Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire Ends on a Glorious High Note with Wonderful Weather and Revelry

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire occurred over the last 12 weekends on the grounds of the Mount Hope Estate and Winery in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The 34th season has just come to a close, and what a wonderful season it was!

This year, English Shire of Mount Hope welcomed King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine, who were seeking respite and relaxation, but amongst the merriment and revelries that were planned, much excitement happened!
Over the season of the Faire, 90 shows were performed daily on open-air stages and the village streets with music, dance, and action-packed performances from the Royal Falconer’s birds of prey, revelers singing tales of love, archery demonstrations, musicians, jugglers, the Royal Greyhounds, children’s’ rides and games, along with a Fight Circle, a Dungeon Museum, the Amazing Maze, and a brand new chessboard and stage to welcome the King and Queen all added to the thrill of the Shire.

Merchants and vendors selling unique wares- glass blown items, jewelry, pottery, clothing, swords and weaponry, specialty teas, leatherwork, and more. My favorite this year was the glassblower, as I sought a unique glass pumpkin to take home, while my handsome escort sought a cloak of finery.


We wandered through the scary, sinister dungeon, where we were availed of tales of torture of yore- not for the faint of heart! The gorgeous warm day lent a festive air as children trick or treated in the shire stores and people of all ages sported unique and daring costumes. 

The food is another reason we so enjoy the faire. My friends and family descended upon the faire and we sampled so many delicious items! Cinnamon roasted nuts, giant juicy turkey legs, sweet and dry wines, delicious soup (clam chowder!) in bread bowls, savory mac n cheese, sandwiches, sweet ice cream, and our favorite, cold pumpkin whoopee pies. After walking around, taking in a few shows, eating some goodies, we decided to take on the aMAZEing Maze- which was great fun. Twists and turns- will we ever escape? Our two youngest friends did and went atop the observer platform and helpfully shouted suggestions to go back, or go left!

After finding our way out, we headed to the final Ultimate Joust, where skilled equestrians challenged each other to hand-to-hand combat in a drama that had us on the edge of our seats! We then joined our fellow revels in saying goodbye to another spectacular season at the Renaissance Faire, and bid adieu to the King and Queen and villagers as the sun slipped behind the trees at the Finale in Song- a glorious musical extravaganza. 

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire has earned high accolades as one of the Top Five Best Renaissance Festivals in the United States, named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association and earned a 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence.

The Renaissance Faire may be over, but the fun never stops at the Shire of Mount Hope! Join us forPoe Evermore, from November 5-16 to hear dramatic and spooky tales from the man of the hour himself!


And don’t miss the Holiday Open House November 28-30from 11:00AM until 4:00PM. Offering free admission, free parking and free wine and snack sampling, this jubilee provides a magnificent start to the holiday season! Enjoy the decorated Mansion's Holiday splendor with 2015 discounted ticket sales, a special children's section, hand-crafted wares by local artisans and much more!


Beginning December 3 until the 23rdA Dickens of a Christmas will put you in a wonderfully festive holiday mood- and this year is not to be missed!

The Faire and Mansion are set amidst the splendor of the formal gardens of Mount Hope Estate & Winery, Route 72, ½ mile south of PA Turnpike Exit 266, 15 miles north of Lancaster and 14 miles east of Hershey. 

Special thanks to Candace Smith!



Monday, October 27, 2014

Pennhurst Asylum: A Haunt of Epic Proportions

A deep sense of foreboding. A sinister rustling of the breeze through the trees. 

Countless empty windows, behind which anything may be watching you. 

These are what greet you as you uneasily make your way onto the grounds of the now-defunct Pennhurst State School (originally called the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic).

Rotting buildings dominate the landscape. A ruined, abandoned playground calls to mind the troubled youngsters who may have played here, long gone.

Opened in November of 1908, Pennhurst was once heralded as a progressive treatment center for the more troubled members of our society. Completely self-sufficient, the institution boasted its own power plant, farm for growing food, and medical staff. 

