Category Archives: Dining on a Shoe String in New York State

Downtown Cold Spring at Christmas

Day One Hundred and Fifty-Seven Christmas Again in the blink of an eye November 23rd, 2019-January 10th, 2020

 

I have never seen a holiday come and go so fast that it zoomed by. We had one less weekend this year in the month of December before Christmas and it seemed to set everyone in a panic. I have seen holidays fly by but this one was for the records. It seemed that everyone crammed in as much as they could the first two weekends of December and did not come up for breath.

I was no different as work took up everything leading to Halloween and then boom, five weeks later there was Thanksgiving and Sinterklaas. As I wrote in earlier blogs, we went from 71 degrees on Halloween Parade to 25 degrees five weeks later for the Sinterklaas Parade. You just can’t predict the weather.

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The Puppet Rehearsals started my Holiday Season in early October

Visit the blog “Day One Hundred and Fifty Three: “Halloween Again”:

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/2019/11/19/day-one-hundred-and-fifty-one-heres-halloween-again-october-31st-2019/

After my class’s presentation in Paterson, I left the next day for Florida to visit friends and family. There were some concerns with my friends and I wanted to be sure that they were okay and then I wanted to spend time with my brother and niece. After that I traveled to visit my mother for her birthday so it was a nice visit.

It was also a good working vacation too as I added on new stores to my LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com site and new museums on my VisitingaMuseum.com site:

See the new Museums I explored:

https://visitingamuseum.com/

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The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Fl was recently added to my blog among  others were updated.

https://www.cummermuseum.org/

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3810

MOCA Jacksonville, FL

The MOCA-Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, FL was interesting

https://mocajacksonville.unf.edu/

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3836

 

See the new shops that I added:

https://littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/

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The innovative pet store, “Bark” in Jacksonville, Fl was added to my retail site as well as some sites were revisited.

https://www.thebarkboutique.com/

It was also a good vacation because after the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. presentation in Paterson, NJ was behind me, it was a big sigh of relief. As I said in that blog (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Eight), it was a lot of work and stress for all of us right before Thanksgiving but it was the best time to present it because the students could relax over the holidays and be proud of what they accomplished.

Here are some links to the project:

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc Film Team Project

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Paterson Project

My Business 101 class at City Hall for their presentation “Take me Back to Paterson,NJ”

Visit the site: “Day One Hundred and Fifty-Eight: Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Presents:

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/2020/01/12/day-one-hundred-and-fifty-five-bergecco-parc-consulting-inc-presents-take-me-back-to-paterson-new-jersey-introduction-to-business-101-bergen-community-college-november/

When I returned home from Florida on my business/vacation trip, it was full steam ahead with the holidays. I promised myself this year that I would cut back on a lot of the get togethers and events to attend and I stuck by it. Still there was a lot to see and do and things I wanted my readers to know on my blogs.

The holiday season this year though started without me.  I was not home for the Christmas tree drop off for the Men’s Association, the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights and our Department Party for the Fire Department and the Holiday Party for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association. I was away that first weekend visiting friends and family and work on this blog. I got into the spirit and the holiday rush when I returned.

The holiday season started for me the first Saturday of December with marching in the Annual Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck. I am now going on my seventh year participating in the parade and almost a decade of being up in Rhinebeck, NY.

Rhinebeck, NY like the rest of the Hudson River Valley is just magical at the holidays from Halloween to New Year’s. Downtown Rhinebeck is picturesque like a modern Currier & Ives print with the twinkling white lights, the Sinterklaas paintings attached to the trees and the beautifully decorated retail windows which showcase their goods and the parade stars.

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Rhinebeck, NY is magical at Christmas

I was so busy working in the morning with my Introduction to Business class on the wrap up of their project and preparing them for their final exam that I did not get up to Rhinebeck until 2:30pm so I missed the whole puppet set-up.

It was really cold the day of the parade and must have been around 38 degrees even with the sun. I did not see as many people as the last two years and you could actually walk the streets. The police closed off the main street so you could finally walk around Downtown Rhinebeck with no problems.

All along the streets and alleyways were entertainers, bands, costumed characters and people on stilts talking to people and engaging the crowds. The one thing I have to say is that it was getting colder and colder as the day went on. I felt for the people in costume who had to deal with this weather.

I wrote more about my afternoon at the parade on Day One Hundred and Fifty Six: The Sinterklaas Parade:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/11227

You can see me in the corner of the Sinterklaas Parade near Mother Earth in the Cornell Hat in the 2018 parade and the 2019 parade

Home

That Saturday evening it went down to almost 24 degrees and it got cold! Even with four layers, I could see my breath right in front of me. That didn’t stop the crowds. They were five deep for the parade which like every year it magical. Between all the colors, lights, floats and stars hanging from poles along the parade route it adds to the excitement of Sinterklaas coming to town.

I was working in the star forest by the Mother Earth float so I was toward the back of the parade so I could see most everything from the hill overlooking Downtown Rhinebeck. It is something to see the parade from the parade itself up on the hill. The whole town is ablaze with energy as each band and dance team performs.

I loved the looks on the kids faces as all the puppets lean into the crowds. Then right behind us the crowd follows the parade into the parking lot to enjoy the show. This is when the crowd dispersed.

I have never seen a crowd clear up as we rounded the corner and dropped off our puppets. The other people I worked with went home and after the show and the fire performers finished the last of the crowd dispersed. I just wanted to walk around the town one more time before I left town.

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The parade is magical when the puppets enter Downtown Rhinebeck

By the time finished my walk around town, it must have dropped to 22 degrees and everyone was off the streets. It got so quiet in Rhinebeck. The restaurants were still dealing with the crowds but not as busy as I remembered the last two years. When I had a slice of pizza at Village Pizza at 119 East Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor), the place was quiet which not normal that night. You could still get a seat. It was worth it though as their pizza is delicious.

I got home late that night and I will tell you that it got colder that night. The windows of the car really froze up. Normally I would spend the night but I had to visit a series of decorated mansions to visit, a few holiday events at museums and an Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine Mansion at the Newark Museum.

The next day was a whirlwind of activity as I ran from one activity to another. Because of having one less weekend before Christmas all the organizations were having their events the first Saturday and Sunday of December so I had to plan my visits like D-Day. I wanted to be able to update my VisitingaMuseum.com blog with visits to all the holiday events. It was too much in one day but I did it.

I started that Sunday at the Lodi, NJ VFW for the Knights of Columbus monthly breakfast. For $6.00, I had to load up on the carbs because I would not be eating until 4:00pm. The Knights of Columbus know how to make breakfast and I loaded up on scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and French Toast and potatoes before my long day of running around. The discussion amongst all of us was how we were all tired of Christmas and it had not even arrived yet. It just seemed that everyone else like me was running from one thing to another.

My first stop that morning was the the Boonton Historical Society at 210 Main Street in Boonton, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited earlier in October after a Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association meeting and they had mentioned this get together. It was a very nice event.

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The Boonton Historical Society at 210 Main Street

https://www.boonton.org/268/Boonton-Historical-Society

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3595

The Historical Society had a few local musicians and entertainers playing to the crowd and a nice assortment of small appetizers and cookies to nibble on while you walked around the displays. It is a nice place to get insights on the development of the iron industry in New Jersey plus the growth of business in the State. They also had a nice exhibition on the Trolley system in New Jersey.

The next stop was the Holiday Festival at the Hopper-Goetschius House at 245 Lake Street in Upper Saddle River, NJ. The Historical Society of Upper Saddle River ran this engaging little festival which was a lot of fun. The weather had broke and it was sunny and a pleasant 48 degrees out.

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Santa in the Dutch Barn at the Hooper-Goetschius House

You could visit Santa in the Dutch barn, participate in historical games in the schoolhouse, watch a demonstration of blacksmith work, eat fresh popcorn and chestnuts that were cooked over an open fire the outdoor kitchen and tour the house itself which was decorated for a Victorian Christmas.

There were tours of the house, story telling in the dining room, classical music being played in the palour and fresh Christmas cookies and hot apple cider in the Colonial kitchen which dates back to the late 1700’s. they really did a nice job but then it was off to the next site, the Newark Museum for Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine House.

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The Ballantine House at the Newark Museum was decorated for Christmas as “Mrs. Ballantine’s Christmas Eve Open House”

https://www.newarkmuseumart.org/ballantine-house-newark-museum-art

If you ever drove from Boonton to Upper Saddle River to Newark in one afternoon, it is a lot of running around and a lot of driving through traffic during the holidays. Thank God all of these events were on a Sunday when the malls are closed (Bergen County, NJ has strict Blue Laws).

I got there just as they started serving tea and the room was packed with people. The event was held on the top floor of the old Ballatine Mansion which is part of the Newark Museum. It had once been the attic of the house which Mrs. Ballatine converted into an apartment for her married daughter and her family. It now serves as the Trustees Room.

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The Newark Museum at 49 Washington Street in Newark, NJ. The Ballantine House is to the right.

That was a very nice afternoon of nice conversation with other guests, wonderful food (the sandwiches and pastries were plentiful on the table) and an interesting talk on the history of the Ballantine Mansion and the family. After the tea was over, we were lead on a special out of the mansion which was decorated for the Christmas holidays circa 1890. It must have been a pleasant affair for the family as the day started with church services and then a Christmas luncheon.

After the talk, it was back to the house again and changing clothes and selling Christmas trees from six to ten that evening. We only sold five trees that night and I was so happy that after 8:00pm we had no customers and I could just sit by the fire and relax. I was all ‘Christmased’ out that day. It was just nice to sit and smell the pine trees. I was happy when the day was over. Fun yes but I was tired from all the driving. That was just the first weekend.

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Selling Christmas trees is part of the our fundraising for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. I have been doing this for twenty years.

Here’s me promoting the event:

 

The second week was just as busy. I ran two holidays parties at work. One group not many people attended so it was just the four of us. Still it was nice. The other group I had twenty people in wheelchairs who we ‘wined and dined’. Each one of us baked something, we arranged to have gifts for all the residents of the facility I work with and then I made a big batch of stuffed shells and made a dessert tray as a gift so that the residents had something from me to take back to their rooms. I have never seen a group of people light up and be their old selves. Living in a nursing facility is hard but I think we did bring ‘Santa’ back in their lives that afternoon.

We had another wonderful lunch at work with a full turkey dinner and a lot of well wishes and then the rains came for two days and did not let up. So we had to change the day of our Men’s Association Christmas party to the next night and I ended up having a nice time.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

Setting up the Christmas trees

We all huddled around a fire and talked about the past year and the success of the Christmas tree sale. This will mean more scholarships in the future to our students and hopefully more future customers.  People believe in what we are trying to achieve. The pot luck brings in everyone’s creativity and we had a nice meal.

The second weekend came and went as fast as the first. I gave my final exam in the morning to my class and for the most part everyone did well. I think we were all relieved when the class was over. They left as soon as they were done. I went off  to sell Christmas trees in the afternoon and there was only thirty one trees when I left.

I went off to a historical Christmas event at the Bergen County Historical Society at 1202 Main Street in Riveredge, NJ. They had the whole complex decorated for a Colonial Christmas. It was enchanting with the candles in the windows and people in costume walking around the buildings. In the Campbell-Christi House they had set up a Colonial era pub so you could have dinner with a modern twist to pub food including Shepard’s Pie, Mac & Cheese, a dessert plate and fried doughnuts It was all served by people in costume.

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The Van Steuben House, part of the Bergen County Historical Society

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/872

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/531

Then you were walked down to the Van Steuben House near the river for entertainment. Performer Linda Russell and her group sang traditional songs that would have been sang during the holidays.

Unlike the Victorian Christmas’s of a hundred years in the future, Christmas after the Revolutionary War was quite simple. Houses were decorated with holly, mistletoe and garland and there were church services in the morning with a lunch afterwards. Things like presents and Santa would not come until after the Civil War.

 

One of Linda Russell’s most popular songs

Performer Linda Russell performed traditional Christmas songs that were sung of that era in the main room of the Van Steuben House where General George Washington had stayed during his time in the Bergen County during the Revolutionary War. She lead a lecture and in song how people enjoyed themselves on those cold nights. It was a nice insight on the early holidays.

The next morning was a long trip up to the Hudson River Valley to visit some of the decorated mansions of the area. My first stop was Germantown to visit Clermont, the homestead of the Livingston family at County Route 6 (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com below). The house was beautifully decorated with garland and trees and was being set up that evening for the house’s ‘Candlelight Tour’, where actors in costume performed as guests. I came up before the event on one of the middle tours and got a personal tour of the house.

Clermont

Clermont, the home of the Livingston Family

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3928

The house sits frozen in time when it was donated to the State of New York with period furnishings and family heirlooms decorating the rooms and walls of the home. It was decorated with rows of garland, holly and mistletoe like most homes of the era and lavish Christmas trees in certain rooms. The formal dining room table was set of the holiday dinner.

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The formal dining room at Clermont

The tour including the history of the Livingston family in the area and in the country and the influence that the house had during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Then there was a discussion of the people that lived here and their stories. It is an interesting tour.

My next stop before the afternoon was over was a tour of Wilderstein at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck, the home of the Suckley family, who were relations of the Roosevelts and Livingston’s. I had visited the beautiful decorated mansion many times in the past and on a glorious sunny day, the view of the Hudson River from this spot is spectacular.

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The Wilderstein Mansion in Rhinebeck, NY

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1642

Only the first floor of the mansion is open for tours and was elegantly decorated for the holidays. Ms. Suckley lived into her 90’s and dwelled only on the first floor in the end so the house is pretty much intact from the Victorian era. She kept the house immaculate and restorations continued. You could tour the living room, dining room, front palour, entrance hall and library which were decorated in holly, garland and Christmas trees with gifts in two of the rooms. Like the other mansions it was decorated for formal dinner.

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The elegant dining room at Wilderstein

By the time I got home that evening, we had sold out of Christmas tree for the Men’s Association and we closed the stand down for the season.

As classes geared down to their last day and work was pretty much over for the semester at the college, I concentrated on MywalkinManhattan blog and visiting as many cultural and historical sites that I could to update my VisitingaMuseum site. There are a lot of places to visit and things to see during the holidays in the New York City area and I wanted to share this with readers all over the world.

I revisited some sites in New York the day of the Holy Apostles Holiday Party that I went to for the work in the soup kitchen that I try to do once a week. During the day, I went back to Central Park South to finish walking part of the neighborhood and then walked across Manhattan to visit the Mount Vernon Hotel & Museum at 421 East 61st Street.

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The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum at 421 East 61st Street in Manhattan

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2191

The museum was once a day hotel during the early 1800’s which means that you just went there for the afternoon and early evening for activities and lunch which was considered dinner back then. The house was open for tours to see it decorated for the Colonial holidays.

The main rooms has holly and garland all over the banisters as they were preparing for the Christmas holidays and the main dining room was set for a holiday luncheon. Foods that the visitors might have eaten at the noon time meal including turkey, oysters, fresh fruits and vegetables and apple and pumpkin pies. They did a nice job interpreting the meal.

