How the Grinch Stole Black Friday

Not only does the Grinch threaten to interfere with Christmas, now he wants to ruin the most popular shopping day of the year, Black Friday.

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Gone are the days of perusing a pile of newspaper circulars on Thanksgiving, cultivating a battle plan based on the retailer who opened first, had the best early bird giveaway, or had the sought after item in stock.

My mom and I would venture out before dawn on Friday, usually in layers for the inevitable cold. After a mandatory stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a sugary breakfast, we would park at the first store and either wait in the car’s warmth, or stand in line if one had already formed. Back then you would compare start times with other shoppers, and being somewhere when it opened meant you were hardcore.

All that has changed. The corporate grinches have eliminated the magic that was Black Friday, by opening stores on Thanksgiving. Before the pumpkin pie is digested, you can get a jump start on your holiday shopping. This recent development has taken the fun out of Black Friday.

I will still venture out this Friday as planned, but it will feel like any other day. Thanksgiving Day shoppers burdened with unwieldy packages will pass me as they exit the stores, their day of purchasing at an end while mine just begins. I will pine for Black Fridays past, when it was a fun adventure without the fear of being trampled or pepper sprayed. If anything hits the fan at a particular retailer, I already know where they sell the machetes. Happy shopping!

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Grim Philly Twilight Tours – Cemetery, Serial Killers; Blood & Beer

If you are visiting Philadelphia and want to explore the darker, seedier side of the city’s history, look no further than the offerings of Grim Philly Twilight Tours. Founded by Professor Joe Wojie, each tour examines history not found in school textbooks.

I took the Cemetery, Serial Killers; Blood & Beer tour on a chilly November afternoon. This is a walking tour which lasts over two hours. Our guide Ted was energetic about the material, very knowledgeable on the subject matter, and handsome. (One reason why I married him).

Ted the Tour Guide

Ted the Tour Guide

Ted spoke about five local serial killers, H.H. Holmes, Gary Heidnik, Marie Noe, the Frankford Slasher, and corpse collector Harrison “Marty” Graham. I won’t go into details on the magnitude of their depravity. Take the tour and prepare to be fascinated by the local infamous characters.

We also stopped at Elfreth’s Alley, which is the oldest continually inhabited street in British North America. A very beautiful, historical road, it also has grim elements to its story.

Elfreth's  Alley

Elfreth’s Alley

When we explored the Christ Church Burial Ground, Ted turned us over to Bob, a guide with knowledge of the cemetery. He spoke about two notable physicians of the time, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Dr. Philip Syng Physick. Before exiting, we paid our respects to the grave of Benjamin Franklin.

Christ Church Burial Ground

Christ Church Burial Ground

When we stopped at Christ Church, Neil took the reins with an intense talk about the church’s history. The church is beautiful and worth checking out.

The final stop of the tour was 4 Fathers, a tavern located on Market Street. This is where the beer comes in. Patrons who take the tour are entitled to one free beer, and can purchase pub fare to compliment the ale. I recommend the cheese fries.

4 Fathers

4 Fathers

If you want to take a tour that delves into  the uncensored, unsavory side of Philadelphia history, and is not suitable for children, Grim Philly offers just the thing. For more information on their other tours, or to make a reservation, click here.

Coffee & Tea Festival

I attended the Coffee & Tea Festival held at the Pennsylvania Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania. My first sample was Mexican hot chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. The chocolate was made in the traditional way, using a wooden whisk called a molinillo, for demonstration purposes. I purchased a bag of the decadent powder mix to make at home.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate

A Canadian woman was selling coffee and tea themed jewelry. I picked up a pair of silver coffee bean earrings and a charm to match. I couldn’t resist a latte cup charm as well.

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I sampled Aloha Tea from Great Big Teas. It was delicious, so I picked up some loose leaves. Being a coffee drinker, the vendor didn’t laugh at me when I asked her what to do with the leaves. She was very patient in explaining the process, and even gave me a complimentary thing to put the leaves in for steeping. I learned that the said “thing” is called an infuser.

Great Big Teas

Great Big Teas

I bought coconut tea and compressed snack nuts before leaving. The show was enjoyable, but the event name was a misnomer, as tea vendors outnumbered the coffee purveyors. I doubt I will be a tea convert, but at least I have some to try.

Pennsylvania Expo Center at Oaks

Pennsylvania Expo Center at Oaks

Valley of Fear

I never heard of Valley of Fear. How did I not know about this little gem tucked away in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, now in its 25th year of operation? Someone told me about their 80’s horror icon night. For one night only, their hayride sets were changed to resemble the stomping grounds of killers past. Always a slasher fan, I gave up previous plans that night to shoot zombies at a different venue.

I have never been on a hayride where you sit on the edge of the wagon, legs dangling in front of you. On most hayrides your back is to the action. This different configuration gives you a front row seat to the show, forcing you to face your fears.

I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning when I saw the sign for Camp Crystal Lake. The actor playing Jason Voorhees was huge, and he “killed” a few campers before turning his rage on the hayride patrons.

Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and even Chucky disposed of their victims with equal enthusiasm. Michael Myers added his trademark head tilt after dispatching one person caught in the woods, which elicited a squeal of approval from me. Such attention to detail! John Carpenter would be proud. Of course, I found myself cheering for the bad guys. When it was all over, like other people with roller coasters, I wanted to ride the hayride again. If I weren’t short on time and money, I would have done just that.

If the horror icons return next year, I will be the first in line with time to spare and enough money to ride the wagon at least twice. Valley of Fear offers three other attractions which include Scarytales, Zombie Escape Maze, and Operation Z Zombie Paintball Hunt.

Attraction Entrance

Attraction Entrance