The Official Jersey Bucket List

As we all continue to wait to be paroled from Coronavirus jail, many of us are making plans of what we would like to do once we are free to go anywhere and do anything. Well, this had me start to make a “Jersey bucket list;” all the things Jersey-related someone should do at some point.

I hope you consider checking out some of these ideas once we are turned loose. Whether you are a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or someone who loves the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone.

Visit High Point: At 1,803 feet above sea level, High Point State Park is the highest spot in the state. High Point is also the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The view is simply spectacular, as you can see New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The land for High Point State Park, donated by Colonel Anthony R. and Susie Dryden Kuser, was dedicated as a park in 1923. You can hike, swim, fish, and camp.

Hike the New Jersey Section of the Appalachian Trail: While you are checking out High Point, get on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” as it is often referred to, is a non-governmental, independently managed recreation facility of the national park system and is the nation’s longest marked hiking trail at 2,180 miles. The AT runs from Maine all the way to Georgia. The New Jersey section is 74 miles long. If you are a serious hiker, many can complete the entire New Jersey section in less than a week. It can also be traversed in shorter day hikes. Hiking the Trail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

Complete the Hot Dog Trifecta: In Jersey we have opinions about EVERYTHING. Including who has the best hot dog. For many, it comes down to three: Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hirams in Fort Lee, and Hot Grill in Clifton. I know some who would argue River View East in Elmwood Park or Maui’s Dog House, North Wildwood. We certainly have a ton of great options!

Decide which is the Best Italian Hot Dog: Just like everyone has their favorite hot dog joint, there is always an argument as to who has the best Italian hot dogs. It comes down to two places: Dickie Dee’s in Newark and Jimmy Buff’s in West Orange. Try both and decide for yourself.

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Visit Sunset Beach in Cape May: This is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I could easily spend an entire day at Sunset Beach. Take the kids to play miniature golf, grab a bite to eat the The Grille, or do my favorite thing of all – dig for Cape May diamonds on the beach. The most touching moment of the day takes place as the sun sets. At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

Shop the outlets in Atlantic City: As you leave Cape May, check out the great deals at the outlets in Atlantic City. From Calvin Klein, to Coach, to Cablea’s, there’s something for every member of your family. It is definitely worth the ride!

Visit Morristown National Historical Park: One of my first dates with my now husband was a visit to Jockey Hollow. It is a great place to see “where America survived.” The entire area is known as Morristown National Historical Park and includes multiple interesting places to explore and commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Plan a Wine Tasting Event at One of Jersey’s Wineries: The Garden State is home to over 40 wineries. It’s history goes all the way back to 1758 when Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine “of acceptable quality,” meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France. While New Jersey’s wine history has experienced challenges, it is now flourishing!

Visit all of New Jersey’s Lighthouses: There are over 20 lighthouses still in existence in New Jersey and they are from the top of New Jersey to the bottom; not just down the shore. About half of those are open to the public.

Catch a Wild Brook Trout on a Dry Fly: When people talk about fly fishing they usually think of two things: Montana and the movie A River Runs Through It. What you might not know is that there’s plenty of great places to fly fish right in New Jersey. As someone who has been fly fishing for over two decades, there is nothing like catching a fish – any fish – on top water. To me, the most perfect catch is a native wild brook trout on a dry fly. For me that would be on one of four of my favorite dry flies: an Adams, a Royal Wulff, A Blue Wing Olive, or an Elk Hair Caddis. And not your standard 12 or 13 inch brook trout; a serious brookie. In case you didn’t know, the brook trout is the state’s official fish.

Go to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: One of the most beautiful churches in the state is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. At this occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a minor basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Enjoy Dinner at The Belmont: Growing up, I had two favorite restaurants: The Finish Line and The Belmont and I had favorite dishes at each place. At The Finish Line, I loved their zuppa di pesce. At The Belmont, I know many people go for Stretch’s “Famous” Chicken Savoy, but for me it was always their Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato.  I haven’t been to The Belmont in a long time, and I am way overdue.