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Meal at noontime at the Mount Vernon Hotel

Later that afternoon I stopped by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree that they set up every year. I have been it hundreds of times over the years but I never like to miss it.

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The Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I also visited the Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History for about ten minutes before the crowds at the museum forced me out. It was packed during the holiday break.

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The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/origami-holiday-tree

That evening we had the Holy Apostles Holiday party at the Church of the Holy Apostles and it was a very nice evening. We had a complete Italian dinner with salads and desserts and the music provided by the Avenue’s (a local private school) Jazz Band. These kids are wonderful and can really play. It was a nice evening and a good way to end a very busy year in the Soup Kitchen. It just keeps getting busier with the needs changing.

On Friday night before Christmas, I was finishing my walk of the Central Park South neighborhood businesses and the evening treated myself to a Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall which was appropriate since I spent so much time in the neighborhood. It is such a beautiful building inside and out.

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I love Carnegie Hall at Christmas

I went to the show “A Frank and Ella Christmas” with performers Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins who performed the tunes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I love to see Carnegie Hall when it is lit for the holidays and decorated on stage. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit. Essential Voices USA were the back up vocals that evening and it was a wonderful concert. They sang all the classic songs with Santa leading a sing-a-long at the end of the concert.

Here is Tony DeSare singing “I’ll be home for Christmas”  as he did in the concert

They sang all the traditional songs such as “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and “Jingle Bells” and this beautiful version of “I’ll be home for Christmas”. The sing a long ended the concert with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ended with “Jingle Bells”. It really got the audience moving and everyone was humming as they left the theater. I walked across the street to see the building decorated with wreaths and garland and lit in full view. It is quite a site at the holidays. After that I headed home. The next morning was the last day of class.

I gave out my grades the next morning. Class had finally ended and it had been an interesting semester. I had a ball with my students. Who ever thought we would present a project at Paterson City Hall? I did not. Most of my students told me how they loved the experience. That made me feel good right before the holidays.

Sunday brought us “Santa Around Town” our annual romp around Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. It was such a beautiful and we really lucked out with the weather. It must have been 50 degrees when we started the event and a sunny afternoon.

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“Santa Around Town” with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department December 22nd, 2019

We stopped at ten stops around town greeting families and their pets to an evening with Santa Claus. People get such a kick out of it. We have families that come every year and some plan their holiday parties around the event. I always find it excellent outreach to the community and like to watch the children’s faces when they take a picture with Santa. I also enjoy when people have their dogs take a picture with Santa. I get a kick out of that. It was a busy evening and we did not get back to the firehouse until 8:00pm.

See my write up on the Brothers of Engine One HHFD:

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/498

I had a lunch with a good friend at Sanducci’s Italian Restaurant (my review on TripAdvisor) the day before I left for my mother’s for Christmas and this has become our Christmas tradition. It was nice to catch up with her not realizing that it had been over a year since we saw one another. It is strange how fast it all goes.

I spent Christmas Eve morning visiting the cemeteries starting with my aunt and cousin in one place, then one set of grandparents in another and then visiting my second set of grandparents, my uncle and then my father, which is always the toughest at the last cemetery. I am not sure what people feel about paying your respects at the holidays but I feel it is very important. I do believe it keeps them alive at the holidays.

The it was off to my mother’s for Christmas. It is the one time of the year all three of us get together with my mother. Since my father’s passing, my brothers and I have tried to spend the holidays together. Since we are coming from all over the country it can be hard but well worth it. We have such a good time at my mom’s.

 

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My brothers and I on Christmas Day

We get together as a family on Christmas Eve night for dinner at a Chinese restaurant which is a lot of fun. The owners know my mother really well so we get treated very well and they always treat us to a special dish or appetizer which I think is good business. I go the restaurant pretty much every trip I make to my mom’s because she loves going there so much. When we got home, we just talked most of the night and caught up with what was going on in our lives.

Christmas Day was very nice. We got up late and had breakfast and then exchanged smaller gifts (most of my gifts were emailed off ahead of time) while the fire was going and we played Christmas songs. My brother’s dog got in on the action and she just played along with a toy my older brother bought her.

My mother, the amazing cook that she is made a delicious tenderloin, homemade lasagna, salad and garlic bread. It’s great to have a mother who can cook. We sat around the table with my family and friend’s of my mom reminiscing about Christmas’s past. It was a nice evening and a nice way to spend Christmas Day.

Before I left my mom’s to head home to attend the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium to root on Michigan State University, my mother, brother and I went to lunch at a local restaurant in Downtown Lewes called the Striper Bites (see review on TripAdvisor) that she had wanted to try and I had wanted to review. The food is wonderful yet I am the only one who can go to a seafood restaurant and crave a hamburger which was delicious.

We also visited the store, Fairy Godmother at 103 Second Street in Lewes that I featured on my blog, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com. This adorable children’s store should not be missed. It has the most original merchandise for infants and toddlers.

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Fairy Godmother is at 103 Second Street in Lewes

I was looking forward to the Pinstripe Bowl since they announced it a few weeks earlier that my Alma Mater, Michigan State University, was going to play at Yankee Stadium. It was warm but rather gloomy day that the game was played.  I had gotten to the stadium early for the Alumni Tailgate up in one of the suites. It was really nice as the cheerleaders and band came up to spread the cheer and we also got to meet the new President of the MSU, President Samuel Stanley.

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The New Era Pinstripe Bowl is at Yankee Stadium every year. It was Michigan State University versus Wake Forest University

It was a nice afternoon with all sorts of stadium foods to choose from like hot dogs, hamburger sliders, mac & cheese, French fries and a barely touched salad. They served assorted cookies and brownies for dessert so I was not hungry for the rest of the day.

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Here comes MSU: Go GREEN/GO WHITE

Then all of us got to our seats and it was let the game begin. I have to say it was a nail-biter all the way to the end as it was not a high scoring game. We had some great plays one of the best one being one of our players, Mike Panasuik, knocked the ball from Wake Forest and ran in for a touchdown. It happened so fast the other team did not have time to react. That was the turning point of the game.

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Mike Panasuik getting the interception that changed the game

It was a very rough ending to the game as no one scored in the last quarter and we won the game 27-21. I could see by the other Alumni we were glad the game was finally over. It was a spirited ending though with the presentation of the trophy and our Quarterback Brian Lewerke getting MVP of the game and setting a school record. It was nice way to end his time at Michigan State and a nice win for the college.

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Winning the Pinstripe Bowl

Highlights from the Pinstripe Bowl 2019

 

 

The remainder of the week before the New Year it was like one long road trip visiting decorated mansions for my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’. I have never put so many miles on my car before and made so many trips up to the Hudson River Valley (I am beginning to think that I need a weekend home up there) I feel like it is my second home.

Because of the extensive list of homes I visited, you can see their history’s and write ups on my blog VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://visitingamuseum.com/

These are the mansions I visited during the week between Christmas and New Year’s:

The only time that you can visit The Skylands Manor at 5 Morris Road in Ringwood, NJ is the first week in December when they decorate the house for Christmas. During the rest of the year, it is used for catering and an inn.

skylands manor

The Skylands Manor in Ringwood, NJ has a beautiful location

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2641

The Skylands Manor is decorated by various Garden Clubs and individual organizations. Because of a snow storm that hit the week before the mansion did not seem as decorated as it had in previous years. Still the entrance way and main hallway were very originally decorated.

Skylands Manor 2019

The garden clubs do such a good job decorating the house. Each use their members own ideas and the amazing part is that they have one week to get it all up and two days to take it down and get it out of the house before it is used again.

The next weekend I travel led to Ringwood Manor at 1304 Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood, NJ right around the corner from the Skylands Manor. This lavish display is done by the Friends of Ringwood Manor who also run the cafe and the barn where artwork and gifts are sold. The home of the Hewitt family is in the process of being restored and are raising funds for a new roof.

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The Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, NJ

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

Ringwood Manor Christmas 2019

The Sun Room decorated at Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, NJ

The lavish display at Ringwood Manor is not how the house would have looked but is a nice interpretation of many ideas that can be coordinated into anyone’s home. I don’t think people would have decorated every room like this but the Friends do such a great job and have such original ideas I never like to miss this house at the holidays.

When returning from Ringwood, NJ from visiting the mansions and in the summer the Botanical Gardens, make a pit stop at Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY to eat.  They have the best baked goods, pies and jellies.

During the holidays I like to go up just for their cider doughnuts, which are still warm when you buy them ($1.00) or their cake truffles ($3.00) which are rich and decadent. Their Caramel Apple Pie ($12.00) was a little rich for me but still delicious. I feature them prominently on my site LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com.

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Auntie El’s Farm Market is such a great experience at Christmas

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AUntie El's II

The baked goods and those delicious doughnuts make the trip up to Ringwood, NJ very special

The Hermitage at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, NJ is one of the most famous mansions in Bergen County being the home of Theodosa Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr. The house was the headquarters for General George Washington at Mrs. Prevost request who she herself was afraid of losing her home.

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The Hermitage in Ho Ho Kus, NJ

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1566

The house was decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays a big difference from the year before when its them was a ‘Depression Christmas’. The house was nicely but sparsely decorated that year reflecting the times. Here it was all garland on the banisters and archways and set for a formal Christmas dinner.

Herimtage at Christmas

Here is some the era’s clothing for the event

I followed the map of Hudson River decorated homes for the holidays and went one by one until Christmas Eve. My first trip including Boscobel at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison, NY , a mansion in Cold Springs, NY.

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https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/4015

The house was beautifully decorated for the holidays and has the most interesting gardens.

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The next home I visited was Mount Gulian in Beacon, NY at 145 Sterling Street. This historic home was used as headquarters for the Revolutionary War and the where the Society of Cincinnati was formed as a Veterans group. The original house burned to the ground in 1931 and this is a recreation.

Mount Guilian.jpg

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/4103

Mount Guilian II.jpg

They were just taking the decorations down at Mount Gulian but this home was a major point of refuge during the Revolutionary War.

On my next trip up to the Hudson River Valley, I visited some of the NY State Park sites starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home Springwood at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park, NY. The house is going to start a major renovation which our tour guide said it needed and will close April of 2020. As we were touring, they were removing books in the library and the only part of the house that was decorated for the holidays was a Christmas tree in the library.

Springfield

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2676

Springwood Estate II.jpg

The library at Springwood was the only part of the house that was decorated at that point. It looked really elegant in the wood paneled room but the room is slowly being taken apart. The house will close in April 2020 and reopen about a year and a half later so see it now before the closing.

The Vanderbilt Mansion and Estate at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park the next estate over was also starting to close for the holidays. I got there on the first tour of the day so I got to see it before most of the rooms were taken apart.

Vanderbilt Estate

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2200

The home of Fredrick and Louise Vanderbilt was decorated to the hilt for the holidays considering when Louise was alive they closed the house up and moved to New York City for the Social Season.

Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park III.jpg

The entrance foyer of the mansion was beautifully decorated for the holidays and there was flowers and garland all over the house.

The Mills Mansion (Staatsburg State Historic Site)  at 75 Mills Mansion Drive in Staatsburg, NY was decorated to the hilt for the holidays. I usually attend the fundraising cocktail party here right before the holidays but the weather was so bad that night, I did not venture the trip so I came right after the holidays.

Mills Mansion.jpg

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2137

The Mills Mansion is always decorated to the hilt by the Friends of Mills Mansion and each room in the house has its own character. Like most of the homes in the area, Ruth and Ogden Mills did not stay here too many times for the holidays.

Mills Mansion Christmas II.jpg

The formal Dining Room at the Mills Mansion is elaborate.

The home of Samuel Morse ‘Locust Grove’ at 2683 South Road (Route 9) in Poughkeepsie, NY was down the road from some of the more popular mansions. The home of Artist Samuel Morse and creator of the Morse Code and Cable lines owned this beautiful home as his ‘summer cottage’.

locust-grove-historic-site.png

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1691

The Locust Grove estate is at the start of the big commercial district of Route 9 South so please watch for the turn off as it is sharp and you may miss it.

Locust Grove III.jpg

Locust Grove was another home that was not used during the holidays by the family but more as the summer family retreat until Samuel Morse died and then it was sold to another family who lived locally. Still the mansion is beautifully decorated.

The last of the mansion’s I visited before the New Year was the Van Cortlandt House & Museum at Broadway and 246th Street in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This beautiful home was the seat of the Van Cortlandt estate before the family sale in the late 1880’s. The family had several homes at this point in the New York area.

Van Cortlandt House IV.jpg

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2568

The Van Cortlandt family had this home since before the Revolutionary War and the estate had been in the family for about five generations. The house was decorated for the post -Revolutionary War era Christmas with garlands, mistletoe, holly and berries all over the house. You can take the tour on your own.

Van Cortlandt House V.jpg

The palour at the Van Cortlandt House was decorated with garlands and berries and the outside of the home was covered with wreathes.

I walked down Broadway and visited the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum at 4881 Broadway at 204th Street to see how the house was decorated for a Dutch Christmas. It was plainly decorated with some garland here and there. Like the tour guide said to me that this was a working farm before the Revolutionary War and things would have been plainer here.

Dyckman Farmhouse I

The Dyckman Farmhouse in Inwood

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/771

Dyckman Farm House V

Even though a traditional Dutch Christmas was not a big part of the home, it was interesting to see the everyday life of the traditional Dutch farmer in that era

My last stop that afternoon was to take a tour of the Cloisters Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring their Medieval Collection located in Fort Tyron Park overlooking the Hudson River. The museum was decorated for Christmas during the Renaissance and they were conducting a tour on “Holly and Hawthorne: Decorating during the holidays” on how people of that era embraced the coming of Winter by sprucing the house up with pines and flowers that bloomed in the Winter months. I thought it was an original theme and played into how the museum was decorated for the Christmas holidays.

Cloisters Christmas II

The Cloisters Museum looked so elegant at Christmas

Cloisters Christmas

https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/plan-your-visit/met-cloisters

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/680

My last stop before my trip downtown was at Bodega Pizza at 4455 Broadway to have a pizza at a restaurant I have wanted to try since the summer. I had passed it many times on my walk down Broadway but it was always closed.

Bodega Pizza

Bodega Pizza in Washington Heights

The pizza was excellent and so well cooked and the service could not have been nicer or more welcoming. The only problem was that they pulled a stunt with the bill and charged me an extra dollar for the pizza which I did not find out until I left the restaurant. The food and service are wonderful but double check the bill before you leave.

It was a different story when traveling to the mansions. Running all over the Hudson River Valley can make anyone hungry and I stopped at a few restaurants that I had either passed or had been on ‘my bucket list’ to try. On my first trip up to see the homes higher up the river, I stopped at Jade Palace Chinese Restaurant in Wappinger Falls, NY on Route 9 for dinner. The Cantonese food is excellent and the place was not that busy. The Roast Pork Lo Mein was excellent and so were the egg rolls.

Jade Palace

Jade Palace in Wappinger’s Falls, NY

Another restaurant I visited was the Pete’s Famous in Rhinebeck, NY at 34 Main Street in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY. This local diner is my ‘go-to’ place when I visit. I love their stick to your ribs type of cooking. On a cold night I treated myself to a Hot Turkey platter with mashed potatoes and broccoli. That hit the spot for dinner. Their Chicken Rice Soup really warmed me up as well.

