Shop Local for the Holidays

As much as I tried to deny it, the summer is long gone. Now that the clocks have changed and it is dark before you get out of work, everyone has turned their attention to the holidays.

The problem this year, however, is the ongoing supply chain issue. Cargo ships wait out in the Atlantic and the Pacific to unload goods. The ongoing shortage of truck drivers across the nation. It’s enough to make you batty.

Or is it?

Every year I remind people to shop local for small business Saturday. With everyone starting to shop earlier this year due to all the panic, this reminder to shop local comes earlier than usual. And the great thing about Jersey is that there are plenty of special places to shop with a unique Jersey flair.

Just Jersey

The best place to start is at Just Jersey in Morristown. This special shop presents unique art, craft, food, and more from over 200 Jersey-based residents. From jewelry, to homemade jams, to glassware, you will find a great variety of unique items in any price range. Best part is they all come with that special Jersey flair we have all come to know and love.

Peters Valley School of Craft

If you have never been to Peters Valley, I highly recommend it. It is not just a great place to visit, you will enjoy a beautiful ride on the way there. Their facilities are located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, once the farm village of Bevans. Before that, it was the tribal ground of the Lenni Lenape people, whose ancestors were the first craftspeople and makers of the land. Bevans was lost to the Tocks Island Dam Project of 1960-70’s through eminent domain. Eventually the project was scrapped and the name Peter’s Valley was reinstated in remembrance of early settler and surveyor Peter Van Neste.

Peters Valley offers not just beautiful surroundings, but onsite classes in a variety of crafts. Know someone who always wanted to try blacksmithing or weaving? Consider paying for a class for them to attend. Looking for something handmade? Visit their two unique galleries and leave with a beautiful gift that is sure to create a lasting memory. The Holiday Market begins November 20th.

West End Garage

One of my favorite places in this state is Cape May. And the West End Garage is a really cool place. Filled with funky gifts, you’ll find something for even the hardest person on your list. Check out original art by Maggie May Oysters, who uses locally sourced oyster shells in her artwork or Patricia Jackson Jewelers, highlighting their Exit Zero collection.

Pretty Handy

Belleville mug from Pretty Handy

This great little Nutley shop takes “shop local” a step further. Not only are you shopping Jersey, you are shopping Essex County. Pretty Handy offers town swag for Nutley, Bloomfield, Newark, Clifton, and of course, my beloved Belleville. If you are trying to show your town pride, this is a great place to check out.

Reddie to Burn

Of course I can’t finish out this post without a mention of my favorite candlemaker, Jersey Girl, and Goddaughter, Alyssa Lyn Reddie. Reddie to Burn offers all-natural hand-made candles in a variety of scents. Each soy candle has plenty of scent, from pumpkin soufflé, to apple and maple bourbon, to plenty of others, there’s something to please every taste.

Get shopping!

No matter what you decide, I hope you will consider shopping local and supporting local small businesses and artisans. You are helping those right in your community; no supply chain issues!

Protecting Our Parks

We’ve all had to make alternate plans this year due to COVID-19 and the following lockdown. As a result, many had to cancel vacation plans and stay local. And that means lots of people in town, county, and state parks.

Unfortunately, not everyone values our park systems.

Just a few weeks ago, Hedden Park in Dover/Randolph was closed for two weeks due to vandalism, litter, damage to the creek, and a dumpster fire. Today, we went to a park and unfortunately the continuation of poor behavior.

HeddenPark

Damage to Jackson Brook at Hedden Park. Credit: NJ.com

Two weeks ago while at the Delaware Gap, we had the opportunity to talk to a Park Ranger and he told us they spend an incredible amount of time telling people to get out of the small creeks, as they are not for swimming and have no lifeguard supervision. As we were leaving, we observed several emergency vehicles heading towards the Gap. When we returned home and turned on the television, we learned someone died right in the area where we were.

Some of you may normally not bother visiting your local parks. And I can spot newbies a mile away. When they come to the park they. bring. everything. If they have children, some actually bring high-chairs and play pens. Kids are either in the river or ignoring the beauty around them as they play on their phones.

Cigarettes-sm

Trash left behind at Saxton Falls.

