The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association 2022 “Man of the Year” Annual Dinner March 25th, 2022
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association honors their “Men of the Year”
On Friday, March 25th, the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association held their annual dinner for their members and their spouses. We chose Roma’s in North Arlington as it held a lot of good memories for the organization. We had held our 2019 dinner here right before everything closed due to the pandemic which had been another memorable night for the organization. Their food and service are excellent and the membership enjoyed a wonderful dinner.
Before dessert was served, President Steve Palladino gave a warm welcome to everyone. We talked about the successes we had in the previous year with our Golf Outing being one of the most prosperous in recent history and one of the best Christmas tree sales for the association. We sold a record number of trees in eleven days that generated a great profit for our scholarship fund.
The Executive Board presented our awards for “Volunteer of the Year” award for the member whose contributions over the last year made the association flourish. The Executive Board chose Mark Stefanelli, whose fundraising for our Annual Golf Outing made it the success it was this year. He really reached out to the community for sponsorship that raised a lot of money for the event and helped raise some of the biggest donations to make the Golf Outing the huge success that it was last year.
Executive Board Members Lou Verdi, Ken Wheeler, Winner Mark Stefanelli, Steve Palladino, Dennis Colton and Justin Watrel
Our “Man of the Year”, a man that honors the Hasbrouck Heights community with their dedication to the town, was resident and volunteer Tony Bonelli. Mr. Bonelli was an athlete at Hasbrouck Heights High School who not only led the school to many winning seasons but played multiple sports while attending.
Executive Board members Lou Verdi, Ken Wheeler, Steve Paladino, winner Tony Bonelli, Dennis Colton and Justin Watrel
He has for the last forty years helped in the Recreation Department, coaching teams, assisting in the grounds upkeep and when he got older contributed by assisting other coaches and lending his support to many of our town’s youth teams.
“Man of the Year” winner Tony Bonelli with his family at the HHMA Dinner
Both men have contributed a lot not just to making us a better organization but making Hasbrouck Heights the community that it is today.
Thank you to all the members who contribute so much over the previous years.
Members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association having dinner
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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”:
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”
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
We held the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association First Annual ‘ Halloween House Decorating Contest’ on Halloween morning. I had come up with the idea last year but because there was not time to put it together, I brought the idea up to the Men’s Association at our October meeting. I had another volunteer help me out with the assistance of his daughter and in a three day period we canvased the town and came up with about ten houses each.
We then narrowed it down to five each, four of which we had picked the same houses. So on the Monday night before Halloween, we visited each of the five houses and chose the winner. We narrowed it down to three houses and then the three of us with the help of our President and his wife, picked the top house. It was a difficult decision until the final night when we visited 253 Henry Street last and saw all the ghosts and ghouls coming out of graves, vampire children playing on a swing and things that go bump in the night crawling around. This was the home of Scott and Logan Vicario.
When I knocked on his door later that evening, he was really excited about winning. Scott Vicario had told me that, “We love Halloween and we love decorating the house for the holidays.” Some of the pieces he had on the lawn looked like film set pieces and he said he ordered these items online and kept adding to his collection. What won it for him was all the ghouls trying to escape from the graves that actually moved around. It was creepy and fascinating at the same time.
In the early morning, I met my aunt for breakfast in Wood Ridge, NJ and we planned the whole morning out. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast Halloween breakfast at Blue Café at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ.
Over a platter of French Toast and a Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a roll and her ordering an omelet (See my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), we plotted our day of picture taking and showcasing the winners homes for the contest. You have to try their French Toast. It is amazing with all the cinnamon.
Blue Café is the former “Lucky Larry’s” at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ
Breakfast at Blue Café is delicious. After we ate, it was off to present the awards.
On Halloween morning, we presented all the Honorary awards to the runners up and then presented the main plaque to Scott and Logan at noon. They were very excited and turned on all the props so that we could see them one last time. It was pretty amazing.
Scott and Logan Vicario of 253 Henry Street in front of their lawn of horror
Justin Watrel, Chairman of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association “Halloween House Decorating Contest”, Scott and Logan Vicario and Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Member and Judge, Pat Fass. We presented the award at noon on Halloween afternoon.
253 Henry Street was place of Ghouls and Zombie’s and things that scare you!
The decorations on the Vicario’s front yard are quite terrifying
After I finished presenting the award to the winners, I had to revisit the runners up so that we could take their pictures as well. It amazed me that so many people were not up at 11:00am in the morning. I had some time before I had to leave for Manhattan to volunteer for the Halloween Parade and I presented these awards with my aunt who was helping me take pictures that morning.
The runners up were 510 Henry Street, 85 Woodside Avenue, 82 Burton Avenue and 257 Central Avenue. The homeowners at 82 Burton Avenue and 257 Central Avenue were not home that afternoon and I returned to drop off those awards another day.
510 Henry Street in Hasbrouck Heights
510 Henry Street is owned by Mary Rose and Henry Blunda who were thrilled when they were Honorary Runners-up in the contest. Their front lawn was covered with displays of phantom riders, zombie’s and ghosts covering their lawn. “We love the holiday,” Mary Rose said. “We do this for kids,” her husband Frank added.
Mary Rose and Frank Blunda in front of 510 Henry Street in Hasbrouck Heights
Over at 85 Woodside Avenue, there was a large display of the undead walking all over the front lawn and crawling up the sides of the house. This fascinating display was creating by Lisa and Matt Fiduccia who were thrilled to be Honorary Runners-up in the contest well. Them and their two children who were preparing for an afternoon of Trick or Treating when they found out about the award.
85 Woodside Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The family very proudly took a picture in front of their creation. “We have a lot of fun with this on Halloween,” the couple said. The lawn seemed to come alive on Halloween morning as the sun shined on zombies and other undead walking the property.
Lisa and Matt Fiduccia and their family outside 85 Woodside Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The two Honorary winners were 257 Central Avenue with its interesting display of skeletons and undead crawling out of graves. The most interesting part of the display was the skeleton lemonade stand.
257 Central Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The home is owned by Barbara Donaigo, who we were able to give her award a few days after Halloween when she was home. “I love Halloween and decorating for it,” she told me when I presented her the award for her home.
The macabre skeletons in front of 257 Central Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights
The last home in Hasbrouck Heights to be awarded for its creative design was 82 Burton Avenue. Although the house was not decorated from head to toe, it was the displays that it did showcase plus the way the house was lit in the evening. The house had side windows similar to the “Amityville Horror” house with red lights shining through them.
82 Burton Avenue pays homage to the “Amityville Horror”. Notice the side windows
82 Burton Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights during the day
The witches outside 82 Burton Avenue guard the door and bubble, bubble
The family who owned the house were never home in the three tries so I left their award at the door. During the day, you would not have noticed it but at night the house had a mysteries glow to it.
After we finished handed out the awards with a little ceremony for each, I left for New York City to work at the Halloween Parade which I have been doing since 2014. I have been Marshalling the Performers Gate with my ‘cousin’ Mark (our families both have Colonial roots and our families had married into each others about four times 150 years ago so I tease him and call us ‘cousins’) for six years (we did not have the parade last year because of COVID-See Halloween Night 2020 on this blog).
‘Cousin’ Mark and I (the ‘Aristocrats’ at the gate of the Halloween Parade at Dominick Street) in the West Village
The weather could have not been nicer that day as it was about 68 degrees when I arrived at the parade route at 4:00pm. It started out very quiet as the volunteers arrived to check in but progressively got busier as the performers arrived for band and float assignments.
The Halloween Parade was a lot of fun this year. It was so nice to see the City come back to life for at least a day. People really came out for the parade since it was a beautiful day in the high 60’s. I was wearing a short sleeved polo until about 8:00pm. It ended up being 68 degrees that night, Not quite the 71 degrees of two years ago but still a warm night to be outside enjoying a parade.
We did not have any real problems at the gate and were finished with our assignment by 8:00pm. As we closed the gate and left the police in charge, I walked into the staging area and watched the last of the floats head uptown. It is so exciting to watch as the parade comes to life at this location. It is always so chaotic.
The beginning of the Halloween Parade is the best with the Skeleton puppets
What made this Halloween really special is that everyone was so happy to have a good time. All over New York City and the island of Manhattan, people felt they were allowed to go outside and enjoy the day.
People flooded cafes, restaurants and bars all over Lower Manhattan and Midtown and everything was so busy with people enjoying outdoor dining even at 9:00pm and mobbed every fast food restaurant and pizzeria. I have never seen so many smiles and so much joy in people’s faces as they enjoyed the warm weather and comradery on Halloween night.
Isn’t this what Halloween should be about even in the era of COVID? Still have safe fun?
The full Halloween Parade in 2021 in Greenwich Village
I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again! Here comes Christmas!
The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.
Myself and John at the old Christmas tree lot in 2002 when I returned home
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is when we set the lot up for business. We rake the entire property, put together our Christmas shed and then the stands to hold the trees. We have had a lot more help with new members over the past three years.
Since my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Duchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen Road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurants in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well-priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City. Don’t miss their lunch specials and interesting sandwich combinations.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes, so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts, we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take-out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious with a side of their garlic fries and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers. They also have a dessert called Galactoboureko, a sweet custard wrapped in phyllo dough, that is amazing.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (both closed for business in June 2021) for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard (Closed June 2021)
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally (now retired)
Young Fashions (now closed June 2021) is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby (now closed May 2020-online business orders) is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one-of-a-kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and Knick knacks.
Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (now closed 2020-Online Business)
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down. They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too. Their Hot & Sour Soup is the best in town.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Playhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and cooked and seasoned perfectly. They have a nice assortment of appetizers to order when having a drink.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take-out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It has always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take-out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and their Lo Mein is the best is the best in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Bill O’Shea’s Easter Open House 2021
The newest addition to Downtown Hasbrouck Heights is Ralph’s Ice Cream & Ices at 239 Boulevard that opened in the height of the COVID pandemic just in time to cheer a town up that really needed it. The store opened in the summer of 2020 to long lines and gave everyone an excuse to done a mask and meet their neighbors for a sweet treat. Check out their weekly posted specials.
Fisher’s Café at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long-time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owner’s grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements; their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melted in your mouth good! Don’t miss their delicious Black & White cookies and their stuffed Chocolate Chip sandwiches. The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy, so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well-lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Further down the street a new bakery opened. Two Ladies Bakery at 446 Boulevard. They specialize in Lebanese, Russian and French pastries. The bakery just opened two weeks ago so it is nice to go in and support a new business in town.
The Cream Puff I had was a little pricey for our town at $5.00. It was well baked and had a rich creamy vanilla filling. It was good but average.
The cream puffs are good but expensive
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owner’s wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long-time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
During the holiday season, the town really rolls out the welcome mat. People in town love to decorate and entertain. In this COVID era, some things have been toned down such as large parties and parades. All the Christmas concerts have been cancelled as school has been put into both virtual and life classes.
Still the spirit of the town can be felt from Halloween to the New Years as people decorate their homes and businesses welcome people to open houses and will cater to small parties of people.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in 2019
In 2021, the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association started the first Annual “Halloween House Decorating Contest” to promote all the residents who decorate their homes for the Halloween holidays. We presented the award on Halloween morning to the winners at 257 Henry Street.
The first Annual “HHMA Halloween House Decorating Contest” winners with Chairman Justin Watrel
My blog on Halloween at the Parade and running the Halloween House Decorating Contest in 2021:
Every year I look forward to the Downtown Merchants Open Houses with their bright creative display windows and small indoor entertainments as people come to shop and converse with their neighbors.
Heights Flower Shop at Halloween
Hasbrouck Heights merchants know how to decorate for Halloween-Heights Flower Shop
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bill O’Shea Flowers had their annual Open House with Christmas music and lots of pre-wrapped goodies to enjoy and take home. The store was beautifully decorated with all sorts of treasures that customers could buy, I love just walking around and grabbing a snack while shopping every year.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is a delight at the Christmas holidays
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts welcomes you at Christmas
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Heights Flower Shoppe had their Annual Open House and it was just as spectacular. One tries to outdo the other in a friendly rivalry.
Heights Flower Shoppe has the most interesting merchandise
Heights Flower Shoppe pulls out all stops to welcome you at the holidays
My twenty-one years on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association has done a lot to my back after years at Macy’s selling rugs as well. The Annual Christmas Tree Sale was a HUGE success this year. We sold out in less than two weeks, ending the sale on Friday night, December 11th selling a record 375 trees. We want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns for their support on our Scholarship Fund event.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at the set-up being COVID safe in 2020
Things calmed down a bit in 2021. We sold out 390 trees in 11 days!
As we ready for Christmas 2020 next week and the coming of a new and hopefully better New Year, the town has done its job to cheer us up. The Annual Christmas Tree lighting was not advertised but happened anyway and welcomes people at our western border of town.
Our town Christmas tree at the Circle
The Neil Parrot playhouse is even decorated at the Circle
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights welcomes you at Christmas
Heights Flower Shop in Hasbrouck Heights at Christmas in 2021
Bill O’Shea’s in Hasbrouck Heights at Christmas time
Even though the Annual Holiday Parade was cancelled, we will still be welcoming Santa at Santa Around Town the last Sunday of December before Christmas. This Annual tradition on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department has the whole town in the Christmas spirit as Santa visits them in their own neighborhoods.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2019
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small-town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
This article was released around the time of the local shut-downs. I thought this might cheer people up with the celebration of The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ their “Men” of the Year, ‘Man of the Year’ Chief Angelo Roccamo of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association ‘Member of the Year’ Kyle Kasper.
We want to thank these members of the Hasbrouck Heights Community for their dedication to the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
My recent article:
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association honors Retired Chief Angelo Roccamo as “Man of the Year” for his 39 years of service to the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and to ‘Member of the Year’, Kyle Kasper for his years of service to the HHMA
By Justin Watrel
On the evening of Saturday, February 29th at their Annual Members Dinner, the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ honored Retired and Outgoing Chief of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Angelo Roccamo as their “Man of the Year”.
The Executive Board of the Men’s Association voted unanimously for Chief Roccamo and the way he has served his town and the Fire Department over his 39 years of service.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Executive Board with Chief Angelo Roccamo, the HHMA “Man of the Year”
Under the direction of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association President Steve Palladino, the Executive Board presented Chief Roccamo with the award in front of members of the organization and Chief Roccamo’s extended family. He said he was honored to receive the award and had enjoyed his many years on the Department. He was joined by his wife, Vivian in the presentation of the award.
Chief Angelo Roccamo, “Man of the Year” with his family at the HHMA Dinner
The Men’s Association read off many of the Chief’s accomplishments including serving the Department for a second time around over the last three years.
Chief Angelo Roccamo with his wife, Vivian
The Executive Board also chose their ‘Member of the Year’ and it was with much praise that we awarded it to Kyle Kasper for his outstanding work in every project that he tackles for the organization. Mr. Kasper has lent his many talents to increasing business for our Annual Christmas Tree Sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Executive Board with “Member of the Year” Kyle Kasper
The Executive Board and Membership of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association recognizes all its members for all their efforts in making Hasbrouck Heights a better community.
I have never seen a holiday come and go so fast that it zoomed by. We had one less weekend this year in the month of December before Christmas and it seemed to set everyone in a panic. I have seen holidays fly by but this one was for the records. It seemed that everyone crammed in as much as they could the first two weekends of December and did not come up for breath.
I was no different as work took up everything leading to Halloween and then boom, five weeks later there was Thanksgiving and Sinterklaas. As I wrote in earlier blogs, we went from 71 degrees on Halloween Parade to 25 degrees five weeks later for the Sinterklaas Parade. You just can’t predict the weather.
The Puppet Rehearsals started my Holiday Season in early October
Visit the blog “Day One Hundred and Fifty Three: “Halloween Again”:
After my class’s presentation in Paterson, I left the next day for Florida to visit friends and family. There were some concerns with my friends and I wanted to be sure that they were okay and then I wanted to spend time with my brother and niece. After that I traveled to visit my mother for her birthday so it was a nice visit.
It was also a good working vacation too as I added on new stores to my LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com site and new museums on my VisitingaMuseum.com site:
It was also a good vacation because after the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. presentation in Paterson, NJ was behind me, it was a big sigh of relief. As I said in that blog (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Eight), it was a lot of work and stress for all of us right before Thanksgiving but it was the best time to present it because the students could relax over the holidays and be proud of what they accomplished.
When I returned home from Florida on my business/vacation trip, it was full steam ahead with the holidays. I promised myself this year that I would cut back on a lot of the get togethers and events to attend and I stuck by it. Still there was a lot to see and do and things I wanted my readers to know on my blogs.
The holiday season this year though started without me. I was not home for the Christmas tree drop off for the Men’s Association, the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights and our Department Party for the Fire Department and the Holiday Party for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association. I was away that first weekend visiting friends and family and work on this blog. I got into the spirit and the holiday rush when I returned.
The holiday season started for me the first Saturday of December with marching in the Annual Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck. I am now going on my seventh year participating in the parade and almost a decade of being up in Rhinebeck, NY.
Rhinebeck, NY like the rest of the Hudson River Valley is just magical at the holidays from Halloween to New Year’s. Downtown Rhinebeck is picturesque like a modern Currier & Ives print with the twinkling white lights, the Sinterklaas paintings attached to the trees and the beautifully decorated retail windows which showcase their goods and the parade stars.
Rhinebeck, NY is magical at Christmas
I was so busy working in the morning with my Introduction to Business class on the wrap up of their project and preparing them for their final exam that I did not get up to Rhinebeck until 2:30pm so I missed the whole puppet set-up.
It was really cold the day of the parade and must have been around 38 degrees even with the sun. I did not see as many people as the last two years and you could actually walk the streets. The police closed off the main street so you could finally walk around Downtown Rhinebeck with no problems.
All along the streets and alleyways were entertainers, bands, costumed characters and people on stilts talking to people and engaging the crowds. The one thing I have to say is that it was getting colder and colder as the day went on. I felt for the people in costume who had to deal with this weather.
I wrote more about my afternoon at the parade on Day One Hundred and Fifty Six: The Sinterklaas Parade:
That Saturday evening it went down to almost 24 degrees and it got cold! Even with four layers, I could see my breath right in front of me. That didn’t stop the crowds. They were five deep for the parade which like every year it magical. Between all the colors, lights, floats and stars hanging from poles along the parade route it adds to the excitement of Sinterklaas coming to town.
I was working in the star forest by the Mother Earth float so I was toward the back of the parade so I could see most everything from the hill overlooking Downtown Rhinebeck. It is something to see the parade from the parade itself up on the hill. The whole town is ablaze with energy as each band and dance team performs.
I loved the looks on the kids faces as all the puppets lean into the crowds. Then right behind us the crowd follows the parade into the parking lot to enjoy the show. This is when the crowd dispersed.
I have never seen a crowd clear up as we rounded the corner and dropped off our puppets. The other people I worked with went home and after the show and the fire performers finished the last of the crowd dispersed. I just wanted to walk around the town one more time before I left town.
