopped.

Baker’s book hits all of the familiar pulse points—Zahav, La Colombe, World Café Live—but it also describes the means to access a Philadelphia that’s hiding in plain sight, full of nuance and character. In that way, it’s a field guide for locals even more than it is for tourists. Sure, you live here. But, at some point, that stops being a reason and becomes an excuse.


Have you done all 100 things?
No, because I’m not ready to keel over. I’m leaving one thing out just to protect my health.


What’s that?
When you read it, you can guess.


What’s the 101st item on your list?
[Laughs.] I actually wrote 105, thinking that my publisher would maybe not like one or the other.


So give me one of them.
The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, at holiday time, serves the richest, most wonderful hot chocolate you’ve ever had with a little wooden box with shot glasses full of shaved chocolate, and sprinkles, and peppermint and gingerbread that you can use to dress your hot chocolate. And you have it in that grand lobby. I had to cut that as a stand-alone piece, but I found a way to work it in with something else.


I’m giving you a theoretical day to show me around your Philly. What are we doing?
[Baker asks me to tell her a bit about myself. I grew up in the area, I tell her, went to college in Philadelphia, then lived in Old City for a couple of years.]
Let’s start with breakfast at Metropolitan Bakery. We’re going to grab it and eat it in Rittenhouse Square. Then we’re heading down to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which is an art installation by Isaiah Zagar made of broken tiles, pottery, found objects. It’s almost like you’ve walked into Oz or Hogwarts. And then we’ll walk around the neighborhood, because you’ll find his mosaics on walls all around South Street. Afterward, why don’t we go on a mural arts tour? They’ll explain to you how these murals transform a neighborhood. And the great thing about the tours is they’re divided by neighborhood, so you can do them again and again. Then, let’s have lunch at Reading Terminal Market.


I’m always on board with that.
You can never be tired of it. And then we’re going to head to the Mutter Museum. Have you ever been?


No. And I can’t think of a good reason why.
You were waiting for me to take you, obviously. If you can handle that after lunch.


Good point. But I’d rather go after lunch than before.
It is equally disturbing and amazing. We’ll see the wax mold of conjoined twins Chang and Eng [Bunker], whose autopsy was done there. We also have to see the collection of swallowed objects, which will make you cringe.


I already am.
Assuming the timing works out, let’s do an architecture tour from there. This is one of my very favorite things to do. And let’s do it in Old City, since that’s where you lived. They’re often led by retired architects. They will walk you down streets you’ve walked by every day, and they’ll point out things that you’ve never noticed before. By then it’s going to be getting dark. We’ve had a pretty packed day and you’re going to be worn out, so let’s head to Spruce Street Harbor Park. Heaven on earth. You’re going to get a beer at the beer garden and relax in one of their multicolored hammocks.


If you say so.
And then we’re going to play chess on one of the giant game boards.


I can endure all that walking knowing the day’s going to end by the water, nursing a beer.
I wish I had two or three more days to give you.

Baker will be hosting launch parties September 15, 6 p.m., at McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Center City and Sept. 22, 7 p.m., at Open Book Bookstore  in Elkins Park. She’ll also be signing copies of her book Sept. 10, 7 p.m., at Main Point Books  in Wayne. For a full schedule, go here.

Photo courtesy of Reedy Press

5 Habits of a Time-Crunched Personal Trainer


Motivation can wane even in the most die-hard among us. But some mild tweaking can refresh your focus and put you on personal-best pace.

By Todd Soura

I started following a workout regimen back in high school. I may not have had the sharpest sense of direction then, but I had plenty of time and energy to figure it out as I went. Twenty-five years later, neither is on my side. I’m a husband, a father of three and a business owner. If my resolve weakens, there are plenty of other priorities that’ll rush in to consume my attention. But a few simple practices prevent that from happening.

Target new goals
I like to do it every three months, but even once a year has a positive effect. Be creative. But, more importantly, be realistic. Run a 5K before you register for a half-marathon. Races are good options because you’re locked into them, but they’re hardly the only ones. Aim to improve your mile time or the weight you can bench press. If losing weight is your goal, focus on your hip or waist measurements, which will give you a more accurate read on your progress than your weight.

Change pace
The less of an opportunity you give your body to adapt, the more substantial your gains will be. If you can comfortably bang out a five-mile tempo run, where you average 65 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, try high-intensity intervals, which are designed to push you over 90 percent for very brief stretches. If you have access to a track, warm up then sprint 100 meters. Walk back to where you started and do it again. Aim for 10 sprints. Or, find a hill and run to the top at full-speed. Jog back down and do it again. Repeat five to 10 times, depending on the distance.

Every four to six weeks, change the pace of your weight training. Lift less weight and do more repetitions or lift more weight and do less reps. If your workouts are comprised of isolation exercises with long stretches of rest in between sets (60 seconds or more), replace them with combination moves and no rest.

Change the kind of exercise, too
There’s too much at our disposal to do the same things day in and day out. Plus, as proficient as you may be at cycling, it’s at the detriment to your upper body. Versatility bodes better for your health and fitness. Instead of riding for an hour, swing a 40-pound kettlebell as many times as you can in 20 minutes. Swap out a day of weights for a yoga class.

Eat consciously
I marvel at my wife. She can eat three M&M’s, fold up the bag and stuff it back in the drawer. If I have one, I’m going to devour the entire bag, so I avoid them altogether. Regardless of which of us you fall behind, learn to be aware of everything you eat. When you take a moment to think about it, you’ll start to detect whether you’re hungry or just bored. From there, you can seek out foods that nourish you and fill you up, rather than reaching for the shiniest wrapper.

Stare yourself down
If you find yourself routinely over-booking and, as a result, skimping on your workouts and eating poorly, something needs to change. You are not at the mercy of your iCal. There’s always a half-hour available for a quick workout, even if it means getting up earlier. And there are always healthier things to eat, even if it means packing a chopped salad for your son’s lacrosse game.

Todd Soura is the owner of the Doylestown-based Action Personal Training