Lemonade and a Cheese Steak at The Midway: Like many others, I have great memories of going “down the shore.” I’ve learned your shore stop has a lot to do with you age. When I was a teenager, like many others, my stop was Seaside. A favorite practice of mine was to grab a cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway, sit on one of the many benches, and people watch. It was always fascinating. Sadly, Sandy and the boardwalk fire took away the “shore of my youth” as Governor Christie put it. What hasn’t changed is the opportunity for cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway while people watching.

Visit the Pine Barrens: The Pinelands is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem, stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The reserve contains Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest. It is approximately 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties. The reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston. The Pinelands was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It is also known as the home of the legend of The Jersey Devil.

I’m sure there’s a lot I am missing. What is on your Jersey bucket list?

The Jersey Shore, the Red Knot, and the Horseshoe Crab

While we have all been under lock and key for the last two months, something amazing has been happening outside. Nature has taken over.

Air pollution has decreased dramatically in the Northeast. Nests of the Leatherback Turtles in Thailand are at their highest levels for 20 years. Ocean life has increased due to the lack of global shipping activity. And depending on what you read, there has been an increase in red knot and horseshoe crab activity off the coast of New Jersey.

A recent article on Forbes.com reports that horseshoe crab and red knot populations have stabilized during the important spawning season for the crabs and the migration period for the red knots. Meanwhile, another article, this one from the public media outlet in Philadelphia, has reported numbers of horseshoe crabs and red knots have dropped precipitously this year.

I have not been to the Jersey Shore this year, so I can’t say which is accurate. It is important to remember, however, that the red knot and the horseshoe crabs are both important parts of the New Jersey ecosystem and the two species are intertwine at the Jersey Shore.

RedKnot

A red knot at the Jersey Shore. source: NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife

In 1999, the red knot was listed as a threatened species in New Jersey under the New Jersey Threatened Species Act. As a result of the Red Knot Status Assessment in fall 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the red knot as a candidate for federal listing and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recommended listing the red knot as endangered in April 2007.

Each spring, red knots migrate from wintering areas as far south as the southern tip of South America, to breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic; 20,000 miles round trip. The red knot is one of the longest-distance migrants spending over six months of the year migrating back and forth between wintering and breeding areas.

The Delaware Bay is an essential part of the red knot’s spring migration because it is the center of the Western Hemisphere’s only population of horseshoe crabs. Horseshoe crab eggs are quickly metabolized into fat by the red knots. That fat store allows these small birds to double their body weight in approximately two or three weeks.

The Delaware Bay is the last stop before they make their way to their arctic breeding grounds. The fat they add to their body mass by filling up on the eggs of the horseshoe crabs allow red knots to survive, continue courtship, mating, and egg laying until food becomes available.  Without a sufficient fat reserve, their survival is at risk.

So if you head to the Jersey Shore and see a red knot, consider yourself lucky. If you see a horseshoe crab, make sure it isn’t on its back. What is most important is that you enjoy them from afar whenever possible and know you are witnessing a unique relationship that only happens at the Jersey Shore.

Remembering a Selfless Doctor

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread and take the lives of people we love, I want to share with you the story of someone special to me – Dr. Michael G. Giuliano. On Saturday he lost his life to COVID-19.

DrGiuliano

Dr. Michael G. Giuliano

Dr. G. was my doctor since I was 20 years old (trust me, that means it has been a long time). When my husband (then boyfriend) needed a doctor, I told him to go see Dr. G. They quickly became buddies. It was never an appointment – it was always a visit. He was available to his patients, no matter the time or the day. He treated every patient like family.

As word spread of this profound loss, patients shared stories of how he touched their family. Yesterday, a procession of police, fire, and residents passed by his office in a procession. Without fail, his wife MaryLu was at the office, continuing to help his patients, just as I’m sure he would expect. I am happy she was able to see it first-hand. I can’t imagine her feeling of loss, but I hope it gives her comfort knowing we grieve with her as a community.