The parade is magical when the puppets enter Downtown Rhinebeck
By the time finished my walk around town, it must have dropped to 22 degrees and everyone was off the streets. It got so quiet in Rhinebeck. The restaurants were still dealing with the crowds but not as busy as I remembered the last two years. When I had a slice of pizza at Village Pizza at 119 East Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor), the place was quiet which not normal that night. You could still get a seat. It was worth it though as their pizza is delicious.
I got home late that night and I will tell you that it got colder that night. The windows of the car really froze up. Normally I would spend the night but I had to visit a series of decorated mansions to visit, a few holiday events at museums and an Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine Mansion at the Newark Museum.
The next day was a whirlwind of activity as I ran from one activity to another. Because of having one less weekend before Christmas all the organizations were having their events the first Saturday and Sunday of December so I had to plan my visits like D-Day. I wanted to be able to update my VisitingaMuseum.com blog with visits to all the holiday events. It was too much in one day but I did it.
I started that Sunday at the Lodi, NJ VFW for the Knights of Columbus monthly breakfast. For $6.00, I had to load up on the carbs because I would not be eating until 4:00pm. The Knights of Columbus know how to make breakfast and I loaded up on scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and French Toast and potatoes before my long day of running around. The discussion amongst all of us was how we were all tired of Christmas and it had not even arrived yet. It just seemed that everyone else like me was running from one thing to another.
My first stop that morning was the the Boonton Historical Society at 210 Main Street in Boonton, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited earlier in October after a Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association meeting and they had mentioned this get together. It was a very nice event.
The Historical Society had a few local musicians and entertainers playing to the crowd and a nice assortment of small appetizers and cookies to nibble on while you walked around the displays. It is a nice place to get insights on the development of the iron industry in New Jersey plus the growth of business in the State. They also had a nice exhibition on the Trolley system in New Jersey.
The next stop was the Holiday Festival at the Hopper-Goetschius House at 245 Lake Street in Upper Saddle River, NJ. The Historical Society of Upper Saddle River ran this engaging little festival which was a lot of fun. The weather had broke and it was sunny and a pleasant 48 degrees out.
Santa in the Dutch Barn at the Hooper-Goetschius House
You could visit Santa in the Dutch barn, participate in historical games in the schoolhouse, watch a demonstration of blacksmith work, eat fresh popcorn and chestnuts that were cooked over an open fire the outdoor kitchen and tour the house itself which was decorated for a Victorian Christmas.
There were tours of the house, story telling in the dining room, classical music being played in the palour and fresh Christmas cookies and hot apple cider in the Colonial kitchen which dates back to the late 1700’s. they really did a nice job but then it was off to the next site, the Newark Museum for Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine House.
The Ballantine House at the Newark Museum was decorated for Christmas as “Mrs. Ballantine’s Christmas Eve Open House”
If you ever drove from Boonton to Upper Saddle River to Newark in one afternoon, it is a lot of running around and a lot of driving through traffic during the holidays. Thank God all of these events were on a Sunday when the malls are closed (Bergen County, NJ has strict Blue Laws).
I got there just as they started serving tea and the room was packed with people. The event was held on the top floor of the old Ballatine Mansion which is part of the Newark Museum. It had once been the attic of the house which Mrs. Ballatine converted into an apartment for her married daughter and her family. It now serves as the Trustees Room.
The Newark Museum at 49 Washington Street in Newark, NJ. The Ballantine House is to the right.
That was a very nice afternoon of nice conversation with other guests, wonderful food (the sandwiches and pastries were plentiful on the table) and an interesting talk on the history of the Ballantine Mansion and the family. After the tea was over, we were lead on a special out of the mansion which was decorated for the Christmas holidays circa 1890. It must have been a pleasant affair for the family as the day started with church services and then a Christmas luncheon.
After the talk, it was back to the house again and changing clothes and selling Christmas trees from six to ten that evening. We only sold five trees that night and I was so happy that after 8:00pm we had no customers and I could just sit by the fire and relax. I was all ‘Christmased’ out that day. It was just nice to sit and smell the pine trees. I was happy when the day was over. Fun yes but I was tired from all the driving. That was just the first weekend.
Selling Christmas trees is part of the our fundraising for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. I have been doing this for twenty years.
Here’s me promoting the event:
The second week was just as busy. I ran two holidays parties at work. One group not many people attended so it was just the four of us. Still it was nice. The other group I had twenty people in wheelchairs who we ‘wined and dined’. Each one of us baked something, we arranged to have gifts for all the residents of the facility I work with and then I made a big batch of stuffed shells and made a dessert tray as a gift so that the residents had something from me to take back to their rooms. I have never seen a group of people light up and be their old selves. Living in a nursing facility is hard but I think we did bring ‘Santa’ back in their lives that afternoon.
We had another wonderful lunch at work with a full turkey dinner and a lot of well wishes and then the rains came for two days and did not let up. So we had to change the day of our Men’s Association Christmas party to the next night and I ended up having a nice time.
Setting up the Christmas trees
We all huddled around a fire and talked about the past year and the success of the Christmas tree sale. This will mean more scholarships in the future to our students and hopefully more future customers. People believe in what we are trying to achieve. The pot luck brings in everyone’s creativity and we had a nice meal.
The second weekend came and went as fast as the first. I gave my final exam in the morning to my class and for the most part everyone did well. I think we were all relieved when the class was over. They left as soon as they were done. I went off to sell Christmas trees in the afternoon and there was only thirty one trees when I left.
I went off to a historical Christmas event at the Bergen County Historical Society at 1202 Main Street in Riveredge, NJ. They had the whole complex decorated for a Colonial Christmas. It was enchanting with the candles in the windows and people in costume walking around the buildings. In the Campbell-Christi House they had set up a Colonial era pub so you could have dinner with a modern twist to pub food including Shepard’s Pie, Mac & Cheese, a dessert plate and fried doughnuts It was all served by people in costume.
The Van Steuben House, part of the Bergen County Historical Society
Then you were walked down to the Van Steuben House near the river for entertainment. Performer Linda Russell and her group sang traditional songs that would have been sang during the holidays.
Unlike the Victorian Christmas’s of a hundred years in the future, Christmas after the Revolutionary War was quite simple. Houses were decorated with holly, mistletoe and garland and there were church services in the morning with a lunch afterwards. Things like presents and Santa would not come until after the Civil War.
One of Linda Russell’s most popular songs
Performer Linda Russell performed traditional Christmas songs that were sung of that era in the main room of the Van Steuben House where General George Washington had stayed during his time in the Bergen County during the Revolutionary War. She lead a lecture and in song how people enjoyed themselves on those cold nights. It was a nice insight on the early holidays.
The next morning was a long trip up to the Hudson River Valley to visit some of the decorated mansions of the area. My first stop was Germantown to visit Clermont, the homestead of the Livingston family at County Route 6 (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com below). The house was beautifully decorated with garland and trees and was being set up that evening for the house’s ‘Candlelight Tour’, where actors in costume performed as guests. I came up before the event on one of the middle tours and got a personal tour of the house.
The house sits frozen in time when it was donated to the State of New York with period furnishings and family heirlooms decorating the rooms and walls of the home. It was decorated with rows of garland, holly and mistletoe like most homes of the era and lavish Christmas trees in certain rooms. The formal dining room table was set of the holiday dinner.
The formal dining room at Clermont
The tour including the history of the Livingston family in the area and in the country and the influence that the house had during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Then there was a discussion of the people that lived here and their stories. It is an interesting tour.
My next stop before the afternoon was over was a tour of Wilderstein at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck, the home of the Suckley family, who were relations of the Roosevelts and Livingston’s. I had visited the beautiful decorated mansion many times in the past and on a glorious sunny day, the view of the Hudson River from this spot is spectacular.
Only the first floor of the mansion is open for tours and was elegantly decorated for the holidays. Ms. Suckley lived into her 90’s and dwelled only on the first floor in the end so the house is pretty much intact from the Victorian era. She kept the house immaculate and restorations continued. You could tour the living room, dining room, front palour, entrance hall and library which were decorated in holly, garland and Christmas trees with gifts in two of the rooms. Like the other mansions it was decorated for formal dinner.
The elegant dining room at Wilderstein
By the time I got home that evening, we had sold out of Christmas tree for the Men’s Association and we closed the stand down for the season.
As classes geared down to their last day and work was pretty much over for the semester at the college, I concentrated on MywalkinManhattan blog and visiting as many cultural and historical sites that I could to update my VisitingaMuseum site. There are a lot of places to visit and things to see during the holidays in the New York City area and I wanted to share this with readers all over the world.
I revisited some sites in New York the day of the Holy Apostles Holiday Party that I went to for the work in the soup kitchen that I try to do once a week. During the day, I went back to Central Park South to finish walking part of the neighborhood and then walked across Manhattan to visit the Mount Vernon Hotel & Museum at 421 East 61st Street.
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum at 421 East 61st Street in Manhattan
The museum was once a day hotel during the early 1800’s which means that you just went there for the afternoon and early evening for activities and lunch which was considered dinner back then. The house was open for tours to see it decorated for the Colonial holidays.
The main rooms has holly and garland all over the banisters as they were preparing for the Christmas holidays and the main dining room was set for a holiday luncheon. Foods that the visitors might have eaten at the noon time meal including turkey, oysters, fresh fruits and vegetables and apple and pumpkin pies. They did a nice job interpreting the meal.
Meal at noontime at the Mount Vernon Hotel
Later that afternoon I stopped by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree that they set up every year. I have been it hundreds of times over the years but I never like to miss it.
The Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I also visited the Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History for about ten minutes before the crowds at the museum forced me out. It was packed during the holiday break.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
That evening we had the Holy Apostles Holiday party at the Church of the Holy Apostles and it was a very nice evening. We had a complete Italian dinner with salads and desserts and the music provided by the Avenue’s (a local private school) Jazz Band. These kids are wonderful and can really play. It was a nice evening and a good way to end a very busy year in the Soup Kitchen. It just keeps getting busier with the needs changing.
On Friday night before Christmas, I was finishing my walk of the Central Park South neighborhood businesses and the evening treated myself to a Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall which was appropriate since I spent so much time in the neighborhood. It is such a beautiful building inside and out.
I love Carnegie Hall at Christmas
I went to the show “A Frank and Ella Christmas” with performers Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins who performed the tunes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I love to see Carnegie Hall when it is lit for the holidays and decorated on stage. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit. Essential Voices USA were the back up vocals that evening and it was a wonderful concert. They sang all the classic songs with Santa leading a sing-a-long at the end of the concert.
Here is Tony DeSare singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” as he did in the concert
They sang all the traditional songs such as “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and “Jingle Bells” and this beautiful version of “I’ll be home for Christmas”. The sing a long ended the concert with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ended with “Jingle Bells”. It really got the audience moving and everyone was humming as they left the theater. I walked across the street to see the building decorated with wreaths and garland and lit in full view. It is quite a site at the holidays. After that I headed home. The next morning was the last day of class.
I gave out my grades the next morning. Class had finally ended and it had been an interesting semester. I had a ball with my students. Who ever thought we would present a project at Paterson City Hall? I did not. Most of my students told me how they loved the experience. That made me feel good right before the holidays.
Sunday brought us “Santa Around Town” our annual romp around Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. It was such a beautiful and we really lucked out with the weather. It must have been 50 degrees when we started the event and a sunny afternoon.
“Santa Around Town” with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department December 22nd, 2019
We stopped at ten stops around town greeting families and their pets to an evening with Santa Claus. People get such a kick out of it. We have families that come every year and some plan their holiday parties around the event. I always find it excellent outreach to the community and like to watch the children’s faces when they take a picture with Santa. I also enjoy when people have their dogs take a picture with Santa. I get a kick out of that. It was a busy evening and we did not get back to the firehouse until 8:00pm.
See my write up on the Brothers of Engine One HHFD:
I had a lunch with a good friend at Sanducci’s Italian Restaurant (my review on TripAdvisor) the day before I left for my mother’s for Christmas and this has become our Christmas tradition. It was nice to catch up with her not realizing that it had been over a year since we saw one another. It is strange how fast it all goes.
I spent Christmas Eve morning visiting the cemeteries starting with my aunt and cousin in one place, then one set of grandparents in another and then visiting my second set of grandparents, my uncle and then my father, which is always the toughest at the last cemetery. I am not sure what people feel about paying your respects at the holidays but I feel it is very important. I do believe it keeps them alive at the holidays.
The it was off to my mother’s for Christmas. It is the one time of the year all three of us get together with my mother. Since my father’s passing, my brothers and I have tried to spend the holidays together. Since we are coming from all over the country it can be hard but well worth it. We have such a good time at my mom’s.
My brothers and I on Christmas Day
We get together as a family on Christmas Eve night for dinner at a Chinese restaurant which is a lot of fun. The owners know my mother really well so we get treated very well and they always treat us to a special dish or appetizer which I think is good business. I go the restaurant pretty much every trip I make to my mom’s because she loves going there so much. When we got home, we just talked most of the night and caught up with what was going on in our lives.
Christmas Day was very nice. We got up late and had breakfast and then exchanged smaller gifts (most of my gifts were emailed off ahead of time) while the fire was going and we played Christmas songs. My brother’s dog got in on the action and she just played along with a toy my older brother bought her.
My mother, the amazing cook that she is made a delicious tenderloin, homemade lasagna, salad and garlic bread. It’s great to have a mother who can cook. We sat around the table with my family and friend’s of my mom reminiscing about Christmas’s past. It was a nice evening and a nice way to spend Christmas Day.
Before I left my mom’s to head home to attend the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium to root on Michigan State University, my mother, brother and I went to lunch at a local restaurant in Downtown Lewes called the Striper Bites (see review on TripAdvisor) that she had wanted to try and I had wanted to review. The food is wonderful yet I am the only one who can go to a seafood restaurant and crave a hamburger which was delicious.
We also visited the store, Fairy Godmother at 103 Second Street in Lewes that I featured on my blog, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com. This adorable children’s store should not be missed. It has the most original merchandise for infants and toddlers.
Fairy Godmother is at 103 Second Street in Lewes
I was looking forward to the Pinstripe Bowl since they announced it a few weeks earlier that my Alma Mater, Michigan State University, was going to play at Yankee Stadium. It was warm but rather gloomy day that the game was played. I had gotten to the stadium early for the Alumni Tailgate up in one of the suites. It was really nice as the cheerleaders and band came up to spread the cheer and we also got to meet the new President of the MSU, President Samuel Stanley.
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl is at Yankee Stadium every year. It was Michigan State University versus Wake Forest University
It was a nice afternoon with all sorts of stadium foods to choose from like hot dogs, hamburger sliders, mac & cheese, French fries and a barely touched salad. They served assorted cookies and brownies for dessert so I was not hungry for the rest of the day.
Here comes MSU: Go GREEN/GO WHITE
Then all of us got to our seats and it was let the game begin. I have to say it was a nail-biter all the way to the end as it was not a high scoring game. We had some great plays one of the best one being one of our players, Mike Panasuik, knocked the ball from Wake Forest and ran in for a touchdown. It happened so fast the other team did not have time to react. That was the turning point of the game.
Mike Panasuik getting the interception that changed the game
It was a very rough ending to the game as no one scored in the last quarter and we won the game 27-21. I could see by the other Alumni we were glad the game was finally over. It was a spirited ending though with the presentation of the trophy and our Quarterback Brian Lewerke getting MVP of the game and setting a school record. It was nice way to end his time at Michigan State and a nice win for the college.
Winning the Pinstripe Bowl
Highlights from the Pinstripe Bowl 2019
The remainder of the week before the New Year it was like one long road trip visiting decorated mansions for my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’. I have never put so many miles on my car before and made so many trips up to the Hudson River Valley (I am beginning to think that I need a weekend home up there) I feel like it is my second home.
Because of the extensive list of homes I visited, you can see their history’s and write ups on my blog VisitingaMuseum.com:
These are the mansions I visited during the week between Christmas and New Year’s:
The only time that you can visit The Skylands Manor at 5 Morris Road in Ringwood, NJ is the first week in December when they decorate the house for Christmas. During the rest of the year, it is used for catering and an inn.
The Skylands Manor in Ringwood, NJ has a beautiful location
The Skylands Manor is decorated by various Garden Clubs and individual organizations. Because of a snow storm that hit the week before the mansion did not seem as decorated as it had in previous years. Still the entrance way and main hallway were very originally decorated.
The garden clubs do such a good job decorating the house. Each use their members own ideas and the amazing part is that they have one week to get it all up and two days to take it down and get it out of the house before it is used again.
The next weekend I travel led to Ringwood Manor at 1304 Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood, NJ right around the corner from the Skylands Manor. This lavish display is done by the Friends of Ringwood Manor who also run the cafe and the barn where artwork and gifts are sold. The home of the Hewitt family is in the process of being restored and are raising funds for a new roof.
The Sun Room decorated at Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, NJ
The lavish display at Ringwood Manor is not how the house would have looked but is a nice interpretation of many ideas that can be coordinated into anyone’s home. I don’t think people would have decorated every room like this but the Friends do such a great job and have such original ideas I never like to miss this house at the holidays.
When returning from Ringwood, NJ from visiting the mansions and in the summer the Botanical Gardens, make a pit stop at Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY to eat. They have the best baked goods, pies and jellies.
During the holidays I like to go up just for their cider doughnuts, which are still warm when you buy them ($1.00) or their cake truffles ($3.00) which are rich and decadent. Their Caramel Apple Pie ($12.00) was a little rich for me but still delicious. I feature them prominently on my site LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com.
Auntie El’s Farm Market is such a great experience at Christmas
The baked goods and those delicious doughnuts make the trip up to Ringwood, NJ very special
The Hermitage at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, NJ is one of the most famous mansions in Bergen County being the home of Theodosa Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr. The house was the headquarters for General George Washington at Mrs. Prevost request who she herself was afraid of losing her home.
The house was decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays a big difference from the year before when its them was a ‘Depression Christmas’. The house was nicely but sparsely decorated that year reflecting the times. Here it was all garland on the banisters and archways and set for a formal Christmas dinner.
Here is some the era’s clothing for the event
I followed the map of Hudson River decorated homes for the holidays and went one by one until Christmas Eve. My first trip including Boscobel at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison, NY , a mansion in Cold Springs, NY.
The house was beautifully decorated for the holidays and has the most interesting gardens.
The next home I visited was Mount Gulian in Beacon, NY at 145 Sterling Street. This historic home was used as headquarters for the Revolutionary War and the where the Society of Cincinnati was formed as a Veterans group. The original house burned to the ground in 1931 and this is a recreation.
They were just taking the decorations down at Mount Gulian but this home was a major point of refuge during the Revolutionary War.
On my next trip up to the Hudson River Valley, I visited some of the NY State Park sites starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home Springwood at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park, NY. The house is going to start a major renovation which our tour guide said it needed and will close April of 2020. As we were touring, they were removing books in the library and the only part of the house that was decorated for the holidays was a Christmas tree in the library.
