Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Fieldnotes

Saint Nicholas is my favorite Saint! When December rolls around, I start celebrating! In the first week of December there is a wonderful European tradition that has reached a few small towns in West Virginia called the "Feast of St. Nicholas" where friends and families gather with their children exchanging sweets, small gifts, and stories of St. Nic himself. In Helvetia, WV their friends from Zurich, Switzerland visit and make six different kinds of Swiss traditional Christmas cookies to share and they host a class to show kids how to decorate and bake the traditional dough boy called "Gritzbanz"! St. Nic stories and history lessons are abound and we are reminded that Nicholas, won his sainthood for his generosity -- he was know to toss gold coins down the chimney to poor families and the coins would fall into the stockings that were hung by the fireplace to dry.

West Virginia is a wonderful place to explore Christmas traditions as I did in the town of Petersburg, WV. I joined the Winter Gala Train Ride on the Snowflake Express and enjoyed the festive lights at Welton Park. The volunteers served Hot Cider and Christmas Cookies. And The depot was the perfect place to find a beautiful inventory of West Virginian gifts. The event was proudly sponsored by the South Side Depot and Allegheny Power. Check out the South Side Depot in Petersburg, WV .

Heading west from Petersburg I made my way to Harman's North Fork Cabins, my home base for a few days. The 70 year old family property is located on the banks of a private trophy trout stream, on the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, in Cabins, West Virginia. Harman's North Fork Cabins line the river and was adorned with beautiful white lights and Christmas wreaths, welcoming guests for a December break to hesitate and reflect.
The mild 40 degree sunny day nudged me out on an afternoon hike on the "Top of the Rocks" trail that seem to meet the sky. The trees opened up beautiful vistas of the area farms and the long sparkling river. It was just spectacular! In the evening I sat out in my warm shearling coat, kicked back in a large over sized log chair, that slightly tilted me back, and seemed to push me up into the brilliant star-filled sky. That evening I counted four shooting stars. Do you suppose the property managers had anything to do with that magic? Harman's is magical and they make it so easy to find the area's gems incorporating so many attractions and activities. Their property is perfect for reunions, weddings, and all your family gatherings. I imagined a bride and groom standing in the sparkling stream, exchanging their vows. It is a must visit!

Traveling home through "the scenic jewel of the Potomac Highlands" the rain and fog moved in and seemed to hug the Allegheny mountain peaks. Around every slightly slippery turn the mountain side views were breathtaking. At Seneca Rocks the jagged edges glistened through the fog that was twirling around as if it could not decide where to land. At the foot of the scenic rocks I stopped at Harper's Old Country Store, a landmark since 1902, and took advantage of their perfectly positioned front porch to enjoy a snack and dream about rock climbing.

I am a traveler not a tourist and I am ready for new adventures in the New Year!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

West Virginia Artists at Work

This little jewel is somewhere in the White House in Washington, DC. This was commissioned as a gift for Michelle Obama during the November 2009 presentation of a National Youth Program Award given to The Old Brick Playhouse in Elkins, West Virginia for their apprentice program.

The image is a hand-embellished oil monotype of the Lehmann Family's shed on their farm in Helvetia, West Virginia.

The artist, Kadra Casseday says this piece "...truly feels like West Virginia. Serene. Simple. Beautiful. I am so pleased with our young threatre program and with the recognition this brings to our little town."

The artist owns The Blue Door Studio, located in Elkins, West Virginia which houses her Conrad C-25 printing press. She specializes in creating oil monotype prints and oil paintings on canvas and is currently exhibiting at Artists at Work, MainLine Books, The Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins, and The Blue House Gallery in Helvetia, West Virginia.

These next three images are from her current exhibit in the Randolph County Community Arts Center.

This first image is an oil monotype called "Uncle Eddie" and was made from a slide image found in an old box of her great uncle's belongings.
The second image is a still life study in oil on canvas of a group of tomatoes from her summer garden.

The last image is an oil monotype of the old Shoemaker's Shop in Helvetia, West Virginia.

The exhibit at the Randolph County Community Arts Center will be up until November 25th.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"One boob went to heaven so thousands didn't have to." -Betty Puskar

WV Living had the pleasure of experiencing this year's Betty Puskar Breast Cancer Fashion Show at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown. We had a blast and were happy to support a good cause. Highlights of the night included the WVU School of Fashion and Merchandising design contest as well as final words by Betty herself and Barbara Alexander McKinney. Watch the slideshow to see great designs from the New York runway by NM Sandy's Nicolas Martinez.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Generosity Knows No Borders--Building Schools in Afghanistan

Since returning home to West Virginia to launch WV LIVING, I've met some amazing people doing extraordinary things.  One of those people is Parween Mascari, an attorney at Jackson Kelly in Morgantown. I swear Parween must have super powers--not only is she one of the state's leading attorneys (just look in her car--boxes of briefs are stacked to the ceiling), she co-founded Generation Morgantown, serves on numerous boards and committees--and is the mother of four children.  Parween is also an Afghan-American born in Parkersburg. She jokingly calls herself a "halfghan."  And she is one of the proudest and vocal West Virginians I know!

