Tag Archives: Exploring the Jersey Shore

Day Two Hundred and Eleven: From the delivery of trees to the Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck, NY and other Christmas activities that changed in the blink of an eye: Welcome to another crazy COVID Christmas! December 1st-31st, 2021

I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.

Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.

Setting up the Christmas trees

Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.

The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021

I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.

The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.

I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.

I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.

The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!

The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island

https://nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/barnegatlighthousestatepark.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46285-d286497-Reviews-Barnegat_Lighthouse_State_Park-Barnegat_Light_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/5345

Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.

The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.

Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing

http://www.vikingvillageshows.com/village-info.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46285-d2471201-Reviews-Viking_Village-Barnegat_Light_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html

After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.

My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.

The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society

https://lbihistoricalmuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46292-d11444615-Reviews-Long_Beach_Island_Historical_Museum-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3311

The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.

The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society

After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.

The NJ Maritime Museum at 528 Dock Road

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46292-d1881647-Reviews-Museum_of_NJ_Maritime_History-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/5338

For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.

The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ

https://www.facebook.com/chegg609/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46292-d438676-Reviews-The_Chicken_or_the_Egg-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.

The Woo Hoo at 211 South Bay Avenue

https://thewoohoo.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46292-d7646259-Reviews-The_WooHoo-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1244

After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.

Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021

https://www.facebook.com/events/kaplers-pharmacy/classis-christmas-soiree/284160150273064/

I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?

Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!

After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):

Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/20227

it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.

I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.

We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.

(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)

Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY

Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting

All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade

Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse

Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade

The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade

The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am

After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.

I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.

The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pouch-courtyard-poughkeepsie/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g48443-d93719-Reviews-Courtyard_Poughkeepsie-Poughkeepsie_New_York.html?m=19905

The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.

After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.

No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas

Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.

What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.

I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.

Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street

https://www.facebook.com/samuelsofrhinebeck/

I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.

By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.

Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street

https://www.petesfamous.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.

Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk

Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life

I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.

It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.

The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.

Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.

Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck

Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.

This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’

The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.

After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas. I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.

Village Pizza at 19 East Market Street

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

After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.

Downtown Rhinebeck before nightfall

Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk

The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.

Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.

Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.

Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times

It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.

Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored

Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.

On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.

The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.

The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th

Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.

These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.

John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”

Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”

Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English

On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.

The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.

Here is the presentation with all the commercials:

Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/20566

This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.

There is a message from me their CEO as well:

A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.

I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.

Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:

Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/20568

With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.

The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ

I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!

I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.

This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.

“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ

The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”

Friday the 13th (1980) Filming Locations

This is where Annie entered the diner for the opening of “Friday the 13th”:

Hope Junction Antiques at 331 High Street (where the diner was located at the time of filming)

https://www.hopejunctionantiques.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HopeJunctionAntiques/

The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.

This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.

Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck

https://www.facebook.com/BurgdorffERA/

Burgdorff Realty is where Annie entered the truck in the scene.

The Moravian Cemetery on High Street just down the road from Downtown Hope, NJ

https://www.facebook.com/HopeMoravianCemetery/

The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.

But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.

The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas

When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.

https://www.hopechristmascraftmarket.com/building-info

Trout Alley

Trout Alley is the path to avoid the toll booth in Hope, NJ.

The Hope Historical Society at 323 High Street

https://www.hopenjhistory.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/6341

The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.

Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.

The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions

Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.

It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas

The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences

The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.

Moravian Residences by the bank

The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.

The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas

The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home

https://www.facebook.com/thehopetoychest/

I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.

Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.

This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive

St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Methodist-Church/St-Johns-United-Methodist-Church-1406394686297265/

I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).

Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.

Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road

https://www.hopepizzeria.com/

https://www.facebook.com/hopepizzeria/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46518-d19270906-Reviews-Hope_Pizzeria_Catering-Hope_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).

When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.

The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street

https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/sharks

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d210108-Reviews-American_Museum_of_Natural_History-New_York_City_New_York.html

The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.

Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza

http://www.lincolncenter.org/

What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.

This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021

https://www.metopera.org/season/2021-22-gala/kristin-chenoweth-christmas-at-the-met/

This song brought down the house!

I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.

I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.