Pete's Famous

Pete’s Famous in Downtown Rhinebeck

When visiting the mansions closer to Beacon, NY, take time to travel up Route 9D and drive through the small towns that parallel Route 9. It has much more character and you will miss Wappinger’s Falls, a small quaint town out of a Currier & Ives print that is rapidly gentrifying like the rest of the small Hudson River towns.

Downtown Wappinger's Falls

Downtown Wappinger’s Falls along Route 9D has a lot of character

Right near the river, I was recommended Wagon Wheel Pizza at 2654 East Main Street by one of the merchants. I am glad that i waited until 4:00pm when they opened. The pizza was wonderful and the owner could not have been more engaging.

Wagon Wheel Pizza

Wagon Wheel for pizza is delicious

This traditional family business harks back to the 1970’s pizzeria’s that I remember going to as a kid and the pizza is excellent. The sauce has such great flavor and there is nothing like a fresh pie when it comes out of the oven. The owner could not have been nicer and it is a nice spot to talk to the locals.

I was so exhausted from all the running back and forth to the Hudson River Valley and running in and out of the Manhattan that I needed to relax on New Year’s Eve. When I returned from my three mansion tour and lunch, I was warn out. I spent the coming on the new decade asleep and the only reason why I awoke at Midnight to greet in the next decade was because my neighbors were shooting off fireworks. Otherwise I would have slept right through it.

Happy 2020!

Rockefeller Christmas tree 2019

The Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2019

What was special was they left the Annual Tree at Rockefeller Center up until January 8th so it was nice to see it lit without all the tourists milling around it. It was the perfect to visit Rockefeller Center. What a beautiful tree this year!

The Pointer Sisters sang it best. There is nothing like Christmas in New York!

 

 

What a fun song!

 

Places to Eat:

(I did not include the prices as they keep changing and the hours which can change during the times of the year. I made all the connections to each’s website).

 

Village Pizza of Rhinebeck

119 Market Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-9676

https://www.facebook.com/RBKVP/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d818463-Reviews-Village_Pizza_of_Rhinebeck-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

 

VFW of Lodi, NJ

163 Union Street

Lodi, NJ  07644

Every Second Sunday of the Month the Knights of Columbus run their Breakfast Buffet for $6.00 All you can Eat

 

Sanducci’s Italian Restaurant

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Striper Bites

107 Savannah Road

Lewes, DE 19958

(302) 645-4657

Home

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34028-d396039-Reviews-Striper_Bites-Lewes_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Jade Palace Chinese Restaurant

1659 Route 9

Wappingers Falls, NY  12590

(845) 297-1188

http://www.jadepalacewappingersfalls.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48799-d4631119-Reviews-Jade_Palace_Chinese_Restaurant-Wappingers_Falls_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pete’s Famous Restaurant

34 East Market Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-7271

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Petes-Famous-Restaurant/113374415362954

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d823142-Reviews-Pete_s_Famous_Restaurant-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Bodega Pizza

4455 Broadway

New York, NY 10040

(646) 869-0815

http://www.bodegapizza.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d17990667-Reviews-Bodega_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Wagon Wheel Pizza

2694 East Main Street

Wappinger’s Falls, NY  12590

(845) 297-5940

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wagon-Wheel-Pizza/167984063214534

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48799-d4712660-Reviews-Wagon_Wheel_Pizza-Wappingers_Falls_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY hosts the Sinterklaas Parade every year on the first Saturday of the Month of December. Please look to the website for more information on it:

Home

https://www.facebook.com/sinterklaasrhinebeck/

 

The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association sells Christmas trees each year starting the day after Thanksgiving until we sell out which is usually the second week of December:

https://www.facebook.com/hasbrouckheightsmensassociation/

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845)753-2122

Homepage

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Because of the extensive amount of Historical Sites and Decorated Mansions that I visited during the Holidays Season, please check out my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ on WordPress.com for more information on the Decorated Mansions and Museums:

https://visitingamuseum.com/

 

Downtown Lewes, DE has some very original and creative stores and restaurants that includes:

Fairy Godmother

103 Second Street

Lewes, DE  19958

(302) 930-7827

https://www.facebook.com/fairygodmother103/

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/357

 

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department runs our annual “Santa Around Town” every December on the last Sunday of the month before Christmas:

http://www.hasbrouck-heights.com/hhfd/

http://hasbrouck-heightsnj.org/new_fire_department_page.html

 

Don’t miss Downtown Wappingers Falls, NY and Downtown Cold Springs during the holidays. The Hudson River Valley has such nice little towns to visit.

 

Yankee Stadium for the Pinstripe Bowl 2019: The Highlights

 

The Game:

 

 

 

Dining on a Budget

Dining on a Shoe String in New York City and Beyond: Finding reasonable meals and snacks for around $10.00 and under

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I am featuring all the small individually owned restaurants on my blog, DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com. These reasonable places won’t ‘break the bank’ when visiting New York City.

Barcelona's IV

Barcelona’s in Garfield, NJ.

G' Coffee Shop

G’s Coffee Shop in Inwood, NY

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Hello everyone!

My name is Justin Watrel and I created ‘Dining on a Shoe String in New York City’ (DiningonShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com) as an extension to the blogs: ‘MywalkinManhattan’ (MywalkinManhattan.com) along with ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum.com) and “LittleShoponMainStreet” (“LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com), in search of a delicious meal for $10.00 and under. It is difficult in an area as expensive as Metropolitan New York but many restaurant owners are paving the way with small, innovative menus at a fair price.

Lung Moon Bakery II

Lung Moon Bakery in Chinatown, NY

I created this blog when I discovered all these wonderful small restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that were fantastic both in that the quality of their food and the prices that they cost. I also looked at atmosphere and cleanliness of the establishment. Most cost under $10.00 (USA) for their main food items and provide small places to sit down and eat.

With everyone on a budget, I thought this would cater nicely to…

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The Hudson River Valley in the Fall

Day One Hundred and Forty-Nine Visiting the Hudson River Valley for Fall Events and to see the foliage September and October 2019

I have been travelling up to the Hudson River Valley much more than usual this Fall. There has been so much going on between the events up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds since the Fair in August and all the of the ‘Mansion Hopping’ and visiting to historical sites for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”,  which I have been concentrating on building over the Summer and Fall. I have been visiting on most weekends between September and the end of October.

Travelling up to the Hudson River Valley in the fall is an amazing time. Because of the lack of rain over the summer, the foliage turned much earlier than it usually does and the trees starting turning yellow and red in the end of September and beginning of October as opposed to last year and the year before where it was more the end of October and middle of November.

I started my journey up to Dutchess County right after the Dutchess County Fair at the end of August and continued through the end of October for Halloween events. I had bought a small Santa from a woodcarver for a small Mother’s Day present for my mom and she absolutely loved it so I had to seek him out again at events through the next three months. He was tough to find.

My first trip Upstate was for the Cornell-Marist Football game on September 21st. Because I have to teach college on Saturday mornings I left for the game later in the afternoon and I got to Marist College during the beginning of the second quarter.

The Marist College campus off Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is one of the nicest college campuses I have been to in a while. The campus sits right on the Hudson River and the nice part is that the football stadium is located right off the highway so as I was driving in I could see what was going.

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Big Red Football

Long story short it was not the greatest football game I had ever been to and we won 21-7. Cornell University has not invested in its football team the way it should and it was like watching two high school teams play.  The funny part was that Marist College and Cornell University have the same school colors so it was hard to see who was rooting for who in the stadium.

The one nice thing about the stadium is that on the other side of the stands of the stadium that Marist has lawn sitting and that is the best way to watch the game. It was also about 85 degrees that afternoon so it was the perfect football weather and I got tan while watching the game.

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Sitting on the lawn side of the field is the best place to sit

After the game was over, I decided to explore the campus. God, the Marist College campus is gorgeous. The campus has expanded over the years since I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and our campus was beautiful as well. Marist College has rolling hills, lush green lawns and the most amazing view of the Hudson River. People should just visit the campus to walk around. The foliage was just starting to turn so the view of the river and the hills that surround it was spectacular.

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Homecoming and Reunion Weekend at Marist College

The next weekend I was back Upstate again to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck for Oktoberfest. This interesting event was the smaller of the two events that I attended at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds after the Annual Fair in August. This was a smaller craft event that took up one section of the fairgrounds mostly where the craft exhibition space had been during the fair and the rides were located. I had gotten this event and the Sheep & Wool event later in the month mixed up and the wood carver was not there (later when I did meet up with him at the Sheep & Wool Festival he said that he was not invited). Still I stayed and explored the fairgrounds on this warm sunny day.

Oktoberfest 2019.jpg

Along the main path, there were all sorts of arts and crafts vendors and gourmet food vendors selling their wares and there were a few food vendors towards the back of the event but the lines were so long that I decided to eat outside the fairgrounds. So I took a trip up to Red Hook, NY which is located just north of the fair grounds and had lunch at Village Pizza III at 7594 North Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some lunch.

The food at this Village Pizza is just excellent and so reasonable as well! I had the most delicious Calzone ($6.95) that was just loaded with mozzarella, Parmesan and Ricotta cheese and was a gooey delight with every bite. Their red sauce that I have mentioned in my of my Upstate New York blogs, is just excellent. Well spiced and loaded with flavor.

Village Pizza III.jpg

Village Pizza III at 7594 Broadway in Red Hook, NY is just excellent for lunch and dinner

I came back two weeks later for the Sheep and Wool Festival which was a whole different experience. The Sheep and Wool Festival which takes place the third week of October was a much bigger festival, larger than Oktoberfest but just a little smaller then the Fair. It was a lot of fun walking through the rows of yarn, specialty crocheted and knitted hats, blankets and baby items plus all the handcrafted items for the upcoming holidays.

Sheep and Wool Festival II

The Sheep and Wool Festival

I did find the wood carver, Joe Gleeson,  on this trip and was able to buy to small Santa’s that he had in stock. It seemed that he had a good sell through at the Dutchess County Fair and there was not much left and he was just trying to keep up. I love Mr. Gleeson’s surrealist designed Santa’s. After making that purchase, I walked all over the fairgrounds looking over the displays and all the crafts people. There were a lot of interesting vendors offering the most beautiful and interesting items.

Carapace Farm Puppetry.jpg

Carapace Farm Puppetry by Susannah White

Mr. Gleeson has the most beautiful wooden carvings of Santa’s, Elf’s and Snowman. Bonnie’s Beast’s offered the most creative felt and knit play animals from felt wool. Artist Patricia McGarth created homemade all natural doggie treats that tasted like an all natural cracker. They were not bad to eat for a human. Utopia Bath Ltd. has an interesting bath line and lotions. Artist Susannah White builds and creates puppets through her Carapace Farm Puppetry. She carries the most interesting hand and finger puppets and masks. Artist JoAnn Clark is a fiber artist who specializes in Needle felted folk art. She created the most interesting animal art and figurines. Ameila McIsaac created flowering art through her Flowering Art Homestead company.

 

Sheep and Wool Festival

The sheep were surprisingly friendly

For lunch, I discovered that Janken’s, the Food Truck vendor I had eaten lunch at during the Fair was at this festival as well and I made the ‘B-Line’ to have lunch there. For $15.00,  I got their special again. This was a half pound freshly ground beef patty that was juicy in the center and caramelized on the outside. Then they top it with Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Glazed Ham, Pulled Pork and homemade pickles with a side of freshly made potato-cheese porgies cooked in butter and sweet onions with a side of sour cream. Okay, yes it is not for the cholesterol minded person but I eat this twice a year and do I enjoy it. I walked the Fairgrounds twice just to work it off.

dutchess-county-fair-burger.jpg

Do not miss the Hamburger and pirogi special at Jayken’s Food Truck

After the time at the Sheep and Wool Festival, it was next to the ‘Pie and Punch Evening” at the Kearney House in the Palisades Interstate Park. I had been to the Kearney House two weeks early on a Sunday but it was closed due to a Square Dance fundraiser they were running so I saw this on the Internet and thought it sounded fun (Please see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house would all be lit by candles and fireplaces as there is no electricity in the house. What could be nicer?

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Kearney House at the Alpine Landing is lit by candlelight

Well just to let all you readers know that the Palisades Interstate Park is closed after dusk and does not reopen until it is light out the next day and there are NO lights either on the roads going down the hill to the basin or in the parking lot. When I mean the park is pitch black, it is pitch black. I thought this was dangerous since the road leading to the basin is very steep, not much of a barrier along the cliff side and no lights on the signs. Let’s just leave this that there was a small boulder that I did not see and it did not get out of my way. The next hour in the park was not fun!

After I calmed down and was an hour late for the event, everyone could not have been nicer to me at the get together. Once I relaxed and had some hot spiced punch and a few pieces of pie and some cheese I calmed down. The boulder aside, it was a very nice event and I had a good time.

The Kearney House is an old Revolutionary aged home that had been used by the Kearney family as Inn and resting place for sailors and shippers using the Hudson River back when it was bustling with trade. The family ended up selling it before WWI and it was bought by the parks system. The division that runs the Kearney House and fundraisers for its upkeep run these themed events.

The house was all lit up by candlelight in both rooms and both fireplaces were roaring when I got in the room. It was the pies that calmed me down. They offered three different pies, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple and Pumpkin that were from a bakery in Closter, NJ and were ‘out of this world’ delicious. The apple pie had the sweetest filling and tasted like pears were baked into it along with the apples. The strawberry rhubarb had a tangy-tart sweet filling to it and the pumpkin had a nicely baked creamy almost custard like filling all with this amazingly buttery crust. This is the type of pie that can make you forget all of your problems.

Kearny House

Kearney House story telling

On the table as well were wedges of sharp cheese and accompanying breads, roasted peanuts, ice cold water and served to you by volunteers in period costume. If I had not been so shaken when I entered the house (and of course the couple who helped me with the car told everyone at the party what happened so everyone was extra nice to me) and all the volunteers who helped with the event had not been so nice, it could have been a bad night.

Kearny House IV.jpg

The house lit by candle light and by the fireplace

Still there was a tour of the house both upstairs and into the attic, a musician playing songs and then a half hour of story telling all by the glow of candle and fire light that made the evening special. I ended up having a nice time talking to the other guests and getting to eat the endless slices of pie.

I left a little better than I arrived but I will tell you two things: I am NEVER going into this park again after dark, so matter what the event is and that was the last time I set foot in the Kearny House. It was so dark in the parking lot when I left I almost tripped on the barrier on side the of it.

My next trip up to the Hudson River that next Sunday lead me to Beacon, NY to visit Pollepel Island/Bannerman Castle Island and to visit the mysterious castle in the middle of the Hudson River (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had talked about visiting Beacon, NY in my other blogs for the Third Thursday Shopping nights during the holidays and my visit to the DIA-Beacon in VisitingaMuseum.com.