If you are new to New Jersey’s parks, I hope you enjoy, but I ask that you respect the space. Do not dam up any creeks or rivers to create swimming holes. Moving rocks will release sediment and upset the ecological balance of the water system. It is also a swimming hazard. There have been five drownings at the Delaware Water Gap so far in 2020. Just today there was a water death at Upper Greenwood Lake. If you want to swim, go where it is allowed and there are lifeguards on duty. Don’t leave your trash behind. Carry in/carry out. Leave the space cleaner than how you found it.

When all of this is over, many will never go to a park again. Some might have just discovered a little spot near their home to enjoy the outdoors and have a new appreciation for open space. I ask on behalf of all of us that use parks in the Garden State on a regular basis, that you respect the natural space availed to you. These are wonderful spaces that have been set aside for all of us to enjoy. Please take only photos and leave only footprints.

End-of-Year Gift Giving in New Jersey

We all have someone on our list that is tough when it comes to gift giving. Since many are looking for an end-of-year tax deduction, why not give someone a donation in their name to a special Jersey charity? Here are some great New Jersey-based charities that will support important organizations while giving a special gift.

adoptaspeciesAdopt a Species: The Adopt a Species from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is a favorite of mine. You choose one of the endangered species that calls New Jersey its home in order to help them survive and thrive. You can pick from several species, including the bald eagle, the Indiana bat, the blue-spotted salamander, and the Pine Barrens tree frog to name a few.

Peters Valley School of Craft: This organization also has a special place in my heart. As fine and performing arts are eliminated from public school systems, groups like Peters Valley become more and more important. Founded in 1970, this small artist colony was officially established in partnership with the National Park Service to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft. Peters Valley is actually nestled within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and was once the farm village of Bevans. They offer workshops for both children and adults, as well as demonstrations and open house events. If you are looking to purchase a truly unique gift, you will definitely find it in the shop and gallery.

Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary: Antler Ridge is a 120-acre preserved farm located in Warren County. This special place is a wildlife rehabilitation center that provides vital care and treatment to sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife. From fawns to chipmunks, these little creatures are brought back to good health so they can be released back into the wild. They are brought over 1,000 animals a year for care and it costs on average $175 per animal per month to provide the care they need.

Under My Wing Avian Refuge: As a life-long bird owner, I love to see an organization focused specifically on birds. Under My Wing provides a safe permanent residence for tormented and unwanted exotic birds and maintain their lifelong care. People sometimes do not know that birds can live a very long time and aren’t prepared for the commitment. My cockatiel just turned 20! In other instances, the bird may outlive the owner and family members may not be able to care for the bird. Under My Wing works to provide care for these birds when no one else can.

cssCamden Sophisticated Sisters, Distinguished Brothers – DB’z & The Almighty Percussion Sound (TAPS): I saw this group on television recently and just loved them! Located in Camden, the Sophisticated Sister and Distinguished Brothers are a precision drill team and TAPS provides great percussion sounds. They combine hip hop, jazz, and military moves with percussion. The kids learn teamwork, self-respect, confidence, discipline, and a love for the arts. Camden is a tough place and the Sophisticated Sisters, Distinguished Brothers, and The Almighty Percussion Sound provide these kids with a positive and safe environment.

If you are looking to donate to a worthwhile organization, I hope you will consider one of these great non-profits. Like I said in the beginning, if you have a person that is hard to buy for, making a donation in a loved one’s name could be a great way to help an organization and provide a special gift for someone you love.

Friday the 13th – Jersey Style

In 1980, classic slasher movie Friday the 13th hit movie theaters. Since that first movie, Jason has been ingrained in horror movie pop culture. What many don’t realize is that the beginning of that reign of terror started in New Jersey.

CrystalLakeCamp Crystal lake is actually a Boy Scout camp known as Camp NoBeBoSco located in the northern New Jersey in Hardwick Township. The main street in the nearby town of Blairstown was also used as the backdrop for the film.

The camp has been in operation since 1927 making it the oldest continuously operating Scout camp in New Jersey. “No-Be-Bo-Sco” stands for NOrth BErgen BOy SCOuts.