Parween recently met with some Afghan judges and lawyers in D.C., who spoke about the need for chairs in Afghan schools. Chairs.  The schools have no chairs so the children stand the entire day, making learning difficult. How can a child concentrate on learning when her legs are tired and aching? And even more amazing is the fact that these schools are open air schools held under trees, which makes it difficult in even the best circumstances, but impossible in inclement weather. Parween was so moved by the experience that in response she created a company called Sultan's Daughters, and she has been selling beautiful pashmina shawls to benefit the construction and furnishing of schools in Afghanistan through the Nooristan Foundation. She has already raised enough money to build 20% of a school in a village called Pagisam. This past Friday, she held a fundraiser in conjunction with Generation Morgantown at Cafe Bacchus and raised $2,200 to further her efforts. Add VideoIt only takes $16,000 USD to get a school up and running!

I am never more proud to be a West Virginian than when I'm in the company of good people doing great things. Because it isn't easy. Inertia is a powerful thing. There are so many demands on our time, it is easy to say, "I wish I could..."  It is a different story to say, "I will do." For those of you who read the magazine, you know that my favorite quote is from Ghandi--"Be the change you wish to see in the world." And my friend Parween exemplifies that. It makes me so proud when I meet "Do-ers" that I want to scream from the top of a mountain, "LOOK at what West Virginians are doing!  We are changing the WORLD!" 

To help Parween build schools in Afghanistan, please visit or email

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WV LIVING Celebrates West Virginia's Birthday at the Nation's Capitol

WV LIVING celebrated West Virginia's birthday at the nation's capitol with the West Virginia State Society.  Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Congressmen Rahall and First Lady Gayle Manchin attended the event, which  included a Taste of West Virginia, provided by the likes of the talented Chef Dale Hawkins and The Crazy Baker, Hall Hitzer. The WV  Division of Tourism, The Greenbrier, Chesapeake Energy, WV Department of Agriculture, WV State Parks, WV Professional Rafting Organization, and WV LIVING sponsored the reception. For more information on the WV State Society, please visit

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sixty-Eighth Annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival

Established in 1936 and held in late May each year, the Strawberry Festival attracts nearly 100,000 people to Buckhannon each year. Folks enjoyed a Friday night and Saturday parade complete with floats and marching bands.

The Strawberry Festival Grand Feature Parade, is one of the largest parades in the Eastern US. First-class bands and performance groups from across America were invited to participate in the celebration activities.

The Festival is a unique, traditional celebration to promote thestrawberry harvest. Enthusiastic volunteers provided good, family style entertainment that offered exciting educational and cultural events for everyone.

Friday WV LIVING Magazine was there enjoying the sidewalk traffic and catching attention from subscribers and fans. We found Gary Bonnett and his band walking down Main Street before the Firday evening show. They particularly took interest in the newly released WV Wedding magazine as they eagerly posed for a picture.

The southern culture has a long history of producing many talented singer/songwriters who intertwine their various musical influences. West Virginia native, Gary Bonnett, pictured in the withe tee shirt, carries on that tradition. He mixes together his personal brand of southern red dirt music to include Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Southern Rock – all wrapped around lyrics that sound too insightful for someone his age. After a couple of years honing his craft and graduating from Marshall University, he started into song writing. The band played in front of lots of local and new listeners Friday evening at the street party on Main Street. Check out "The Long Road Home" on,, and itunes. "Created in WV, recorded in Texas, and enjoyed by everyone around the world."

Gary played many of his songs Friday night including West Virginians are Coming Home, Hillbilly Ways, and Rock Cave (as in his hometown in Upshur County neighboring Buckhannon). The crowds love it! Gary also announced his story released in the May 11th issue of Country Music Weekly .

Monday, May 11, 2009

G2 celebrates one year anniversary

At WV LIVING, we love G2, the hip gallery and gift shop located at the bottom of High Street in Morgantown.  Patrick and Elias have created a unique shop worthy of New York City's SoHo district. From decorative items to baby gifts to that unique present for the hard-to-buy-for friend, this shop has it all!  To help kick off their one-year celebration, You Tube sensation Chris Cendana performed, and talented jewelry designer Laura Wetzel of Cerca Jewelry was also on hand displaying her striking pieces. Congratulations!

Monday, April 27, 2009

WV Wesleyan College Performance Art in Education

The WVWC Department of Theatre and Dance presented the Danceworks XVIII and Musical Theatre Performance Recital in the new Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts on the 22nd and 23rd of April in Buckhannon, WV.

