It never ceases to amaze me how folks in the West Friendship area have access to so many cultural activities within just minutes of home. As much as our area prides itself in its original rural and agricultural roots, in recent years, this area has been flush in arts, entertainment, historic preservation, culinary excellence, antiques, garden conservancy and an abundance of volunteer, civic, religious and community spirit opportunities.

Each week there is usually some sort of group highlighting the best of their organization and opening the doors for the public to enjoy the riches of the activity at the Howard County fairgrounds. Local artists and authors such as Shyami Codippily and Ellen Nibali, regularly host book signings or artist gallery openings while the genius potters of Green Bridge Pottery work away at the potters wheel in preparation for weekend studio offerings.

Local farms provide the best quality produce like the gems currently offered at Jenny's Market on Ivory Road. Where else could one drive just five minutes to retrieve seedless watermelon amidst the shade of the old trees at Jenny's. Only in West Friendship.

Similarly, the handmade fragrant soaps and sachets which come out of the vats at West Friendship's Breezy Willow Farm, can only be described as the best in the universe. It is my firm belief that R.J.Caulder's soap products might possibly approximate the scent of heaven. If someone in the neighborhood is searching for delicious food, the choices in our area are enormous. Ten Oaks Tavern, Bistro Blanc, Smokin' Hot, Pasta Blitz, Casual Gourmet and even Subway. How lucky all of these are so close by.

As for entertainment, there is rarely a week that goes by during the academic year, when one of our local schools is not producing a top-rate choral concert, stage play, musical production, strings concert or evening of jazz. The Rep Stage at Howard Community College always boasts a creative lineup for the season. All just a stone's throw away.

As for history, the Ellicott City Historical Society Museum offers tours, lectures and exhibits. The Howard County Conservancy is a local oasis of natural beauty and offers free educational activities on a weekly basis. Additionally, locals can enjoy the myriad of activities hosted by West Friendship's own Antique Farm Machinery Club at the Farm Heritage Museum.

Joel Goodman, founder of the Celestial Searchers Astronomers Club, has been invited to present the Planetarium Show during the premier "Friends Barbeque" at the brand new James and Anne Robinson Nature Center on Cedar Lane. The event which is being held Aug. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. will feature the bluegrass music of guitarist Daniel Caton, children's activities, the planetarium shows, hosted by our own "Star Doc" Goodman and barbeque on the patio. Guests will enjoy a sneak peek at the nature center exhibits.

Cost for the fund raiser is $50 for adults. Registration is required. If you are interested in learning more about the nature center or in making a reservation for this event, call 240-755-0124 e-mail friends@robinsonfoundation.org or go to http://www.robinsonfoundation.org/support .

The Shrine of St. Anthony on Folly Quarter Road is not only an aesthetic wonder in our community in its aged architecture and traditional gardens, but also a center of uplifting and educational lectures and services. All open to the community and all in our own backyard.

Next up at the Shrine is internationally known conference speaker and television and radio personality, Father Leo Patalinghug, who will host a lecture Saturday, Aug. 20 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Father Leo will speak on media and the family. He is best known nationally for his appearance on the Food Network in which he defeated a world-famous chef during an episode of "Throw Down with Bobby Flay."

Aside his culinary expertise and martial arts prowess, Fr. Leo is inspirational when it comes to the topic of family, meals and blessings which will bind a family. The lecture is free of charge. The Shrine of St. Anthony is at 12290 Folly Quarter Road.

Welcome home to Scott, Shyami and Taylor Murphy who recently visited Cape Canaveral, Fla. This trip was particularly meaningful for the Murphy family on several counts. Scott Murphy was part of the team which was involved in the design and construction of a magnetometer which will measure the magnetic field on the planet Jupiter. The Murphy's observed the launch of the rocket of the Jupiter Mission during early August. Joining the family was Scott Murphy's 80-year-old father. A stirring moment indeed, "with three generations of Murphy men in one spot," Shyami Murphy said.

Whether it was the Murphy family returning from the south, the Doran family returning from the National Parks out west or the Boos family returning from a rough and ready sailing adventure in the Bahamas, all agreed, "There is no place like West Friendship."

Auditions for the famed Columbia Pro Cantare chorus are on. If you would like to join this stellar chorus, call 410-730-8549 or 410-799-9321 or go to http://www.procantare.org for information about the chorus and the audition procedure. Rehearsals begin on Sept. 7 and are held every Tuesday evening, 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Hammond High School, in Columbia.

You have one last chance to help fill the back to school supply bin at Curves of Glenelg. Suzy Hill is still accepting donations to the back-to-school supplies drive at the Ten Oaks Shopping Center location. If you would like to donate a new back to school supply, drop it off at the Curves at 3900 Ten Oaks Road just a few doors down from the Glenelg Post Office. Suzy and the gang at Curves spend the whole year in gathering goods for those in need. Donations will be accepted through Friday, Aug. 19.

Mark your calendar for Aug. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. when the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church monthly dinner hosted by Smokin' Hot Catering will welcome the community for a feast. Brett Arnold and the team from Smokin' Hot donate all food for this dinner which will benefit one of St. Andrew's Sunday school programs.

Questions on the menu? Call Lynne Quinn at 410-442-5445. St. Andrew's is at 2892 Route 97, in Glenwood.