Over the decades, allegations of mismanagement and cruelty to the patients doomed the facility and it eventually closed permanently in 1987. It quickly fell into disrepair and became an overgrown wilderness, its buildings decaying rapidly into shadows of their former selves.

Now, new life breathes at Pennhurst. Five years ago, Bates Motel Productions, LLC, saw an opportunity for a one-of-a-kind Halloween haunt on these grounds. partnership was formed and great sums of money was spent on renovation and safety, recruitment of actors, makeup artists, and managers, brought in state-of-the-art props, equipment and decorations, and thePennhurst Asylum was born. Now, it rivals Bates Motel as perhaps the most intense frightfest in the country, and it draws thousands of eager adrenaline junkies on each of the seven weekends per year that it opens its horrifying doors. Only open for a few more days, until November 2, it continues to scare the unsure. 

On a gloomy Saturday morning, our tour guide is Pennhurst Asylum Operations Manager Michael Majewski, Jr, who graciously offered to give us a tour of the grounds—except, of course, the operational haunt itself. For that, he says, we’ll have to come back during business hours and experience the terror for ourselves.

The slogan of the place is “The Fear is Real,” and we can believe it as we make our way first to the hospital building. We can’t go in many of the buildings, because they’re simply uninhabitable

But as we walk around the 634-acre facility, it’s easy to see why its owners saw such an opportunity for a haunted attraction. Pervading the place is a sense of restlessness, as if the spirits here still wander, searching for someone, anyone, to save them from eternal damnation.

We walk the path through the morgue drop-off center, and our unease deepens.

We ask Michael if the place is really haunted. “There are plenty of people who claim they’ve seen and heard the supernatural and paranormal.” We have no trouble believing that.

One building to which we are allowed access is called Mayflower. The owners and curator Ruth Himes have worked hard to accumulate original components from the facility and turn one of the many labyrinthine rooms into a museum exhibit, showing what an actual room at Pennhurst may have looked like. Also included are many photos from the original facility, as well as medical and therapeutic equipment. When the haunt is open, this building serves as a “Ghost Hunt,” where patrons see if there are any REAL ghosts still at Pennhurst.

As for the haunted attraction itself, there are four components: Pennhurst Asylum housed in the main administration building,the Dungeon of Lost Souls and the Tunnel of Terror, in which the extensive warren of tunnels underneath the facility are used to frighten you out of your wits, and the aforementioned Ghost Hunt. We were able to catch a short glimpse of the Tunnels—and it was enough to make our hearts skip a beat.

In a few days, we’ll be returning to Pennhurst to take in the haunted attractions, so stay tuned for our review. For today, our broad-daylight tour was enough to fill us with a deep sense of unease. It’s safe to say that Pennhurst is the perfect place for the most terrifying haunted attraction on the East Coast, if not the world.


Photographs and Article By Stephen Trimble and Christine Tarlecki

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 30, Ole Henriksen Lemon Strip Flash Peel

Fall has arrived, and with it, my itchy flaky skin. My skin was used to lots of sunlight and nice humidity. Now, the air is drier and I’m combating this once again, my Go-To is usually Argan Oil, but I need something in the interim to keep going, and putting oil on my face every other day was getting counterproductive.


Now that my skin has calmed a bit, I’m looking for a product that will assist in tighter, firmer skin.  I was at a QVC sample sale (yes again!) and I found Ole Henriksen Lemon Strip Flash Peel.


With lactic, glycolic, and fruit acids  blending nicely to exfoliate and resurface the skin, using this product once a week has done wonders. I was getting red bumps on my face that I was wondering if it was rosacea, or just a reaction to the weather. I tend to almost break out and be super dry. I swear, getting older is not fun! But luckily there are many products on the market for sensitive skin, and I’ll do my best to test and use the best one for my face.


