It’s Spring; Be Bear Aware!

As the weather finally begins to warm up, we aren’t the only creatures starting to emerge from our homes. Bears are waking up and making a grand entrance.

Unfortunately, not everyone is ready for them.

Black bears are appearing in more and more residential areas and people that are not necessarily used to seeing them may not know how to respond when they come face-to-face with a bear. Recently, a woman in Lafayette was attacked by a bear near her home. A few weeks prior, a bear killed two small dogs in Sussex County.

How to Prevent a Bear Attack

There are a number of steps everyone can take to minimize the chances of a negative experience with a bear.

NJDEP Fish & Wildlife Bear Safety Guidelines

If you come in contact with a bear, here are a few important points to remember:

  1. Yes, they are cute. They are also wild animals. DO NOT try to pet them. Yes, I really need to say that.
  2. Do not feed them. Don’t leave food out for them as a way to invite them on to your deck.
  3. Clean the grates of your grill after use. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and will definitely want to check them out if they any kind of interesting scent.
  4. Keep your garbage well-secured.
  5. If a sow is with her cubs, give her extra space! You know the term “momma bear?” People use it for a reason.
  6. Never corner a bear. Always give them an exit.
  7. NEVER turn your back on a bear. Just back away slowly.
  8. Never make eye contact with a bear. It may consider it as a form of aggression.
  9. NEVER turn and run! Again, slowly back away.
  10. Make yourself look as large as possible. Yell, clap, whistle, etc. to let the bear know you are in the area so it is not startled by you.
  11. If you are going into the woods, keep a whistle and either Mace or bear spray on hand.
  12. If you are actually attacked, kick and punch the eyes, throat, and muzzle. That’s your best chance. Do not follow the advise of the Bugs Bunny cartoons we all watched as kids and “play dead” with black bears.

Seriously though, bear attacks are incredibly rare. Just use the common sense God gave you. For more information, check out the bear safety resources provided by NJ Fish & Wildlife.

Get Out!

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of the surprisingly warm weather and took a ride to an area of Sussex County we’ve been wanting to explore for quite awhile.

I can’t tell you how happy we did.

If you aren’t a fan of the winter (like us), it is easy to just hibernate and wait for the weather to get above your age. When we heard the weather would be above freezing, we decided to make the effort to actually step outside. What we discovered is an area of Sussex County almost frozen in time with open space and houses that predate the Revolutionary War.

1977 map of New Jersey (source: Rutgers Special Collections)

We met someone who was quite knowledgeable about the area and owned an amazing home built in 1791. He freely shared information about the area and his ongoing effort to preserve as much of his property and the town’s history buildings. The town’s historical society works hard to preserve and educate on the area, from the time of the Lenapehoking to present day.

So why am I telling you all this and why am I not saying where we went? Simple. I want you to GET OUT! Grab a map (yes, a printed map) and take a ride. Is there an area in the state you’ve always wanted to visit? Plan a ride into your unknown. Visit the local historical society and ask questions. Patron their locally-owned shops and restaurants. Even consider joining their historical society (or at least make a donation).

I promise you; you’ll be happy you did!

Giving Tuesday in New Jersey

It is no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 has affected everyone in the Garden State. Some people lost their jobs. Some people lost their businesses. Some lost their lives.

Many non-profits in the state lost important funding from private donors, as so many were barely able to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.

Enter Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to help those who have helped so many throughout our state. I’ve highlighted a few of the great organizations I have supported and will continue to support to the best of my ability. They represent a cross-section of areas, from the arts, to food insecurity, to cultural support, and more.

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts

The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is one of my favorite museums in the state. It was founded in 1970 by Agnes and Edgar Law Land and is located inside the building that was the first public library in Madison. The museum began with a display of the Land’s personal collection of 18th and 19th century artifacts representing the lives of the early immigrants to New Jersey. Since then, it has grown to an amazing permanent collection as well as special displays that are presented on a rotating basis. The best part is everything presented in the museum is associated with life and work in New Jersey.

Italian American One Voice Coalition

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am very proud of my Italian heritage. So is the Italian American One Voice Coalition. They work to protect and preserve the Italian-American culture. You see, our culture has made a major mistake over the years. We let the mob jokes roll off our back. In an effort to prove our allegiance to our new homeland, we Americanized our names and did not teach our language to our children. We were proud to be Americans. Those very values we have held for generations are no longer valued by many. As a result, people are looking to eliminate what is left of our heritage. The Italian American One Voice Coalition is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen. That we won’t be cast aside or ignored.

Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter

Sadly, over the last 18-plus months, victims of domestic violence have been victimized twice; once by their abuser and again by the system that is in place to protect them, as these victims have been kept hidden from the eyes of those agencies. With rumor of a new variant on the way and worries of another lockdown loom large, women may be desperate to escape their situation. The Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter has been on the front lines of aiding victims of domestic violence since 1978. JBWS is all about empowering victims to end the cycle of violence and gain control over their lives. The services include 24-hour helpline; safe house; counseling for adults, adolescents and children impacted by abuse; transitional living, including life skills education and more.

Salvation Army of New Jersey

Another issue the COVID pandemic brought to light is how many of our fellow New Jerseyans suffer from food insecurity; especially children and the aged. The Salvation Army of New Jersey offers food pantries, mobile feeding programs, and soup kitchens throughout the state to those in need.

Peters Valley School of Craft

Another organization I regularly highlight and support is Peters Valley School of Craft. For the last fifty-plus years, Peters Valley has enriched lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts, all nestled in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. If you have ever wanted to experience blacksmithing, weaving, or anything else, Peters Valley is the finest place in New Jersey to learn. They also have a wonderful gallery and gift area and present an amazing collection of artists every fall at a two-day event.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

While most people think New Jersey is nothing more than Newark Airport and the Turnpike, we all know better. Three of my favorite species, the heritage brook trout, the red knot, and the horseshoe crab, are all important parts of the biodiversity of New Jersey. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey works to protect that rich biodiversity. There are over 70 endangered and threatened species in New Jersey. Supporting the Conserve Wildlife Foundation helps protect all the different animals and mammals that swim, walk, and fly in the Garden State.

And Many, Many More

These are just a few of the many different non-profits that need help in New Jersey. They all do important work and it requires money for them to continue to do their important work. Everyone has something they are passionate about. My two passions are protection of open spaces and access to fine and performing arts, especially in public education. Find what fuels you and become an ally. If you aren’t in a position to donate funds, consider donating food to your local food pantry, clothes to a local shelter, or volunteer with an organization that feeds your soul and does good in your community. If you aren’t sure about the history of a specific organization, check them out on Charity Navigator. You’ll be able to see how they spend their donations as well as their history. You can also look at Community Foundation of New Jersey. This is a well-regarded organization that helps to manage the financial aspect of many different funds, scholarships, and organizations in a legal and ethical manner.

So get ready to give!

The End of an Era: The Chatterbox

This week, a well-loved business was demolished. The Chatterbox in Sussex County was around for years. It’s kitschy décor, 50s music, and great food made for a wonderful small business. When the owner retired, sadly, there was no one able to carry on this wonderful diner. As a result, the building was demolished and the property was sold… to Wawa.

Now I have nothing personally against Wawa. They employ a lot of people and I’m sure they are going to pay a lot of taxes for that location. But The Chatterbox was special. It was a great locally-owned business that hosted cruise nights and was a part of the community.

The Chatterbox (source: njherald.com)

There was always an old car in the middle of the diner and I would always make sure to take a look as I went by. One day I saw a car that definitely grabbed my attention. A 1953 Buick Skylark convertible in dark blue. I turned around, parked, and walked in as if I was drawn right to the car. I just stood there and smiled. A server came up to me and politely reminded me not to touch the car. I smiled and told her “I know the drill. Hands behind your back, don’t touch, don’t lean. Your jeans might scrape the paint. Don’t step on the step sill.” She looked at me with a confused face. I then told her “I spent a good deal of my youth in this car.”

That Skylark belonged to a family that lived near my family growing up. We spent plenty of time going to car shows and long weekends in a caravan of several cars from North Jersey to locations up and down the east coast. That car brought back some wonderful memories.

Now, all the community has left are memories of a great diner and small business… and a Wawa.

Class Action Park

“Shake it off…”

That was the phrase I heard regularly growing up. Whenever I came home with a scraped knee, a bruise on my arm, or even if I was upset about something, I regularly heard that phrase.

What is now often referred to “free range parenting,” was just called “playing outside” when I was a kid. You would go ride your bike, walk to a friend’s house, play with the neighborhood kids. You went out after homework was finished and you came home when the street lights came on.

No cell phones. No worries. And kids didn’t know terms like “liability.”

If you didn’t grow up in the 70s and 80s, it is hard to explain. You were expected to play outside with little to no supervision. Atari had just come out and very few families had one. We would ride bikes and play kick ball. Some kids in Belleville would spend their summer at the Rec House (the town recreation center) and participate in sports. In the winter we would go to Branch Brook Park and go sledding. I remember going full speed down the hill going right into the hubcap of a parked car nearby. I was told to just stand up and “shake it off.”