The library at Springwood was the only part of the house that was decorated at that point. It looked really elegant in the wood paneled room but the room is slowly being taken apart. The house will close in April 2020 and reopen about a year and a half later so see it now before the closing.
The Vanderbilt Mansion and Estate at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park the next estate over was also starting to close for the holidays. I got there on the first tour of the day so I got to see it before most of the rooms were taken apart.
The home of Fredrick and Louise Vanderbilt was decorated to the hilt for the holidays considering when Louise was alive they closed the house up and moved to New York City for the Social Season.
The entrance foyer of the mansion was beautifully decorated for the holidays and there was flowers and garland all over the house.
The Mills Mansion (Staatsburg State Historic Site) at 75 Mills Mansion Drive in Staatsburg, NY was decorated to the hilt for the holidays. I usually attend the fundraising cocktail party here right before the holidays but the weather was so bad that night, I did not venture the trip so I came right after the holidays.
The Mills Mansion is always decorated to the hilt by the Friends of Mills Mansion and each room in the house has its own character. Like most of the homes in the area, Ruth and Ogden Mills did not stay here too many times for the holidays.
The formal Dining Room at the Mills Mansion is elaborate.
The home of Samuel Morse ‘Locust Grove’ at 2683 South Road (Route 9) in Poughkeepsie, NY was down the road from some of the more popular mansions. The home of Artist Samuel Morse and creator of the Morse Code and Cable lines owned this beautiful home as his ‘summer cottage’.
The Locust Grove estate is at the start of the big commercial district of Route 9 South so please watch for the turn off as it is sharp and you may miss it.
Locust Grove was another home that was not used during the holidays by the family but more as the summer family retreat until Samuel Morse died and then it was sold to another family who lived locally. Still the mansion is beautifully decorated.
The last of the mansion’s I visited before the New Year was the Van Cortlandt House & Museum at Broadway and 246th Street in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This beautiful home was the seat of the Van Cortlandt estate before the family sale in the late 1880’s. The family had several homes at this point in the New York area.
The Van Cortlandt family had this home since before the Revolutionary War and the estate had been in the family for about five generations. The house was decorated for the post -Revolutionary War era Christmas with garlands, mistletoe, holly and berries all over the house. You can take the tour on your own.
The palour at the Van Cortlandt House was decorated with garlands and berries and the outside of the home was covered with wreathes.
I walked down Broadway and visited the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum at 4881 Broadway at 204th Street to see how the house was decorated for a Dutch Christmas. It was plainly decorated with some garland here and there. Like the tour guide said to me that this was a working farm before the Revolutionary War and things would have been plainer here.
Even though a traditional Dutch Christmas was not a big part of the home, it was interesting to see the everyday life of the traditional Dutch farmer in that era
My last stop that afternoon was to take a tour of the Cloisters Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring their Medieval Collection located in Fort Tyron Park overlooking the Hudson River. The museum was decorated for Christmas during the Renaissance and they were conducting a tour on “Holly and Hawthorne: Decorating during the holidays” on how people of that era embraced the coming of Winter by sprucing the house up with pines and flowers that bloomed in the Winter months. I thought it was an original theme and played into how the museum was decorated for the Christmas holidays.
The Cloisters Museum looked so elegant at Christmas
My last stop before my trip downtown was at Bodega Pizza at 4455 Broadway to have a pizza at a restaurant I have wanted to try since the summer. I had passed it many times on my walk down Broadway but it was always closed.
Bodega Pizza in Washington Heights
The pizza was excellent and so well cooked and the service could not have been nicer or more welcoming. The only problem was that they pulled a stunt with the bill and charged me an extra dollar for the pizza which I did not find out until I left the restaurant. The food and service are wonderful but double check the bill before you leave.
It was a different story when traveling to the mansions. Running all over the Hudson River Valley can make anyone hungry and I stopped at a few restaurants that I had either passed or had been on ‘my bucket list’ to try. On my first trip up to see the homes higher up the river, I stopped at Jade Palace Chinese Restaurant in Wappinger Falls, NY on Route 9 for dinner. The Cantonese food is excellent and the place was not that busy. The Roast Pork Lo Mein was excellent and so were the egg rolls.
Jade Palace in Wappinger’s Falls, NY
Another restaurant I visited was the Pete’s Famous in Rhinebeck, NY at 34 Main Street in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY. This local diner is my ‘go-to’ place when I visit. I love their stick to your ribs type of cooking. On a cold night I treated myself to a Hot Turkey platter with mashed potatoes and broccoli. That hit the spot for dinner. Their Chicken Rice Soup really warmed me up as well.
Pete’s Famous in Downtown Rhinebeck
When visiting the mansions closer to Beacon, NY, take time to travel up Route 9D and drive through the small towns that parallel Route 9. It has much more character and you will miss Wappinger’s Falls, a small quaint town out of a Currier & Ives print that is rapidly gentrifying like the rest of the small Hudson River towns.
Downtown Wappinger’s Falls along Route 9D has a lot of character
Right near the river, I was recommended Wagon Wheel Pizza at 2654 East Main Street by one of the merchants. I am glad that i waited until 4:00pm when they opened. The pizza was wonderful and the owner could not have been more engaging.
Wagon Wheel for pizza is delicious
This traditional family business harks back to the 1970’s pizzeria’s that I remember going to as a kid and the pizza is excellent. The sauce has such great flavor and there is nothing like a fresh pie when it comes out of the oven. The owner could not have been nicer and it is a nice spot to talk to the locals.
I was so exhausted from all the running back and forth to the Hudson River Valley and running in and out of the Manhattan that I needed to relax on New Year’s Eve. When I returned from my three mansion tour and lunch, I was warn out. I spent the coming on the new decade asleep and the only reason why I awoke at Midnight to greet in the next decade was because my neighbors were shooting off fireworks. Otherwise I would have slept right through it.
The Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2019
What was special was they left the Annual Tree at Rockefeller Center up until January 8th so it was nice to see it lit without all the tourists milling around it. It was the perfect to visit Rockefeller Center. What a beautiful tree this year!
The Pointer Sisters sang it best. There is nothing like Christmas in New York!
What a fun song!
Places to Eat:
(I did not include the prices as they keep changing and the hours which can change during the times of the year. I made all the connections to each’s website).
Because of the extensive amount of Historical Sites and Decorated Mansions that I visited during the Holidays Season, please check out my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ on WordPress.com for more information on the Decorated Mansions and Museums:
I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.
I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.
Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.
The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.
The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.
Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.
I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).
It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program. I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.
The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.
This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming. The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.
Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.
My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.
This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.
The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.
I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.
Little Pickles in Red Hook, NY
I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).
By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.
The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.
The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.
I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.
My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.
‘Into the Light’ Show
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.
After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.
As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.
Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float
People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’, ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.
At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.
Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right
I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.
I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).
As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.
The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.
The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.
The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ
During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).
The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.
The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018
After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).
With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).
Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.
See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”
After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.
The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.
On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.
Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.
We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.
The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.
The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas
It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.
The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.
On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.
The Military Parade by the Delaware River
We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.
See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018
By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.
The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018
What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.
The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).
As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).
It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.
Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.
I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again! Here comes Christmas!
The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.
Myself and John at the old Christmas tree lot in 2002 when I returned home
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is when we set the lot up for business. We rake the entire property, put together our Christmas shed and then the stands to hold the trees. We have had a lot more help with new members over the past three years.
Our trees just keep getting better
The Saturday after Thanksgiving for me means Christmas Tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association, which I have been a member of for twenty-one years. I can’t believe that time has gone that fast. It seems like ten life times ago that I returned home from Guam.
The organization has been building on the success of the sale over the past five years and this year we extended the amount of trees we bought to 340 over the 315 last year. I thought we ordered an even 350 but we must have readjusted it. Still that is the most amount of trees we have sold since I have been in the organization.
Last year we were sold out by the second week of December and had our annual party at the lot with three trees left. I had never seen so many trees sell out so fast. Our word of mouth has been very good. I have also tried to get the Upper West Side customer from Manhattan to cross the bridge to buy their trees here.
I swear that I was pricing trees while I was finishing my walk of the Upper West Side in 2018 for my ‘MywalkinManhattan’ project and trees that we were selling for $45-$55 vendors were selling for $100. It was just nuts.
We also bulked up on the fraizers this year. They are the pine trees that look the most typical ‘Christmasy’. They as of this weekend have almost all sold out. People tend to decorate early because of work schedules and I swear, we had not even emptied the truck on Saturday and we sold two trees. We sold eight by the end of my shift at 6:00pm that night.
For all of you readers and bloggers who need a Christmas tree, we are located on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and our prices go from $45.00 for a small Frazier to $100.00 for a ten foot tall Balsam. We are open as long as the supply lasts.
Hurry up as I was on the lot last night and there were forty-one trees left! By the night of our annual tree stand party we sold out! 340 trees in less than three weeks! A new Men’s Association record!
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association in 2017
Myself and Kyle Kasper and his wife at the 2018 HHMA Dinner
2018 was another great year for Christmas tree sales. We are hoping for another repeat in 2019. We sold all 375 Christmas trees in three weeks!
The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at our 2019 Annual Dinner
In November & December of 2020:
With the success of the sale in 2018, we bumped the amount of Christmas Trees to 375 in 2019 and we sold out again by December 16th so our goal for 2020 was going to be 400 trees. We as a organization knew that we could do this but when COVID hit we were unsure of what would happen. So our President decided that we would keep it at 375 trees again for 2020.
