*Bloggers note: It was another successful year. We sold out by December 9th!
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association members at the Christmas Tree set up November 25th, 2022
Christmas is here!
At 8:00am (actually 7:45am), the truck from Canada arrived in Hasbrouck Heights to deliver the 400 Christmas trees we ordered for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale starting the day after Thanksgiving.
The truck arrived early
I was in the middle of eating breakfast when I got the text that the truck arrived a half hour early (after being over an hour late the previous year) and gobbled down my meal and rushed over to help onload trees. Most of the other guys must have done the same as we all trickled in as a small group of us started the take the trees off one by one.
Our President, Steve Palladino, helping onload the trees
One by one we unloaded all 400 trees
The previous weekend (when I was at the Cornell vs Columbia game), the members of the Men’s Association set the Christmas Tree Stand up so that it was ready for delivery this weekend. On top of set up, the guys also had to rebuild part of the shed that we do business in. I think we can another year out of it.
The stands we have been using for years
Keeping every section organized
Each tree as it was unloaded had to be counted, sorted, organized by pile, and then placed on the racks by size, type (Balsam or Frazier), price point and then had to be tagged for sale. We have had the same routine for over twenty years so we are pretty organized. We work in teams with our more seasoned members keeping things organized.
Our Treasurer, Lou Verdi, keeping the piles and racks organized
Tagging and sorting the trees takes time. Thank God it was 55 degrees today
All the Christmas unloaded, organized and ready for selling
We got the racks filled with some of the beautiful and nicely smelling trees. Each tree had to tagged according to its tree type and size and then double checked again. We managed to empty the truck by 9:00am and tagged most of the trees by 10:00am. We had our first two customers by 10:30am and sold two trees before we were even finished unloading and tagging. This broke last year’s record of 11:00am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree stand ready for business
The truck left by 9:15am for its next stop with us having taken the trees off the truck in an hour. Talk about team work!
The truck left on time
After we got the lot organized, sorted, tagged and priced, most of the guys left for the morning ready to arrive on their next shift while a group of us stayed back to make sure that everything was done. There are always a lot of last minute things to do. The press arrived to take pictures of the lot and then we took our annual group shot for the organization.
The men of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association proudly opening the sale in November of 2022
We are at the lot on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ until the last tree sells. Last year, we finished the sale in eleven days. We are hoping for just as good of a sale this year as well.
Last year, we gave over $16,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association open for business on November 25th, 2022 at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The commercial that I shot for the Christmas Tree Sale in 2015. It must be working as we are getting more people from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
These clips are from the brillant independent film on Christmas Tree selling and relationships from 2015 “Christmas, Again”:
The trailer for the film “Christmas Again”:
The Director talking about the film “Christmas, Again”
Listening to Taylor Swift when selling Christmas Trees:
The Closing of the site on January 21st, 2023:
All good things come to a end and we closed the Christmas tree site down for the season on January 21st, 2023. About twenty of us gathered at 9:00am (some earlier) and took the site down, cleaned it up and put everything away in storage.
The start of the Christmas Clean Up at 9:00am
It was another great season! Thank you for everyone who supported the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas tree sale! The community support is very much appreciated every year. Thank you!
Taking down the shed for the last time.
Everyone working together to take the site down for the season.
The last of the site cleaned up for the season
The site is fully cleaned up (and then some) and we are all set for the Spring and the upcoming sale in November 2023. See you all Thanksgiving Weekend!
My last night of freedom. Maricel took me to the Sheraton Canal Street as a present
I found out the night of the “Rocking it in Rutherford-Be a Tourist in your own Town” event back in April that I had gotten accepted to New York University for my Masters Degree. I had applied months earlier for the college after the initial get together in October of 2019 (pre-Pandemic). I never thought I would get in but there was the email the night of the presentation as almost a gift from God that I had done good work with the students.
My ID card picture
It has been exciting journey so far and this leads to the next stage of my life. For the next two years I will be playing “college student” for the fifth time (Michigan State University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University proceeded it).
I will be graduating in the Spring of 2024 with my Masters in Science in Global Hospitality Management and from there, who knows? I like the idea that there is a new future with a new job and new adventures coming soon. It will be a long ride with a lot of hard work but I look forward to my future.
The blogs may come slower than before but I will be doing a lot more exploring of the City in between classes.
Wish me luck!
Maricel and I the weekend before I started Graduate School
I was very impressed by the Nicholas Gibbon House when I took a tour one Saturday afternoon. There were no large crowds to deal with and the parking is perfect with plenty of room to move around. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with all sorts of seasonal flowers surrounding the house. When I visited I thought I was mistaken and it was someone’s home. There was a lot of care put into both the exterior and interior of this home.
Nicolas Gibbon was a local merchant who moved to Greenwich in 1730 and continued to live here until the 1760’s. The tour guide explained to me that the townspeople would not let him…
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Annual Inspection May 21st, 2022
For the first time in two years (due to the COVID pandemic), the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department stood for Inspection for the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights.
