Win it! – “A Better December”

We live in a tiny town. Itty bitty. People generally only lock their doors if they go out of town, maybe at night. Because of that, one can find little surprises on their kitchen table when they arrive home.

A Better December - Steven Estes

A Better December – Steven Estes

This little gem awaited us recently. A friend had borrowed it from our pastor and was returning it via me. When I previewed the opening lines, it read something like,

“The older I get, the more I like short books.

This is one.”

Well… It took me about 45 minutes to finish it from there. Some of it is general how-to-survive-the-holidays, some of it is heart-warming advice along the been-there-done-that lines. And then the last quarter is surprisingly deep and personal and grabs you, eye-to-eye, the whole time being honest and funny and brazen and witty.

When I returned it to our pastor last night, I asked, “Do you have a way you recommend getting a copy of that?” (As he just wrote a book, he knows avenues outside Amazon, sometimes at a discount.) “As a matter of fact, I’m giving a copy away on my blog.” Score.

This is my entry form. (One of them.) So while I’m obligated to tell you about the contest, I don’t actually want you to enter. Just go borrow the book from your pastor and read it and then go buy a copy.


Six Yellow Chairs’ Farmer’s Market


The Six Yellow Chairs’ Farmer’s Market is helping revive small town life. Usually a single stand fruit and vegetable market wouldn’t attract much attention, but in Lanse, Pa, it’s just another example of how the café and gift shop seeks to improve rural life. The white tented stand is run by a local resident, situated at the back of a café’s gravel parking lot. A prominent sign atop the tent advertises the weekly event and is visible from the main intersection in Lanse.

It used to be that no one had heard of the town of Lanse, even lifelong residents of the nearby college town of State College. But since its opening in January, Six Yellow Chairs has been earning a reputation and attracting visitors from State College, DuBois, and other larger boroughs. On this bright and brisk Saturday morning, there were only a few buyers at the market, but diners were overflowing onto the brick patio of the café across the lot.


Seasonal fruits and vegetables

Six Yellow Chairs, March 2013

Six Yellow Chairs, March 2013

Add to the attraction of the café a weekly farmer’s market in the parking lot, and local residents are prouder than ever. As nearby Donna Matsko explains, “We need businesses around.” Most of the local towns were once booming centers of business and trade, built on railroads that carried local natural resources like clay, coal, and timber. Those industries have long since died out, but many of the families stayed. Businesses that offer high quality fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are rare and much appreciated. “It’s a good thing,” says Rachel Ryen, a local resident. It improves the quality of life for people who have chosen to live around family and friends in their familiar hometown, but have given up conveniences like shopping and dining.

Offering fresh produce is a recent addition. This is its third week, and upcoming fall groceries will include pumpkins, apples, and seasonal flowers like mums, according to the seller. Dave Bennett gets his produce from local Amish farms and tries to offer a wide variety. He acknowledges that rural folks usually grow their own tomatoes, but most don’t have cabbage, melons, or onions, which were among this week’s produce.

Vendor Dave Bennet

Vendor Dave Bennet

Bennett says that Six Yellow Chairs is a local asset. “They’re doing a great business – better than they thought they’d do,” he says. It’s the only business of its kind in the area, and locals might have been shy to try something new. But the combination of its quality food, rare espresso bar, central location, and reasonable prices are hard to resist. And as the owners make additions such as the farmer’s market, it will be hard to imagine Lanse without its star attraction.