Shane Confectionery at 110 Market Street in Philadelphia
What can I say about this little chocolate/candy store in the heart of Old Town Philadelphia? It is so charming and welcoming and a step back into time when buying candy was a luxury treat. The store looks like a jewelry store for candies with a wide aisle, wrought iron glass cases and overhanging lights that gas jets once lit the store (now electric). Still the store looks like something from the turn of the last century.
The interior of Shane Confectionery has not change since the turn of the last century
They were preparing for the Halloween holidays when I visited in the early Fall but I was looking at all the interesting handmade candies, made inhouse. All the trays of chocolate filled candies…
I could not believe how fast the summer went. After I threw my back out, I was out of commission for three months and I was finally able to get started again by early September. Then we started classes at the College where I work and that has me running as well. It is nice to be busy.
Halloween was not as busy as it has been in the past because we are still dealing with COVID requirements. Some programs that I attended in the past were either cut or had limited space. Also with classes going on and in the midst of Midterms and quizzes for both classes my time was limited this year with the running around. I just did not want to push it. Still I got to do some new things this year.
Halloween weekend start at Blondies on the Upper West Side at 212 West 79th Street for the much anticipated Michigan-Michigan State football game. This has been much hyped because both of our teams were 7-0 and no matter how we play or what we do, Michigan State is always ranked lower than Michigan. It is just a fact. Until we beat them, for a SECOND YEAR, like we did this year!
Blondies is such a great place to watch the game. We have the whole back room for Spartan nation and the place was packed with everyone dressed in Green and White. I had gotten up to the bar just as Michigan scored the first touchdown so it was a touch glum but things got right back to cheery as we got the ball back. By the time I settled in it was 10-0 but things livened up again when we scored our first touch down.
By the time I left at half time, we were ahead 14-13 and my best friend kept calling me while I was on a walking tour of New York City filling me in on the updates. I had to keep breaking away from the tour to take the updates and I could see that was frustrating the tour guide out of the corner of my eye.
Michigan State versus Michigan
I took the “Gotham Ghost Tour of Lower Manhattan” on the day before Halloween and we really lucked out with the weather. It kept going from gloomy to sunny for the whole afternoon, so it added a little spookiness to the tour. We started our tour of Haunted Lower Manhattan on Second Avenue and 10th Street right across the street from St. Marks Church.
We started our tour at the side of St. Mark’s Church at 131 East 10th Street. The church has an interesting history starting with being the Chapel of Peter Stuyvesant
Our first part of the ghost tour was stopping at St. Mark’s Church at 131 East 10th Street. There was a mini-carnival going on in the cemetery portion of the grounds so it took away from the spookiness of the place. That and they made us wear masks outdoors.
The tour guide told us the story of the former Sexton of the Church was in the church alone one night and heard strange sounds coming from the lower floors. When he went to investigate, he found nothing. He then said that strange sounds started again like a scrapping on the floor. It was here that he confronted the ghost of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch Director General of New Amsterdam.
He ran out of the church and then mysteriously, the bell in the tower of the church started to ring on its own. No one else was in the church at the time. When they went to investigate, they found that the rope had been cut or separated and there was no way someone could have rung the bell.
When they investigated the crypt of ‘Pegleg Peter’ as he was called, legend has it they found the piece of rope in the crypt. The Sexton never returned to the church after that. When I asked when this was, the guide told us about the early 1800’s. I asked has anyone seen the ghost since. The answer was no but people still feel things in the building. I though it strange that a ghost would only appear once in the church.
Still, we visited the tomb of Peter Stuyvesant, who is buried in the wall of the church that once served has his chapel on the Stuyvesant estate, which this area of the City was part of at that time. The grave was hidden by a table and scaffolding but we managed to see it. It did look mysterious located at the bottom of the church foundation.
Peter Stuyvesant, Dutch Director General of New Amsterdam
Peter Stuyvesant’s Tomb which was once part of his estate chapel
We walked around the grounds and saw other family crypts around the property that were not covered with tables. Some were family members of the extended Stuyvesant family (those who married into it like most Colonial families of wealth did) and other prominent families of the church like the Fish’s, Winthrop’s and the Tompkins, whose names are known throughout the City and New York State.
Our next stop was the Hamilton-Fish House at 21 Stuyvesant Street, where members of both the descendants Stuyvesant and Fish families lived.
The Hamilton Fish is a brick Federal style house was built by Peter Stuyvesant, the great-grandson of Petrus Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, in 1804. It was a wedding present to his daughter, Elizabeth and his son in law, Nicholas Fish and their future son, Hamilton Fish, the former Governor, Senator of New York State and Secretary of State under the President Grant administration. The house was built on land that had been in the family since the 17th century (Wiki). This union united two famous and influential families and the house stayed in the family until the beginning of the 20th century.
Our next stop on the tour was of Astor Place a few blocks away. We visited the outside of the Astor Building at 418 Lafayette Place, Colonnade Row.