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Bannerman Island

When visiting Bannerman Island please remember that it is open seasonally and opens in later April and closes at the end of October so you have to plan your trip there accordingly. I got there the last Sunday it was open and please note that you do need advanced reservations to go to the island. I lucked out as there was two trips out to the island that day and there had been a cancellation that afternoon and I was able to make the boat trip.

The trip was on somewhat rough waters as it was a gloomy day with the sun peaking out only at the end of the tour. When we got to the island, we landed at the small dock and then had to walk up over 70 steps to the landing  at the top of the hill. It wasn’t hard but hardly ADA compliant. We had excellent tour guide who knew the whole history of the island from when the family bought the island in 1900 to when the sons sold the island in the 1950’s.

Bannerman Castle III.jpg

The Bannerman Castle was actually an armory for munitions for the Bannerman company. Francis Bannerman IV bought the island to store his inventory of his military supply business and the items were stored there awaiting shipping to all over the world.

The castle itself had partially blown up in the 1920’s when the munitions caught fire and then in turn burned in 1969 and  the interiors were destroyed. Recently part of the wall to the castle collapsed so the building is now being held up by metal rods to prevent further collapse.

The tour took us up the path toward the former arsenal so we could take a better look which is pretty dramatic sitting by the water with the vegetative growth around it. Mrs. Bannerman had once had the whole area landscaped with an exotic garden. Now that part is all growth and weeds.

Travelling up the path from the ‘castle’, we walked up the path that had been landscaped by the local garden clubs who have been put in charge of landscaping the old paths and gardens leading to the family mansion at the top of the hill. The mansion is going through a renovation so there is not much to see but there is a small gift shop inside and the history in the building. The outside of the mansion is being landscaped and used for theater show, movie nights and concerts. The views of the river are spectacular.

Bannerman Mansion view

The view from the mansion on top of the hill

We exited down the back path and saw more interesting views of the Hudson River. There are more gardens on the way down and we heard more of the history of the island in that it was closed off until recently and was only visited by kayakers and adventurers. The island is now open for all sorts of activities.

On our way back, the tour guides gave us their own take on visiting the island which was pretty funny. They run these tours and can’t believe how mesmerized people are by buildings that were falling apart.

As we took the boat ride back to the dock in Beacon, I noticed that the foliage had an unusual line to it up on the hill. It was dead towards the top of the hill and the rest of the trees were combination of yellow and green. The tour guide said that an unusual early frost hit the trees and the ones at the top of the hill had already gone dormant.

bannerman-island-foliage.jpg

It was unusual foliage in Beacon, New York

For the rest of the afternoon, I explored downtown Beacon and all the innovative stores and trendy restaurants. I ended up though eating at a Pizza and Stuff II Pizzeria at 339 Main Street. The pizza there is delicious. Those trendy restaurants prices are ridiculous and I am not too sure how the locals afford some of these places.  Still it is a beautiful and quaint downtown with nice businesses set in the distance of the Hudson River mountains. The foliage around the town sets the tone.

As Halloween approaches, there will be more to do and see. Check out my blog on Halloween Again 2019.

 

Places to eat:

 

Village Pizza III

7514 North Broadway

New York, NY  12571

(845) 758-5808

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Village-Pizza-III/113437418688745

Open:  Sunday 1:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-11:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48473-d819096-Reviews-Village_Pizza_III-Red_Hook_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/886

 

Janken’s Food Truck

Not much information but there are at the Fairgrounds during events

 

Pizza and Stuff II

339 Main Street

Beacon, NY  12508

(845) 838-2222

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g47291-d5510044-Reviews-Pizza_and_Stuff_II-Beacon_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Dutchess County Fairgrounds

6636 Route 9

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-4000

http://dutchessfair.com/dutchess-fair/general-info/

(Open for Seasonal Events)

 

Marist College Campus

3399 North Road

Poughkeepsie, NY  12601

(845) 575-3000

https://www.marist.edu/

 

The Kearney House/Alpine Landing

Palisade Interstate Park

Alpine, NJ  07624

(201) 768-1360  ext. 108

https://www.njpalisades.org/kearney.html

Open: The Kearney House is open seasonally usually weekend from 1:00pm-4:00pm; closed for the season except for special events. Please visit their website.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g29743-d19332567-Reviews-Kearny_House-Alpine_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3519

 

Bannerman Island

Pollepel Island

Newburg, NY/Beacon, NY

(845) 237-2326

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47508-d2252346-Reviews-Bannerman_Castle-Cold_Spring_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48254-d2091254-Reviews-Bannerman_Cruise_Walking_Tour-Newburgh_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3554

 

Vendors to seek out at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds:

 

JoAnn Clark, Fiber Artist Needle Felted Folk Art

woolwoman4U@embarqmail.com

(724) 735-4637

 

Joe Gleeson, Woodcarver

Gleesa@optonline.net

(845) 229-8458

 

Susannah White, Carapace Farm Puppetry

carapacefarm.com/carapacefarm@gmail.com

(716) 464-0931

 

Bonny’s Beasts & Birds

http://www.bonnysbeasts.com

 

Utopia Bath Ltd.

http://www.utopiabathltd.com/www.utopiabathltd.etsy.com

 

Amelia McIsaac, Floweringheart Homestead

(518) 821-4769

Ameliafloweringheart@gmail.com

 

Patricia McGrath, Laughing Paw Farm

http://www.laughingpawfarm.com/info@laughingpawfarm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of the Marist-Cornell Football Game:

 

Auntie El's Farmers Market and Bakery

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery 171 Route 17 South Sloatsburg, NY 10974

When visiting the mansions in Ringwood, NJ or just heading up Route 17 from New Jersey to New York to see the foliage, stop at Auntie El’s farm for lunch or dessert and check out their gifts for the holidays. Check my write up on “MywalkinManhattan.com”.

Auntie El's IV

Don’t miss Auntie El’s on Route 17 South

Little Shop on Main Street

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

Phone: (845) 753-2122

Fax: (845) 753-5045

auntieelsfarmmarket.com

Homepage

Hours: Vary to the season/Please check their website above or call the above numbers.

I love going to Auntie El’s Farm Market when I visit the mansions up in Ringwood, NJ or just for a drive to the area on a nice day. It is a very unassuming place that has so much to offer.

On the outside, they sell plants, gardening supplies, hot house flowers, pots and decorative lawn ornaments. During the holiday season, they sell Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and grave blankets. They sell decorations for the inside of the house as well for Easter and Christmas.

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The summer months bring flowers and potted plants to the farm

During the Summer months, there are all sorts of items for the garden in the way of plants, flowers…

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Village Pizza III in Red Hook, NY

Village Pizza III 7514 North Broadway Red Hook, NY 12571

Check out Village Pizza III on my Christmas blogs and when you visit the Hudson River Valley in Upstate New York. The food is excellent and service is friendly.

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Village Pizza III

7514 North Broadway

Red Hook, NY  12571

(845) 758-5808

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Village-Pizza-III/113437418688745

Open: Monday-Thursday 11:00am-11:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00am/Sunday 1:00pm-9:00pm

Cuisine: Italian & Pizza

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48473-d819096-Reviews-Village_Pizza_III-Red_Hook_New_York.html?m=19905

Branches: In Catskill, NY and Rhinebeck, NY

I came across Village Pizza III when I was visiting Red Hook, NY on a stop through on my way back from President Martin Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY. I had want to visit the town to see of there had been any changes in the town over the last three years since my visit in the Christmas season of 2015.

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The sauce on their pizza and pastas is amazing

I had just stopped in for a quick slice of pizza ($1.25) that afternoon and the pizza was amazing. The sauce on the cheese pizza was perfectly spiced and had a rich tomatoy flavor to it. You could taste the high quality tomatoes in the sauce. It…

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Carnegie Hall at Christmas time

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: Here comes Christmas: Part Two December 16th, 2018-January 10th, 2019

I swear it was full steam ahead for the rest of the holiday season. December for me just keeps getting busier. From the time we finished the Victorian Walking Tour to after the Epiphany my feet never touched the ground. Christmas tree sales kept me busy on the weekends, class finished up with my final exam night on the second week of December (I am very proud to say that I gave out 28 A’s, 2 B plus’s and 2 B’s) and then I really got busy with my volunteer work.

After the weekend with the Victorian Walking Tour and the Washington’s Crossing event, it was off to visit Lillian again. I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and here it was three weeks later, I was out on Long Island for another family event. The facility she lived in really does a lot of nice things for the families.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I with her Christmas present, Petula the Pup from FAO Schwarz

I had given Lillian a choice, would she like me to come out for the Family Dinner or the the Family Concert the next week? I unfortunately could not do both. Work was getting busy and I had two Christmas parties to plan. So we decided on the Family dinner. We really had a nice time.

We joined her roommate, Marie and her two daughters for dinner that night. The facility had a nice dinner for us with roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli that was surprising well cooked and seasoned for a nursing facility and they gave you plenty of it. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know one another when Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and greeted all the residents and their families. The two staff members who played the roles did a marvelous job with it and made it extra festive.

After dinner and a tour around the building greeting other residents and their families I said my goodbyes to Lillian and her roommate and her family. I had a long trip ahead of me as well. I could tell that Lillian was a little sad by it but I said that I would see her at Valentine’s Day and we would see each other after the craziness of the holidays was over. That is when I surprised her with the small Petula the Pup that we both used to sell in both of our time in the Pre-School Department at FAO Schwarz. She was very surprised and touched by it. It must have triggered something because I saw her cry a little. It made her happy that someone remembered (Please see the blog on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Lillian passed away three weeks after our dinner together).

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The next morning myself and the volunteers who work with me at work had our Christmas party for the residents of the Maywood facility that I work with on my job with the County of Bergen for our Post-Stroke & Disabled Support Group. We had entertainment with Van Martin Productions and we decorated the tables with garland and candy and the room for the holidays. The whole affect was very festive.

The ladies who are part of the group that comes to our events had a wonderful time. Each one of us baked a special dessert for the event and at all the place settings were chocolate Santa’s and candy canes for each resident. We served desserts and coffee to everyone, handed out gifts to all and had a wonderful afternoon of good food and wonderful entertainment.

That evening, I hosted an Italian dinner at my home for the ladies who volunteer for me. Taking everyone to a restaurant gets expensive plus at the holidays everyone rushes you out so I found it more personal to have it at my house.

I cooked the entire meal and served it. We started the meal with homemade mini-meatballs that I made a few days before, sauted shrimp and cheeses for the appetizer and for dinner I made chicken cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread and a nice salad all with the accompanying wines. We had a wonderful time and did a lot of laughing that night.

As I was serving dessert which I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, the noise got louder. Other guests joined us later and there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a enjoyable way to spend our last day together before the holidays.

The next day I joined a friend that I had not seen for almost two years for lunch in Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor). It was just nice to finally catch up as it had been a long time since we talked. We both agreed that our lives had us running in different directions. We spent our afternoon laughing at things from years ago and in our current lives. It is nice to spend time with friends at the holidays. I had not realized that Nancy and I had not seen one another in two years!

sanducci's

Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road

After lunch, I had to prepare another dinner as we held our annual Men’s Association Christmas Party at the tree-stand to end our season of selling. That Friday night, we had four trees on the lot and by the time the party was over we sold them out. We sold 338 trees (one was stolen and one was donated) during the holiday season and that was a new record for us.

I made a batch of stuffed shells for dinner and a batch of chocolate brownies for dessert. I never know what to make as it is a pot luck and all the guys bring something different but two years earlier three of us brought baked ziti. So I know shy away from that. That and I wanted something quick because I was still tired from cooking the night before.

It a fun evening of great food and conversation mostly dwelling on the success of this year’s sale. God, can some of these guys cook! Our former President, Mike, makes a venison chili that is always the highlight of the dinner especially on a cold night. The stuffed shells were put under the warmers and were a big hit. I never have to sell brownies to anyone. I was sure they were gone by the end of the evening.

The weather started to drop that night and after an hour at the party it went down to 35 degrees. Even sitting by the barrel fire, I could not take it anymore. I said my goodbyes by 9:00pm. I was exhausted  from a week of cooking and had still more to do over the weekend. I had to plan two menus for that Sunday and had to have back to back meals. One of the guys later on told me that a group of them were there until 2:00am. Not a night I would have been out.

I had to sleep in that Saturday morning because I was worn out from the running around that week but there was food to prepare, a house to clean and a table to set. I needed a break from it all to put me back into the spirit of the holiday so before I started all the prep work, I went to Ringwood Manor for  their celebration and to see the decorated house.

Ringwood Manor every year is beautifully decorated by a group of volunteers. The house was open for tours of life in the Victorian Age. Each of the rooms was decorated to the hilt with garland and plants and all sorts of decorations.

Ringwood Manor Christmas III

The Ringwood Manor Dining Room

Ringwood Manor has an interesting history. The area around Ringwood, NJ was the center for iron ore manufacturing and was a big player in munitions during the Revolutionary War because of both the amount of ore in the hills and the strategic location near New York City.

Ringwood Manor

Ringwood Manor

In 1807, the land was bought by Martin J. Ryerson who built the first home of the property which was a 10 room Federalist style home. In 1853, Peter Cooper bought the mines and the home and it became one of the biggest suppliers iron ore to the Civil War effort. Peter Cooper’s partners were his son, Edward and his future son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. The home became the summer estate for Mr. & Mrs. Hewitt and added on to the house in 1864, 1875, 1900 and 1910. The home then had 51 rooms and was designed in the Classic Victorian style with furnishings from all over the world. In 1938, the home, it contents and grounds of the estate was donated to the State of New Jersey (Ringwood Manor Park History).

The tour was self-guided and you could take as much time as you wanted seeing each room. There was a docent on hand to explain all the decorations and furnishings as well as the purpose of the room. One of the points that was made when I was visiting the decorated homes during the holiday season was that Victorians never decorated every room in the house like on the tours.

They decorated maybe the living room and dining room with a tree and garland. Only the wealthiest families would decorate more than that because they had servants to maintain it. Trees and garland were used after the Civil War because Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert was from Germany and brought the Pagan tradition of putting a tree inside the house with him to England (Victorian Christmas History).

After my visit to the manor, it was off to Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY (see my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for some baked goods and a tour of the farm. I roamed through the farm stand who just like us were wiped out of Christmas trees. I bought cake truffles ($5.00 each) and a Caramel Apple Cake ($10.95) for my Christmas dinner and munched on Apple Turnovers ($3.50) and Cider Doughnuts ($1.00) while I was there looking around the bakery. In the farm stand area, they have to most delicious jellies and jams to choose from and other gourmet products.

AUntie El's II

Auntie El’s desserts!

When I got home, I spent the rest of the time cooking for our Engine One Brunch for Company members and families on Sunday morning and then for my Christmas dinner with my family on Sunday night. I never left the kitchen.

That Sunday was a busy day for me as I had to pull off two back to back meals. In the morning from 10:00am-1:00pm was the Engine One Brunch and after clean up and saying goodbye to everyone was the early Christmas dinner with my family from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. I had never done back to back meals before and don’t plan on doing it again. Way too much work!