The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe

https://amorepizzacafe.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d23336838-Reviews-Amore_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.

The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.

I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.

Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas

Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.

The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.

The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.

Mount Gulian at 145 Sterling Place in Beacon, NY

https://www.facebook.com/mountgulian/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47291-d10701912-Reviews-Mount_Gulian_Society-Beacon_New_York.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

Mount Gulian decorated in the foyer

Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner

The sitting room at Mount Gulian

After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.

Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.

Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall

Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year

I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d3641613-Reviews-Samuel_s-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/187

Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.

Downtown Red Hook, NY

I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.

Exploring Red Hook, NY:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/14144

The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.

Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree

Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful

After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockage District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.

Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas

The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brillantly.

Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree

The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.

Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.

By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.

The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.

Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree

My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.

Christmas in Woodstock in 2015:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/662

Christmas in Woodstock in 2016:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/3408

Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.

Shindig at 1 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

https://www.facebook.com/shindigwoodstock/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.

Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.

I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.

I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!

Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.

On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.

This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021

By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.

First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.

So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.

So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Annex and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).

The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street

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

This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.

My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.

The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place

https://www.caperesorts.com/congress-hall/boiler-room

https://www.facebook.com/boileroom/

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

I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.

After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.

Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.

The Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas

https://www.caperesorts.com/congress-hall

https://www.facebook.com/congresshall/

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

After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.

The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May

After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).

Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ

http://ladystarofthesea.org/

My TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d16846237-Reviews-Our_Lady_Star_of_the_Sea_Church-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.

The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.

If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.

https://www.mystore411.com/store/view/24532701/Wawa-Convience-Store-North-Cape-May

My review on TripAdvisor:

WaWa really does have a good breakfast!

The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.

After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!

By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.

After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.

Dos Locos at 208 Rehoboth Avenue

https://www.doslocos.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Restaurant/DOS-LOCOS-78133849014/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396081-Reviews-Dos_Locos-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.

My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner

To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.

My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.

My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth

My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach

Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach

The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background

It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.

I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.

When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.

The Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street

https://www.facebook.com/uglymugcm/

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

Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.

With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.

The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!

I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.

The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.

The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition

https://capemaystage.showare.com/

https://www.facebook.com/CapeMayStage/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d1582818-Reviews-Cape_May_Stage_Professional_Equity_Theater-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.

After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.

I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.

You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once

https://www.facebook.com/SunsetbeachNJ/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g3948623-d103992-Reviews-Sunset_Beach-Lower_Township_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.

The Cloisters at Christmas time

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d106609-Reviews-The_Met_Cloisters-New_York_City_New_York.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.

I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.

New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Chinese-Restaurant/New-Golden-Star-103332598081909/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10926156-Reviews-Golden_Star-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.

After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.

Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.

I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.

Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway

https://www.nycgovparks.org/news/media-advisories?id=13217

Actress and Activist Ilka Tanya Payan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilka_Tanya_Pay%C3%A1n

New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!

This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.

The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:

Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here

The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping

I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:

I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.

Louisa’s Candy Bar 106 Jackson Street Cape May, NJ 08204

Don’t miss this interesting little candy shop in Downtown Cape May, NJ.

Louisa’s Candy Bar at 106 Jackson Street in Downtown Cape May, NJ.

Don’t miss this interesting and fun little candy shop specializing in Fair Trade and small batch chocolate bars and homemade desserts and hot chocolate served with a smile. It is so beautifully merchandised.

Little Shop on Main Street

Louisa’s Candy Bar

106 Jackson Street

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 884-5519

http://www.louisascapemay.com/chocolatebar

https://www.facebook.com/Louisaschocolate/

Open: Sunday-Tuesday 11:00am-8:00pm/Wednesday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d12945901-Reviews-Louisa_s_Chocolate_Bar-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

Louisa’s Candy Bar at 106 Jackson Street in Cape May, NJ

Louisa’s Candy Bar is a quirky little candy and dessert store in the Washington Mall in Downtown Cape May that has an impressive array of chocolate bars and rich desserts in this tiny space right near the well-decorated Village Green.