We really lucked out as the week of set-up before Thanksgiving and the drop off the weekend after as the weather was sunny and in the 60’s. This is unusual for this time of the year. I worked all three days after the drop off working from 9:00am to 10:00pm on Friday, from 2:00pm to 7:30pm on Saturday and then from 10:00am to 6:30pm on Sunday.
Christmas Tree set up is a lot of work
All three days were spectacular with sunny weather in the low 60’s. I was amazed at the early crowds that we had and we sold 35 trees and two stands on Friday. This was the most we had ever sold on a first day of selling. The first full weekend of selling we sold 152 trees and 6 stands. That was our best so far.
I want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and our surrounding communities for support of our sale every year. Now it is time to sell the rest of those trees!
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association in 2020 in the era of COVID
An update from 2020, we sold all the trees out, all 375 of them, by Friday night, December 11th. A new record for us!!
Our new sign on the corner of Terrace Avenue and Franklin Avenue
This was out most amazing year! We sold 390 trees (we were shorted 10 trees by the vendor) and sold them out in a record week and half (11 days) plus all the branches were gone. When I went in for my Monday night shift that next Monday, the last two trees were gone and I got the last eight branches that someone had not stolen. The site was wiped clean.
Our best year yet!
The Men of the HHMA Christmas 2021-Thank God the masks are gone!
Thank you to the Hasbrouck Heights and surrounding communities for your support! You will be helping a lot of students with their time in college. We always appreciate your support.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who bought a tree and to all your families, please stay safe during the holidays!!
Watch my successful commercial for YouTube below and watch the trailers for my two favorite contemporary Christmas movies. They really show a different side of the holidays.
Me selling Christmas trees on the lot with member John Horem.
My Christmas tree sales video on YouTube.
In 2018, all in all 339 trees were sold and one was stolen from the lot. We raised over $8000 for student scholarships and want to thank all of customers for their support!
In 2019, we sold all 374 trees that we had on the lot and raised over $10,000 for the student scholarship fund. Thank you again everyone!
In 2020, we sold 152 trees the first weekend. Let’s keep that momentum going everyone!!
In 2021, our best year yet, we sold 390 trees in a record 11 days! New Record!!
My two new favorite contemporary Christmas movies, “Christmas Again” and “White Reindeer” sad but optimistic views on the holiday. Try to get your hands on these two great indie films.
It is never easy when there is a death in the family and is harder when it happens during the Christmas holiday season. This blog is dedicated to my uncle, Donald Snyder (1929-2017), who passed away December 4th, 2017. I had just come back from my Sinterklaas weekend in Upstate New York when we got the news as I was getting out of class on Monday night. So the next week after Sinterklaas weekend was spent preparing for the funeral.
My brother had flown in for the service so it was nice to have some support and I could see that my aunt and cousins appreciated it. At least we could be there to support our family in their time of need.
My aunt had planned a small and tasteful service for my uncle and it was the first time I had met many of my cousin’s cousins from my uncle’s side of the family. They pretty much talked amongst themselves and were not at the funeral services the next morning. It was going to be a snowy day the next morning and the commutes would have been tough for everyone.
My aunt kept everything simple and tasteful and it was a short service with a smaller internment service at the mausoleum. It was only the immediate family and friends of my cousins who came to the service and by the repast dinner, everyone was exhausted and it was a small crowd of close family (our side) and friends of my cousins. We had a toast to my uncle and then talked amongst ourselves.
After that weekend, the holidays started to speed up again. It is always tough after a big loss to a family but I found ways to support my aunt and my cousins during the holidays as we planned a Christmas dinner right before Christmas Day.
I took my younger brother to the fire department Christmas Party and that was a cultural awaking for him. He had never been in a firehouse before and really did not understand the culture. He was a little shocked to see adults fighting in front of small children and some of the horse play that the guys do on one another. Even though he had a good time and enjoyed the food, it was a different experience for him.
The holiday month continued on with Christmas tree sales every weekend (we sold out by December 18th this year with a record of 315 trees). We had the Christmas Party for the Men’s Association at the Christmas tree site, which is always interesting. We spend most of the time huddling around a barrel fire to keep warm.
This is when the guy’s culinary skills kick in and we see some interesting dishes. I always leave it easy. I made chicken cutlets, baked ziti and double fudge brownies ( I am not going to say how many baked ziti’s, lasagnas and batches of stuffed shells on top of gallons of marinara sauce and pounds of cookies and brownies that I made this holiday season but it was a lot). This party was the first in five meals that I cooked at the holidays trying to keep with the same theme, so I did not have to do double time in the kitchen. Plus, everyone seems to like Italian cooking, so it makes it easy.
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Set Up
The party was a great success with about thirty members coming and going all night while we caught up with what each other were doing at the holidays and the parties that they were planning and cooking for their families. December is always a tough month to get anything done as everyone is running around. Leaving at 11:00pm as I usually do because of work, I had heard they were still going strong into the morning hours.
I took an about face and at the last minute decided to go to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas Concert starring Megan Hilty, a Disney star, who was terrific. I got last minute tickets in the nose-bleed section of the theater but still could see and hear everything. I was really surprised being on the top tear and to hear it all so perfectly.
Megan Hilty with the New York Pops
It was an excellent concert with many popular songs of the holidays being performed so well. She did a great job with the more contemporary classics such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Everyone in the audience got so into the show and the last few songs became a sing along and the whole auditorium became alive with song. People really enjoyed themselves and were still laughing and singing as they were leaving the theater.
Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album
The last full week before Christmas weekend was non-stop cooking, cleaning and running around. We started the week with the Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ that the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department sponsors every year for the residents of Hasbrouck Heights. We take all the fire trucks and equipment to twelve locations around the town and have Santa meet with all the families. Every year this is a very big deal to a lot of residents and some plan their holiday parties around this event.
Santa Around Town with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department
Our day started early in the morning when myself, my captain and lieutenant and a junior member met for breakfast and then washed and decorated the truck. This is where a lot of my cooking came into play. I made a sausage, egg and cheese souffle, homemade waffles and fresh cinnamon butter muffins. I had cooked enough for the company and it ended up only four of us showed up. So, we had a great breakfast and then we scrubbed down the truck inside and out and put all the Christmas lights on it. The truck always looks festive in the dark.
For the trip around Hasbrouck Heights, I made homemade French Bread pizza with homemade marinara sauce and double fudge brownies, two items that are very popular with hungry firemen. Along the way, residents make all sorts of Christmas cookies and other holiday treats for us along the route, so we don’t ‘starve’.
The tough part for us was that the generator blew before the last three stops and we had to bring it back up to the house and extinguish it. That was tough as the engine then had to go out of service for the holidays for repair. At least we got it back up to the firehouse in one piece.
The next night I gave my final exam in class and finished the semester on a high note. All of my students got “A”‘s and I could not have been happier with their final project, the tech start up “Buscomonzefi.com” (see ‘Day Ninety-Eight’) and was impressed with them as a class. It was fun going into work every week and I will miss this class.
What was nice was I took some of my team to Biagio’s Restaurant in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor) near the college for a wrap up party. I was surprised when only four of my sixteen students showed up. One of my students mentioned that no one would show because of exams and I was almost tempted not to show up but I figured I was starved so at least I could get something to eat. It ended up that all of my Sales & Marketing team showed up and we had a really nice time.
I could not believe how this group of students bonded so much together. I really did see a lot of new friendships being formed that night and for that I was really proud of the project. Plus the food and conversation were excellent that evening. If ever a Professor could be more proud of their students.
I did not have much time to dwell on class as I had to cook a Holiday luncheon for my Stroke & Disabled Support Group that meets every Tuesday in Ridgewood, NJ (See my BergenCountyCaregiver.com site on WordPress.com). I don’t know I got suckered into this but it was a lot of work.
In years past, our group normally ordered in for the party and all I would do is dessert. For years, we ordered in Chinese food but last year most people got sick of it so we ordered in pizza. This year one of the women in the group asked about maybe getting a tray of stuffed shells and of salad. When I mentioned how much that might cost and how I could make it for so much less that’s when I was asked to cook.
Thank God I had made a double batch of marinara sauce because it came in handy. I made the most amazing lunch for everyone and used every skill from catering that I learned from Hyatt.
I got up early that morning and started to cook. I did all the last-minute touches and fried out the cutlets and cut up the salad. The last thing I did was prepare the garlic bread before I packed the car up. I never had so much food all over the car as I had to bring it from home to City Hall in Ridgewood.
The party was a huge success! I made Chicken Cutlet Parmesan with a side of plain cutlets for those who didn’t want all the cheese, a lasagna, two small trays of stuffed shells, a arugula salad, garlic bread, assorted cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Some of the members brought fruit and other desserts so we had a lot of food left.
The whole building came up to the conference room to the party so it was very festive. People from different departments who help us during the year joined us so there were people in and out the whole afternoon. I really think that’s what the holidays are about. Everyone had great time and there was not much left over. All I know is that I was exhausted on the drive home. I had to take a nap when I got home.
There was not much time to rest as I drove out to visit Lillian again on Long Island at her Assisted Living Facility for her annual resident concert (see various blogs on my visits). I had gone last year and had a nice time. I swear even at 99, she has the same spirit that she always has had.
Lillian and I at Christmas 2018
She sang and played the triangle as she did last year and all the residents performed a list of Christmas songs to the other residents and their families who attended. It was a nice concert but it seemed have more guests last year. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it.
After the concert was over, I went off and got Chinese food for our Christmas lunch, which I know that Lillian always appreciates. I go to Dragon House (See review on TripAdvisor) for our meals and this one did not disappoint. I ordered Lo Mein and Chicken and String beans with some eggrolls. I swear that Lillian has a good appetite. She can eat. For dessert, I brought some cookies from Park Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) right next store to the restaurant. To have two such good places to eat right next to one another is great.