I got to the firehouse at 8:30am that morning and had to deal with a major mess. The Department Christmas Party had been the night before and they did not clean it properly. So the first thing I had to do was clean all the tables, throw out the garbage and mop the floors. That took almost an hour.

Then I had to clean and set up the kitchen for Brunch. Once I got that done, I set the buffet table for the food and then put all the table clothes on the tables in the main room. Then I set up and started to cook and set the tables for breakfast. By the time I was done with all of that, the first guys started to arrived to help me.

Engine One Brunch 2018 III

Me setting up breakfast

I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.

Engine One Brunch 2018 II

Me in front of the Brunch Buffet Table

It really was great meal. I prepared two egg casseroles, one with bacon and the other with Italian sausage, a French Toast Souffle, homemade waffles (I drag that waffle iron all over), fresh fruit salad and then I baked a cinnamon crunch coffee cake, blueberry muffins, a chocolate chip pound cake and brought in assorted bagels from Panera and doughnuts from Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge. There was something for everyone.

We had a wonderful time. About 54 people showed up for breakfast and did people come hungry. We did not have much left. Our Lieutenant, Bernie Valente, gave the welcoming speech and greeted everyone for brunch and wished everyone a happy and safe holiday season. It was a nice morning of good food and conversation.

Engine One Brunch 2018 IV

The Engine One Members at the Brunch

After the Brunch was over, I said my goodbyes to everyone and had to clean and mop the room again. That took some time but the place was spotless when I left.

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I ran home and thank God, I had already cleaned the house, set the dining room table and prepared the house for guests. I was able to take a 45 minute break before my family showed up for a pre-Christmas dinner. I relaxed on the couch for about twenty minutes before my family showed up. I was so grateful they showed up late.

What a great time we had that night! My Aunt Dee and my cousins, Wayne and Bruce came to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Since I was joining my brothers at my Mom’s house for Christmas Eve and Day, I would not be seeing my aunts and cousins this year.

I cooked a four course meal that was my pride and joy. We started with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sauteed shrimp on toasts and mozzarella sticks with a bottle of bubbly to toast the holidays. We had a nice time just catching up with work and family events.

About an hour later, I served dinner. I kept it simple this year making chicken cutlets, a potato puff and string beans with butter. It was the perfect evening of good food and conversation. My cousins told me about work and what was going on in their lives and my aunt was telling me stories about her upcoming holiday events. We always have a nice time.

For dessert, I had the desserts from Aunt El’s. I served the caramel apple pie and the cake truffles. I have to admit that they were all a little sweet but still good. There was a layer of caramel and chocolate on the top of the apple pie. It was a nice way to end the evening.

After a week of cooking for five parties and dinners, I took a break from the kitchen and planned a couple of Christmas events. The first was I attended the Hasbrouck Heights High School Holiday concert. I had a nice time listening to the choir and jazz band. The school was packed with people filming the whole thing. I have never seen so many cells phones out.

The one event I had gone to last year was the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall and looked forward to seeing it again. The ‘Home Alone Concert’ with the New York Philharmonic had been sold out as was the ‘Holidays with Brass Concert’. So I scoured the internet to see if there were tickets left to the concert and I was in luck. It looked like someone had given up their two tickets and grabbed the second to last ticket for the concert and it was on the isle! What a concert!

First, I love going to Carnegie Hall during the holidays. It is so beautifully decorated for the holidays and everyone from the staff to the concert goers are in the festive spirit.  The concert was called “Under the Mistletoe” with the New York Pops with singer, Ashley Brown who had originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Here is Ms. Brown preparing for the concert I saw on December 22nd.

 

What a wonderful concert! Ms. Brown was accompanied by Essential Voices USA which was a choir that sang during the concert. They opened with much excitement the songs “Deck the Halls” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and then introducing Ms. Brown singing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. The rest of the concert was filled with traditional Christmas songs and a lot of holiday cheer.

In the middle of the second act, Santa came down the aisle near me and greeted the crowds. I swear I was having a somewhat rough holiday season missing my father and all and when I saw Santa, I really believed it was him. I was so happy to see him as was everyone else in the room. I could see how emotional people were and knew they felt the same way. It looked like everyone just wanted to believe that night and we are talking of a crowd of concert goers who were in their fifties, sixties and seventies. I guest you are never too old to believe in Santa. It has been a rough year for everyone.

The concert ended with a big sing-a-long with Santa, the Essential Voices USA and Ashley Brown leading the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along” with the songs, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ending with “Jingle Bells”. Even Santa joined us singing! I swear, that whole concert hall rocked with people singing all the classics and it brought the house down. People were on the feet applauding at the end of the concert. I had never seen so many smiling faces in one spot in a long time.

Carnegie Hall Christmas

The Sing a Long with Santa

The next morning, was still singing the concert in the back of my mind as I was preparing breakfast at the firehouse for the Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town”. A group of us got to the firehouse early to wash the truck, so I cooked the traditional Engine One breakfast before we started the wash and decorating. I made a pancake and sausage breakfast for the guys. We had a ball eating, laughing and talking about upcoming holiday plans.

Santa Around Town 18

The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights before ‘Santa Around Town’

We then got to work washing the whole truck and preparing it for the long trip around Hasbrouck Heights greeting residents with holiday cheer and assisting Santa handing out candy canes to all the kids. It is a long evening but we really lucked out with the weather. It was warmer than usual around 45 degrees and people really came out to see Santa. We had large families of kids and dogs taking group shots with Santa. It is nice to see that people still do believe (See my Blog: The Brothers of Engine One participate in “Santa Around Town” December 23rd, 2018). We had a great time that night.

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The next morning it was off to visit my immediate family for Christmas. I know I have visited Woodstock, NY and Cape May, NJ in the past for the holidays (as you have seen in this blog) but it was time to join the family again on Christmas Day. I had not spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother and brothers since 1981 and the last time I had spent Christmas with my Mom was in 2010 so it was something I was looking forward to this year.

I spent my morning visiting cemeteries, paying my respect to my aunts, uncles, cousin. grand parents and finally my father, dropping off flowers and arrangements to all locations. I say a small prayer and send my wishes. I think this important at the holidays.

Then it was off for the four hour trip down to my mother’s in Delaware. It really was a wonderful Christmas with my family. We all had not been together for the holidays for such a long time. The last several years I would go down after the holidays and we would spend time together then. Since my father’s passing this is the first time the rest of us have been together as a family.

Christmas Eve was always a lot of fun in my family growing up. We would go over to my parents long time friend’s house from 1969-1981 until my parents divorce. Christmas Day was with my Aunt Elaine and my cousins from 1969-1990 right before my aunt passed away. Those were very special Christmas’s and I will always remember them. Since then it changed from year to year as was Christmas Day. All of us kids moved around the country and with school and jobs everything kept changing.

Somehow the stars aligned this year and we were all available. It really was a nice four days and it was fun connecting with everyone again. My younger brother came up with my niece and my older brother with his husband, so the extended family was all there.

We went to Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Road in Rehoboth Beach for Christmas Eve dinner (see review on TripAdvisor) and it was packed that night as if everyone in town had the same idea we did. We spent most of the evening either yelling over the table or saying hello to the dozens of people my mom knew in the community. The town was hopping for Christmas Eve and there were cars all over the place with people eating at restaurants up and down the downtown area.

When we got home after a wonderful dinner and tour of the downtown Christmas tree, we just relaxed in the living room and talked. It was nice to finally catch up with everyone in a peaceful environment. In the back of my mind, I still could not believe how Christmas creeped up on us this year or that it was actually Christmas Eve. I slept like a rock that night.

The next morning it was all hands on deck as I was helping my mother in the kitchen after breakfast. After a quick bowl of cereal and a shower, it was off to chopping, cutting and rolling in the kitchen. My mom said she would need my help in the kitchen helping with dinner which was a surprise as she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking.

I helped her make the breaded broccoli, the pigs in a blanket, making sure that she tied the crown roast the right way (it took some time) and stuff it and then arrange cookie trays for the dessert. Four of my mother’s friends joined us for dinner so there would be ten of us and did we eat that afternoon. My mother is an amazing cook and host and knows how to entertain at the holidays.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach

Cooking in the kitchen with my family

We had a nice afternoon of reminiscing about family Christmases of the past, what my mother’s friends were up to and how all of our lives were going. It was a nice evening of good eating and wonderful conversation. My brothers and I even cleaned the whole kitchen for my mother so she could relax and enjoy her guests.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach IIII

Christmas with my family

The next two days we spent at my mom’s house just catching up and relaxing and my brothers and I each hosted a meal for the other members of the family so that we could give my mom a break from cooking for a large group of house guests.

In the afternoons, pretty much everyone did their thing and then we would meet up for meals. My brother and my niece brought their little French Pug named “Boogie” up to my Mom’s so she would not be lonely. God, did we spoil that dog with attention and treats. She was the cutest most well behaved dog and what was funny was when I was lying on the floor watching a movie with my family, she plopped down next to me on the pillow and slept.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach II

Boogie sleeping next to me

Our first afternoon after Christmas, our family met at “A Touch of Italy” restaurant at my mother’s recommendation. The food was excellent. The most delicious thin crusted pizzas I have had in a long time. The pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are delicious here. For dinner the next night, we went to ‘Big Fish’, a local seafood restaurant my mother wanted to try.

It was now two days after Christmas and people looked like they were having family dinners before everyone had to go back to work. The place was mobbed! Our waiter, Scott, really handled the table well with our ten people. “Big Fish” (see my review on TripAdvisor), is a local seafood restaurant whose most popular dishes is everything fried. A friend of my mother’s said that she always has the fried shrimp when she is dining there. So that is what I had for dinner.

They were like heaven in every bite, sweet and briny and the breading was cooked perfectly. The potatoes and vegetables were also perfectly cooked. Between the entree and appetizers, there was no room for dessert to the shock of my family. Me miss dessert?

Our last morning was tough. My brothers were leaving for home and I was heading up to Cape May that evening to go to the theater to see “The Actors Carol” at the Cape May Theater and spend the night at the Chalfonte Hotel. It was baby steps back into the family Christmas and I still wanted some time alone for the holidays.

My mother made a big family breakfast and then we said our goodbyes over a fritata and sweet rolls. It was nice being able to spend some time with my brothers who live in other parts of the country and my niece who was off from school. We chatted on about the holiday and what we were doing for New Years and then it was off to travelling for all of us.

For the first time, I took the Lewes-Cape May Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (see review on TripAdvisor). It was about an hour and a half and had it been a warmer sunny day it would have been a beautiful trip. When I got there, I sat outside and watched dolphins swim by us. Of course, it had to be a cloudy day and then started to get cloudier and sprinkled so I spent the rest of the voyage inside watching a tourist film. I was able to watch the bay go by and it is quite a site. There is a beauty to the Delaware Bay.

I got into Cape May within the hour and settled at my hotel. I had just been at the Chalfonte in September for the Firemen’s Convention and the town was still hopping with tourists. It really has become a big destination for the holidays. It is funny though to see the main hotel closed for the season. It really does look haunted at night when only the spotlight is on it. The place was buzzing when I left nine weeks earlier.

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I settled into the Southern Annex (see review on TripAdvisor) and took a nap before the show. It had been a long but fun four days. It was nice to just relax and be by myself now. It was funny what a year can bring to you and how different you can become. I guess I was no longer that person that needed Cape May or Woodstock anymore. They were perfect for their time in my life but even I felt it was time to step out in the world again.

The show was funny that night. “The Actor’s Carol” was a take on the classic “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The star of the show within a show was a Prima Donna whose best acting days were behind him and made everyone miserable in this small town production. He was in turn visited by three ghosts from his past to show him how he got to where he was in life. It was not the most original show but very clever in premise.

After the production was over, I looked for a place to eat but a lot of the popular places were either closed for the holidays or closing for the evening. Just wanting a snack after the show and before going to bed, I stopped at Dellas 5 & 10 at 501-503 Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Cape May for dinner. This small drugstore has a soda fountain and restaurant in the back like Woolworth’s did years ago. The food is very good and the burger I had was well prepared. I had fun as the only customer talking with the waiters.

I walked all over downtown Cape May that night as I had the year before. It just seemed different this year as the experience was surreal. It was still Christmas to me but I just felt changed by the last four days. Still downtown was beautiful with all the lights on the trees, the creative window displays and the bells from the church sounding in the back. The gazebo in the main square still had the Christmas lit up and that put me back into the Christmas mood.

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The Gazebo in downtown Cape May

I got back to the hotel and slept like a log. All this driving and running around got to be too much on me. The hotel annex was really quiet even though it was full of guests. I did not hear or see anyone in my time at the hotel.

The next morning as I checked out, I was surprised to see Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonashoestringinNYC@Wordpress.com) open this year. It was locked shut last Christmas. I guess they figured the town was busy for the holidays and trust me, a smart choice as the restaurant was busy. They have the best breakfasts and their pancakes and scrambled eggs are cooked in butter so there is some extra caramelization to them. The service there is always so friendly and welcoming.

Uncle Bills Pancake House

Uncle Bill’s at 261 Beach Avenue

After breakfast, I walked the downtown again, walked all through the Congress Hall Hotel, where I stayed last year for Christmas (See Day One Hundred-This is Christmas) and then visited the Physick Mansion for another Christmas tour of the house (See TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com). It is always a nice tour and the mansion is so nicely decorated for the holidays. The tour like everything else in Cape May was busy. It was sunny and around 48 degrees that morning.

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After the tour, I left Cape May, probably to see it later again in the Spring and then headed up the Jersey Shore line to visit Margate and the Lucy Elephant statue (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had not climbed the top of the elephant yet and since it was a nice day wanted to take the tour before the statue closed for the day. I drove up the shoreline to Margate, NJ and got there by 2:00pm.

Lucy the Elephant

The famous Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

I got on the tour which was just about to leave and we climbed the whole statue and got to the top of the ‘howdah’, the transport on top of the elephant. That was the reason why I went the statue.  I had not been able to go to the top in 2015. It is the most beautiful view of the ocean and the best part is that it got warmer toward the afternoon. I was able to walk around the statue and by the beach and it must have gone up to 50 degrees.

I decided since it was early to double back to Ocean City, NJ and have some lunch before I drove home. What a spectacular afternoon walking in the Boardwalk. It was crowded because of the weather and surprisingly this late into the holiday week, a lot of the businesses were open.

I was able to go to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk (see review on TripAdvisor), which had a line ten deep, for caramel corn. They were making it in small batches and when I started eating it was still hot from the machine. There is nothing like warm caramelized corn on a cool day.

Johnson's Popcorn

Johnson’s Popcorn 1360 Boardwalk

After that, I went to Manco & Manco Pizza at 8, 9 & 12th on the Boardwalk (see reviews on TripAdvisor) for lunch. Their slices were the best. They make a good sauce and it was so busy that the pies are coming constantly so it was fresh. This is a real Jersey Shore pizzeria and the attitude of the guys working there showed it. You have to visit the Jersey shore Boardwalks to know what I am talking about. As the sun started to go down, it was time to leave. It was getting cooler. I got home later that evening in good time because there was no traffic.