All department members worked during the week washing, scrubbing and cleaning every piece of apparatus, cleaning all the tools and organizing all the cabinets to be sure that everything was in place. Then we cleaned the fire house from top to bottom. Every room was cleaned and vacuumed and shown the pride the department has in our firehouse.
The Department Inspection was led by Chief Tim Moots, First Assistant Chief Kevin Todd and Second Assistant Chief Mike Greco. The members stood attention for the flag salute, a special greeting by Chief Moots and speeches by invited dignitaries.
The Department invited the community to join in inspecting all of the department’s equipment and out of town chiefs judged each piece of apparatus, two engines, the ladder truck, the rescue truck and the two ambulances for appearance and equipment check. The rescue truck won that evening.
After the Inspection of the equipment was over, the members of the fire department and their invited guests joined together for an Italian dinner in our large meeting room. It was nice way for everyone to come together after a two-year gap.
Good luck and Godspeed to all members of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department in 2022!
Fire Fighter Justin Watrel assigned to the Ambulance Squad for “Best Equipment Contest” at the 2022 Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Inspection.
Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.
The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.
The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)
It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).
The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.
Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.
Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.
The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE
I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.
F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.
Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”
Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.
There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):
The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC.
What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.
The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.
Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.
The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup. The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time. The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.
After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again.
This is what it was supposed to look like but didn’t (Wiki)
All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!
Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.
The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.
I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.
The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007
I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.
As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.
I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.
As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.
I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.
When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.
I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.
I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.
They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.
I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.
It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.
The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.
Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE
The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.
The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.
I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.
As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Chedder cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.
What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.
I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)
This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!
Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.
Video on Ms. Kusama’s work
I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.
I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.
The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum
I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.
The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’
After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.
The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’
The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.
After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.
Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).
The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey
After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.
I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.
For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.
I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.
Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007
I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.
The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC
I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)
The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.
It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.
It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.
After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary. When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.
Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.
I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.
I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.
Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.
You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!
What I love about New York is that one every corner there seems to be a favorite bodega or deli that sells what you need when you need it. Some also just stand out for the quality of the food and the service and selection. S & A Gourmet Deli is one of those places.
A friend and I had just stopped in to buy sandwiches for lunch that we were going to enjoy a few blocks away in Madison Square Park. They had a large selection of sandwiches and wraps, and I decided on Chicken Cordon Bleu hero sandwich ($8.99) with a Coke ($1.99).
The sandwich contained a fresh fried chicken breast topped with Swiss cheese and ham and then broiled for a few minutes…
I had been shopping in the Boscov’s Department Store in Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, NJ recently and I walked into their Candy Department on the second floor to admire all their candy selections.
The shelves were ladened with products from Hershey’s Easter candies which rang true for a department store company based in Pennsylvania. So many wonderful food companies are based in the Lancaster and surrounding communities.
On one table I eyed one of my favorite holiday treats on the display table near the register, a decorated butter cream Easter Egg by the Lerro’s Candy Company. The beautifully decorated egg came in two sizes, and I preferred the larger one that would last until Easter morning.
This sweet Easter Egg was nicely decorated with all sorts of flowers and edible embellishments. The center of…
I still can’t believe that Christmas came so quickly this year. It was almost like the blink of an eye. With the start of the Christmas holidays, there are many cherished Christmas events in Hasbrouck Heights that have become tradition.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so beautifully decorated for the holidays (Heights Flower Shoppe)
Starting with the Christmas Parade the day after Thanksgiving, this annual event showcases our wonderful downtown in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and dazzles us at the end of the parade with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling. It had been so cold that night that the crowds were more subdued than usual (remember COVID is still going on) but no less spirited.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse decorated for Christmas at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Fire Department escorted Santa down the parade route to the Christmas tree and was greeted by the Hasbrouck Heights Community , who were ready for some Christmas cheer. When the switch turned on, we were dazzled by the lights of the trees and decorations that grace the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights.
The Christmas Tree at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle always dazzles at night
After the parade and carolling were over, it was back to the firehouse but not before the fire fighters got their own group shot at the Christmas tree.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Christmas Tree in 2021
By the end of the month, we were ready for our big community event, “Santa Around Town” where the fire department escorted Santa around the Hasbrouck Heights community to wish everyone Christmas cheer in a very difficult year.
We lucked out and the weather cooperated and it ended up being a sunny but cool day. Because of the COVID pandemic, we cut the number of stops and the crowds were a bit smaller but no less enthusiastic about seeing and talking to Santa.
Being socially distanced and wearing masks in some locations, residents of Hasbrouck Heights got to talk to Santa and give him their Christmas wishes. I have never seen so many families and especially children need a lot of Christmas cheer in these tough times and Santa really came through for families and even their pets, as many Christmas dogs greeted and licked Santa.
We toured all over town, greeting residents and every keeping as socially distanced and safe as we could as Santa greeted everyone who came and cheered up a community that really needed it.
Merry Christmas from the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town” 2021
I came across Little Miss Muffin n Her Stuffin when I was searching for another restaurant down the street called Lowerline (See my review on TripAdvisor) and it had not opened for the evening and I was starved. I stopped in for a Jamaican Beef Patty to tide me over until dinner and it was one of the best patties I had ever had.