The camp sits on over 380 acres surrounded by the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Nearby to the camp is another 112,000 acres of public land that includes Blair Creek Preserve, Worthington State Forest, Stokes State Forest, High Point State Park, and the Flatbrook-Roy, Walpack, and Hainesville Wildlife Management Areas.

The famous Appalachian Trail runs alongside the camp property and the Delaware River is located just three miles away.

These are all just beautiful open spaces to visit in New Jersey.

Now, I will admit, I have never seen the movie end-to-end. I don’t handle horror movies well – I have “blood” issues. But I will say I was pretty excited when I was in high school and stayed at the camp for “Leadership Training Camp” – known as “LTC” at the time – for New Jersey students involved in their local Student Government Organization (SGO). Everyone was very excited to stay there!

More than 30 years later, people still love this movie. And on this Friday the 13th, I wanted to remind everyone that getting scared out of your wits started right here…in New Jersey.

Pequest Trout Hatchery

Pequest River

Pequest Hatchery

Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Center.

A favorite place of mine to visit is the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center in Oxford, New Jersey. Nestled in the 4,800 acre Pequest Wildlife Management Area, the hatchery offers an inside look at how they raise over 600,000 trout each year for stocking in New Jersey’s waters.

They center provides programs daily that cover everything from “trout tales” for the kids to fly fishing basics, bird watching, butterfly watching, and more. If you have a group, such as a Boy or Girl Scout Troop, you can actually schedule your own event at the Hatchery, including fishing the Trout Education Pond. Definitely a treat!

Pequest River

Pequest River

The Pequest Wildlife Management Area provides hiking trails, bird watching opportunities, an archery range, and a dog training area, to name a few. It is certainly worth a visit!

My husband and I love to fish the Pequest River. Its picturesque setting in Warren County is perfect in the fall. We fish for a little bit and then enjoy sitting on the riverbank watching other anglers try to connect fly with fish.

So if you love the outdoors, you should definitely plan a visit to the Pequest and the surrounding Natural Wildlife Area. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Independence Day Weekend Events in New Jersey

While most people in the tri-state area think the Macy’s fireworks are the hot ticket for the Independence Day weekend, we in Jersey know better! Here are some great ideas to enjoy the long holiday weekend.

Jersey City will host the “Freedom and Fireworks Festival” on Friday. Events will take place at Liberty State Park and will include a visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales and Bud Beer Gardens. Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, is also creating a special Fourth of July cake for the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival. Country music star Craig Morgan and Kristen Redmond will perform. The live music begins at 5:30 p.m. Of course the day will conclude with an awesome fireworks display!

The battle at the Princeton Battlefield State Park on Jan. 3, 1777 is considered to be the fiercest fight during the American Revolution. General George Washington led his troops to this otherwise peaceful winter field and defeated a force of British Regulars, giving Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the battlefield. The park is open Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and admission is free. There will be period games will be available for children of all ages. A talk on the Battle of Princeton will be given at noon and a reading of the Declaration of Independence will happen at 1 p.m.

Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, is the site of the 1779-80 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General Washington. It will be open to the public Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and events will be held on the Morristown Green. Music and entertainment will be provided by The Four Old Parts and Wire Harp. At noon, the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Tom Ross, superintendent of Morristown National Historical Park, followed by a NJ 350th Proclamation read by Morris County Freeholder Director Thomas Mastrangelo. A musket firing by the 2nd New Jersey Regiment and singing of “Happy Birthday New Jersey” will happen at 12:45 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., free tours of the Presbyterian Church and graveyard. The day will end with a Fort Nonsense ribbon cutting with Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association of New Jersey, and Mayor Timothy Dougherty, at 2 p.m.

In 1776, the third reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in New Brunswick.  Come celebrate the 4th of July with a re-enactment.  Learn about the history of the reading, tour the Historic Christ Church Cemetery at 5 Paterson Street.  Sing along with patriotic songs of the era and hear American music performed on a traditional pipe organ.  Free admission and complimentary refreshments.