New Year’s Eve was just sitting at home relaxing and calling friends. It looked like everyone was bunking in this year and the fact it went down to 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve night I could not believe all those crazy tourists were sitting in Times Square. I went to bed right after Midnight.

Later that week, I did make a trip up to Woodstock, NY to see their Christmas tree before they took it down but it was down already.  The town just seemed depressed when I arrived. I had not been up here since Christmas of 2016 so it had been over a two years since I celebrated a holiday up in the mountains. First, it had a cool damp feel to the town but since you are in the mountains it can be that way. Also, since the holidays were over, a lot of decorations were already down and usually you would keep these up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

The worst was several of the restaurants and clothing businesses that I had remembered from a few years back had gone out of business so there were empty storefronts. It just did not seem like the magical place that I had enjoyed three separate, wonderful holiday season’s. I really wanted to see the tree in the square but you can’t have it all. Still I had lunch at Shindig  located at 1 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and they have the best burgers and mac & cheese around. It was nice to sit by the window on this cold but sunny day and watch the world go by. I just walked around the town on this quiet afternoon.

The Epiphany brought my only church visit to Corpus Christi Church and the service was nice. The church was still decorated for Christmas so it was the last thing to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. We had our Installation Dinner at the fire department a week later but that is another story Check it out on my blog, The Brothers of Engine One HHFD below.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/398

Overall, it was a nice Christmas. Different from the last five years since my father’s passing but it was time to move on and enjoy the new family traditions we are creating. I was ready for the change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Places to Stay:

 

The Chalfonte Hotel Annex

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Ringwood Manor

1304 Sloatsburg Road

Ringwood, NJ  07456

(973) 962-2240

http://www.ringwoodmanor.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46774-d9564482-Reviews-Ringwood_Manor-Ringwood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845) 753- 2122

https://auntieelsfarmmarket.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34048-d268895-Reviews-Rehoboth_Beach_Boardwalk-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Ocean City Boardwalk:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46696-d583375-Reviews-Ocean_City_Boardwalk-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Lucy the Elephant

1900 Atlantic Avenue at Decater Avenue

Margate City, New Jersey 08402

(609) 823-6473

http://www.lucytheelephant.org/

Open: Hours are seasonal/only open on the weekends during the winter months 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46600-d518065-Reviews-Lucy_the_Elephant-Margate_City_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/333

 

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 11:15am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:45am-4:00pm

Fee: Check with website/seasonal

https://www.capemaymac.org/emlen-physick-estate

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

Places to Eat:

 

Sanducci’s Trattoria

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

Open: Sunday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 4:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Road

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3848

http://www.confuciusrb.com/

Open: Check the website for hours because of the seasonality of the beach

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Big Fish Grill

20298 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3474

https://bigfishgrill.com/rehoboth-beach-dining-menus/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00pm & 5:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396017-Reviews-Big_Fish_Grill-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Touch of Italy

19724 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(302) 703-3090

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

http://www.touchofitaly.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d4606866-Reviews-Touch_of_Italy-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bills Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/cape-may.html

Open: Monday- Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Dellas 5 & 10

501-503 Washington Mall

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-4568

https://www.capemay.com/shops/dellas-5-10/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1067917-Reviews-Dellas_5_10-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Manco & Manco Pizza

8, 9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-0720

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d459222-Reviews-Manco_Manco_Pizza-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Johnson’s Popcorn

8,9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-5404

Open: Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.johnsonspopcorn.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d4762196-Reviews-Johnson_s_Popcorn-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Shindig

1 Tinker Street

Woodstock, NY  12498

(845) 684-7901

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

Open: Sunday 9:00am-9:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-9:00pm/Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm/Friday & Saturday 9:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48915-d7376319-Reviews-Shindig-Woodstock_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach VI.jpg

My mother relaxing with the Boogie

 

 

The Sinterklaas Parade in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven: Here Comes Christmas! Part One- November 30th-December 14th, 2018

I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.

I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.

Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.

The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.

The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.

I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).

It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association.  I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program.  I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.

This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming.  The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.

Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.

My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.

This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.

Rhinebeck at Christmas.jpg

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.

The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.

I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.

Little Pickles II

Little Pickles in Red Hook, NY

I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).

By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.

The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.

I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.

My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.

After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.

As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float

People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’,  ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.

At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.

Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right

I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.

I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).

As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.

The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.

The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).

https://wordpress.com/post/tbcfha.wordpress.com/156

The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018

After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).

With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.

See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.

The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.

On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.

We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.

The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.

The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8117

On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.

Washington Crossing Reenactment II.jpg

The Military Parade by the Delaware River

We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.

See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018

By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.

Washington Crossing Reenactment.jpg

The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.

The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).

As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).

It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.

Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.

 

Places to stay:

 

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjjlt6N7OvgAhWGhLMKHbcJBsgYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASE-RooTIxmc5SMBldM5FH_lmQddE&sig=AOD64_2mmL-hiEz3ZSdcMhSE1Dot8L-jQw&q=&ved=2ahUKEwiQnteN7OvgAhWkct8KHa-EB7wQ0Qx6BAgNEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60801-d590312-Reviews-Quality_Inn_Hyde_Park-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

Hours: Sunday 1:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 2:30pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46639-d639843-Reviews-Columbia_Inn_Restaurant-Montville_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

Hours: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d6684399-Reviews-Smoky_Rock_BBQ-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Segovia’s Steakhouse

217 Main Street

Little Ferry, NJ  07643

(201) 814-1110

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46575-d3700411-Reviews-Segovia_Steakhouse-Little_Ferry_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46869-d3440313-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_State_Historic_Park-Titusville_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53924-d2522457-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_Historic_Park-Washington_Crossing_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Have a great holiday season!!

Here’s the whole reenactment event on YouTube of the Washington Crossing Event 2018

 

 

Lillian and I at Thanksgiving

Day One Hundred and Twenty Four: Thanksgiving dinner with Lillian in Kings Park, NY November 22nd, 2018

(This blog is in memory of my close friend, Lillian, who passed away on January 4th, 2019. My heart goes out to her family in losing such a wonderful person. I lost a good friend of twenty-three years. She was 100 years young and will always be Lillian to me!)

I went out to celebrate Thanksgiving again with my friend, Lillian. She is my friend that just turned 100 years old in June of 2018. I can’t believe that she is still sharp after all this time but then that is Lillian.

I had to drive out the day before so that I could let her know that I was coming for dinner. Trying to call her now is next to impossible as the nurses in her ward put the phone next to her and she can’t hold it. It gets to be trying with that.

Anyway, I had a nice night on Thanksgiving eve at the local Hampton Inn, which I had stayed at before and just relaxed. I was exhausted from all the activities that have been going on in my life and the fact that working four different jobs can take a toll on you. The hotel was decorated for the Christmas holidays and the tree in the lobby was fully lit with a tray of cookies right next to it for guests.

Hampton Inn Commack NY

The Hampton Inn, Commack, NY

Traveling out to Kings Park, NY seems to have gotten a little easier since I now know the route much better. I also make it easier for myself by driving on the 495 the whole way. I saved myself so much time.

There are sometimes I don’t think Lillian knows who I am at first. She just kind of looks at me but the then the more we talk, the more she comes around. It must be tough because everytime I visit the facility that she lives in all the residents are asleep which is not good for them. There is not much stimulation in watching old movies all day long.

I woke her up and gave her a big greeting and told her we had the whole day to spend together. We first started out by getting her cleaned up a bit. I hate it when they leave clothes on her that have food from breakfast.

Then it was a off to a tour of the facility before lunch. It was nice seeing the facility she lives in all decorated for Christmas. We had a nice time looking over the decorations and the tree in the lobby. Many family members were gathering their loved ones for trips home while others would be joining up in the family dining room for dinner. It was so much more personable. The facility has a private dining room they use for special meals for residents and it makes it more of a formal occasion.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian  and I at the holidays

Lillian and I had a nice time. Unfortunately that had just changed her diet to a ground up diet (bummer) and she had to drink thick turkey and cream soups but she managed that very well. For a little thing, she can eat! I gave her three glasses of apple cider, a glass of water, both soups and a few bites of pumpkin puree with whipped cream and she ate it with gusto. She drank half of both soups with no problems. After the meal, I swear she was a different person. She was so much more alive. She went back to being Lillian.

I wheeled Lillian’s roommate, Marie down to the dining room to join us for entertainment. With the power of  song and music, there was a keyboardist who sang all sorts of Christmas songs and music from the 70’s and 80’s that got the crowd going. It really woke them up. The transformation of went from people in wheelchairs half asleep to a loud sing a long. When the keyboardist sang “Take me out to the ballgame”, the whole room woke up. I swear it was like the movie “The Awakenings” where everyone comes back to life from ‘comatose land’.  People started to sing with such happiness as if they were remembering a better time in their lives. Lillian was so happy and was singing and clapping along. I was glad to be able to give her this.

The musician also have me a chance to relax and digest. It was a long ride home. After the entertainment was done for the afternoon, I wheeled both Marie and Lillian back to their room so that they could relax. It was a lot for both of them I could tell but they were different people when I left from who they were when I arrived and both much happier. I never saw two women more alive after a short afternoon of a good dinner and music. That’s what keeping people active and a little love does. It gives a person purpose and a sense of self. I even felt much better as well. It is nice when you can make a difference in someones life.

My ride home was the quickest ever. I got home in 55 minutes and got over the George Washington Bridge in seven minutes! How’s that for a new world record! Maybe God was watching over me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Places to stay:

The Hampton Inn Commack

680 Commack Road

Commack, NY  11725

(631) 462-5700

https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/comnyhx-hampton-long-island-commack/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g47518-d93152-Reviews-Hampton_Inn_Long_Island_Commack-Commack_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

Lillian and I on her 100th Birthday

Day One Hundred and Fourteen Visiting Lillian on her 100th Birthday June 6th, 2018

(In Memory of Lillian Heckler who passed on January 4th, 2019 going into her 101st year)

I went to visit a good friend of mine out on Long Island for her 100th birthday today. Even at 100, my friend, Lillian, still has mind that is very sharp and the luxury of a diet that she can eat everything and a healthy appetite (for someone who is 100).

I really lucked out with the weather as it had threatened to rain that day but ended up being a sunny day in the high 70’s. The sun peeked out enough where we could spend the day outside on the terrace away from the other residents.

Lillian and I have known each other since my days working at FAO Schwarz in the mid-nineties before I left for culinary arts school. I remember meeting Lillian for a brief moment in the late eighties when I was filling out an application to work at the store after graduation. She had directed my upstairs. I became good friends with her when I worked in the Pre-School Department in the Summer and Fall of 1996 when I took a leave from school. She had worked in the department for years at that point and at 86, she could ring circles around everyone in the department and in the store. I became very close to my staff in the department.

Having seen each other through life’s tragedies, with her the passing of her two children and mine with the passing of my dad, we have been each other’s listening ears. It takes a good friend to be there when a loved one is gone and be able to relate to it.

I have gone out more recently over the last two years as I have seen a big change in her and how happy these visits make her. I bring her meals for special occasions and for the holidays. Last year, I joined her for her birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas and this year for Easter and her milestone 100th birthday. With each visit, I see her immediately cheer up and get a great big smile on her face when I come.

I told her that she is my hero for being 100 years old and still being able to do the things that she does. She still has a sharp mind and wit to her, a nice appetite where she is not restricted in her diet and the fact that when she gets up every morning that she has a purpose. She is the facility’s cheerleader.

She has always told me that when someone new comes to her floor and they look sad in being there, she will wheel herself over and try to cheer them up and make them feel welcome. That is a rare thing in assisted living. She gets involved in all sorts of activities like arts & crafts, music appreciation and special events especially during the holidays. She was in an Easter Bonnet parade this Easter and for the last two years, she was in the Christmas choir for a family day at the facility. She never lets the pitfalls of life affect her.

For her birthday, I went to Main Street Pizza Cafe at 89 Main Street (See my review on TripAdvisor) to pick up some lasagna with meat sauce and garlic knots for her birthday lunch. The food here is excellent. Their marinara sauce is delicious and really makes all their dishes shine. The lasagna is creamy on the inside and has a rich flavor from the meats they use in their sauce. Their garlic knots are soft on the inside and crisp and garlicky on the outside.

Lasagna

Their Lasagna is excellent

While I was waiting, I was starved and order a piece of their ‘Grandma’ pizza with fresh tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese and it was one of the best slices of pizza I had had in a long time. The whole outside crust was brushed in garlic accented by the fresh tomato sauce that made every bite incredible.

Main Street Pizza Cafe

Main Street Pizza at 89 Main Street Kings Park, NY

For dessert and her birthday cake, I got some Italian cookies and a strawberry short cake with a birthday message at Park Bake Shop at 112 Route 25 Street A (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I swear that this has got to be one of the best bakeries in the Northeast.

Park Bake Shop

The inside of the Park Bake Shop

I have tried here is delicious and some of the best German and Italian baked products around. Their doughnuts and turnovers are always excellent, topped or filled with all sorts of sweet ingredients. Lillian loved her birthday cake!

Park Bakery III

Park Bake Shop in Kings Park, NY at 112 Route 25

We spent our afternoon outside on the front terrace celebrating her birthday with a lot of good food, great conversation and a lot of laughs. We were joined with another caregiver who was taking care of an old friend of the family and the four of us did a lot of talking. I was surprised how both Lillian and the other woman just joined into the conversation like no one’s business. I think this is the power of caring and treating people who have a disability with respect and not as if they are different.

We spent our afternoon catching up on old times, things going on in our lives and Lillian told me of her time in the home. You should have seen how these women opened up when they had someone to talk to and who listened. The power of conversation!

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I on her 100th Birthday and what a nice afternoon we had!

After a nice afternoon of eating, lots of laughs and reminiscing, I had to head home on the long trip to New Jersey. So I got Lillian back inside and said my goodbyes. She was a different person when I left with a big smile and a big birthday balloon on her wheelchair to cheer her up. What a way to spend your 100th birthday!

This is what good friends are for!

 

Places to Eat:

 

Main Street Pizza Cafe

89 Main Street

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-0712

http://www.mainstreetpizzany.com

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d2524766-Reviews-Main_Street_Pizza_Cafe-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Park Bake Shop

112 Route 25 Street A

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-3825

http://www.parkbakeshop.com

Open: Sunday 5:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Saturday 5:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d933880-Reviews-Park_Bake_Shop-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/645

 

Mother Nature Float "Big Mama" at the Sinterklaas Parade

Day One Hundred: This is Christmas-Cape May, NJ, Rehoboth Beach, DE and Rhinebeck NY: Part Two December 10th, 2017-January 1st, 2018

It is never easy when there is a death in the family and is harder when it happens during the Christmas holiday season. This blog is dedicated to my uncle, Donald Snyder (1929-2017), who passed away December 4th, 2017. I had just come back from my Sinterklaas weekend in Upstate New York when we got the news as I was getting out of class on Monday night. So the next week after Sinterklaas weekend was spent preparing for the funeral.

My brother had flown in for the service so it was nice to have some support and I could see that my aunt and cousins appreciated it. At least we could be there to support our family in their time of need.