I brushed on the clear gel with the provided brush onto my face, and proceeded to wait about 10 minutes. It does get tingly for just a moment, but it’s cooling gel and pleasant lemon scent makes it a nice experience. I do this with my bath every week, on the nights the fiancé is out and I can lounge in the tub with bath products and my face peel (as opposed to rushing in the shower at 5:30am).


After a bit, I rinsed the Lemon Strip Flash Peel off with cool clean water. The best part is that my skin looks fresh and exfoliated, and I follow up with a moisturizer right after the bath. This product has tightened up and evened out my complexion- I’m very pink and white with blond hair, so I have to be careful to not irritate my skin, especially because i rarely use foundation or powder.


I love facials at my hometown spa, but this peel gives great results when you don’t have much time or cash.

Have you tried Ole H? Do you like it?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Kevin Gatto, Verde Salon, Fall Hair Trends & Blowdry Bootcamp

#500DaysOfBeauty! Day 29!

I recently sat down with Kevin Gatto,  Stylist and Owner of Verde Salon in Collingswood, New Jersey, to discuss fall and winter hair trends and discuss his upcoming Blowdry Bootcamp on October 21.


Q: What inspired you to begin your own hair care line?

A: As a salon owner, it was becoming increasingly frustrating to see the same brands we were selling in the salon in big box stores. We wanted something special and unique for our guests that helped solve some of the hair challenges we were hearing from them.

I work with a fantastic lab in Australia and created the K. Gatto Signature Hair Care Collection. It's packaged with 100% recycled materials and bio-degradable labels and free from sulfates, parabens, ethoxylates, paragons, propylene glycol, petrochemical cleansers, silicones, phthalates, DEA and artificial colors.

Q:What is the best part / ingredient of the shampoo/ conditioner?

 A: We use Palm Kernel Oil (Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate). This ingredient demonstrates outstanding performance in cleansing, foaming, wetting, viscosity building and emulsification. 

It is an excellent surfactant for any water hardness and is biodegradable - making it a versatile ingredient in our formulation. It was specifically developed to be mild to all skin types including infants. This sulfate-free surfactant is derived naturally from palm kernel oil, which is then condensed with a mild form of naturally occurring vinegar. (Not to be confused with a sulfate).

Q: What is the Blowdry boot camp about? 

A: Many of our guests ask us how to make their hair look the way we do it in the salon. 

The Blowdry Boot Camp gives us the opportunity to teach easy, at-home techniques our guests can use to style their own hair that will be more effective, last longer and keep their hair healthy. We ask that each guest who attends the event bring their products and tools (dryer, brushes, irons, etc.) from home so we can evaluate what they are using and determine if what they are using is the best for their hair texture, type and desired look. We will be adding other boot camps to our calendar in 2015 including braiding, updo and makeup classes.  


Q: What are the trending fall and winter hairstyles and looks?

A: The LOB (Long Bob) is the hot haircut of the season. To add some glamour to the look, we are doing old-fashioned glamour, roller sets to give that old Hollywood vintage feel to it. Hair color is rich and vibrant through the winter season. 

We are seeing a trend of violet and purple tones. From all over purple blondes to mahogany brunettes, there is a hue that works for just about anyone. Balayage highlights are increasingly in demand as clients want a softer look.  

Q: What can a person do to keep his/her style fresh thru the cold snowy season?

A: Using the right at-home maintenance products such as shampoo, conditioner and styling products will keep your hair healthy. 

There is a difference between true healthy hair and hair that has a coating of silicone in it to feel healthy. Hair can also feel drier during the winter months so using a moisture-based shampoo and conditioner that is balanced  with hydration and protein will keep hair from getting static or flyaway.

I also recommend skipping a day or two between shampoos. It helps your color last longer, and you can use dry shampoo to freshen up in between washing. Regular haircuts are also important. Every 6 to 8 weeks your ends should be trimmed to keep them from splitting and making your hair susceptible to the damaging elements of winter weather. A good keratin treatment will help as well, they are not just for the summer.