Students displayed dynamic gestures in their song, music, choreography, and dance.

Someone once said, that in some way, all art is a physical act.

The performers kept the audience focused as they seem to float on top of the stage creating magnificent images that will last in our memory for some time to come.

I will ponder the meaning and I appreciate the stimulation.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Mountain Tonic

They tell me that the ramp was used as a spring tonic. I am not sure about that but it is the first fresh green that is usually dug up directly underneath the the last snow. Most locals are eating these fresh greens in late March through April with trout, ham, beans, and cornbread.

Maggie Gain, a student in high school, already understands the cooking secrets and spends her sunny afternoon here in the community hall volunteering.

The Helvetia community comes together to clean 82 bushels of ramps for their annual "supper" sponsored by the Helvetia Farm Women. This is a wonderful place to hear all kinds of stories from days gone by and to catch up after a long winter.

For more information about Helvetia and their annual celebrations check the website at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CD Release Party - Jim Savarino

On March 7, 2009, friends and fans of folk singer and songwriter Jim Savarino gathered at the Metropolitan Art Theatre in Morgantown to celebrate his highly anticipated 3rd CD titled Sun Dreams. It seems even Mother Nature was pleased to see it released as she treated everyone in Morgantown to sunny seventy-degree weather.
Guests in attendance were delighted to be the first to hear the new songs performed. In addition to being on hand to meet and mingle with fans, Savarino performed all the songs in the order in which they are listed on the CD. During his performance, one guest was overheard saying, “It adds a whole other layer of enjoyment when you hear the songwriter explain the story behind each song, “ and I have to say, I couldn’t agree more.

Accompanying Jim on backup vocals was Laura Robison. Her melodic voice lent a rich and soulfully enchanting harmony to the poetic lyrics of each and every song.
Watching Jim, a son of Wheeling, strum his guitar and sing songs such as “Where Have the Mountains Gone,” and “Northbound (to West Virginia),” I found myself thinking that the “life is good” logo on his t-shirt must have been coined just for him. Of all the wonderful songs I heard on Saturday evening, the absolute show stealer was “Surface of the Sun, ” which lulled the entire audience into an attentive and awed silence.
To sample all the tracks of “Sun Dreams” or to order a copy, visit
--Joy Bell

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Governor Manchin's Inauguration Celebration

January 18, 2009 -- During the eve of Governor Joe Manchin’s inauguration, friends and supporters gathered at Charleston’s Clay Center for a black tie celebration honoring his election to a second term in office.  Spirits were high as guests dined on rack of lamb, raw oysters, and carved roast beef.  The popular Bobby Nicholas band kept the party going well into the evening. 
--  Joy Bell

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Morgantown Boutique Throws Holiday Party

When Shannon Coombs, owner of Vance’s Blues of Morgantown, decides to have a sale, she does more than just throw a sandwich board out in front of her shop.   She rolls out the red carpet. 

On December 15, 2008, customers of the trendy denim boutique were treated to a holiday party and accompanying sale.  Visitors were greeted at the door with a warm welcome and chilled glass of white wine.  Once inside the loft-like shop, the air was filled with an energetic buzz made up of laughter, music, and conversation as guests mingled among one another exploring the boutique’s clothing and other eclectic treasures. The first twenty guests were treated to a fragrant Tyler Candle. 

Vance’s Blues, located at 111 Walnut Street in Morgantown, is well known for their large selection of designer jeans, but that is not all you’ll find. They also stock an impressive selection of accessories, novelty items, and candles.  The lower level of the boutique houses a collection of wine from around the world and gourmet food items from Stonewall Kitchens. The next time you are in Morgantown, stop by Vance's Blues -- we guarantee you won't leave empty-handed! -- Joy Koritkowski-Bell

Thursday, January 8, 2009

WV LIVING Magazine Launch Party

Welcome to WV LIVING's Celebrations Blog where we will celebrate West Virginia's social and charitable scene! 

Of course, we have to kick off our blog with the WV LIVING launch party! On December 22, 2008, national television host Kim Parrish (right), of the Kim Parrish Collection, and Jane Engelke (left), of Elizabeth's Boutique in Parkersburg, introduced WV LIVING Magazine to Parkersburg. Publisher/Editor Nikki Bowman (center) was on hand to discuss the mission of the magazine -- West Virginia's only statewide lifestyle publication.
Kim, a former Miss West Virginia known for her years on QVC and HSN, is featured in the premiere issue of WV LIVING and has signed on with the magazine as a Style Editor for future issues.   She’ll share her knowledge of fashion acquired as she travels the world working on her signature clothing collection.  The Kim Parrish Collection is sold in the United States exclusively through the Home Shopping Network. 

For more information on WV LIVING Magazine, visit