Dragon House at 118A Main Street in Kings Park, NY for excellent Chinese food
After our dinner, we talked for the rest of the evening. Since the weather was going to be nice the next day, I got a hotel room and was able to stay late to talk to Lillian for a few more hours. We just caught up and as we talked more, I noticed how much more came back to her. It was the ‘old’ Lillian who I remember. I think she needed it as well. We laughed so much it was like old times. When I had to leave a little after seven, she had a huge smile on her face. It was a very special Christmas for the two us.
I stayed at a very Hampton Inn on the South Shore in Commack, NY (See review on TripAdvisor) that evening and just collapsed in the room. It had been a long week already and I was tired from all the cooking and cleaning. I just relaxed that evening and read and wrote out Christmas cards.
The next morning, I got up and traveled out to Montauk on the very edge of the island. I wanted to see their famous lighthouse and museum (which was closed at the time). It was a beautiful sunny and warm day for this time of the year.
The South Shore of Long Island is so beautiful and I highly recommend it in the off season. It is just so nice to visit these small towns when they are not overrun with people from the city. The locals are so nice and you really do remember that it is a farming community out there. Outside of the core of East Hampton and the overbuilt areas of South Hampton, the other towns were like visiting a farming community. All the locals were out in their pick-up trucks carrying local products. It is so different in the off season but so much nicer. Everyone is so laid back.
I wanted to visit the ‘Big Duck’ (see Review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), a building in the shape of a duck on Route 24 Flanders Road in Flanders, NY. It is very interesting to see a building in the shape of a duck, very similar to ‘Lucy’ the Elephant in Margate, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com).
It is a small building in the shape of a duck that was created by the owners back in the 30’s to promote their duck farm. It’s cute but the guy that volunteers there must not get too many visitors because he NEVER SHUTS UP! God, I to fray going to the bathroom to get away from him and got out of there.
The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop
I continued my way through the backroads to the Hampton’s. I now know why it takes so long to get to the Hampton’s. All the roads once you get off the main highway are all local two-lane roads. Most of the towns were quiet before the holidays so it was nice just to drive through.
I got out to Montauk to Lighthouse Park (See review on TripAdvisor) by 2:00pm. I took far longer than I thought but it was well worth the trip. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the view on the point was just breathtaking! The way the sun shone over the beach area and the point was spectacular. The only bad part was the lighthouse was closed that afternoon and would not open until the weekend. The giant wreath on the front of the lighthouse made it very festive.
Christmas at the Montauk Lighthouse
I had lunch in downtown Montauk and most of the places were closed for the afternoon. The town was really quiet. I ended up eating at Pizza Village at 700 Montauk Highway in (See review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area. The pizza is amazingly good and their sauce is excellent. I highly recommend it when visiting Montauk. It really warmed me up.
Then I headed back to New Jersey. Is that a long trip? Going over the George Washington Bridge at rush hour right before the holidays is a nightmare. It took over two hours to go from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Route 46 in New Jersey. The irony was that as soon as I got closer to home, we had a dumpster fire at the local Walmart. Never a dull moment.
As things revved up for the holidays, I had my family over to the house for an early Christmas dinner. Since I was going to be away and my aunt and cousin had just suffered a very hard loss right before the holidays, I had a holiday meal at the house.
Even at a time of loss, we had such a nice time. I went all out for the meal. I cleaned the whole house again, did more shopping and prep work and decorated the house. We had such a nice time. I had my two aunts and my cousin over for a three-course meal. As usual, I started the meal with appetizers followed by a full meal and dessert.
I made sautéed shrimp on toasts, pigs in a blanket and assorted gourmet cheeses to start with two bottles of Asti to enjoy with it. For the main meal, I made pork cutlets, a potato puff with lots of cheese and eggs, string beans and my aunt brought some of her homemade apple sauce (I hate to brag but she makes it terrific). For dessert, I brought a seven-layer cake from Mills Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) and my aunt brought a strawberry cheesecake. We ate a lot.
It was a nice night of good food and great conversation. It was nice to have the house so full of life during the holidays again. It had been so long since everyone had something to laugh about. I have to admit we did have a nice Easter and celebration of our birthdays at the house, so it felt that my uncle was there with us in spirit. Dinner went into the late evening, so I had to clean up the house and run the dishwasher that night, so it was a long night for me.
The next day I was off to spend my Christmas in Cape May, NJ. Most of family had their own plans and I like to spend the holidays by myself to relax and write. It was a gloomy day when I started out that afternoon. I had so much to do before I left like the laundry and the vacuuming, so that the house looked good when I got home. I just didn’t want to have to do much before I got home.
It takes about three hours to Cape May from my house. You are literally going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turnover the bridge into the Wildwoods. When I tell you that is a dead community at this time of the year, it is DEAD. There were no lights on in any of the homes or in the hotels and there were very few businesses open as well. It is so weird to see a place that you were just in two and half months ago that was so much alive. Since I could find my way out, I had to take the route I knew off the island and drive back down south to Cape May.
When I arrived at the Congress Hall Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor), it was ablaze with Christmas lights. I have to say that the two days that I stayed at the Congress Hall put me in the Christmas mood. Since my father passed, the holidays have been tough on me and the atmosphere of the hotel was just what I needed. The whole place was decorated for the holidays with garland, trees, bright lights and Christmas cheer. It just made me festive for the holidays.
Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas
I got to the hotel late and wanted to celebrate Midnight Mass and unfortunately no church in town did the Midnight Mass. So, I went to the Our Lady of the Sea Church for the 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass. It was a beautiful mass.
Not quite the elaborate mass I was used to at the Dutch Reformed Church up in Woodstock, NY for the past three years but still inspirational and enjoyable. Even though it is church, I still believe mass should not be stuffy or boring. I think it should be inspirational, engaging and make you reflect on the past year.
The church was beautifully decorated for the holidays with secular decorations of holy, trees, garland and poinsettias. I have noticed over the past decade that more churches have done this. The poor priest was suffering through a leg injury but still gave a nice sermon. I think he was surprised by so many out of towners at the mass.
Our Lady of the Sea at Christmas
After the service, I walked around the Washington Street Mall, which is Cape May’s downtown. It looked like every business was trying to outdo one another for the best decorations. All were so elegantly decorated for the holidays with detailed displays, lights and in some cases bows and garland. Inside there were all sorts of Christmas scenes with Santa’s, reindeer and Currier & Ives type displays. Everyone did a nice job and the downtown was very picturesque with the hotel in the backdrop being so nicely decorated on the outside as well.
Washington Street Mall at Christmas
I had Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel’s pizzeria, the Boiler Room, for pizza (See review on TripAdvisor). The service was excellent and the food was wonderful. I had a prosciutto and arugula pizza and it was perfectly cooked and just what I needed after a long drive. They even had music that night. It was a far cry from the two restaurants that I ate at in Woodstock over the past three Christmas Eve’s, where the food was hit or miss.
I just relaxed on Christmas Eve and walked back outside to look at the downtown and the hotel from a distance. I could not believe how packed the hotel was on a holiday. The place was completely sold out.
Christmas was very mellow this year. With my uncle passing two weeks earlier and everything going on in my life and family, I needed a break from everyone and everything in my life.
I slept in and relaxed Christmas morning, had a nice long breakfast in the very busy Blue Pig restaurant, the hotel’s casual family restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) and just enjoyed the quiet morning. The restaurant itself was going full force when I got there. Families were all eating together and it looked like a lot of family reunions were going on in the hotel for the holidays.
The food there is excellent and I highly recommend eating there when in Cape May. I had this dish, the Eggs Blackstone, that was a unique combination of poached eggs on two cheese biscuits with wilted greens and hollandaise sauce, which I normally do not like that just worked. The combination of flavors mixed so well and with the service of Laura, my waiter that morning, who I could tell has been in the business for years, just made the Christmas morning meal perfect.
I sat for most of the morning on a window bench on the second floor of the hotel, over-looking the courtyard of the hotel and the small holiday marketplace the hotel had in the courtyard for the guests. It was nicely set up around the heated pool.
They had a fire-pit for warm up around, small tents with quirky shops to buy local products (although I thought most everything was WAY over-priced) and a small Christmas Cafe with traditional winter treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Even those were pretty but over-priced ($6.00 for four cookies?). It was nice to walk around and Christmas ended up being a bright and sunny day. We had missed the snowstorm that hit Northern New Jersey and I later found out really hit Woodstock, NY.
I spent most of my morning doing my writing, call friends and family wishing them a Merry Christmas and talking to other guests who just happened to see me writing and wanted to know what I was up to. I swear that I am never alone when I travel, people just seem to find me.
The rest of the afternoon I walked around Cape May, looking at the store windows downtown, walking along the shore and looking at the birds on the beach and the waves and looking at all the Victorian homes that were decorated for the holidays. Even though all the hotels surrounding ours including ours were fully booked, the town was quiet. It looked like a lot of people were away.
I had my Christmas dinner at the Ugly Mug (See review on TripAdvisor), a bar/pub that I had eaten at over twenty years ago. The food is still excellent. I had a bacon BBQ cheeseburger with fries, not your traditional Christmas dinner but still was wonderful. The place was really busy with other people who looked like they were done with Christmas as well. Even the manager told me that they are always busy at the holidays.
That night I just walked around town and looked at the Christmas tree in the square, which was so elegantly decorated for the holidays. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays. I walked around the hotel and looked at the decorations. The hotel was mobbed with people just looking for something to do and a place to sit and chat. People were jockeying for a place near the fireplace and I could see there were some struggles for that.