My aunt had planned a small and tasteful service for my uncle and it was the first time I had met many of my cousins cousins from my uncle’s side of the family. They pretty much talked amongst themselves and were not at the funeral services the next morning.  It was going to be a snowy day the next morning and the commutes would have been tough for everyone.

My aunt kept everything simple and tasteful and it was a short service with a smaller internment service at the mausoleum. It was only the immediate family and friends of my cousins who came to the service and by the repast dinner, everyone was exhausted and it was a small crowd of close family (our side) and friends of my cousins. We had a toast to my uncle and then talked amongst ourselves.

After that weekend, the holidays started to speed up again. It is always tough after a big loss to a family but I found ways to support my aunt and my cousins during the holidays as we planned a Christmas dinner right before Christmas Day.

I took my younger brother to the fire department Christmas Party and that was a cultural awaking for him. He had never been in a firehouse before and really did not understand the culture. He was a little shocked to see adults fighting in front of small children and some of the horse play that the guys do on one another. Even though he had a good time and enjoyed the food, it was a different experience for him.

The holiday month continued on with Christmas tree sales every weekend (we sold out by December 18th this year with a record of 315 trees). We had the Christmas Party for the Men’s Association at the Christmas tree site, which is always interesting. We spend most of the time huddling around a barrel fire to keep warm.

This is when the guys culinary skills kick in and we see some interesting dishes. I always leave it easy. I made chicken cutlets, baked ziti and double fudge brownies ( I am not going to say how many baked zitis, lasagnas and batches of stuffed shells on top of gallons of marinara sauce and pounds of cookies and brownies that I made this holiday season but it was a lot). This party was the first in five meals that I cooked at the holidays trying to keep with the same theme so I did not have to do double time in the kitchen. Plus everyone seems to like Italian cooking so it makes it easy.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Set Up

The party was a great success with about thirty members coming and going all night while we caught up with what each other were doing at the holidays and the parties that they were planning and cooking for their families. December is always a tough month to get anything done as everyone is running around. Leaving at 11:00pm as I usually do because of work, I had heard they were still going strong into the morning hours.

I took an about face and at the last minute decided to go to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas Concert starring Megan Hilty, a Disney star, who was terrific. I got last minute tickets in the nose-bleed section of the theater but still could see and hear everything. I was really surprised being on the top tear and to hear it all so perfectly.

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty with the New York Pops

It was an excellent concert with many popular songs of the holidays being performed so well. She did a great job with the more contemporary classics such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Everyone in the audience got so into the show and the last few songs became a sing along and the whole auditorium became alive with song. People really enjoyed themselves and were still laughing and singing as they were leaving the theater.

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album

The last full week before Christmas weekend was non-stop cooking, cleaning and running around. We started the week with the Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ that the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department sponsors every year for the residents of Hasbrouck Heights. We take all the fire trucks and equipment to twelve locations around the town and have Santa meet with all the families. Every year this is a very big deal to a lot of residents and some plan their holiday parties around this event.

Santa Around Town 2018 HHFD.jpg

Santa Around Town with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Our day started early in the morning when myself, my captain and lieutenant and a junior member met for breakfast and then washed and decorated the truck. This is where a lot of my cooking came into play. I made a sausage, egg and cheese souffle, homemade waffles and fresh cinnamon butter muffins. I had cooked enough for the company and it ended up only four of us showed up. So we had a great breakfast and then we scrubbed down the truck inside and out and put all the Christmas lights on it. The truck always looks festive in the dark.

For the trip around Hasbrouck Heights, I made homemade French Bread pizza with homemade marinara sauce and double fudge brownies, two items that are very popular with hungry firemen. Along the way, residents make all sorts of Christmas cookies and other holiday treats for us along the route so we don’t ‘starve’.

The tough part for us was that the generator blew before the last three stops and we had to bring it back up to the house and extinguish it. That was tough as the engine then had to go out of service for the holidays for repair. At least we got it back up to the firehouse in one piece.

The next night I gave my final exam in class and finished the semester on a high note. All of my students got “A”‘s and I could not have been happier with their final project , the tech start up “Buscomonzefi.com” (see ‘Day Ninety-Eight’) and was impressed with them as a class. It was fun going into work every week and I will miss this class.

Buscomonzefi.com Logo.png

Buscomonzefi.com logo

What was nice was I took some of my team to Biagio’s Restaurant in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor) near the college for a wrap up party. I was surprised when only four of my sixteen students showed up. One of my students mentioned that no one would show because of exams and I was almost tempted not to show up but I figured I was starved so at least I could get something to eat. It ended up that all of my Sales & Marketing team showed up and we had a really nice time.

I could not believe how this group of students bonded so much together. I really did see a lot of new friendships being formed that night and for that I was really proud of the project. Plus the food and conversation were excellent that evening. If ever a Professor could be more proud of their students.

I did not have much time to dwell on class as I had to cook a Holiday luncheon for my Stroke & Disabled Support Group that meets every Tuesday in Ridgewood, NJ (See my BergenCountyCaregiver.com site on WordPress.com). I don’t know I got suckered into this but it was a lot of work.

In years past, our group normally ordered in for the party and all I would do is dessert. For years, we ordered in Chinese food but last year most people got sick of it so we ordered in pizza. This year one of the women in the group asked about maybe getting a tray of stuffed shells and of salad. When I mentioned how much that might cost and how I could make it for so much less that’s when I was asked to cook.

Thank God I had made a double batch of marinara sauce because it came in handy. I made the most amazing lunch for everyone and used every skill from catering that I learned from Hyatt.

I got up early that morning and started to cook. I did all the last minute touches and fried out the cutlets and cut up the salad. The last thing I did was prepare the garlic bread before I packed the car up. I never had so much food all over the car as I had to bring it from home to City Hall in Ridgewood.

The party was a huge success! I made Chicken Cutlet Parmesan with a side of plain cutlets for those who didn’t want all the cheese, a lasagna, two small trays of stuffed shells, a arugula salad, garlic bread, assorted cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Some of the members brought fruit and other desserts so we had a lot of food left.

The whole building came up to the conference room to the party so it was very festive. People from different departments who help us during the year joined us so there were people in and out the whole afternoon. I really think that’s what the holidays are about.  Everyone had great time and there was not much left over. All I know is that I was exhausted on the drive home. I had to take a nap when I got home.

There was not much time to rest as I drove out to visit Lillian again on Long Island at her Assisted Living Facility for her annual resident concert (see various blogs on my visits). I had gone last year and had a nice time. I swear even at 99, she has the same spirit that she always has had.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I at Christmas 2018

She sang and played the triangle as she did last year and all the residents performed a list of Christmas songs to the other residents and their families who attended. It was a nice concert but it seemed have more guests last year. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it.

After the concert was over, I went off and got Chinese food for our Christmas lunch, which I know that Lillian always appreciates. I go to Dragon House (See review on TripAdvisor) for our meals and this one did not disappoint. I ordered Lo Mein and Chicken and String beans with some eggrolls. I swear that Lillian has a good appetite. She can eat. For dessert, I brought some cookies from Park Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) right next store to the restaurant. To have two such good places to eat right next to one another is great.

Dragon House

Dragon House in Kings Park, NY for excellent Chinese food

After our dinner, we talked for the rest of the evening. Since the weather was going to be nice the next day, I got a hotel room and was able to stay late to talk to Lillian for a few more hours. We just caught up and as we talked more, I noticed how much more came back to her. It was the ‘old’ Lillian who I remember. I think she needed it as well. We laughed so much it was like old times. When I had to leave a little after seven, she had a huge smile on her face. It was a very special Christmas for the two us.

I stayed at a very Hampton Inn on the South Shore in Commack, NY (See review on TripAdvisor) that evening and just collapsed in the room. It had been a long week already and I was tired from all the cooking and cleaning. I just relaxed that evening and read and wrote out Christmas cards.

The next morning I got up and traveled out to Montauk on the very edge of the island.  I wanted to see their famous lighthouse and museum (which was closed at the time). It was a beautiful sunny and warm day for this time of the year.

The South Shore of Long Island is so beautiful and I highly recommend it in the off season. It is just so nice to visit these small towns when they are not overrun with people from the city. The locals are so nice and you really do remember that it is a farming community out there. Outside of the core of East Hampton and the overbuilt areas of South Hampton, the other towns were like visiting a farming community. All the locals were out in their pick up trucks carrying local products. It is so different in the off season but so much nicer. Everyone is so laid back.

I wanted to visit the ‘Big Duck’ (see Review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), a building in the shape of a duck on Route 24 Flanders Road in Flanders, NY. It is very interesting to see a building in the shape of a duck, very similar to ‘Lucy’ the Elephant in Margate, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). It is a small building in the shape of a duck that was created by the owners back in the 30’s to promote their duck farm. Its cute but the guy that volunteers there must not get too many visitors because he NEVER SHUTS UP! God, I to fray going to the bathroom to getaway from him and got out of there.

The Bid Duck

The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop

I continued my way through the back-roads to the Hampton’s. I now know why it takes so long to get to the Hampton’s. All the roads once you get off the main highway are all local two lane roads. Most of the towns were quiet before the holidays so it was nice just to drive through.

I got out to Montauk to Lighthouse Park (See review on TripAdvisor) by 2:00pm. I took far longer than I thought but it was well worth the trip. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the view on the point was just breathtaking! The way the sun shone over the beach area and the point was spectacular. The only bad part was the lighthouse was closed that afternoon and would not open until the weekend. The giant wreath on the front of the lighthouse made it very festive.

Montauk Lighthouse

Christmas at the Montauk Lighthouse

I had lunch in downtown Montauk and most of the places were closed for the afternoon. The town was really quiet. I ended up eating at Pizza Village at 700 Montauk Highway in  (See review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area. The pizza is amazingly good and their sauce is excellent. I highly recommend it when visiting Montauk. It really warmed me up.

Then I headed back to New Jersey. Is that a long trip. Going over the George Washington Bridge at rush hour right before the holidays is a nightmare. It took over two hours to go from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Route 46 in New Jersey. The irony was that as soon as I got closer to home, we had a dumpster fire at the local Walmart. Never a dull moment.

As things revved up for the holidays, I had my family over to the house for an early Christmas dinner. Since I was going to be away and my aunt and cousin had just suffered a very hard loss right before the holidays, I had a holiday meal at the house.

Even at a time of loss, we had such a nice time. I went all out for the meal. I cleaned the whole house again, did more shopping and prep work and decorated the house. We had such a nice time. I had my two aunts and my cousin over for a three course meal. As usual, I started the meal with appetizers followed by a full meal and dessert.

I made sauted shrimp on toasts, pigs in a blanket and assorted gourmet cheeses to start with two bottles of Asti to enjoy with it. For the main meal, I made pork cutlets, a potato puff with lots of cheese and eggs, string beans and my aunt brought some of her homemade apple sauce (I hate to brag but she makes it terrific). For dessert, I brought a seven layer cake from Mills Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) and my aunt brought a strawberry cheesecake. We ate a lot.

It was a nice night of good food and great conversation. It was nice to have the house so full of life during the holidays again. It had been so long since everyone had something to laugh about. I have to admit we did have a nice Easter and celebration of our birthdays at the house, so it felt that my uncle was there with us in spirit. Dinner went into the late evening, so I had to clean up the house and run the dishwasher that night so it was a long night for me.

The next day I was off to spend my Christmas in Cape May, NJ. Most of family had their own plans and I like to spend the holidays by myself to relax and write. It was a gloomy day when I started out that afternoon. I had so much to do before I left like the laundry and the vacuuming, so that the house looked good when I got home. I just didn’t want to have to do much before I got home.

It takes about three hours to Cape May from my house. You are literally are going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turn over the bridge into the Wildwoods. When I tell you that is a dead community at this time of the year, it is DEAD. There were no lights on in any of the homes or in the hotels and there were very few businesses open as well. It is so weird to see a place that you were just in two and half months ago that was so much alive. Since I could find my way out, I had to take the route I knew off the island and drive back down south to Cape May.

When I arrived at the Congress Hall Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor), it was ablaze with Christmas lights. I have to say that the two days that I stayed at the Congress Hall put me in the Christmas mood. Since my father passed, the holidays have been tough on me and the atmosphere of the hotel was just what I needed. The whole place was decorated for the holidays with garland, trees, bright lights and Christmas cheer. It just made me festive for the holidays.

Congress Hall

Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas

I got to the hotel late and wanted to celebrate Midnight Mass and unfortunately no church in town did the Midnight Mass. So I went to the Our Lady of the Sea Church for the 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass. It was a beautiful mass.

Not quite the elaborate mass I was used to at the Dutch Reformed Church up in Woodstock, NY for the past three years but still inspirational and enjoyable. Even though it is church, I still believe mass should not be stuffy or boring. I think it should be inspirational, engaging and make you reflect on the past year.

The church was beautifully decorated for the holidays with secular decorations of holy, trees, garland and poinsettias. I have noticed over the past decade that more churches have done this. The poor priest was suffering through a leg injury but still gave a nice sermon. I think he was surprised by so many out of towner’s at the mass.

Our Lady Star of the Sea.jpg

Our Lady of the Sea at Christmas

After the service, I walked around the Washington Street Mall, which is Cape May’s downtown. It looked like every business was trying to outdo one another for the best decorations. All were so elegantly decorated for the holidays with detailed displays, lights and in some cases bows and garland. Inside there were all sorts of Christmas scenes with Santa’s, reindeer and Currier & Ives type displays. Everyone did a nice job and the downtown was very picturesque with the hotel in the backdrop being so nicely decorated on the outside as well.

Washington Mall Christmas

Washington Street Mall at Christmas

I had Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel’s pizzeria, the Boiler Room, for pizza (See review on TripAdvisor). The service was excellent and the food was wonderful. I had an prosciutto and arugula pizza and it was perfectly cooked and just what I needed after a long drive. They even had music that night. It was a far cry from the two restaurants that I ate at in Woodstock over the past three Christmas Eve’s, where the food was hit or miss.

I just relaxed on Christmas Eve and walked back outside to look at the downtown and the hotel from a distance. I could not believe how packed the hotel was on a holiday. The place was completely sold out.

Christmas was very mellow this year. With my uncle passing two weeks earlier and everything going on in my life and family, I needed a break from everyone and everything in my life.

I slept in and relaxed Christmas morning, had a nice long breakfast in the very busy Blue Pig restaurant, the hotel’s casual family restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) and just enjoyed the quiet morning. The restaurant itself was going full force when I got there. Families were all eating together and it looked like a lot  of family reunions were going on in the hotel for the holidays.

The food there is excellent and I highly recommend eating there when in Cape May. I had this dish, the Eggs Blackstone, that was a unique combination of poached eggs on two cheese biscuits with wilted greens and hollandaise sauce, which I normally do not like that just worked. The combination of flavors mixed so well and with the service of Laura, my waiter that morning, who I could tell has been in the business for years, just made the Christmas morning meal perfect.

I sat for most of the morning on a window bench on the second floor of the hotel, over-looking the courtyard of the hotel and the small holiday marketplace the hotel had in the courtyard for the guests. It was nicely set up around the heated pool.