418 Lafayette Place-Colonnade Row today
Colonnade Row was built in the 1830’s by contractor Seth Geer as nine private homes on land owned by John Jacob Astor. The architects on the job were Alexander Jackson Davis, Ithiel Town and James Dakin. The building was originally called ‘Lagrange’ or La Grange Terrace after the estate of the Marquis de Layfayette, a hero of the American Revolution (Wiki).
Some of the famous tenants of these homes were John Jacob Astor III, Julia Gardiner, the former first lady and socialite, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Washington Irving. Today they are a mixed-use building and in need of repair (Wiki).
418 Lafayette Place when it was built in the 1830’s
Its relation to haunted happenings was it was claimed that one of the construction workers who was renovating the property said that a ghostly hand came out of one the fireplaces during the renovation of the building. Since then, things have been quiet. Personally, I thought the guy must have been working too hard.
The next stop was across the street at the Astor Library at 425 Lafayette Street.
The Astor Library was a collaboration effort between John Jacob Astor and New England educator Joseph Cogswell. The library was built to be a research library where the books did not circulate. The library opened in 1854 to the public and in 1895 it was consolidated with the Lenox Library and the Tilden Foundation to become the New York Public Library (Wiki).
The library was designed by architect Alexander Saeltzer who designed it in the Rundbogenstil style. The cornerstone was laid in 1850 and the building was finished in 1853. The library opened in January of 1854 and had later extensions to it (Wiki).
The ghost story of the library comes from Joseph Cogswell himself. In April of 1860, Mr. Cogswell was working late in the library when he walked down to the Research area of the library and spotted the ghost of a local physician who had died recently. Upon approaching the ghost and confronting it, the ghost simply disappeared. This happened for three more nights and each night the ghost would disappear. On the third night, the ghost disappeared again and has not been seen since. He also claimed to see the ghosts of Washington Irving and insurance executive Austin Sands (mrsdaffodildigresses.com/thegothiclibrary.com). Needless to say, they gave Mr. Cogswell some time off.
The “Library Ghost” from the movie “Ghostbusters”
The famous “Library Ghost” scene from the film “Ghostbusters”
After we left the Astor Library, we made our way across Broadway to the New York University campus, where we visited the Brown Building at 23 Washington Place, home to the famous “Triangle Shirtwaist Fire” of 1911. The building is located between 23 Washington Place and Greene Street.
The Brown Building is now part of the New York University campus containing the Chemistry Department. When it was built between 1900-01, the iron and steel building was designed by architect John Woolley in the neo-Renaissance style. It was named at that time the Asch Building after its owner, Joseph J. Asch. The building was known for their fireproof rooms which is why many garment makers liked the building including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which occupied the top three floors of the building (Wiki).
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed many young immigrant women at the factory with terrible wages and almost slave conditions. On March 25th, 1911, the fire started from one of the clothing bins where layers of fabric were stacked and spread quickly through the factory. Between the thick smoke, non-visual rooms and the locked stairwell doors, people died from smoke inhalation, being crushed trying to leave or throwing themselves from the windows. This led to creation of the Ladies Garment Union (Wiki).
According to the tour guide, there have been no sightings of ghosts here but it was a horrific site of tragedy. The site of young women either throwing themselves from the top floors of the buildings or burning to death in the stairwells is hard enough to imagine.
We continued down the block to Washington Square Park, one of the most active parks in Manhattan.
Washington Square Park was its usual active self when we walked into the park for the tour. People were planning a protest in the park on one side, they were sunning themselves in another, some were walking their dogs and others were playing frisbee. Kids were running around and older residents of the neighborhood were sitting on the benches talking to one another.
It was pretty shocking to me to discover that right under us was a massive cemetery. From 1797 until 1825, the area was New York City’s Potter’s Field. Many of the people being indigent or died during the Yellow Fever panic that hit the City. There is an estimated 20,000 people buried below the park.
There are also several church vaults that had been found of churches that when they were repairing the water lines in the area. There are still more vaults below the park as well as tombstones and mass graves. The park became Washington Square Park in the 1850’s. Still as repairs still place around the park, remains are still found.
We then walked past the Washington Arch, one of the most iconic symbols of New York City and used in countless movies and photoshoots. Even the arch has a dark history due to its designer, Stamford White.
The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park
The Washington Square Arch was designed by architect Stamford White in 1891 for the Centennial Celebration of President George Washington’s 1789 inauguration as President of the United States of America (Wiki).
It seemed that the married Stanford White had a sexual appetite for young women, many of them being underaged. He had had an affair with actress Evelyn Nesbitt about five years prior to her marriage to Henry Thaw. Mr. Thaw killed Stanford White after a performance claiming that ‘he ruined his wife” in June 1906.
When we reached the other end of the park, we passed a very unassuming but huge Elm Tree at the edge of Washington Square Park. It was known as the “Hangman’s Elm” and is thought to be over 300 years old. The tour guide even called it “The Blood Elm”. It was used for executions by the local Newgate State Prison until the local prominent residents protested. The executions were moved to another location.