At some point we’ll have to find a new family doctor. And while I’m sure the new doctor will be fine, but there will never be another Dr. G. God definitely broke the mold with him.

Rest in peace. I hope you now how many of us will miss you.

 

Eight COVID-19 NJ Resources

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to grow, New Jersey has been hit hard. Thankfully, our beloved state has started to offer a variety of services for those who have been hard hit by this virus and its subsequent economic slowdown. Additionally, private companies have been quick to offer job opportunities and other programs for our residents.

The trick when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is hard to know what information to trust. Presented here are eight resources for New Jersey residents that are fact-based.

  1. COVID-19 Information Hub: This is the first place you should go for reliable information when it comes to the response from the state. This site includes state resources for those who are out of work and testing information.
  2. New Jersey COVID-19 Dashboard: If you want to know where the hot spots are in the state, check out the Dashboard. It is a sad reminder of what is going on, but it important to stay up-to-date on what is happening in your area.
  3. NJSBA COVID-19 Resource Center: The page includes guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey Department of Education, National School Boards Association and other organizations, as well as model and sample policies developed by the NJSBA School Policy Service on subjects relevant to the current situation. It is updated regularly regarding what the schools are doing at the district level as well as across the state.
  4. COVID-19 Jobs and Hiring Portal: While many have been laid off or let go from their jobs, there are plenty of organizations that are hiring. This is an official location for companies that are looking to hire – NOW. All the information you need is right here; including companies that are hiring, jobs available, salaries, and locations.
  5. Division of Housing and Community Resources: Do you need help with your rent? Home energy assistance? This is a great starting point to see what you may qualify for and how to get started.
  6. COVID-19 Resources for Consumers: While most people in Jersey are quick to help each other get through a tough time, there are some who just don’t get it. Luckily, the Department of Consumer Affairs is available to keep all the knuckleheads in line. Were you targeted with a scam? Did you go to a small store and saw huge changes in prices for toilet paper? Contact Consumer Affairs and they will investigate the issue.
  7. Coronavirus Information for New Jersey Businesses: If you are a small business owner and need assistance, make sure to reach out to the Business.NJ.gov team. This page starts out answering some general questions and you can even start a conversation with a member of the team if you require additional help.
  8. 211: This is a great resource for just about anything related to New Jersey. While this isn’t a COVID-19-specific resource, it does offer a lot of information on a wide variety of subjects. It is definitely worth a review.

It is also worth mentioning if you are still stuck where to begin, reach out to your local politicians. Whether your district legislator in Trenton or your town mayor, it is important to remember these people work for the residents of New Jersey and are there to help you!

Hopefully this will all be over soon. In the meantime, let’s stick together and remember to #WashYourHands!

Five Tips to Surviving Coronavirus – Jersey Style

So we’ve all been hearing about the expansion of the Coronavirus around the world on a minute-by-minute basis. A lot of people are in quarantine – either by choice or government mandate; others are following curfews. We are all social distancing and every school in New Jersey has been switched to remote learning.

For the next few weeks (or longer, possibly), what are we going to do? Here are five suggestions on how to survive Coronavirus with a Jersey flair.

  1. Binge Watch: There are plenty of great Jersey movies and television shows to watch while you are cooped up in the house. Need some suggestions? How about some of my favorite shows and movies with a Jersey theme:
    1. The Sopranos (I mean, do I really need to explain this one?)
    2. Cop Land (a great movie starring Sly Stallone)
    3. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (when you need a good laugh)
    4. Eddie and the Cruisers (think Bruce in a movie)
    5. Garden State (a home-grown cult classic from Jersey’s own Zach Braff)
  2. Tick-Tock

    Coffee at the Tick Tock

    Grab a Bite: Even though we are no longer allowed to go to our favorite diner, you can still enjoy disco fries – just at home. Place an order to go bring home a hamburger deluxe or a TEC (that’s taylor ham, egg, and cheese for you non-North Jersey folks). Not only will you avoid cooking one night, you’ll be supporting small business owners in your community that need your help so they will still be there when life gets back to normal. My favorites? The Jefferson Diner in Jefferson, the Tick Tock in Clifton, and the Roxbury Diner in Roxbury.