They had a fire-pit for warm up around, small tents with quirky shops to buy local products (although I thought most everything was WAY over-priced) and a small Christmas cafe with traditional winter treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Even those were pretty but over-priced ($6.00 for four cookies?). It was nice to walk around and Christmas ended up being a bright and sunny day. We had missed the snow storm that hit Northern New Jersey and I later found out really hit Woodstock, NY.

I spent most of my morning doing my writing, call friends and family wishing them a Merry Christmas and talking to other guests who just happened to see me writing and wanted to know what I was up to.  I swear that I am never alone when I travel, people just seem to find me.

The rest of the afternoon I walked around Cape May, looking at the store windows downtown, walking along the shore and looking at the birds on the beach and the waves and looking at all the Victorian homes that were decorated for the holidays. Even though all the hotels surrounding ours including ours were fully booked, the town was quiet. It looked like a lot of people were away.

I had my Christmas dinner at the Ugly Mug (See review on TripAdvisor), a bar/pub that I had eaten at over twenty years ago. The food is still excellent. I had a bacon bbq cheeseburger with fries, not your traditional Christmas dinner but still was wonderful. The place was really busy with other people who looked like they were done with Christmas as well. Even the manager told me that they are always busy at the holidays.

That night I just walked around town and looked at the Christmas tree in the square, which was so elegantly decorated for the holidays. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays. I walked around the hotel and looked at the decorations. The hotel was mobbed with people just looking for something to do and a place to sit and chat. People were jockeying for a place near the fireplace and I could see there were some struggles for that.

Christmas in Cape May

Christmas in the town square at Cape May, NJ

On the 26th, things got back to normal in town. Most of the stores opened and there were sales on everything. I went to the Mad Batter Restaurant (See review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast, wanting some elbow room from the hotel. The food there is excellent. I had this Croustade with scrambled eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese served on a brioche bun. Again a somewhat overdone combination but it worked and was delicious .This institution has been around for years and I wanted to try it for a long time.

I explored the town for the afternoon. I went on the decorated house tour at the Emlen Physick Estate  (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), who was a prominent doctor in the town and his house showed it. His grandfather has invented a famous medical device and upon getting his medical degree, he inherited his fortune and never practiced medicine again. What he did leave was a beautiful home for touring and every room was decorated for the holidays. The woman who gave the tour was an actor playing his mother and it was the week before Christmas. She did a nice job.

Physick home at Christmas

Physick Estate at Christmas

After that, I visited the Cape May Lighthouse (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) and climbed the whole thing in about twenty minutes, shocking the guy at the admission office who said that I only had a half hour to spend before they closed. I even surprised myself with how fast I climbed it. I swear, this walking project is keeping me in good health. What a view! You could see all over West Cape May and the whole tip of the peninsula. The beach was so quiet yet majestic with all the waves crashing and the birds and dogs running around. They also have a small museum next to the building on Jersey flora and fauna that you should check out as well.

The last part of the evening was when I visited Sunset Beach in West Cape May (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).  What a magnificent beach this is, located on the very western tip of New Jersey.  Sunset Beach has the most breathtaking sunset of any beach I have ever seen and I have been all over the world. The way the sun sets on the beach and the location of where it falls creates a rainbow of colors anytime of the year. Although it was cool on the beach as it fell, the beach was full of people watching the same natural phenomenon. It was just amazing to see all the colors change as the sun changed positions and more fun to watch the Lewis/Cape May shuttle drive past every half hour. If there is ever a beach that you need to visit, it is Sunset Beach.

Sunset beach.jpg

Sunset Beach

That evening was my last night in Cape May and I had to change hotels because the Congress was booked solid for a wedding. I switched to The Chalfonte, one of the oldest hotels and most ‘Southern’ in Cape May. You have to remember that Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon Line and Southern New Jersey is technically the South.

The Chalfonte at 301 Howard Street (see review on TripAdvisor) is located in an older section of Cape May surrounded by Victorian homes. The main hotel was closed for the season (it closes in October) but they keep the ‘Southern Quarters’, a small house next to the hotel, open for the season as it is insulated.

Chalfonte Hotel.jpg

The Chalfonte Hotel during the summer months

As I wrote in my review on TripAdvisor, it was like staying at your Grandmother’s or Great Aunt’s beach home for the night. A little rough around the edges but comfortable, warm and homey. I find places like this charming but they are not for everyone.

I stopped by the Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast and to tour the farm. Although the breakfast sandwich I ate was good as well as the home fries, everything was cold or lukewarm. They need to warm their plates. The property is so nicely laid out and it was fun to feed the chickens who were excited about the feed. I did one last walk around the downtown to see the tree on the square and had a slice of pizza at JoJo’s Pizza on the Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor).

My last dinner in Cape May was at the Washington Inn Restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor), considered one of the best in Cape May. The food and the service were all top notch. I had the crabcakes for my entree and the Bananas Foster for dessert both I recommend very much. The service was excellent but for some reason I expected older waiters to be working in a place like this. The rooms are elegant and romantic for couples. For me, it was just the thrill of eating in such a well-known restaurant with excellent food and service. At its price tag though, it is a special occasion treat.

I slept like a log that night, being able to faintly hear the crashing of the waves in the distance. They decorated the room with just enough plants and Christmas items to make it look festive.

The next morning as I was dropping off my keys, the owners son, Dillon, took me on a tour inside the family hotel. It was elegant as it was gloomy. I had read that the hotel was haunted but as he said to me he had never seen anything. It is weird to see a hotel closed down for the season. All I could think of was the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. It just had that eerie, someone had just been there look to it. After I said my goodbyes, I was off to Rehoboth Beach to visit my mother.

On the trip to Rehoboth, I made several stops to towns I had passed through the previous year. I stopped in Millville, NJ first. The downtown has been creating a buzz for itself as an art center especially with the opening of the Cumberland College Arts Annex and the studio area. Artists from Southern New Jersey seem to be pouring into the town as all the buildings are getting renovated and new restaurants are opening. I stopped in a few galleries and looked at menus of what is going to be an ‘arts hub’ of Southern New Jersey.

The next town I stopped in was Bridgeton, whose downtown had seen better days. Most of the stores were either empty or catered to the Hispanic population who worked in the area. Not exactly the arts district they claim to be. There is not much to see here except a lot of Victorian homes in bad shape.

Salem was my last stop before crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is a town that has not been discovered yet. The homes are really gorgeous in the downtown area, all built in the 1700 and 1800’s. Beautiful old Federal and Empire style homes are spread throughout the downtown and the sad part is that they are mostly in bad shape.

I stopped in the Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com) . This place is not the usual Historical Society with the musty displays and the dusty artifacts with some woman older than God looking you over. It was an interesting, insightful and beautifully decorated for the holidays building with displays of local interest.

Salem Historical Society

Salem Historical Society

The building is made up of three homes, one of which had a hearth fireplace in the kitchen. That part of the building was decorated for a Colonial Christmas. I loved the spinning wheel with the lights and the tree in the older section of the house. It only takes about an hour to see the whole building but take the time to really look at the displays as they are so well mounted.

I ate at Bravo Pizza and Pasta at 179 West Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area and highly recommend their pizza. The sauce was excellent and the flavor was delicious. What was best was that the owner asked me to wait as he had a new pizza coming out, so It gave me time to walk around the downtown area and look at the old buildings. It was so sad to see many of these old homes in such bad shape. This is a place I am surprised that the artists have not discovered yet. Check out the local cemetery with the large historical Oak Tree that covers the graveyard. It is right around the corner from the restaurant and Historical Society.

I finally got out of Salem, it was the long drive down to mom’s from Salem to Rehoboth Beach. When I called my mother, she was wondering what was taking me so long. When I finally arrived around six, she was asking me what I was doing all this time. I told her discovering my State. I never realized how interesting the State of New Jersey is (no jokes everyone).

My mom and I talked about the trip, the holidays and what we had planned for the next two days. My younger brother was coming up with my nieces to celebrate the post holidays. We really had a nice time. My mom cooked ‘the Dinner’ again and we just sat around and I told her about my Christmas. I now know where I get my love for travel details from as she sees how excited I get when I talk about visiting places.

My brother arrived the next morning and we planned everything. We went took the girls to the boardwalk for the afternoon to walk around and ended up going to Thrasher’s (see review on TripAdvisor) for French Fries. I have never seen four people devour a medium bucket of fries so fast. They were just fried and were oh so good. Even in the winter, I never tire of seeing the shore.

Our first night at my mom’s she cooked so we had a mellow roast pork dinner and just sat around and talked. It was nice for my nieces who never get to see my mom much and for me who see them about the same about of time. They talked about their trip up from Florida and how school is going.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach V

Christmas in Rehoboth Beach, DE

The next day we took the girls on a tour of Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding areas, we went at twilight to Henlopen Park (see review on TripAdvisor) to see the Christmas lights, which was very similar in feel to the JackleLantern display in Croton-on-the- Hudson. It was a huge display of figures, such as Santa’s, elf’s, reindeer and decorated trees  lit up by lights all over the park and we were able to drive and see all the displays one at a time.

Even tough we were going out to dinner that night, my mother insisted we stop at the Big Oyster Brewery at 1007 Kings Highway (see review on TripAdvisor) for lunch when no one was hungry. I had some pulled pork sliders that were very good but like everyone else did not have much of an appetite. We had had a big breakfast earlier in the day.

For dinner my last night in Rehoboth, we went to my mother’s favorite restaurant, Confucius  Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Street (See review on TripAdvisor) by the beach.  We must have had eight different dishes on the table but you know what, the food here is just excellent and the service matches the food. My mother has been coming here since they opened and know the owners well so they are always coming over to say high or sometimes they give us a free appetizer, which I think is good business.

I had to head home the next day but we had a nice time even though it was so short with my nieces. I wish my brother had planned more time. We didn’t get to do too much on this trip since it was so quick. I headed back to New Jersey the next morning, probably seeing my mom again when the weather gets warmer.

My last day before the New Year began, I joined my other brother in the New York City for Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant at 18 East Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), one of the mainstays for going for Dim Sum in the city. I swear we must have gone through half the menu. The food is really good and I love when the carts go around with all the dishes. I love to try many dishes when I am at the restaurant.

The only problem with New Year’s Eve is that the city shuts down all their roads by 3:00pm and it was also 20F outside that day. Trust me, it is not a day you want to be in New York City unless you want to sit in Times Square for hours on end to watch the ball drop. It was 9F degrees that evening.

The New Year brought in my Swearing In with the fire department. I am the Department Secretary (now on my fifth year) and Engine One Secretary (now on my eleventh year) and just keep rolling along. Our Installation  Dinner was the second week of January and that pretty much ends my holiday season.

Justin Watrel Firefighter

Swearing in as Secretary of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

It was a lot of running around this holiday season but I also was able to raise a lot of money for charity in between working three jobs, editing my book and all my volunteer work. I never seem to just stop and relax.

Now you all know why I had to put the MywalkinManhattan.com on hold.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!

Getting to Cape May, NJ:

Just follow the Garden State Parkway to the very end and there you are in the middle of town.

 

Places I stayed:

 

Hampton Inn Commack

680 Commack Road

Commack, NY  11725

(631) 462-5700

Hilton.com

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g47518-d93152-Reviews-Hampton_Inn_Long_Island_Commack-Commack_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(888) 944-1816

http://www.caperesorts.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d92337-Reviews-Congress_Hall-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 984-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to eat at the holidays:

The Bakeries:

Mills Bakery

275 Valley Boulevard

Wood-Ridge, NJ  07075

(201) 438-7690

http://www.mills-bakery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46937-d4735011-Reviews-Mills_Bakery-Wood_Ridge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/463

 

Park Bakery

112NY-25A

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-3825

http://www.parkbakeshop.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d933880-Reviews-Park_Bake_Shop-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/645

 

Places to eat:

 

Biagio’s

299 Paramus Road

Paramus, NJ  07652

(201) 612-0201

biagios.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46712-d1488625-Reviews-Biagio_s_Ristorante-Paramus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Pizza Village

700 Montauk Highway

Montauk, NY

(631) 668-2232

pizzavillagemontauk.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48194-d405528-Reviews-Pizza_Village-Montauk_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Dragon House Chinese Restaurant

118 Main Street #A

Kings Park, NY  11750

(631) 544-5438

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d10641889-Reviews-Dragon_House_Chinese_Restaurant-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/632

 

The Ugly Mug

426 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-3451

uglymug.bar

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393818-Reviews-Ugly_Mug-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Washington Inn Restaurant

801 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5697

http://www.washingtoninn.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393813-Reviews-Washington_Inn-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Boiler Room Pizzeria/The Blue Pig Tavern

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ 08204

https://www.caperesorts.com/congress-hall/blue-pig-tavern

(609) 884-6507

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d10289837-Reviews-Boiler_Room-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Beach Plum Farm

140 Stevens Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 602-0128

http://www.beachplumfarm.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1867426-d5866138-Reviews-Beach_Plum_Farm-West_Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

JoJo Pizza

507 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-0404

http://www.jojopizzanj.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d8006294-Reviews-Jojo_Pizza-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

The Mad Batter

19 Jackson Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609)  884-5970

Home

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393838-Reviews-The_Mad_Batter-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Bravo Pizza & Pasta

179 Broadway

Salem, NJ  08079

(859) 339-0049

http://www.madbatter.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46799-d4514081-Reviews-Bravo_Pizza_and_Pasta-Salem_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(308) 227-3840

http://www.confucius.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

The Big Oyster Brewery

1007 Kings Highway

Lewes, DE  19958

(302) 644-2621

http://www.bigoysterbrewery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34028-d12941936-Reviews-Big_Oyster_Brewery-Lewes_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Golden Unicorn Restaurant

18 East Broadway

New York, NY  10002

(212) 941-0911

http://www.goldenunicornnyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d457884-Reviews-Golden_Unicorn_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Emlen Physick House

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

http://www.capemaymac.com/physick-estate.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

The Big Duck

1012 NY-24

Flanders, NY  11901

(631) 852-3377

http://www.bigduck.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g754554-d3292234-Reviews-The_Big_Duck-Flanders_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

M review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1735

 

Sunset Beach Cape May

Cape May Point

Cape May, NJ 08212

(609) 465-1000

https://www.new-jersey-leisure-guide.com/sunset-beach.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g3948623-d103992-Reviews-Sunset_Beach-Lower_Township_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2705

 

Salem County Historical Society

83 Market Street

Salem, NJ  08079

http://www.salemcountyhistoricalsociety.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46799-d13368307-Reviews-Salem_County_Historical_Society-Salem_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1742

*Blogger wants to note that the hours change for many of these historical sites and for the restaurants so please check their websites for the most current hours during the off-season and when in season.

 

Events:

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale

(From Thanksgiving until the trees sell out)

Our Commercial that star’s me!:

 

Hasbrouck Heights ‘Santa Around Town’

(The last Sunday before Christmas)

 

Please see this video of the Congress Hall Hotel by the hotel. It is a magical place at Christmas.

 

 

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album from the concert