The tiny shop is lined with small batch chocolate bars from boutique brands that are either small batch companies or Fair-Trade Chocolate brands. Louisa’s even has their own private-label brand of chocolate bars that are made in Marine Park, Brooklyn. One of my favorite private label candy bars is their Milk Chocolate with Salted Caramel ($8.00), pricey but delicious. The combination of flavors is interesting and you really can taste the saltiness in the caramel.

Another…

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Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum 500 Forrestal Road Cape May Airport, Rio Grande, NJ 08242

Don’t miss this historical museum and its role in WWII. It showcases the accomplishments of the people of New Jersey and the soldiers who trained here.

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

500 Forrestal Road

Cape May Airport

Rio Grande, NJ 08242

(609) 886-8787

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm

https://usnasw.org/

https://www.facebook.com/aviationmuseum/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d1881607-Reviews-Naval_Air_Station_Wildwood_Aviation_Museum-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is located at the back of the Cape May Airport. Just follow the road to the back of the airport at 500 Forrestal Road in Hangar #1.

This interesting museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from WWII to today from jeeps to cars and trucks to airplanes. Some of the vehicles you can step into and see what it was like to ride these pieces of aviation history.

The displays are very interactive

There are several airplanes that with the assistance of the staff you can enter and see what air travel was like for these pilots. All the planes have been carefully restored and displayed for viewing and use by tourists. There is…

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Avalon History Center 215 39th Street Avalon, NJ 08202

Don’t miss this little gem of a museum in the heart of Avalon, NJ that tells the town’s story.

The Avalon Museum and Historical Society is an interesting part of the New Jersey shore history.

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Avalon History Center

215 39th Street

Avalon, NJ 08202

(609) 967-0090

Open: Sunday Closed/ Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm

http://www.avalonhistoricalsociety.org/

https://www.facebook.com/avalonhistorycenter/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g29754-d8096123-Reviews-Avalon_History_Center-Avalon_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

The Avalon History Center is at 215 39th Street in Downtown Avalon, NJ

Recently I took a tour of small Jersey shore towns and their historical societies. These interesting little museums are packed with information on the history and development of these towns. The progress of these towns from fishing and hunting villages for the Native Americans to the modern day resorts and permanent residence’s have a fascinating history.

The Avalon History Center was the last museum on my visit to the shore that day and it had become very gloomy outside. The town was relatively quiet when I got there on a late Thursday night. I ended up having the whole museum to myself to tour. The curator came out and greeted me nicely and…

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Sea Isle City Museum 4800 Central Avenue Sea Isle, NJ 08243

Don’t miss this interesting little museum in Sea Isle City, NJ

Don’t miss the Sea Isle City Historical Society Museum

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Sea Isle Museum

4800 Central Avenue

Sea Isle, NJ 08243

(609) 263-2992

https://www.facebook.com/Sea-Isle-City-Historical-Museum-326332320746077/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46807-d10452863-Reviews-Sea_Isle_City_Historical_Museum-Sea_Isle_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

The Sea Isle City Museum is located inside the Sea Isle Library at 4800 Central Avenue just off Downtown Sea Isle City, NJ

On a recent trip of touring the small towns of the Jersey shore, I set out to visiting many of the historical societies that tell the histories of these towns and how they have progressed from small Native American fishing villages to the resort and residential towns of today. Each of these museum has their own unique focus to how they tell their story.

The Sea Isle City Museum at 4800 Central Avenue is located in the back of the Municipal Building right next to the Sea Isle City Library. This small museum that is manned by volunteers is packed with local historical artifacts, pictures and…

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Johnson’s Popcorn 1360 Broadway Ocean City, NJ 08226

Don’t miss Johnson’s Popcorn at either their Ocean City, NJ or Wildwood, NJ locations for the best popcorn.

Both their Caramel corn and their Cheddar Cheese corn are wonderful!

Little Shop on Main Street

Johnson’s Popcorn

1360 Broadway

Ocean City, NJ 08226

(609) 368-5404

https://johnsonspopcorn.com/

https://www.facebook.com/johnsonspopcorn/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:30am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:30am-9:00pm

Check website for Seasonality

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

Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ

Taking a trip down the Jersey Shore is always fun especially on a late summer afternoon during the week when there are not too many people around and you have the whole Boardwalk to yourself. When I arrived at the Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk, it was mostly locals walking around, enjoying the sunny afternoon jogging, power walking and conversing with neighbors. You could see it was a tightknit group on the Boardwalk that day.