Q: What's your favorite part about fall?

A: Personally, I love the cooler weather and the change in fashion and beauty trends. Fashion becomes all about the accessories and layering of different looks, and to me, hair is the ultimate accessory to change up for the season.

Thank you Kevin! 

Sign up for the BlowdryBootcamp or contact Verde for an appointment today! 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Phoenixville's PumpkinFest October 18

This has been one of the busiest Octobers on record, and with it, great fall produce and abundant sunshine.

Along with that, I love living in a small town. I feel Phoenixville is a bit like the Gilmore Girls fictional town ofStars Hollow, with the local fun and town festivals, like the Autumn Festival. We have our own version here in Phoenixville, Chester County, it’s PumpkinFest!


Pumpkin painting and carving contests, pumpkin derby, local farms and vendors, food, lives music, and games & prizes await the downtown area of Bridge and Main streets on October 18, but there’s another reason it is so excited- for the winner of the Best Pumpkin Dish will be named!


Since September 20th, when Phoenixville hosts its Restaurant Week, customers could try a dish and text their vote of their favorite pumpkin dish to the festival directors. Who will win?!


Thai L’ Elephant – Thai Pumpkin Curry with Chicken & Shrimp - a creamy spicy curry with flavorful chicken, shrimp, and vegetables and a sweet heat at the finish. 


Marly’s BYO -Pumpkin Braised Beef Lettuce Wrap with Caramelized Pumpkin & Sirachai Pumpkin Mayo - this tender, flavorful braised beef melts in your mouth, while the sirachai pumpkin mayo heats things up. The red cabbage added a nice sweet crunch. 

Pepperoncini – Bacon and Sage Pumpkin Soup- a creamy meld of pumpkin and sage, with toasted pumpkin seeds atop. 


Bistro On Bridge – Pumpkin Ribs & Apple Slaw-Delish slow-cooked ribs with pumpkin and spices, and vinegary apple slaw with some spice. 

Molly Maguire’s – Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Hash – diced pancetta over baked pumpkin and sweet potato with a fried egg on top- an interesting mixture of fall flavors, with squash chipotle soup and pumpkiny candied walnuts. 


There are two ways for the participating restaurants to win, through the best pumpkin dish by chosen as one of the judges (me and my fellow foodies) and then the people’s choice during the October 18 festival.

See you there


Special thanks to all the amazing restaurants who participated in Pumpkin fest’s Best Pumpkin Dish 2014 contest!

Nikolas at Logan Inn, New Hope, Bucks County

I’m bummed when summer is over, but I do love Fall. I have especially loved this year so far; lots of sun-drenched weekends and crisp morning with warm days.


One of my favorite places to soak up the Fall ambiance is in New Hope, PA, Bucks County. 

New Hope is a gorgeous little village on the banks of the Delaware River, across from Lambertville and full of elegance and charm. Come for the day, but try to stay the entire weekend! Bed & Breakfasts, boutique hotels, farm-to-table restaurants and shopping abound, in addition to the culture- music, shows, bands, and sightseeing.


One such place to stop and enjoy yourself while taking in the passers-by on River Road (the main drag) isLogan Inn. Situated at Ferry Street and River Road, you can stay overnight at the Logan Inn, or you can sit outside at the bar, Logan Terrace and relax, or if you are looking for more upscale dining, sit inside in the wraparound covered porch to dine at the Mediterranean-inspired Nikolas. Sample dishes from Spain, Greece, Italy, and Turkey, dining on prime meats and fresh seafood.


My fiancé and I sat indoor one such day when a storm was rolling in over the river, and then we were treated to a delightful rainbow. We relaxed immediately as our server put us at ease, and ordered glasses of white wine. We decided on the Prix Fixe four course dinner, with any appetizer or soup, and a salad, an plus the entree and that also included our dessert with coffee.


I went for the seafood soup, as I can never pass up seafood, which was light and silky with plenty of seafood to satisfy me. Stephen enjoyed the baked brie, with imported brie wrapped in phyllo dough, resting atop raspberry sauce with fruit. This was richly delicious.