Garden State Fireworks will launch an electrifying palette of pyrotechnics at Bayonne’s annual fireworks show on Tuesday (rain date Wednesday, July 2) at 9:15 p.m. In conjunction with the inauguration of Bayonne mayor-elect Jimmy Davis that day, there will be live entertainment from multiple bands beginning at 4 p.m. at G. Thomas DiDomenico 16th Street Park, giving way to fireworks. For information call 201-471-7590 or visit www.bayonnerec.com.

The State Fair Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, will stage its firework display on July 3 and July 4 at 11 p.m. The State Fair is the largest fair in the area, with more than 50 vendors, rides, racing pigs, a juggling show, an acrobatic motocross show, live performances and more. The fair will be open on July 3 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and July 4 from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Entrance to the fair is $8 and $10. All active military personnel, with proper military ID are being offered free admission to the fair and an unlimited ride hand stamp from June 20 to July 6. The unlimited ride hand stamp is not available on June 20. The fair includes performances by Larry Chance and the Earls, The Rip Chords, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Heffron Drive.

Montclair will host its 64th annual Independence Day Celebration promising attendees a host of live musical performances, parade and fireworks display. The parade, which begins at 11 a.m., will comprise of various organizations and marching bands. The parade will travel west on Bloomfield Avenue to Midland Avenue, heading to Valley Road and ending at Edgemont Park for a July 4th Family Picnic. The family picnic, from noon to 3 p.m., will include the Joe Fischer magic show, pony rides, face painting, spin art, sand art, tattoos and balloon art. In addition local bands, Black Lace Blues and Jason Didner & the Jungle Gym Jam, will provide live music. The Montclair fireworks display will take place at Yogi Berra Stadium on Montclair State University campus. The stadium admission is $3 per person or $10 per family with no charge for children ages 5 and under. Gates open at 7 p.m. and free parking will be available at parking decks surrounding the stadium.

The city of Camden has plenty of events scheduled for their second annual Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival. The Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival features the region’s largest fireworks display, live music, military displays and demonstrations,  amusements, contests, food concessions. The Freedom Festival Beer Garden will be open during regular festival hours from July 3-5, featuring local New Jersey beer. The festival will kick off on Thursday, July 3 with the pre-celebration for 102.9 FM WMGK’s 13th Annual Let Freedom Rock Fest. The festival will feature family-focused attractions, games and amusements, and a performance by WMGK’s former house band, the Sofa Kings. All events will lead up to the 6 p.m. concert at Live Nation’s Susquehanna Bank Center featuring Foreigner, Styx and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. The festivities continue Friday, July 4, with live bands, military vehicles and armed forces displays visiting the Camden Waterfront with patriotic music and activities from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Adventure Aquarium Waterfront Fireworks Celebration features the region’s largest fireworks display and takes place Saturday night, July 5, after the Camden County Freedom Concert beginning at 3 p.m. The festival will come to a close Sunday, July 6, with special discounts for active military and veterans and their families at both Adventure Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey Memorial & Museum.

Monroe Township will be holding it’s annual 4th of July fireworks show at Williamstown High School Friday on July 4, complete with food vendors, a balloon artisan and skydivers. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. and fireworks start at 9 p.m.

Washington Township will hold its annual 4th of July celebration Thursday, July 3 at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater.  Beginning at 7 p.m., the event will start with a flag raising and recognition of veterans. Immediately following will be a performance of patriotic songs by resident Michael Jones and a concert by Touché.  A fireworks show will held at 9:15 p.m. and will shoot off from the amphitheater. Attendees can view from the lawn or elsewhere in the park. The fireworks will be shot to medley of patriotic music. Officials suggest brining bug spray and folding chairs. Food will be available.

A Fourth of July celebration featuring a Spirit of Americana Bake-Off competition and a “Most Patriotic Canine” costume contest will take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Footbridge Park, 79 West Crisman Road (Route 94) in Blairstown.

The 11th annual traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Ringwood Manor, Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood Manor State Park. $5 parking.

A concert of patriotic favorites will be performed by the West Morris Community Concert Band 7 p.m. Sunday at Gardner Field on Route 46 and Savage Road in Denville. Fireworks will follow at dusk. Call (973) 625-8300.

Did a miss an event in your area? Make sure to post it in the comments below!