I have been coming to Ocean City, NJ only recently staying the night six years ago when I thought I might have a job close by. I started to explore the shore towns and made Ocean City my headquarters for that trip…

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Franconi’s Pizzeria & Ristorante On the Corner of Oak Avenue & The Boardwalk Wildwood, NJ 08260

Don’t the wonderful meals at Franconi’s on the Wildwood, NJ boardwalk.

Who welcomes you better at the Jersey shore but Franconi’s!

Little Shop on Main Street

Franconi’s Pizzeria & Ristorante

On the Corner of Oak Avenue & The Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-2800

https://wildwood.orderfranconispizzeria.com/

Open: Please check website for Seaonality

Sunday & Monday 10:00am-10:00pm/Tuesday-Thursday 5:00pm-10:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46931-d4441386-Reviews-Franconi_s_Pizzeria_Ristorante-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Sometimes there are just establishments that don’t fit into the traditional mold of this blog but when I find one that stands out it really makes it special. There is something about the boardwalk businesses at the Jersey shore that just different. Maybe it is just the sites and smells or just the combination with the sea air and the beautiful weather with the aroma of good food. This is how Franconi’s Pizzeria & Ristorante on the corner of Oak Avenue & the Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ makes your mouth water.

Franconi’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at Oak Avenue and the Boardwalk

The one thing I have to say about the staff at Franconi’s is…

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Stone Harbor Museum 9410 Second Avenue Stone Harbor, NJ 08247

Don’t miss the Stone Harbor Museum with its interesting exhibitions.

Don’t miss this interesting museum at the Jersey shore.

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Stone Harbor Museum

9410 Second Avenue

Stone Harbor, NJ 08247

(609) 368-7500

https://stoneharbormuseum.org/

https://www.facebook.com/stoneharbormuseum/

My review on TripAdvisor”

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46850-d12832764-Reviews-Stone_Harbor_Museum-Stone_Harbor_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html

The entrance to the Stone Harbor Museum at 9410 Second Avenue

On a recent trip to the Jersey Shore, I took an long drive down the coastline visiting small historical museums of the shore towns and they gave me an interesting perspective of how these towns were developed from the time of Native American fishing and hunting villages to the advent of railroads and Victorian hotels to the modern development of the town today. Stone Harbor, NJ has had an interesting path since its development in the late 1800’s.

The Stone Harbor Museum was founded in 1996 by a group of involved residents who wanted to showcase their town’s history. The current museum was opened in 2016 and has many different exhibitions going on, some permanent and others are seasonal and…

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Joe's Pizza in Wildwood, NJ

Joe’s Italian Pizzeria 2812 Boardwalk Between Magnolia and Poplar Wildwood, New Jersey 08260

Don’t miss my dining site “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com” for excellent, high quality meals on a tight budget. Joe’s in Wildwood, NJ is wonderful. The pizza here is utterly amazing.

Joe's Pizza Wildwood, NJ

The pizzas here are huge!

Joe's Pizza Wildwood, NJ II

The slices are huge and delicious!

Dining on a Shoestring in the New York City area

Joe’s Italian Pizzeria

2813 Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ  08260

609-552-7010

Open: 10:30am-11:59pm (Seasonal)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46931-d5094965-Reviews-Joe_s_Pizzeria-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Joe’s Pizzeria on the Wildwood Beach Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ bills itself “The Biggest Pizza on the Boards” for good reason. The slices are huge! The slices are from a freshly baked 28 inch pizza that prominently displayed in their pizza cases facing the boardwalk. The cheese pizzas have that interesting swirl on top of the cheese that makes it almost geometric.

Joe's Pizzeria Wildwood.png

Joe’s Pizzeria on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ

It is a pricey for a slice ($3.25 for a plain and $4.25 for a slice with one topping) but it well worth it. The pizza slice is as big as two combined slices and one alone can fill up a hungry eater (See my review on TripAdvisor).  It’s even hard to fold.

Their ingredients are all very high quality. Their cheese has…

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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.

Chalfonte Hotel II.jpg

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.

Christmas in Cape May.jpg

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.

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7142

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