We then both enjoyed the beet salad, which I can never get enough of! This inspired take on beets included candied walnuts, red and golden beets over greens with a crisp vinaigrette and goat cheese was fresh and appealing.


Our main course arrived in due time, as we were enjoying the calming ambiance and the passers-by and the rainbow over the river. I dined on Surf & Turf, and Stephen enjoyed the fish dish- a whole fish with lemon and olive oil over Swiss chard, fava puree, and spinach/rice pilaf. My lobster was sweet and juicy, and the filet mignon was cooked to perfection with mushrooms and veggies.


Dessert was a happy confection of chocolate and coffee. We had a wonderful time just relaxing over the remainder of our meal and enjoying the ambiance of the older building and watching the people go by and the river as the evening sky turned dark.


Now, Logan Inn is prepping for winter by introducing their drain the kegs card! The beer kegs ned to be emptied by winter, and they need help. They have 16 gourmet beers on tap- like, Tucher Helles, Chimay, Ommegang, Allagash,and more. Stop by the Logan Terrace bar and buy a Keg Card for just $10.  With your purchase, you'll get two drafts of your choice for free.  Then show your Keg Card whenever you stop by the Logan Terrace bar and get half off these gourmet beers. Great for Fall!



Thank you to Sharon Fast and her team at Logan Inn and Nikolas.





Address: 10 W Ferry St, New Hope, PA 18938

Phone:(215) 862-2300

Monday, October 13, 2014

Warmth and Charm in a Cup of Tea: The Talking Teacup

Steve and I were on our way to New Hope to enjoy one of our favorite places- the Inn at Bowman’s Hill. So on the way there, we stopped in Chalfont for our favorite beverage- tea!

The Talking Teacup is the cutest teashop I have ever been in. When we arrived, we walked under a flowering arbor to the entryway, full of tea ware and tea gifts, tea and books, and then into the dining room. A quiet unassuming place where we knew we could relax. In the dining room, we were seated in a cozy nook next to the fireplace. The décor is beautiful and homey, and felt quite relaxing. The Talking Teacup is housed in a 250 year-old farmhouse and has a country ambiance.

Our server was a total sweetie, explaining all the teas and munchies and brought everything out with speed and efficiency especially after I asked for more Devonshire cream!
Stephen and I each had giant chocolate chip scones with some finger sandwiches of chicken salad, egg salad, herbs and cucumber and a Waldorf spread. We also enjoyed a hearty teacup of soup. 

To drink, I had a robust English breakfast blend, while he enjoyed a fine oolong and I enjoyed a gunpowder green tea. The Harney and Sons assortment of The Talking Teacup teas is impressive, so try as many as you can! They are also available for purchase, as well as available seasonal blends.

The best part about our afternoon as speaking with Kathy, the owner of The Talking Teacup. A brilliant and charming woman, she knows business and knows her tea. More than that- she knows her customers. A smile and good food for everyone is truly a treat. Kathy told us about the history of the building and how she came to run this glorious little tea gem in Bucks County.

Kathy, along with her business partner Roberta Adam, renovated the house and property, and opened their business, The Talking Teacup, Ltd in the 250+ year old Farm House on November 1st, 2003. They turned this stately old farmhouse to a full service tea room and gift shop and are intent on serving up relaxation,  smiles and delicious cups of tea!

The Talking Teacup is a finalist on the 2014 Food & Drink: Best Kept Secret Bucks Happening List.
The Talking Teacup Tea Room and Gift Shoppe is located at 301 West Butler Ave., Chalfont PA 18914 (Old Rt 202). They accept reservations for private parties, meeting, events, parties, showers. Check website for full times and reservations.

 Photographs by Stephen Trimble. 

Special Thanks to Kathy at The Talking Teacup and Jessica Lawlor at the Bucks County Visitors Bureau.