  3. Go for a Walk: There’s going to come a point when we all need to get out for some fresh air. While some towns are closing down their parks, the Morris County Parks Commission still offers plenty of great locations to get out, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. They are keeping their website up to date with what parks are available.
  4. Turn off the News and Grab a Beer: While I appreciate the media working to keep us up to date on all the latest updates, over time it can really get on your last nerve (I know it is for me). Turn off the television and try and to get it off your mind. Enjoy a brew of the deck instead. I suggest picking up some Angry Erik.
  5. Be Jersey Tough: At the end of the day, let’s face it. There’s no one tougher than people from New Jersey. We need to put up with traffic on the Turnpike and corruption from our politicians. Not to mention all the abuse from residents of other states who think they know what New Jersey is all about. But remember, we know better. Just hang tough. It will all be over soon.

Farmland Preserved in Bedminster

This announcement was made on the New Jersey Conservation Website. The residents of New Jersey should be thankful to the ongoing work by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Lamington Conservancy. They are ensuring our open spaces are available for generations to come.

Two beautiful farmland properties along the Black River, totaling nearly 125 acres, have been permanently preserved by New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners.

“Preserving these two properties protects agriculture, water quality and Bedminster’s rural character and scenic beauty,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We’re very grateful to our many preservation partners for making this possible.”

Scully-Peretsman Farm

Robert Scully and Nancy Peretsman donated a conservation easement on 75 acres along Black River Road to Bedminster Township in December, ensuring that it will remain farmland forever. The couple wanted to make sure that the farm’s agricultural heritage and rich and productive soils were protected.

“On behalf of Bedminster Township, I extend our gratitude to Bob and Nancy for their commitment to farmland preservation and to ensuring that the rural character of the Pottersville neighborhood will be maintained for future generations,” said Mayor Larry Jacobs. “I also want to thank the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for guiding us through the process and reaching an arrangement that we are all proud of.”

The farm is located just south of Pottersville village, and includes historic red barns housing 53 Katahdin ewes. The scenic Axle Brook runs along the southern property edge, just before merging with the Black River, also known as the Lamington River.

Preserving this farm adds to a large swath of preserved land in the community. To the north and south are other large preserved farms, and to the west is a mile of preserved riverfront open space owned by Bedminster Township. To the east is the 170-acre Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, headquarters of the nonprofit Raritan Headwaters Association.

The conservation easement significantly restricts new building on the farm, but allows a small “exception area” for one house and outbuildings in the future.

Chubb Property

The second newly-preserved property, 49 acres on Rattlesnake Bridge Road, was purchased for $1.67 million from the Chubb Insurance Company. The property has river frontage on one side and Interstate 78 on another side. It is currently farmed for corn and hay.

The nonprofit Lamington Conservancy initially secured funding to purchase the development rights on the property, but the owner wanted to sell it outright. New Jersey Conservation Foundation stepped in and bought the farmland, while the Lamington Conservancy simultaneously purchased the development rights and transferred them to Somerset County. Funding was provided by the State Agriculture Development Committee, Somerset County and the New Jersey Highlands Council.

“It’s a good chunk of land,” said Bob Holtaway, president of the Lamington Conservancy and a former Bedminster mayor. “This transaction sews up the northwest corner of the Interstate 78 interchange and keeps it agricultural, so all is well.”

Holtaway noted that land on the other three corners of the Rattlesnake Bridge Road-Interstate 78 interchange were preserved earlier, so the area will never be developed.

The land was purchased for commercial development about 30 years ago by Chubb’s real estate arm, the Bellemead Development Corp.

The Chubb property is surrounded by preserved farmland and open space. It is across the street from the Buffalo Country LLC farm, also known as Red Tail Farm; and across the river from the Emmet and Whitman farms in Tewksbury Township. On the other side of I-78 is the preserved Lana Lobell horse farm and hundreds of acres of parkland owned by Somerset County.