As we left the park and its sinister past (I never knew any of the this in all the times I have spent in this park), we passed the Jefferson Market Library at 425 Sixth Avenue. This beautiful turn of the century library was once the ‘Jefferson Market Courtyard” and this is where the Stanford White trail was held. The building was built in 1833 by architect Fredrick Clarke Withers of the firm of Vaux and Withers in the High Victorian Gothic style (Wiki). On Halloween night, it is used as the place where the giant spider puppet descents each Halloween Night before the Halloween Parade starts.
Some visitors claim to see the spirits of females roaming the gardens and some standing on the balcony of the clocktower. All I ever see when I pass it is nothing but the spider puppet that one time (The Gothic Library).
The Jefferson Market Library at 425 Sixth Avenue on Halloween Night
Our last stop on the tour was in Waverly Place at the home of Edgar Allen Poe. It seems that Mr. Poe lived in many sections of the City and funny enough ended up in Camden, NJ. The home was at 116 Waverly Place and was supposed to be one of the places that the author had written “The Raven”. Reading an article in the NY Post said that this is a shaky assumption.
137 Waverly Place-rumored to be one of the homes of Edgar Allen Poe
A tour of the house and the neighborhood (if you can afford it)
After we passed the house (I swear as an author he must have moved around a lot when he was writing “The Raven” because that book must have been written in at least four places), this ended the tour. It was a lot of walking but I learned much about the history of the City especially in this neighborhood.
When I finished the tour, the game was over and we WON! I could not believe that especially since we were the underdogs going in and no one ever expects to win that game anyway. It will be a fun year and now wait until the basketball season. Kris was really excited but I could tell that her son, who is a big Michigan fan, was not. Go Green Go White!!
We Won 37-34 so the bragging rights are ours for the year!
The Michigan State versus University of Michigan Game 2021 highlights:
The Celebration in East Lansing, MI begins:
The Battle of the Bands at halftime for a “Bootackular” sound:
After the long day of touring, I walked back to the East Village for dinner. I took a chance to see if I could eat at San Marzano at 117 Second Avenue. This tiny Italian restaurant in the East Village is one of the most reasonable restaurants in the City in the way of quality of food and service. There are no dishes over $9.00. This is the reason why the restaurant is always packed and try to get in for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night.
I was lucky enough to get there at a time right before the dinner rush. I was able to snag a two top table right next to the window just as the restaurant had quieted down. The food and the service are so good here.
I was so tired from all the running around that day that I kept dinner on the lighter side. I had a mixed Green Salad ($7.00), that was so fresh and crisp with a light dressing. The lettuce was so crisp and the tomatoes actually tasted like a tomato for this time of year. The portion sizes here are just right.
For dinner, I had the Paradelle with Meatballs (I eyed the Meatball appetizer on the menu but knew I could not eat both), which was also delicious. The Paradelle is made fresh in the restaurant and could tell by the quality of the pasta. The sauce was rich with the flavor of the pork and veal in the meatballs. Talk about the perfect dinner on a cool early Halloween night.
The Paradelle here is excellent with Meatballs or Bolognese Sauce
The service could have not been nicer and the guy who waited on me could see how much I enjoyed my meal. He even tried to sell me dessert but I was so tired from the walk around the City I did not want to push it.
After dinner, I walked around the East Village and took the subway back uptown. While I was taking the subway uptown, I saw two Wolverine Alumni from University of Michigan come on the subway. Boy, did they avoid me! When they tried to sneak past me at the 42nd Street exit, I just said politely “Better luck next year!”. They just walked out with their heads down.
What an interesting way to spend Halloween weekend.
Watch this! It scared the hell out of me! The short “Hello?”
With the holidays now in full swing, I decided to usher out the Halloween holidays with its haunted houses and cemetery walks and usher in the Christmas holiday season with cheerful music and almost too much holiday decorating and shopping which gets more rushed earlier and earlier after midnight on Halloween. It gets to be over-whelming!
After a holiday of house decorating contests, visiting local farms to take pictures for my retail blog and the Halloween Parade in the City, the Midnight hour hit on Halloween night and I swear there was Christmas. I was even at one merchant’s store on Halloween morning and he was changing his Halloween window display to Christmas on the morning of the downtown merchants ‘Trick or Treating’ event. When I asked him why, he said, “This is the nature of the business right now.”
My weekend morning meant setting up for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree sale on Jefferson and Terrace in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This annual rite is our biggest fundraising of the year and has become part of a tradition in many families as the whole family will come to the site even with baby carriages and dogs to buy a tree so that everyone gets a choice. It is nice to see the same faces every year and now I even hear from people that I sold them a tree when they were kids and now, they are buying one for their apartment in the City (thanks for making me feel ‘old’ everyone).
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas tree set up
Day One Hundred & Twenty-Six: Christmas Tree Sales:
We got there at 8:00am in the morning, cleaning the site of leaves and branches and setting up the Christmas shed and all the tree stands. We worked until noon and then finished with a pizza lunch as a group. Christmas trees will be arriving next Friday and then it’s off to the races in selling 400 trees, a new record for us.