There were very few worries from parents about kidnappings, possible abuse, or going missing.

I will say my parents were pretty strict and kept me fairly sheltered. When I would go for rides on my bike, it was mainly to head up to the high school track. Not to run, but to go all the way up to the top corner of the stands and read. I was hardly an exciting kid.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t prepared for Action Park.

I had seen commercials for the fabled park in Sussex County and begged my mother to take me. She repeatedly refused. Eventually another friend and I nagged our mothers enough, and they gave in.

Action Park is a regular topic in Weird New Jersey. Once I even wrote a letter to the magazine about my one – and only one – day at Action Park. I was very excited when I saw it published. This is the edited version of my letter:

I definitely remember Action Park as a kid. My mom and her friend took me, my brother and her friend’s kids to Action Park only once. After much nagging, my mother finally agreed to take me on the Alpine Slide. My first clue that this was a bad idea should’ve been the blood-covered teenager being carried half-way down the mountain after her car flipped over. Of course, I was too young to think, “this might be a bad idea.” Well, I was scared out of my wits and almost ripped the so-called “brake” right off, I was pulling on it so hard (to no avail). I don’t remember going on anything else because I think I probably blocked it out of my memory. –Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten

Tonight I watched the documentary of the now defunct park, Class Action Park. I had heard the stories growing up, but some of the “behind the scenes” stories were funny, sad, and shocking all at once.

Action Park couldn’t exist anywhere else or at any other time. Those of us from Jersey are proud to have our battle scars. You need to be from Jersey to understand what it is to be Jersey proud. And to grow up during the 80s meant you were sort of on your own. Many teenagers headed to Action Park and enjoyed the same freedom.

Action Park – where YOU control the action!

That was the mantra of Action Park. The truth was, there was no control. Kids ran the park. There was excessive drinking and many deaths. Depending on the reports, at least six individuals died during the heyday of the park. In 1986, the New Jersey Herald reported 110 injuries were logged for the summer 1985 season, including 45 head injuries and 10 fractures. That figure grew to 330 for summer 1986. Injuries were so common, the park actually purchased an additional ambulance for the town of Vernon.

Eventually, unsupervised time turned into chaos and death.

Most of my teenage years included skiing at Vernon Valley; the winter version of Action Park. They used the same lift in both the winter and summer, and you could see the snow-covered track of the Alpine Slide. The ride that scared me half to death many years before. It is worth mentioning ski equipment was stolen if left unlocked; the snow machine was often pointed directly where the lift was, so you were covered in snow and ice by the time you made it to the top of the mountain; the lights would regularly shut off while you were skiing down; the mountain was often ice covered. I actually saw someone take a mogul and fly into a pole once.

I also broke my hand skiing once and sprained my wrist another time. I “shook it off” until I arrived home and my mother took me to the doctor the next day to put a cast on. No muss, no fuss. Guess I had a little Jersey toughness in me after all.

The Official Jersey Bucket List – Part Two

After the publishing of my “Official Jersey Bucket List,” I received many requests for a part two. I will admit as soon as I published it, I continued to come up with more ideas. There is so much to see in New Jersey, it is almost impossible to include it all in one list.

Let’s face it, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, many of us will staycation this summer, so why not turn into a Jersey tourist for a day and check out some of our great places right outside your front door! Some are currently open, while others aren’t quite there just yet. But that’s OK, as you will have plenty ideas as the summer continues. Here are some more ideas in my “Official Jersey Bucket List – Part Two.”

Visit a public farm: While many refer to Jersey as “The Mall State,” we are officially known as “The Garden State.” From the top of the state to the bottom, there are public farms, wineries, nurseries, and “pick your own” options available. I recommend you check out Hillcrest Orchard & Dairy in Branchville, the home of Jersey Girl Cheese.

Visit one of our great museums: In 2018, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City put in place a mandatory entrance fee of $25 for non-New York residents. Up until now, The Met’s entrance fee was by “suggested donation,” which made it accessible for all. Now it will be far from that for many. I can’t tell you how much this ticked me off. However, it was a good reminder that there are MANY great museums right here in New Jersey! I recommend you check out the Newark Museum, our largest museum in the state, which opened in 1909. A personal favorite of mine is the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, which focuses on 18th- and 19th- century craftsmen and artisans. If you are looking for something outside, visit the Grounds for Sculpture, which opened in 1992. It is a 42-acre sculpture park, museum, and arboretum founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. These are just three museums in our great state. There is at least one museum in every county, so no matter where you live, there’s a museum nearby.