Christmas in the town square at Cape May, NJ
On the 26th, things got back to normal in town. Most of the stores opened and there were sales on everything. I went to the Mad Batter Restaurant (See review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast, wanting some elbow room from the hotel. The food there is excellent. I had this Croustade with scrambled eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese served on a brioche bun. Again, a somewhat overdone combination but it worked and was delicious. This institution has been around for years and I wanted to try it for a long time.
I explored the town for the afternoon. I went on the decorated house tour at the Emlen Physick Estate (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), who was a prominent doctor in the town and his house showed it. His grandfather has invented a famous medical device and upon getting his medical degree, he inherited his fortune and never practiced medicine again. What he did leave was a beautiful home for touring and every room was decorated for the holidays. The woman who gave the tour was an actor playing his mother and it was the week before Christmas. She did a nice job.
Physick Estate at Christmas
After that, I visited the Cape May Lighthouse (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) and climbed the whole thing in about twenty minutes, shocking the guy at the admission office who said that I only had a half hour to spend before they closed. I even surprised myself with how fast I climbed it. I swear, this walking project is keeping me in good health. What a view! You could see all over West Cape May and the whole tip of the peninsula. The beach was so quiet yet majestic with all the waves crashing and the birds and dogs running around. They also have a small museum next to the building on Jersey flora and fauna that you should check out as well.
The last part of the evening was when I visited Sunset Beach in West Cape May (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). What a magnificent beach this is, located on the very western tip of New Jersey. Sunset Beach has the most breathtaking sunset of any beach I have ever seen and I have been all over the world. The way the sun sets on the beach and the location of where it falls creates a rainbow of colors anytime of the year. Although it was cool on the beach as it fell, the beach was full of people watching the same natural phenomenon. It was just amazing to see all the colors change as the sun changed positions and more fun to watch the Lewis/Cape May shuttle drive past every half hour. If there is ever a beach that you need to visit, it is Sunset Beach.
Sunset Beach at 502 Sunset Boulevard in West Cape May
That evening was my last night in Cape May and I had to change hotels because the Congress was booked solid for a wedding. I switched to The Chalfonte, one of the oldest hotels and most ‘Southern’ in Cape May. You have to remember that Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon Line and Southern New Jersey is technically the South.
The Chalfonte at 301 Howard Street (see review on TripAdvisor) is located in an older section of Cape May surrounded by Victorian homes. The main hotel was closed for the season (it closes in October) but they keep the ‘Southern Quarters’, a small house next to the hotel, open for the season as it is insulated.
The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street during the summer months
As I wrote in my review on TripAdvisor, it was like staying at your grandmother’s or Great Aunt’s beach home for the night. A little rough around the edges but comfortable, warm and homey. I find places like this charming but they are not for everyone.
I stopped by the Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast and to tour the farm. Although the breakfast sandwich I ate was good as well as the home fries, everything was cold or lukewarm. They need to warm their plates. The property is so nicely laid out and it was fun to feed the chickens who were excited about the feed. I did one last walk around the downtown to see the tree on the square and had a slice of pizza at JoJo’s Pizza on the Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor).
My last dinner in Cape May was at the Washington Inn Restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor), considered one of the best in Cape May. The food and the service were all top notch. I had the crab cakes for my entree and the Bananas Foster for dessert both I recommend very much. The service was excellent but for some reason I expected older waiters to be working in a place like this. The rooms are elegant and romantic for couples. For me, it was just the thrill of eating in such a well-known restaurant with excellent food and service. At its price tag though, it is a special occasion treat.
I slept like a log that night, being able to faintly hear the crashing of the waves in the distance. They decorated the room with just enough plants and Christmas items to make it look festive.
The next morning as I was dropping off my keys, the owner’s son, Dillon, took me on a tour inside the family hotel. It was elegant as it was gloomy. I had read that the hotel was haunted but as he said to me, he had never seen anything. It is weird to see a hotel closed down for the season. All I could think of was the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. It just had that eerie, someone had just been there looked to it. After I said my goodbyes, I was off to Rehoboth Beach to visit my mother.
On the trip to Rehoboth, I made several stops to towns I had passed through the previous year. I stopped in Millville, NJ first. The downtown has been creating a buzz for itself as an art center especially with the opening of the Cumberland College Arts Annex and the studio area. Artists from Southern New Jersey seem to be pouring into the town as all the buildings are getting renovated and new restaurants are opening. I stopped in a few galleries and looked at menus of what is going to be an ‘arts hub’ of Southern New Jersey.
The next town I stopped in was Bridgeton, whose downtown had seen better days. Most of the stores were either empty or catered to the Hispanic population who worked in the area. Not exactly the arts district they claim to be. There is not much to see here except a lot of Victorian homes in bad shape.
Salem was my last stop before crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is a town that has not been discovered yet. The homes are really gorgeous in the downtown area, all built in the 1700 and 1800’s. Beautiful old Federal and Empire style homes are spread throughout the downtown and the sad part is that they are mostly in bad shape.
I stopped in the Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com) . This place is not the usual Historical Society with the musty displays and the dusty artifacts with some woman older than God looking you over. It was an interesting, insightful and beautifully decorated for the holidays building with displays of local interest.
Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street
The building is made up of three homes, one of which had a hearth fireplace in the kitchen. That part of the building was decorated for a Colonial Christmas. I loved the spinning wheel with the lights and the tree in the older section of the house. It only takes about an hour to see the whole building but take the time to really look at the displays as they are so well mounted.
I ate at Bravo Pizza and Pasta at 179 West Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area and highly recommend their pizza. The sauce was excellent and the flavor was delicious. What was best was that the owner asked me to wait as he had a new pizza coming out, so It gave me time to walk around the downtown area and look at the old buildings. It was so sad to see many of these old homes in such bad shape. This is a place I am surprised that the artists have not discovered yet. Check out the local cemetery with the large historical Oak Tree that covers the graveyard. It is right around the corner from the restaurant and Historical Society.
I finally got out of Salem, it was the long drive down to mom’s from Salem to Rehoboth Beach. When I called my mother, she was wondering what was taking me so long. When I finally arrived around six, she was asking me what I was doing all this time. I told her discovering my State. I never realized how interesting the State of New Jersey is (no jokes everyone).
My mom and I talked about the trip, the holidays and what we had planned for the next two days. My younger brother was coming up with my nieces to celebrate the post holidays. We really had a nice time. My mom cooked ‘the Dinner’ again and we just sat around and I told her about my Christmas. I now know where I get my love for travel details from as she sees how excited I get when I talk about visiting places.
My brother arrived the next morning and we planned everything. We went took the girls to the boardwalk for the afternoon to walk around and ended up going to Thrasher’s (see review on TripAdvisor) for French Fries. I have never seen four people devour a medium bucket of fries so fast. They were just fried and were oh so good. Even in the winter, I never tire of seeing the shore.
Our first night at my mom’s she cooked so we had a mellow roast pork dinner and just sat around and talked. It was nice for my nieces who never get to see my mom much and for me who see them about the same about of time. They talked about their trip up from Florida and how school is going.
Christmas in Rehoboth Beach, DE with my family
The next day we took the girls on a tour of Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding areas, we went at twilight to Henlopen Park (see review on TripAdvisor) to see the Christmas lights, which was very similar in feel to the Jackle Lantern display in Croton-on-the- Hudson. It was a huge display of figures, such as Santa’s, elf’s, reindeer and decorated trees lit up by lights all over the park and we were able to drive and see all the displays one at a time.
Even tough we were going out to dinner that night, my mother insisted we stop at the Big Oyster Brewery at 1007 Kings Highway (see review on TripAdvisor) for lunch when no one was hungry. I had some pulled pork sliders that were very good but like everyone else did not have much of an appetite. We had had a big breakfast earlier in the day.
For dinner my last night in Rehoboth, we went to my mother’s favorite restaurant, Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Street (See review on TripAdvisor) by the beach. We must have had eight different dishes on the table but you know what, the food here is just excellent and the service matches the food. My mother has been coming here since they opened and know the owners well, so they are always coming over to say high or sometimes they give us a free appetizer, which I think is good business.
I had to head home the next day but we had a nice time even though it was so short with my nieces. I wish my brother had planned more time. We didn’t get to do too much on this trip since it was so quick. I headed back to New Jersey the next morning, probably seeing my mom again when the weather gets warmer.
My last day before the New Year began, I joined my other brother in the New York City for Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant at 18 East Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), one of the mainstays for going for Dim Sum in the city. I swear we must have gone through half the menu. The food is really good and I love when the carts go around with all the dishes. I love to try many dishes when I am at the restaurant.
The only problem with New Year’s Eve is that the city shuts down all their roads by 3:00pm and it was also 20F outside that day. Trust me, it is not a day you want to be in New York City unless you want to sit in Times Square for hours on end to watch the ball drop. It was 9F degrees that evening.
The New Year brought in my Swearing In with the fire department. I am the Department Secretary (now on my fifth year) and Engine One Secretary (now on my eleventh year) and just keep rolling along. Our Installation Dinner was the second week of January and that pretty much ends my holiday season.
Swearing in as Secretary of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department
It was a lot of running around this holiday season but I also was able to raise a lot of money for charity in between working three jobs, editing my book and all my volunteer work. I never seem to just stop and relax.
Now you all know why I had to put the MywalkinManhattan.com on hold.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!
Getting to Cape May, NJ:
Just follow the Garden State Parkway to the very end and there you are in the middle of town.
*Blogger wants to note that the hours change for many of these historical sites and for the restaurants so please check their websites for the most current hours during the off-season and when in season.
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale