Tag Archives: Justin Watrel CEO Buscomonzefi.com

Day One Hundred: This is Christmas Part Two December 10th, 2017-January 1st, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Set Up

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

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

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty with the New York Pops

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

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album

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

Santa Around Town 2018 HHFD.jpg

Santa Around Town with the Hasbrouck Heights Frie Department

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

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

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

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

Buscomonzefi.com Logo.png

Buscomonzefi.com logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I at Christmas 2018

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

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

Dragon House

Dragon House in Kings Park, NY for excellent Chinese food

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

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

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

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

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

The Bid Duck

The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop

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

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

Montauk Lighthouse

Christmas at the Montauk Lighthouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congress Hall

Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas

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

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

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

Our Lady Star of the Sea.jpg

Our Lady of the Sea at Christmas

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

Washington Mall Christmas

Washington Street Mall at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in Cape May

Christmas in the town square at Cape May, NJ

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

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

Physick home at Christmas

Physick Estate at Christmas

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

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

Sunset beach.jpg

Sunset Beach

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

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

Chalfonte Hotel.jpg

The Chalfonte Hotel during the summer months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salem Historical Society

Salem Historical Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach V

Christmas in Rehoboth Beach, DE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Watrel Firefighter

Swearing in as Secretary of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

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

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

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!

Getting to Cape May, NJ:

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

 

Places I stayed:

 

Hampton Inn Commack

680 Commack Road

Commack, NY  11725

(631) 462-5700

Hilton.com

My review on Tripadvisor:

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

 

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(888) 944-1816

http://www.caperesorts.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 984-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Places to eat at the holidays:

The Bakeries:

Mills Bakery

275 Valley Boulevard

Wood-Ridge, NJ  07075

(201) 438-7690

http://www.mills-bakery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Park Bakery

112NY-25A

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-3825

http://www.parkbakeshop.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Places to eat:

 

Biagio’s

299 Paramus Road

Paramus, NJ  07652

(201) 612-0201

biagios.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Pizza Village

700 Montauk Highway

Montauk, NY

(631) 668-2232

pizzavillagemontauk.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Dragon House Chinese Restaurant

118 Main Street #A

Kings Park, NY  11750

(631) 544-5438

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

The Ugly Mug

426 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-3451

uglymug.bar

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Washington Inn Restaurant

801 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5697

http://www.washingtoninn.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Boiler Room Pizzeria/The Blue Pig Tavern

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ 08204

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

(609) 884-6507

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Beach Plum Farm

140 Stevens Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 602-0128

http://www.beachplumfarm.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

JoJo Pizza

507 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-0404

http://www.jojopizzanj.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

The Mad Batter

19 Jackson Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609)  884-5970

Home

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Bravo Pizza & Pasta

179 Broadway

Salem, NJ  08079

(859) 339-0049

http://www.madbatter.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(308) 227-3840

http://www.confucius.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

The Big Oyster Brewery

1007 Kings Highway

Lewes, DE  19958

(302) 644-2621

http://www.bigoysterbrewery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Golden Unicorn Restaurant

18 East Broadway

New York, NY  10002

(212) 941-0911

http://www.goldenunicornnyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Places to Visit:

 

Emlen Physick House

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The Big Duck

1012 NY-24

Flanders, NY  11901

(631) 852-3377

http://www.bigduck.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

M review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Sunset Beach Cape May

Cape May Point

Cape May, NJ 08212

(609) 465-1000

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Salem County Historical Society

83 Market Street

Salem, NJ  08079

http://www.salemcountyhistoricalsociety.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Events:

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale

(From Thanksgiving until the trees sell out)

Our Commercial that star’s me!:

 

Hasbrouck Heights ‘Santa Around Town’

(The last Sunday before Christmas)

 

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

 

 

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album from the concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Ninety-Nine: This is Christmas!, Part One November 24th-December 3rd, 2017

This Christmas holiday season was one of the best I have had in years. It was also one of the busiest. It is never easy when you are working three jobs, have a book to edit as well as writing one and have six blog sites to maintain, all while looking for full time work. Squeezing the holidays is interesting when you have a full plate.

After Halloween was behind me, I put ‘MywalkinManhattan’ on hold to concentrate on the holiday season. Halloween kept me really busy with my jobs, volunteer work and community service that I like to perform. I swear that my feet did not touch the ground until January 2nd of the New Year.

Work is my always my first priority and my students dazzled me in class with their final group project presentation, ‘Buscomonzefi.com’, a simulated tech start-up company (See Day- Ninety-Eight-‘MywalkinManhattan’). Working with my students on the project took a lot of my time up as well as my job consulting for the Department of Disability Services and working on my blog, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver’. I am very proud to say we welcomed our 3000th visitor to the site. There were lots of activities and charitable functions that I did supplemented my free time.

Buscomonzefi.com Logo

Buscomonzefi.com logo

First, we had set up for the Annual Christmas Tree Sale for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association right before Thanksgiving. Our set up clashed with the Cornell/Penn football game. Being the dedicated Alumni, I ran down to Philly for the Cornell-Penn Game (and watched us lose in the final second when the ball was intercepted in the end zone, which would have tied the game). It was a heart breaker but was my excuse of not being there for day of set-up.

Men's Association Christmas Tree Sales

Christmas Tree Set-Up

So I decided to rake the whole site the Friday before I left for the game. There were not too many leaves on the site and I spent about an hour and a half raking the site and piling leaves. The rest of the guys met and took care of the set-up for the site. The Saturday after Thanksgiving was tree delivery day. With all the members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association present, we unloaded 315 Christmas trees (up from 285 the year before.

Hasbrouck Heights Men's Association Xmas Tree Sales

Me selling trees as it appeared in the Community News Paper

Our Christmas tree sale is the main fundraiser for  the Association and last year we gave out ten $650.00 scholarships. We were hoping to sell more this year to give out more this year. I am very proud to say that as a group we sold all 315 trees by December 19th and were able to donate a few to ex-members families and our local church. We even donated a free tree to a local senior resident where we set it up and took it down. This is my 18th year on the organization and I have never seen trees sell so fast (See my commercial on YouTube under ‘Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association and see the picture above).

Thanksgiving this year had some sad twists to it. My uncle had been very sick and my family had no formal plans for the holidays. Not to burden anyone with me, I went to visit my friend, Lillian (See ‘Day Seventy-Six-MywalkinManhattan’) out on Long Island for the holiday. I knew she would be alone and I thought this might cheer her up. I can’t think of a more magical Thanksgiving I have had in the last several years.

Lillian and I have been friends for 24 years and she has seen me through a lot. She was there for me during job changes and college comings and goings and a shoulder to cry on when my father passed away. Now at 99 and having outlived most of her immediate family, I wanted to be there for her.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I

Thanksgiving could not have been nicer. I was able to get to the assisted living facility in an hour and twenty minutes so we were able to spend more time together. The facility had a lovely dinner for us in the formal dining room in the building that is used (I guess) for special occasions. We sat with all the other families and had a nice dinner of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and string bean casserole. For dessert, we had a slice of pumpkin and apple pie.

After the dinner was over, we joined the other family members in the other dining room for entertainment. It was nice because I was able to relax and digest before the long ride home. The singer performed songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and I could tell by the humming along most of the residents appreciated something more contemporary.

What I liked was how happy it made Lillian, who liked the afternoon out in her own home. We had a long talk about her life in the facility, her family and friends and at 99,  I could not believe how sharp she was about life and everything around her. It just goes to show that people are more observant than they let on and people at nursing homes know exactly what is going on. I would see Lillian later on in the holiday season (See Part Two-This is Christmas).

After Thanksgiving, it was the Christmas Parade in Hasbrouck Heights with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. This annual tradition has been going on in my town for years and the fire department is usually at the end of the parade with Santa following. There is always a lot of last minute running around at the firehouse before we leave for the parade, including wiping down the truck. My biggest contribution is the double batch of milk chocolate brownies that the guys want me to make every year.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

The crowds of people really seem to enjoy the parade although I have to say that the crowds at the Woodstock parade on Christmas Eve when I visit Woodstock, NY have been bigger. The whole downtown is ablaze with lights and at the end of the downtown on the circle in Hasbrouck Heights, we have the annual Christmas Tree lighting at the end of the parade. The funny part is once that tree is lit, everyone scatters and the event is over. Within twenty minutes, you would never know that there was a parade.

After the parade was over, the next morning was Christmas tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. 315 trees were delivered that morning and with a crowd of thirty men and their sons, we got the trees unloaded and tagged for sale for that afternoon. I was surprised we sold a few trees after they had been tagged. Three trees went off the lot within fifteen minutes after we finished the tagging. People really like to make a head start on their holiday decorating.

As the week went on their were other preparations for the holidays, including me hand-writing 90 Christmas cards for members of the fire fighting community (not only am I the Engine One Company Secretary but I am also the Department Secretary as well for a decade and five years respectively). That on top of the ones I have to do for family and friends.

I packed everything up and headed down to Rehoboth Beach, DE that Wednesday for my mother’s 81st birthday. I swear, I don’t think my mom has aged that much since she was in her sixties. She looks terrific and keeps herself super active. I was surprised that she had time on her birthday to see me! It is always nice spending time with her.

My mom and my siblings and I have a favorite meal my mother calls ‘the dinner’ that she makes for us when we are in town. ‘The Dinner’ is breaded veal cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce and a salad with lots of oil and vinegar. That is the meal we had on my first night there. We just caught up and laughed. We always have a nice time when I come down to her house.

For her birthday, I took her and her partner to the Blue Moon Restaurant at 35 Baltimore Avenue in downtown Rehoboth Beach (See review on TripAdvisor). The food here is always wonderful and the service is excellent. The best part was that even though it was the 30th of November, the whole place was decorated for Christmas. I had the most wonderful beef stroganoff  with sauted broccoli and a wonderful tart for dessert. The food and the service here are just excellent and I can tell that the two of them enjoyed themselves as well.

The best part of the two days that I was here was that I got two great nights of sleep and that really helped with the second part of the weekend. I had to leave right after breakfast and drive four hours home to check my emails and change my clothes as I was heading up another two hours to Rhinebeck, NY for the Annual Mills Mansion Christmas fundraising cocktail party and the Sinterklaas Parade on Saturday. After that I had to head home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Christmas Party at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ. I swear I ran all over the place this weekend.

After I arrived home, I quickly went through all of my mail and emails and bills and got everything sent out. I changed my clothes and got in the car for the weekends volunteer events.

I got up to Rhinebeck with an hour to spare before the cocktail party and fundraiser for the Friends of the Mills Mansion. The Mills Mansion in Staatsburgh, right below Rhinebeck was the home of Ruth (nee Livingston) and Ogden Mills until Mrs. Mills death in the 20’s. I remember visiting the house in the early 2000’s for research on my book and it was falling apart then.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

Mills Mansion at the holidays

Now there has been a whole series of successful fundraising to continue the restoration of the house and its contents. The Annual Christmas fundraiser is a lot of fun and a way to give back to the house. From 6:00pm to 8:00pm, we had cocktails and hors oeuvres in the main dining room that the Mill’s used to entertain. The food was catered by the Culinary Institute of America and  was excellent.  Many of the members kids help pass out the food and it was a nice way to get them involved.

There must have been about 150 people at the event and it is always so nice to see people dressed up for an event. Everyone was in either suits or dresses and it fit the mood of an elegant get-together the way the Mills would have had it. The dining room and tables were all decorated for the holidays as was the rest of the house. There were trees and garland all over the house as well as decorations in all the rooms.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Christmas fundraiser

I am not sure how often they used the house for the Christmas holidays but there are records of gift giving at the house by the family. We had the house to ourselves to walk around and see the decorations so we felt like invited honored guests. The best was when they put the desserts out. They served the most delicious mini eclairs and chocolate mousse in chocolate shells.

I still think the most beautiful room in the house was the library that was decked out with its own tree and presents around it. The room always seemed so homey to me and a nice place to just relax and look at the view. I highly recommend this fundraiser as now only are you raising money for much needed repairs at an interesting site but it is a night of good food and drink in an elegantly decorated private home. How many people get to be the invited guests of the Mills family at Christmas?

I don’t know if it was the two cocktails I had that evening or just the six hours worth of driving I had to do between mom’s house and the fundraiser but I went back to my hotel and completely conked out. I hit the pillow to just ‘relax’ at 9:00pm and woke up at 1:30am in the morning and then went back to bed and did not wake up until 8:00am and I had to be at the Starr Library by 10:00am for the set up for the Sinterklaas Parade the next morning.

I love participating in the Sinterklaas Parade every Christmas in Rhinebeck, NY. It is so much fun and Rhinebeck, New York is one of the most beautiful places to spend the holidays. The town is straight out of a Currier & Ives wood carving. The town is dominated by buildings are from the late 1800’s and all the stores are so beautifully decorated for the holidays accented all by the white lights on the trees and on the buildings.

When I got there in the morning, we lucked out as the weather was a brisk 48 degrees F and sunny. We unloaded all the puppets and floats from the truck and a group of about twenty of us started to assemble the items. I must be becoming an old-timer because I know at this point how to put everything together. There are some great puppets in the parade and this year’s honorary animal was the Elephant. They had a great surreal, wire-like elephant puppet that someone walked around in at the fundraiser at the Beekman Arms a few weeks earlier.

Previous puppets were put together first such as the bee and penguin puppets on a stick, the hummingbirds and the knights and dragons. We also had the traditional floats such as the dancing ballerina, the four seasons, the nature gods and my float, Mother Nature or as everyone calls her “Big Mama”. New puppets are created every year but like the Macy’s parade, everyone has their traditional favorites.

Sinterklaas

Sinterklass starting the parade

We zipped right through most of the items because having worked on the parade for the last three years (I have volunteered for the parade for 2010, 2015-2017) and at this point have worked out the kinks to them. We were done by 10:00am and were able to join everyone else at the Beekman Arms Restaurant for the Opening Ceremonies.

The Opening Ceremonies at the Beekman Arms introduces all the mascots of the day’s festivities including Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee, the Pocket Lady, the Wish Lady, the Elephant Lady with her sidekick the Mouse, the Royal Court and the Dancing Bear. This is a big family event and there were people all over the main banquet room of the Beekman Arms to greet everyone. Johnathan Kruk, the famous story teller, was on hand at the end of the ceremony to tell the story of Sinterklaas.

All over the town for the rest of the day there were all sorts of activities. At the churches, there were all sorts of performers from choirs to band combos and singing groups. All the churches had their own activities as well as food for sale. My favorite is at the Third Evangelical Lutheran Church when they sell their hot dogs and drinks. As part of the meal, many of their members bake homemade Christmas cookies and its worth the price of the meal.

In Rhinebeck, the whole downtown is awash with Christmas decorations and groups selling baked goods and other foods to raise money for their charities. You can get the most amazing cookies and other treats as these groups really know how to bake.

All over there are craft workshops, dancers, storytellers bands, children’s performances and shows such as “Into the Light” at the Church of the Messiah, which is sold out every year. The Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers perform and dance all over the place as well as the Dancing Polar Bear dances along with a song (the guy that wears that costume is exhausted by the end of the day every year).

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ pageant

I had to get back to the library by 4:00pm for set up and the get my assignment. I decided to give our coordinator a break and I walked with the ‘Mother Earth’ float. I had a nice time as all we had to do is push her down the hill and move her arms around (see YouTube video of the event under ‘Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck NY 2017).

I only get to see it from a distance but from parades past that I have viewed and to see it all on YouTube, it is quite a site when the parade guides down the hill from the Starr Library to Downtown Rhinebeck awash with colors and music. It is such an exciting and festive mood when you see the white lights and puppets all over the place with marching bands performing Christmas songs. The parade is full of lit stars which are one of the symbols of Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Us holding Mother Earth in the Sinterklaas Parade

I can’t believe how the crowds have grown over the years. There must have been about three thousand people lining the street this year. We have lucked out with the weather being so mild and people were all over the place. Everyone was excited and laughed and singed along with the parade.

At the end of the parade after pushing ‘Mother Nature’ several blocks we ended up at the Grand Finale Pageant in the municipal parking lot where Sinterklaas and his court welcome everyone to the end of the parade. All the floats pass by the stage and are given their sendoff. The parking is getting more mobbed each year.

We dropped ‘Big Mama’ at the truck to be packed up and put away for next year. I left and went to the Reformed Church for the end of their Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser. I swear, these church groups know how to cook. They gave the small group of us who showed up after the parade (I could not believe that they closed it at 8:00pm when that was the end of the parade) a large portion of Spaghetti and homemade meatballs (the three meatballs were huge) along with salad and garlic bread. It hit the spot after a long day of events and the parade.

The whole downtown was quiet after the parade was over. I swear everyone went home and the first wave of people who had gone out to eat had already finished and most of the restaurants started to close after a busy day. It was the opposite of the rest of the day. It is nice to see the town lit up with white lights, quiet and peaceful finally. You could just enjoy the beauty of it.

I was in bed early that night as I had to leave Rhinebeck early to get to Boonton, NJ for the Annual Bergen County Firemen’s Home Christmas Party. I have to tell you I was exhausted having to drive back down to New Jersey and put on the happy face. It was well worth it though.

Bergen County Firemen's Home Association October 29, 2017

The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party

We have a band perform on a quarterly basis for the residents, sponsor a barbecue every summer and the holiday party is the last event of the year. I was exhausted so I was falling asleep on the couch in the main meeting room. All that driving was getting to me but it was well worth it. The look on the residents faces when we handed out the gifts on the break from the band was performing. Our organization bought all the guys a new shirt with the Bergen County Firemen’s Home logo on it. I could tell that many of them were touched.

As I handed out refreshments at the break, many of the residents said how much they felt appreciated at the holidays. Some never get to see their families. I am glad that the organization could bring a little holiday cheer to the guys.

BCFHA December Party 2017

 

The Members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association handing out gifts

After the event was over, we all went out for a late lunch at the Columbia Inn in Montville, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor), as a group which was a nice way to end the weekend.

And to think, this is just ONE weekend at the holidays where I volunteer! This is unusual and a very long and productive holiday weekend. I would not have had it any other way!

I dedicate this blog to my uncle, Donald Snyder, who passed away the Monday night that I came home from Rhinebeck. This is sent with much love and respect to my family who had a lot to deal with during the beginning of the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!

Events to join in on in the future:

-The Hasbrouck Heights Christmas Parade is the Friday night after Thanksgiving every year.

-The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association opens its Annual Christmas Tree sale every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We are located on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. (See my commercial on YouTube under the ‘Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association).

The Friends of the Mills Mansion hold their Annual Christmas Fundraiser at the mansion on the first Friday night of December.

-The Sinterklaas Parade is every year the first Saturday of December in downtown Rhinebeck, NY.

Places featured are:

The Staatsburgh State Historic Site

75 Mills Mansion 1 Road

Staatsburgh, NY  12580

(845) 889-8851

http://www.millsmansion.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48676-d107418-Reviews-Staatsburgh_State_Historic_Site_Mills_Mansion-Staatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Places to Eat:

 

*The Blue Moon

35 Baltimore Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-6515

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396007-Reviews-Blue_Moon_Rehoboth-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

*Columbia Inn

29 Main Avenue

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

http://www.columbiainn.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

*Call the restaurants for their hours during the holiday season as they may differ during the year.

 

My Christmas Tree Video in Hasbrouck Heights

 

 

The Video of me in the Sinterklass Parade in Rhinebeck

 

The Buscomonzefi.com: If you would like to view the student project, here is the link:

https://buscomonzefi.yolasite.com/

https://buscomonzefi.yolasite.com/Our-Company.php

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/tag/buscomonzefi-com/

Day Ninety-Eight: Presenting Buscomonzefi.com, our Tech Start-up to the World December 4th, 2017

I worked this semester at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, so after Halloween, I had to put the walk on hold for work purposes and the holiday season. One of the things I enjoy about being a college professor and teaching in the Business/Hotel Management School at Bergen Community College is watching the creativity of my students unfold.  This is my third semester at the college and this particular class just stood out.  They went from what I saw as a somewhat shy group of students to a founding start-up group of ‘Techies”, when we presented our group project for our simulated start-up company, “Buscomonzefi.com” (Acronym for Business Communications 105). I was just trying to get the students to communicate with one another and boy did they! It was the first class I ever taught where everyone got an ‘A’ and truly deserved it!

I have to admit that I am not the easiest grader and after twelve years of college myself (Michigan State University, The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University), I have seen my share of group projects but nothing like this. All I have to say is that if we as students had the technology at our finger tips that the kids do today, there is no telling what we could have accomplished.

I came up with the idea for a group project for the second half of our class and have to admit group projects at any grade is like gym class, you hate the idea of finding partners and then depending on them to do the work. The biggest problem with group projects is that there are some people that do all the work and others who just goof off and then get a grade. I wanted to prevent that this time.

I came up with the idea for Buscomonzefi.com when I was reading the trade journals on new companies and was annoyed that there were no CEO’s of new tech companies that were my age. I hate to tell all you young ‘techies’  this but Cisco, KLA Tencor, Microsoft, Oracle and the mother of them all, Google, were founded by people my age and older.

So I created a product that everyone would need, the Widget. Okay, you’re thinking “How to Succeed in Business without even Trying”, but I thought if Robert Morse could do it so could I. I also knew I wanted to something that would have the whole class engaged so I created my first tech company (hopefully not the last).