Check out the Jersey music scene: Bands like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are known for that “Jersey sound.” What some may not know is that the sound is actually something we all know from the shore – the Calliope. Listen to the keyboard of those bands and see if your memory brings you back to The pipe organ and drum sound from the merry-go-round you couldn’t wait to ride when you were a child. Of course The Stone Pony is a Jersey icon, but there are plenty other music venues in the state. Check out the Count Basie Center for the Arts.

Visit Ellis Island: New Jersey has one of the most diverse immigrant populations in the country. And while New York thinks they “own” Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, they are actually in Jersey waters. Ellis Island is a National Park and offers an amazing amount of information about the story of immigration in the United States. Trace your family history in their genealogy database and you can even add your family information to the story of the Island.

Go to Fort Hancock: Another great National Park in New Jersey is Sandy Hook. While many people head to Sandy Hook just for the beach, there is a lot more to do on the over 4,000 acres of land that comprise the park. This piece of land has played a significant part of American History going back to the 1700s. One part of Sandy Hook is Fort Hancock. In 1895, the U.S. Army renamed the “Fortifications at Sandy Hook” as Fort Hancock. The installation would protect New York Harbor from invasion by sea. Its yellow brick buildings were constructed largely between 1898-1910, with the fort reaching its peak population in World War II. There is now a push on to preserve these old buildings that are, unfortunately, beginning to crumble. Hopefully, they will continue to persevere.

Visit the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park: Located in-between New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey was able to play a part of the industrial revolution during the early 19th century. How? Through the Delaware & Raritan Canal (known as the D&R). In 1834, the D&R was officially open for business and was one of the busiest navigation canals in the United States. Its peak years were in the mid to late 1800s, primarily moving tons of Pennsylvania coal. By the end of the 19th century, canal use was declining throughout the country. In 1973, the canal and its remaining structures were entered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a beautiful place to fish, hike and bike along the 70 miles of the canal.

Visit Walpack, but please be respectful: Officially founded in 1731, the Dutch lived on the land known as “Wallpack” as early as the mid-1600s. The of the town’s name comes from the Lenape Native American content word “wahlpeck,” which means “turn-hole (eddy or whirlpool). It is not considered a “ghost town,” as about 20 residents still call Walpack home. The town is located within the confines of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The town has a sad history since the 1970s that includes a failed national project, eminent domain, vandalism, looting, and fires intentionally set. Many are afraid one day what is left of the town will be gone. During the lockdown, vandals broke into several buildings and left behind an incredible amount of damage. If you are so inclined, consider joining their historical society to help repair what was damaged. If you know anything about the damage, please contact NPS Dispatch at 570-426-2457. It is a beautiful place, but if you visit, please be respectful of the history of the town and its residents. Take only photos and leave only footprints.

I hope you enjoyed this “part two” of my official Jersey bucket list and it provides you with more ways to enjoy your staycation in our wonderful state!

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 only 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?

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.

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!

Get Ready for Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayThis week officially kicks off the holiday season. Thanksgiving on Thursday, then Black Friday, and finally Small Business Saturday. I have never participated on Black Friday. Think about it – people get up at the crack of dawn to fight each other for a deal on a big screen television the day after they gave thanks for what they have.

Small business Saturday, however, is definitely something worth remembering. Do the big box stores sponsor your child’s softball team? Probably not. The local bagel shop, however, takes what happens in the community to heart. These business owners are our neighbors and friends. They deserve our support.

Every neighborhood and town offers great small business. I hope you will consider patronizing them as well during this holiday season:

Respectrum Books: Thankfully, independently-owned book stores are making a HUGE comeback. Respectrum Books is a great book shop in the town of Sussex that offers  new, used, and rare books covering a variety of subjects to inspire and inform. A carefully selected book is a wonderful gift!

Trinity Thrift Shop: I absolutely love going to thrift shops. And there are few thrift shops that are better than Trinity Thrift in Hackettstown. Run by Trinity Church, the shop offers a wide variety of unique items. I have picked up antique cameras there as well as Lenox china. Some may not thing shopping in a thrift shop is proper, but if you are looking for something specific or special, check out Trinity Thrift.

Gallery D’May: Whenever we head down the shore, we always make sure to stop in Gallery D’May. It is a favorite place for all things shore art. I have a piece we purchased them in my office. It reminds me every day of the beauty of Cape May.

Surprises in Store: From candles, to platters, to hostess gifts, Surprises in Store in Denville is one of my favorite and unique shops. They offer lovely and unique gifts for the hard to purchase individual on your list.

These are just a few of the many wonderful individually-owned shops throughout New Jersey. I hope you will considering “shopping small” this Saturday.