The property is about 80 percent farmed, and more than half of its soils are “prime” or “statewide,” the two highest classifications of soil quality. The southwest portion of property is wooded and abuts the river.

“The preservation of the Chubb property is a wonderful example of the collaborative efforts we develop with other organizations in preserving property,” said New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. “The State Agriculture Development Committee and other groups are proud to have worked on this important project.”

“Farmland is a defining feature in the character of the Highlands region,” said Lisa J. Plevin, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Council. “We were pleased to work in partnership with other organizations on this preservation project that will protect abundant agricultural resources.”

“Somerset County is constantly striving to preserve important pieces of our agricultural community to ensure that this rich heritage is around for generations to come,” said Freeholder Melonie Marano, planning liaison. “We were happy to collaborate with the state, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and other partner agencies to secure this property for the benefit of our community.”

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since its inception in 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks. For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit http://www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About the Lamington Conservancy

The Lamington Conservancy is a non-profit land conservation organization created in 1999 to assist landowners in protecting and preserving their open, agricultural land in the Lamington River Valley. The Conservancy is committed to safeguarding the rural character and open countryside of this unique area. We promote farmland preservation and the protection of the area’s natural and historic resources. In conjunction with local land trusts and local and state governments, the Conservancy helps landowners select the land conservation program which best suits their needs and assists them throughout the process.

Rambling ‘Round: Respectrum Books

Like most Jersey kids, I spent many of my teenage hours at the mall. Before my friends and I could drive we would take the public bus to Willowbrook and just wander. After I had my license, I was officially set free to go whenever I wanted (almost). Whether it was sitting with a slice in the food court or going over to the arcade in the Sears wing, you could spend hours at the mall and hardly spend any money.

However, when I wanted to actually make a purchase, most of the time I would go to the stores near my home. I lived only a few blocks away from a small shopping center that had everything a teenager with only a few bucks needed. I could go to Plaza Chemist, a placed I eventually worked for a year in high school, and pick up my two local papers; The Belleville Times and The Belleville Post, I could get a cone at the Carvel, buy a gift and card for a family member’s birthday at the card store, and then bring home a mozzarella and roasted pepper sandwich at Esposito’s. While it didn’t seem significant at the time, I was supporting local businesses in my community.

Now as an adult, I understand how special it is to have those stores in local communities. The big box stores are pushing more and more of those “mom and pop shops” out of business as we continue to look for a good deal and do everything we can do stretch every dollar of our budget. While I can still, quite easily, drop a fast fifty bucks at Target, I do what I can to support local businesses and buy in those locations whenever possible.

Enter Respectrum Books.

RespectrumBooks

Credit: Respectrum Books

There are few places I truly enjoy shopping. A yarn shop, a fly shop, a specialty foods store, and a bookstore are just about it on my list. I could easily spend half a day at any of those locations while chatting with the owner or other shoppers, and have a cup of coffee. I often turn to Facebook and Yelp when looking for these special places in my area. That’s how I discovered Respectrum Books. I started following this shop on Facebook and always enjoy their posts. They are both informative and fun!

Located on Bank Street in Sussex, NJ, this shop offers a unique blend of old and new. You can find classic first editions as well as new books. They host reading groups and provide lectures on different subjects. And if you want anything printed that is New Jersey-related, I’m sure you can find it here.

I picked up a few books while I was there on three vastly different subjects. A photographer’s pocket guide, a biography about Frank Lloyd Wright, and Zane Grey: Outdoorsman. My total purchase? Eleven dollars. While I was enjoying the shop, a few other individuals came in and spoke with the owner and made a few purchases. As I was paying for my selections, we chatted about why I picked these particular books and I signed up for their mailing list.

While this is probably a bit of a ride for most New Jerseyans (it was a 40 minute ride for me), I promise you it is worth the trip! It is also in one of the prettiest areas in the state. Make a day of it!