I went home and then it was off to the City to watch the end of the Michigan State versus Ohio State football game. What a bloodbath! They walked all over us. By the time I made it up to Blondies, the bar on the Upper West Side that the Alumni meet at everyone was gone but a small handful of people who are the hangers on to the end. The final score was 56-7 and it was a disaster with many of our players hurt. So much for the playoffs.
Since I got to the bar with only two minutes left in the game and getting there just in time to see Ohio State score again, I left after the game ended. There were not that many people left in the bar at that point and only two Ohio State alumni were in the bar singing their fight song. I was off to Brooklyn to go to the “Lightscape” show at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the “Andy Warhol” show at the Brooklyn Museum. Getting to Brooklyn was a labor in love as all the subways were rerouted for maintenance.
“Lightscape” is a new event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
I had to change subways twice before I finally got the Number 2 into Brooklyn. Then it was a quick run to the Brooklyn Museum. Once I got to the museum, it was no problem getting in once I passed the COVID protocols.
I went to see the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” which was combination of his later works, his movies and his personal life both in Pittsburgh and in New York.
I never realized first how religious he was in his personal life and how it affected his art later on. Also, I knew that he had a close relationship with his mother and she lived with him but never knew she had assisted him with his art and how talented she was as an artist.
Andy Warhol and his mother in portrait in the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” exhibition
The exhibition featured some of his paintings from his “Last Supper” collection which he painted before he passed away. These interesting large pastel paintings again showed his religious side and portrayed Di Vinci’s “Last Supper” in a more exaggerated form. He kept the context but added color.
Warhol’s “Last Supper”
I finished my tour of the exhibition by watching part of “Chelsea Girls” one of his most famous films (I still have to admit I do not understand the movie and I watch it at the Museum of Modern Art for a couple of hours) and still did not get the point of the film. I have sat through a retrospect of his films and I have to admit, you really need to think about what he is saying because it can be challenging.
A clip from “Chelsea Girls”
After I left the Warhol exhibition, I walked around the American Galleries and then went down to see the rest of the museum. Several floors either were not open or you had to pay for the ‘Dior’ exhibition. I never remember the Brooklyn Museum charging people to see special exhibitions but I suspect COVID has changed it. Still, it was nice to see the Warhol exhibition before it opened to the public.
I got to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden right on time at 7:00pm to start the “Lightscape” tour of the garden. It was amazing!
Highlights from the “Lightscape”:
This video gives just a short glimpse into what “Lightscape” showcased in the Gardens
It was an hour long walk in the gardens following a path around the perimeter of the Gardens starting at the new Washington Street entrance. What an amazing way to walk the Gardens at night. The lightshow really showcased the beauty of the gardens and its layout. Visitors were guided on a path around the gardens that was cordoned off and then lit with colorful lights and music. Here and there props were added to open spots in the gardens for an experience of lights and sounds.
When you entered the Gardens, you were greeted by light jazz museum to colorful yellow and purple lights adorning the trees. As a group of us rounded the corner into the Japanese Gardens, we were greeted by a lightshow of multiple lights and spotlights enhancing both the garden’s trees and pond. It really lit up the water.
As you exited the Japanese Gardens, more lights lit the pathway to the Greenhouses and pools where interesting water sculptures that looked like floating Locuses lined the pools and kept lighting up to appear to be a flower opening.
The restaurants and cafes in this section of the Gardens were open that night but the lines were tremendous and the menu limited plus it was so cool out that I did not want to eat a meal outside but many people did not have a problem with this. The tables at the Yellow Magnolia Restaurant were packed with people eating.
I proceeded through the Gardens past light features of what looked like surrealist flowers lit in all sorts of colors with the sounds of Christmas jazz in the background. The flowers changed colors as the music played and I took my time to watch the flowers change from vibrant color to another.
These floral sculptures sway to light Christmas Jazz music
As I rounded the edge of the southern section of the Gardens, I walked past more trees that had been lit in green, purple and yellow showcasing trees that just a few months ago had been surrounded by crocuses, daffodils and tulips in all their beauty as Spring moved into Summer.
The path led to the Cherry Tree lawn where the best part of the lightshow took place. A light show awash with colors and sounds as the entire section of the lawn was lit and twinkled of lights and Christmas music and light jazz as all the trees and lawns created a spectacular display that entertained everyone who stopped. I was so taken by the display that I stayed for three entire shows of lights and sounds.
The Cherry Blossom trees were ablaze with lights and music
We exited up the hill that overlooked the Cherry Blossom Lawn so that you could see the lightshow again from another perspective. It was even more interesting as you walked up the sidewalks that line the hill and could sit in the benches watching the show from above the lawn. Amazing!
This video of the Gardens by Caty Exterior really captures the show (I credit the blogger on this amazing video):
I exited the Gardens from the original entrance on Eastern Parkway and like everyone else who was leaving that evening, totally mesmerized by the light show we had just experienced. I was glad that I had seen the show early as the reporters and bloggers who I had probably been touring with had seen the show as well and everyone reported on it the next week. Online reviews were extremely enthusiastic.
