Pennsylvania Recap

As promised, I wanted to offer a little recap of my recent trip to Pennsylvania. I combined teaching a Reiki Level 1 Certification Class with visiting my parents, sister, nephews, friends, clients and students — all in my hometown, Bethlehem, PA and the surrounding Lehigh Valley and Blue Mountain area. The last time I visited PA was for my 101-year-old Grandma Van’s funeral back in April 2013. Given that my aunt, cousin and her children were all watching my uncle run the Boston Marathon the day prior to the funeral (yes, that Boston Marathon) and my having to creatively use texts, prayer, intuition, and relay calls among various uncles and my cousin in order to reunite the traumatized and separated family members, while getting the situation under control before telling my cancer-ridden and very stressed out father, this trip proved far more relaxing and enjoyable!

I haven’t visited the Lehigh Valley during Summer since 2006, and I was continually struck by how beautiful the trees looked! I don’t have any photos to do them justice, but the landscaping in so many areas has really grown up in nine years. I loved all the different shades of green, combined with blue spruce and all sorts of purple leafing trees. The effect constantly stunned me, and even my Reiki students commented on how beautiful and unusual the trees were. On my return flights, I made a point to gaze at the ground beneath, as well as on the drive home from South Bend, and we don’t have anywhere near that delightful variety of color play. I always knew I grew up in a pretty area, rich in woods; however, coming from flatland, this trip really highlighted all the rolling hills and diversity of trees. Simply gorgeous!

My mom and I spent an afternoon walking around downtown Bethlehem, and I took her out to lunch at a French Bistro that offered gluten free crepes. I managed to get a veggie combo with goat cheese, tomatoes and kale, and it was truly delicious and satisfying. I wondered if the non-raw goat cheese would bother me, but I did fine with that little bit. Here you can see a view of the Christmas City with its brick sidewalks and quaint shops:

downtown bethlehem

Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Historic Hotel Bethlehem has been there practically forever, facing Main Street and with its back towards a very old area of partial ruins and the site of Crafts Along the Monocacy, an event I participated in as a child, making homemade sarsparilla and other crafts, fully decked out in old Moravian clothes, handmade by my mom. During August, this area transforms into Musikfest, and in late September, there’s the Celtic Classic, which features Highland games, bagpiping and all things Celtic. I grew up with Donegal Square, historic buildings and Moravian stars. My first boyfriend was a bagpiper, and our high school had a full on bagpipe corps. It always feels good to return to my roots.

I was happy to see that South Side Bethlehem has continued its long term revitalization. My mom has worked at Lehigh University for decades, so I’ve always spent some time on the South Side. When I was growing up, though, the South Side was rough, highly impoverished and not a good place to hang out after dark. Over the decades, local artists, restauranteurs, farmers, Lehigh University, Rodale and others have nurtured a strong arts community, including Zoellner Arts Center, where my mom frequently ushers at any concerts or performances she’d love to see and hear. Rodale (a local company of organic gardening fame) recently sponsored a complete revamp of old train tracks into an educational promenade complete with a wildflower garden, a Boys and Girls Club learning garden, and fruit trees along the path.

Great herons welcome visitors to the native plants area:

herons and wildflowers

Below, you can see some of the raised beds for the Boys and Girls Club, along with a sneak peak of my mama:

raised beds with Mom


Bethlehem also boasts a nationally famous vegan bakery, which oddly enough, I’d never been to until this trip.

vegan treats

Apparently, the sweets at Vegan Treats are so good that one of my aunts routinely has them shipped to her all the way in Orlando, Florida! Well, this trip, we made a point to get me there, and it did not disappoint! The bottom three shelves are not only vegan but also gluten free:


I wasn’t too hungry after my veggie crepes, but I managed to choke down a gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie. Um … yum!!!!!!

Also on the week’s agenda: blueberry picking with my sister, nephew and my sister’s boyfriend at the boyfriend’s parent’s house/homestead in the Blue Mountains. I was so busy harvesting that I forgot to take photos, but the blueberries were as awesome as the rest of his dad’s immaculate garden. Erica’s boyfriend told me that his family never bought any vegetables his entire childhood. Looking at the variety and volume of fruits, nuts, and veggies, I believe him!

Other than visiting family, my official reason for this trip was to teach a Reiki Level 1 Certification Class hosted by my sister. It was so great to meet long distance clients turned in person students. My dear friend Pamela, whom I trained in Reiki back in 2002 in Santa Fe and also lived near during my 2007 stint in beautiful Monterey, CA, recently moved to the Philadelphia area. She drove up for the day to audit the class, since I let anyone audit up to the level they’ve attended with me (space permitting). It was a wonderful class, but blog reader Mel Condit provided a major highlight by generously offering to cater the class with gluten free, sugar free vegan food. He joined us for lunch, and we all enjoyed tales of his local farming friends, adventures in 1970’s India, and his recipe ideas. Oh, and the food rocked!

watermelon gazpacho and fermented veggies

watermelon gazpacho and fermented veggies

In addition to the watermelon gazpacho and homemade fermented veggies shown above, the feast included vegan sushi with locally made organic tofu, a kale salad with fermented cashew creamy dressing, quinoa tabouli, pickled ginger, fresh veggies, and a delicious nut based veggie dip. OMG, we were in heaven!


One student also brought farm fresh organic apricots harvested just before class, which my sister and I distributed amongst her family and my dad, who particularly loves apricots. All in all, it was a delicious, nurturing and highly, highly energized class!

Sunday meant flying back to Indiana after a whirlwind week. I did manage to help my dad mulch some landscaping areas and had enough downtime to read a great Druid novel timely gifted by my sweet friend Mitch. “Priestess of the Forest” provided extra magical perspective and lore amidst all those gorgeous trees, somehow quite fitting to the entire trip. I’m now back in Goshen with a busy week, culminating in a Reiki Level 2 Certification Class here in our home. If all the repairs and painting remain on schedule, this might be the last class hosted in our home instead of the new classroom/office space. That’s very exciting, especially since I only have space for one more student in Friday’s class. I’ll appreciate the larger, dedicated capacity when that all comes into being.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by manyhahama1955 on July 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    OMGoddess! Your first paragraph was quite a mouthful! ALOT going on there. Glad you had a good trip visiting friends and family…sounded wonderful. Wish I had your energy…you are like a little whirlwind. I am dealing with aging parents and dying kitty and a grumpy partner. May things shift soon! : ) Thanks for sharing your journey. You are a bright light in this world. Love Love Love!!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Posted by Sherry on July 22, 2015 at 12:55 am

    lovely, thank you

    Liked by 1 person


  3. What a great tour of Bethlehem, PA, Laura. It sounds like it was a nice trip and visit, and yes, the food sounds and looks delicious (yum)! Thanks for sharing it with us. Love, Jamie

    Liked by 1 person


    • You’re welcome, Jamie. I was thinking it’s maybe not too far from you? I’m not sure since I think you moved, but maybe we could meet up next time I’m in Penn’s Woods. 🙂 Love, Laura



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