I made myself the CEO/Founder of Buscomonzefi.com and picked my executive team. I have to admit I did ‘pull some names out of a hat’ but I also wanted to challenge all of the students who I knew by their resumes and their class performance had a lot of talent but kept so quiet in class. I wanted to create open dialogue for the students plus I wanted to get students working with other students who they might not have chosen. I never saw a group of people blossom together so well. I was amazed that what I created was not a group project but a group of up and coming executives, who took control of a project and challenged themselves to their highest level.

We had only four weeks until the project was going to be presented and I knew the class was up for the challenge. All I gave them was the product itself and the fact that we had to present to the backers on the second to last day of class before the final exam.

I created an executive team, picked my President, Senior Vice-President and Vice-Presidents, Team Leaders and Team Members. I also picked my teams where I knew some of the people needed a boost because I saw in them what I didn’t think they saw in themselves. Some I just mixed the personalities. They as a class exceeded my expectations!

I also added that they would be grading one another, keeping journals, be graded on dress code and work performance. The final word was that if as their CEO I heard from the Executive Team that someone was not performing, I would get the team together for a discussion and the person could be ‘fired’ (meaning that they would fail the second part of the class). They all seemed to understand the grading system.

For the next four weeks, the class met on their own and created their divisions from the information that I gave them. I also told them if they took a one dimensional project and made it three dimensional, I would give them extra credit.  As a class, they far exceeded it.

They renamed the product “Bwidge”, very creative and then developed how the product would look and then worked in their divisions to fulfill their departments structure. Each of the teams took their departments and created them form scratch. They were broken down into Sales & Marketing, Tech Talent & Customer Service/Legal, Product Development and Corporate Security. Each division had its Vice-President with a Manager/Team Leader with them with the team under them. I set the hierarchy up and made sure that the President and Senior Vice-President took control over their ‘teams’.

In class, we would have ’round table’ discussions that I had seen online with smaller tech firms and we asked the questions of each other of where we were out, who was doing what and how the teams were working with one another. I made the President and Senior Vice-President also find our new Corporate Headquarters with the stipulation that it must be near ‘Silicon Alley’ in lower Manhattan.

On December 18th, they made the presentation on Google Slides and the class ‘blew my mind’ with their excellence. I brought in the Corporate Benefits Head of Bayer Aspirin America, who I work with on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association to be my question and answer person. Even he was ‘blown away’ with the thoroughness that the students researched.

The Tech Talent Division even established a Website, (Google “Buscomonzefi.com” to see their work), and Instagram site and a Facebook page. which by the time of the presentation already had four followers (how did they find this?). They had complete handbooks created, policies made and even had the Employee Bill of Rights established.

The Product Development team created, priced out and even had the prototype made of the product “Bwidge”, a computer product that organized all your online files on your computer, both on a MAC and a PC, a product that did not even exist (only for either one or the other but not for both). They used the above logo and produced the final product for presentation, plus all the cost and patent information.

The Sales & Marketing team really dazzled me with their ideas for a launch party on New Year’s Eve, ad campaign in Times Square and Silicon Valley and Wall Street, their commercial (which they actually filmed for YouTube!) and their cost structure (totally unrealistic but I only had a million dollars of capital to work with). They even sent an invitation to the Mayor of NYC!

Buscomonzefi.com Logo.png

The Company Logo

The presentation night everyone was dressed for a formal ‘tech’ presentation to ‘WASP’ bankers. I have to admit I have to work with the gentlemen on the concept of ties but overall everyone was dressed so professionally.

Let me put it this way, I have never been prouder of a group of students than this semester and it is my pleasure to put this online for all their hard work. Like I said, this is the first time I ever created a ‘tech’ company from scratch and it will not be my last.

To all my students who might be reading this, you all deserved those ‘A’s and good luck in the future. So much for people who say that Millennia’s don’t know how to communicate. This group took Business Communications to new heights. All you have to do is get them away from the cell phones.

Disclaimer: Please Google “Buscomonzefi.com” for the class presentation and work. It is very detailed orientated and showcases these students talent as future Executives.

Sincerely,

Professor Justin Watrel, Founder & CEO

Buscomonzefi.com: Home of the ‘Bwidge’

Please check our blog and websites out online on Google:

https://buscomonzefi.yolasite.com/Our-Company.php

https://buscomonzefi.yolasite.com/

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/tag/buscomonzefi-com/