After the show was over, I walked down Washington Avenue to find a place to have a snack. I came across Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Avenue. for a slice of pizza. The pizza was excellent with such a crisp crust and bottom and the sauce really tasted of fresh tomatoes. The only problem with the restaurant was that there was no place to eat inside and I ended up eating at one of the small tables outside and it had gotten cold as the evening progressed. It was nice to eat outside but my pizza got cold fast.
Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Place
After my snack, I took another walk around the neighborhood to see the lights of the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the distance. It really had been a wonderful evening and I was glad that I experienced the light show and the art opening before they reached the general public and tickets then became hard to get. Not even a week after I visited both shows, they had been heavily reviewed in all the New York City papers so try to get tickets now.
The next evening, I drove up to Croton-on-the-Hudson for the last night of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor. I have been to the show for many years and I even renewed my membership again to see the show one more time. This was the last night of the show before it closed for the season. Seeing a Christmas light show the night before made this visit rather strange as Halloween was over three weeks earlier. Still, it was an amazing walk through the grounds and the best part was there were no crowds!
I started the evening with dinner with my favorite restaurant right near the Van Cortlandt Manor, Dong Happy Gardens at 440 South Riverside Avenue. This wonderful Chinese restaurant is tucked into the Shoprite Mall next to the supermarket. The three times I have eaten here the food has been excellent (See review on TripAdvisor.com) and the service very friendly. The rules have been relaxed at the restaurant so you can eat in the booths now.
I had the Chicken and String beans with a side of Pork Fried Rice and an Egg Roll and everything was excellent. They served me a large portion of Chicken with freshly cooked string beans in a soy and Hunan sauce with had a nice hot and tangy flavor to it. The egg roll was filled with lots of chopped roast pork and cabbage and was perfectly fried. The combination plate was a nice sized dinner portion and warmed me up on a cool night.
The Chicken and Broccoli is excellent here
With the Christmas holidays in full swing, the festivities of Halloween are long behind us and since I chose the last night of the show at the last entry time of 8:00pm I pretty much had the walk all to myself. There must have been about fifty other people walking through the same time as myself and I could take extra time to look at the displays and enjoy the music.
The Van Cortlandt Manor is memorizing with the site of hundreds of lit pumpkins
Being so close to Thanksgiving, the newest pumpkins that had been carved were in the shape of turkeys and horns of plenty. You were still greeted by the mysterious faces of Halloween but the last week of the event was themed to the upcoming holiday.
The “Tappan Scream Bridge” leads you into the displays
The show had not changed much since I had visited in late November last year. I entered through the Tappan Scream Bridge and saw all the carved pumpkins of fish swimming. I then passed the Ferris wheel of mysteries animals as they made their way around a circle.
The Headless Horseman Bridge was another bridge of wonder at the entrance of the grounds
Walking through the tunnel of lights is a fantastic sight
I made my way through the display passing the Headless Horseman Bridge and the Museum of Modern Art display which I thought was one of the most original parts of the show three years ago.
Their version of Van Gogh’s “The Scream”
Their version of Di Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa”
Their version of Andy Warhol’s “Soup Cans”
I continued my walk through the display looking that the Ghost Circus Train that lead the way through the next part of the display showcasing all the circus animals that followed.
The Ghost Circus Train ablaze with animals
Once past the Ghost Circus Train I walked past the Ferris Wheel of Animals going round and round as it played an eerie tiny music. The animals grinned as they went through the cycle over and over again.
This ghostly Ferris Wheel shocks and memorizes
The path led past the Ferry House that once greeted guests on the Old Albany Post Road and then led to a series of Zodiac signs. I search for Libra and found it right in the middle of the display showing the balance that our sign represetns.
The Pumpkin sign of Libra
The paths lead past creatures from the deep and the past as our crowd of visitors was greeted by the Lock Ness Monster and a series of dinosaurs that guarded the path on the way to the Van Cortlandt Manor House.
The Loch Ness Monster guards the paths to the deep
The dinosaurs roared and nodded as you walked past them showing their strength of character and lore.
The dinosaurs led the path to the next part of the display
As I got closer to the main house, there was a big display of the skyline of Manhattan with a display of the New York City skyline starting with the statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline. I thought that was very creative.
The Statue of Liberty was very impressive as well was the skyline
I finally reached the Van Corlandt Manor lit to the hilt with colorful lights and a dazzling light show that was continuous. Before you entered the front of the manor, you are greeted by a mysterious clock that chimed and churned as it greeted you.
This grandfather clock chimes it way through the tour of the Van Cortlandt Manor
The manor house, which closes in September for the set up of the Blaze, was lit with a entertaining Light Show and music that greeted guests with a sinister undertone and greeting welcoming in the Halloween season. You have to wait to see the show twice not to miss anything.
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its dazzling glory for the Halloween holiday
Before leaving the last part of the Blaze, there is a well lit path of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night as you pass the Van Cortlandt cemetery and things from the past that guard them. There are all sorts of creatively carved pumpkins all over the lawn in front of the manor.
The Van Cortlandt Cemetery is on display as you exit the family home
Ghosts and Ghouls and things that go bump in the night
Paying respects to the Van Cortlandt Family patriot Steven Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Catherine Van Wyck and Pierre Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Pierre Van Cortlandt
Exiting the Blaze, you will see all sorts of craved pumpkins and the rest of the Blaze in the distance. It will be another year to until the Blaze comes again but what a way to see it on its last glorious night. This is something you should not miss when coming to the Hudson River Valley during the Halloween season.
Me on the night of the Blaze. It was rather warm for this time of the year.
Old Hook Farm Farmhouse Homestead at 650 Old Hook Road
One of the nice things about Bergen County, NJ is the small farms that remain in the area showcasing our Counties agricultural past. There are only about six left and located mostly up in the upper parts of Bergen County where the bulk of the farms were located up until the 1980’s. Land prices and development have made some disappear and with others a lack of an heir to continue the tradition on going forward.
The entrance to Old Hook Farm
The Old Hook Farm is a throwback to a combination of the old-fashioned General Store and Farm Stand that used to dot small towns in Bergen County. The outside of the store has a greenhouse full of decorative plants for both the house and for the gardens. In the Holiday months, the greenhouse is filled with hot house flowers for the holidays and outside there are Christmas trees, wreaths and other holiday decorations for sale. When it snows, it looks like a picture out of Currier & Ives.
The flowers and decorative products of the greenhouse
During the Fall months, the farm was ablaze with colors in the background while the front of the greenhouse was filled with gourds, pumpkins and corns of different colors. There were all sorts of Halloween related merchandise for decorating the inside and outside of the house.
Blogger Justin Watrel in front of the Fall display of products at Old Hook Farm
The inside of the Farmers Market has all sorts of fresh produce with seasonal fruits and vegetables, freshly baked pies, cakes and scones and loaves of bread from a local vendor.
The fresh produce is beautifully displayed in the inside of the market
There are candies from Conrad’s in Westwood, NJ (see blog on that store on this site), milk from a local dairy farm with no artificial ingredients, gluten free products and a lot of non-GMO grocery products and all natural snacks. There is an array of grocery items that are good for you.
The refrigerated cases are filled with all natural dairy products like ice cream, eggs and milk
There are natural cleaners for the home and cleaning supplies that are good for the environment. There is a small section of cosmetic and home products that are all natural.
The Old Hook Farm is a place of sights and smells and the beauty of the seasons in the trees and woods that surround the picturesque acreage. It is also a nice place to stock up on gifts and farm products for any social visit. It is special place especially during the holiday seasons.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
(From the Farm’s website)
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I have been coming to Hot Dog Johnny’s since 1975 when I made my first trip to the Delaware Water Gap with my family. My father always enjoyed taking the back roads and he remembered this hot dog stand that sold buttermilk with their hot dogs.
Hot Dog Johnny’s at 333 Route 46 West in Buttzville, NJ
Hot Dog Johnny’s has kept the same limited menu since it was founded in the 1940’s, hot dogs, fries and drinks. It has been CASH ONLY all this time as well so don’t come with the fancy credit cards and they post that they are cash only right when you order.
The sign is famous on its own
You place your order at the take-out window and there are picnic tables just outside the building and down by the tributary of the Pequest River. The views of the river and the surrounding mountains are breathtaking and on a nice day, it is a pleasure to eat outside on the picnic tables by the water. You could not ask for better views in the Spring and Fall.
The food is really good and very reasonable. The hot dogs are deep fried and they are served on soft buns with a limited number of toppings: mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions ($2.25). There is no chili or items like that to top them. They have a nice snap to them when you bite into hot dog.
The French Fries I believe are freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. They are always hot, crisp and golden brown ($1.80). They are lightly salted and you can get packs of ketchup for them (due to COVID).
There is a limited number of beverages including Buttermilk, Birch Beer, Coke, Diet Coke, and Lemon/Lime Soda. The small drinks are $1.00 with larger sizes available.
The whole meal cost me $5.72 for a hot dog with mustard and a pickle, French Fries and a small ice-cold Birch Beer (the meal I have always ordered here). It is a good deal to me.
I love the food here.
The History of Hot Dog Johnny’s:
(From their website)
Across the nation the words “Hot Dog Johnny’s” trigger visions of a nostalgic roadside stand known as much for its food as for its atmosphere. With the Pequest River flowing in the background, Hot Dog Johnny’s is a landmark to anyone having traveled Route 46 through Buttzville, NJ.
Family owned and operated since 1944, John Kovalsky founded Hot Dog Johnny’s thus earning himself the new nickname. John and his wife, Louise, ran Hot Dog Johnny’s in its early days from a small modest stand to its current state as a sixties independent roadside stand.
Although both John and Louise have passed on, their legacy lives on. A very hard working man, who believed the only way to make an honest living was to work hard for it, stood behind his words as he worked in the Dover mines in the day and the Hot Dog stand at night. He strongly believed anything was possible with the right kind of support which he always credited his wife Louise with.
Hot Dog Johnny’s opened its doors on Palm Sunday, 1944 sharing space with a gas station at the intersection of Route 46 and 31 in Warren County, NJ. It was not long before John Kovalsky knew he outgrew the space he occupied thus leading him to buy land along the Pequest River on Route 46 not far from the original location. A man with great vision, he built a hot dog stand not only to provide the best food services possible but also to provide an atmosphere for families to meet and enjoy for years to come.
The testimonies of customers over the years prove Hot Dog Johnny’s visions were on target as they tell stories of coming to the stand as kids with their parents and now come as parents themselves with their own children. It’s a meeting place for family and friends, a fun place for kids to ride on the swings and whether you’re having your meal at the tables on the patio or on the grass by the river one thing is for sure, your experience at Hot Dog Johnny’s will be a memorable on for years to come.
The original stand is still displayed with pride on the grounds of the present Hot Dog Johnny’s property.
Hot Dog Johnny’s original stand that is located to the back of the parking lot
The business is currently being operated by Hot Dog Johnny’s daughter, Patricia Fotopoulos, who has been involved with the business since it opened in 1944. At age 8, Pat stood on the crates handing out sodas. Today, she stands proudly handing out the best Hot Dog’s ever to the most loyal customers ever.
Hot Dog Johnny’s has been cited by the Travel Channel as being one of the most popular roadsides stands across the country and has also been featured in many major newspapers across the country.
San Marzano Restaurant at 117 Second Avenue in the East Village
There are some restaurants that develop over time and there are some restaurants that become popular immediately. When I had read a restaurant review on San Marzano a few years ago, it seemed that the restaurant opened and quickly became the ‘go-to’ neighborhood dining establishment for NYU students and residents of the East Village. This was due to the quality of the food and the extremely reasonable prices. Now you can rarely get a table any night of the week.
The main selling point of the restaurant is that all of the pastas are homemade and made inhouse on a daily basis. The prices are very reasonable for a restaurant in NYC. The…
We held the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association First Annual ‘ Halloween House Decorating Contest’ on Halloween morning. I had come up with the idea last year but because there was not time to put it together, I brought the idea up to the Men’s Association at our October meeting. I had another volunteer help me out with the assistance of his daughter and in a three day period we canvased the town and came up with about ten houses each.
We then narrowed it down to five each, four of which we had picked the same houses. So on the Monday night before Halloween, we visited each of the five houses and chose the winner. We narrowed it down to three houses and then the three of us with the help of our President and his wife, picked the top house. It was a difficult decision until the final night when we visited 253 Henry Street last and saw all the ghosts and ghouls coming out of graves, vampire children playing on a swing and things that go bump in the night crawling around. This was the home of Scott and Logan Vicario.
When I knocked on his door later that evening, he was really excited about winning. Scott Vicario had told me that, “We love Halloween and we love decorating the house for the holidays.” Some of the pieces he had on the lawn looked like film set pieces and he said he ordered these items online and kept adding to his collection. What won it for him was all the ghouls trying to escape from the graves that actually moved around. It was creepy and fascinating at the same time.
In the early morning, I met my aunt for breakfast in Wood Ridge, NJ and we planned the whole morning out. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast Halloween breakfast at Blue Café at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ.
Over a platter of French Toast and a Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a roll and her ordering an omelet (See my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), we plotted our day of picture taking and showcasing the winners homes for the contest. You have to try their French Toast. It is amazing with all the cinnamon.
Blue Café is the former “Lucky Larry’s” at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ
Breakfast at Blue Café is delicious. After we ate, it was off to present the awards.
On Halloween morning, we presented all the Honorary awards to the runners up and then presented the main plaque to Scott and Logan at noon. They were very excited and turned on all the props so that we could see them one last time. It was pretty amazing.
Scott and Logan Vicario of 253 Henry Street in front of their lawn of horror
Justin Watrel, Chairman of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association “Halloween House Decorating Contest”, Scott and Logan Vicario and Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Member and Judge, Pat Fass. We presented the award at noon on Halloween afternoon.
253 Henry Street was place of Ghouls and Zombie’s and things that scare you!
The decorations on the Vicario’s front yard are quite terrifying
After I finished presenting the award to the winners, I had to revisit the runners up so that we could take their pictures as well. It amazed me that so many people were not up at 11:00am in the morning. I had some time before I had to leave for Manhattan to volunteer for the Halloween Parade and I presented these awards with my aunt who was helping me take pictures that morning.
The runners up were 510 Henry Street, 85 Woodside Avenue, 82 Burton Avenue and 257 Central Avenue. The homeowners at 82 Burton Avenue and 257 Central Avenue were not home that afternoon and I returned to drop off those awards another day.
510 Henry Street in Hasbrouck Heights
510 Henry Street is owned by Mary Rose and Henry Blunda who were thrilled when they were Honorary Runners-up in the contest. Their front lawn was covered with displays of phantom riders, zombie’s and ghosts covering their lawn. “We love the holiday,” Mary Rose said. “We do this for kids,” her husband Frank added.
Mary Rose and Frank Blunda in front of 510 Henry Street in Hasbrouck Heights
Over at 85 Woodside Avenue, there was a large display of the undead walking all over the front lawn and crawling up the sides of the house. This fascinating display was creating by Lisa and Matt Fiduccia who were thrilled to be Honorary Runners-up in the contest well. Them and their two children who were preparing for an afternoon of Trick or Treating when they found out about the award.
85 Woodside Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The family very proudly took a picture in front of their creation. “We have a lot of fun with this on Halloween,” the couple said. The lawn seemed to come alive on Halloween morning as the sun shined on zombies and other undead walking the property.
Lisa and Matt Fiduccia and their family outside 85 Woodside Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The two Honorary winners were 257 Central Avenue with its interesting display of skeletons and undead crawling out of graves. The most interesting part of the display was the skeleton lemonade stand.
257 Central Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The home is owned by Barbara Donaigo, who we were able to give her award a few days after Halloween when she was home. “I love Halloween and decorating for it,” she told me when I presented her the award for her home.
The macabre skeletons in front of 257 Central Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The last home in Hasbrouck Heights to be awarded for its creative design was 82 Burton Avenue. Although the house was not decorated from head to toe, it was the displays that it did showcase plus the way the house was lit in the evening. The house had side windows similar to the “Amityville Horror” house with red lights shining through them.
82 Burton Avenue pays homage to the “Amityville Horror”. Notice the side windows
82 Burton Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights during the day
The witches outside 82 Burton Avenue guard the door and bubble, bubble
The family who owned the house were never home in the three tries so I left their award at the door. During the day, you would not have noticed it but at night the house had a mysteries glow to it.
After we finished handed out the awards with a little ceremony for each, I left for New York City to work at the Halloween Parade which I have been doing since 2014. I have been Marshalling the Performers Gate with my ‘cousin’ Mark (our families both have Colonial roots and our families had married into each others about four times 150 years ago so I tease him and call us ‘cousins’) for six years (we did not have the parade last year because of COVID-See Halloween Night 2020 on this blog).
‘Cousin’ Mark and I (the ‘Aristocrats’ at the gate of the Halloween Parade at Dominick Street) in the West Village
The weather could have not been nicer that day as it was about 68 degrees when I arrived at the parade route at 4:00pm. It started out very quiet as the volunteers arrived to check in but progressively got busier as the performers arrived for band and float assignments.
The Halloween Parade was a lot of fun this year. It was so nice to see the City come back to life for at least a day. People really came out for the parade since it was a beautiful day in the high 60’s. I was wearing a short sleeved polo until about 8:00pm. It ended up being 68 degrees that night, Not quite the 71 degrees of two years ago but still a warm night to be outside enjoying a parade.
We did not have any real problems at the gate and were finished with our assignment by 8:00pm. As we closed the gate and left the police in charge, I walked into the staging area and watched the last of the floats head uptown. It is so exciting to watch as the parade comes to life at this location. It is always so chaotic.
The beginning of the Halloween Parade is the best with the Skeleton puppets
What made this Halloween really special is that everyone was so happy to have a good time. All over New York City and the island of Manhattan, people felt they were allowed to go outside and enjoy the day.
People flooded cafes, restaurants and bars all over Lower Manhattan and Midtown and everything was so busy with people enjoying outdoor dining even at 9:00pm and mobbed every fast food restaurant and pizzeria. I have never seen so many smiles and so much joy in people’s faces as they enjoyed the warm weather and comradery on Halloween night.
Isn’t this what Halloween should be about even in the era of COVID? Still have safe fun?
The full Halloween Parade in 2021 in Greenwich Village
On a recent trip to the Hudson River Valley for Fall events I took a tour of Bard Campus to visit their campus and tour Montgomery Place which the college bought from the Hudson River Historical Society in 2016. It is now part of the campus and you can tour the grounds but not the inside of the house.
Montgomery Place on the Bard College Campus
Before 2016 when the house was owned by the Hudson River Historical Society who used to have tours of the mansion. When the family sold the mansion and all its contents to the Society, they left the house untouched when they moved out you got to see how the Livingston family lived not just in current times…
I have stopped in at the Hotel Chocolat a few of times over the last couple of months and have found that the store has the most amazing candies, chocolates and ice cream creations. The store had been closed during the COVID pandemic but reopened with a nice manager with a big smile and hearty greeting. I have never been so warmly welcomed to a store before.
I had been staying in Manhattan over the Spring Break, working on updating my blog on ‘Midtown East’ for my sister site “MywalkinManhattan.com” and revisited the store again. There were all sorts of beautifully boxed chocolates for sale for the upcoming Easter holidays as well as every day candies.
The candies here are creatively made and packaged with all sorts…
I have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the…