Little Miss Muffin ‘n’ Her Stuffin at 768 Washington Avenue
Instead of the pastry dough being hard, chewy and flaky like of the restaurants in the City carry that are premade, the dough on these are moist, well baked and flavorful. Since they are baked on premise, they are always nice and warm and constantly being replenished. The store is always busy when…
With the weather reaching now into the high 90’s and the humidity has become unbearable, it has been a chance to take a break from walking the streets of Manhattan with the uncomfortable heat (and the equally uncomfortable feel of the City) and head up to our version of “Upstate New York”. People from Ithaca, where I went to graduate school, actually laugh when I say this is “Upstate New York”. “That’s like Westchester!” some will say to me because it is so close to the City instead of in the middle of New York State.
Still Dutchess County is beautiful at anytime of the year and a nice substitute when the weather just gets too hot. The cool breezes of the Hudson River, the foliage full of deep greens and the unique little downtown’s with their ‘mom and pop’ restaurants and stores (which we need to help desperately at this time) make a nice day or weekend visit. I have also gone to college in Hyde Park so I know the area quite well but still there were many towns I had never visited before. One of them being Red Hook, NY.
I had gotten to know Red Hook quite well since 2014 when I thought I was moving to the Hudson River Valley for work and needed to find a place to live. I got acquainted with Downtown Red Hook when meeting with realtors but it was when I came across an advertisement for “Little Pickles”, a children’s store that had just opened that I wanted to visit that I got to really visit the town.
Downtown Red Hook decorations in Fall 2022
The nice part of Downtown Red Hook is that it has not been “Manhattanized” the way Downtown Rhinebeck further south has been. Being further up Route 9, the restaurants and stores are not as expensive, the feel of the restaurants are more local and down to earth and a lot less expensive. The one thing about the stores are that they cater to locals and not tourists so much, they are reasonably priced and their merchants are extremely creative in merchandise purchased for their stores and the way their stores are displayed. The service I have found in the stores here is very personal and friendly and you are mostly dealing with the owner of the store.
Downtown Red Hook was decorated for the Fall
What is also nice about Red Hook is that the parking is still on the street with no meters and you can park right near the stores. At the current time, the town is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as is the rest of the country, so a lot of the parking directly in the center of the town is for “Grab and Go”. Between the heat of this summer (it was 96 degrees that day) and the COVID-19 pandemic still keeping everything at bay, the town was quiet the afternoon I visited.
I started my day at the Staatsburgh Historical Site of the Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY. The mansion was not open for tours yet under Phase 4 of Governor Cuomo’s plan as of yet so the park site opened programs that showcased the outside of the mansion. I started my day with a “Garden Tour” of the grounds of the Mill’s Mansion “Staatsburgh” located at 75 Mills Mansion Drive.
The Mills Mansion “Staatsburgh” (Staatsburgh State Historical Site)
The 90-minute tour took us to the back lawn of the estate where we visited the former icehouse, boat house, stables and storage areas and the location to where the greenhouses were located. The mansion was once a 25-room home that was a working farm but with Ruth Livingston Mills social standing the house was added and expanded to 79 rooms to the current home of today. The original farms became lawns and Ogden Mills, her husband and a financier himself, became a gentleman farmer and animals were grown and raised for competition and for food for the estate. The greenhouses were used for flowers and fruits and vegetables for the mansion.
The back lawn of the Mills Mansion and the Hudson River in the distance
Most of the buildings have since been knocked down or in disrepair but you have to use your imagination to see how the estate once worked. The whole property was once pretty well self-sufficient.
When I toured the house in February 2022, the mansion had just gone through a deep cleaning after being open for the Christmas holiday season and had been decorated to the hilt for the holidays. We had a small group of three that had the mansion to ourselves, and it was a quiet but informative tour.
By 10:30am, our small group of four was done for the morning and I decided to run up to Red Hook for lunch. I was in the mood for a Chicken Parmesan sandwich from Village Pizza III located in the downtown. Before I left for lunch, I drove through Downtown Rhinebeck which had just closed off all their downtown parking for outdoor cafes and the place was really busy. All the restaurants were busy for the late brunch and early lunch crowds.
I drove further north on Route 9 which takes you right into Downtown Red Hook and turns into North and South Broadway which is cut at the intersection of East and West Market Street (which is Route 199). The downtown stretches from this intersection for a few blocks before leading to more homes and farms. The wooden storefronts are a combination of Victorian and multi-level architecture and brick buildings which gives it the classic downtown appearance.
Looking down East Market Street in Downtown Red Hook, NY
I parked on East Market Street and started to walk towards the intersection. I discovered that one of my favorite stores that I just featured a few months ago, Pause at 10 East Market Street had moved to Rhinebeck. It now has an online store and its new expanded location in Rhinebeck at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3.
Pause was a great store of handmade food products and whimsical toys for pets.
Pause is now at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in Rhinebeck, NY
Next to the former Pause store is another unique at 6 East Market Street called Petals & Moss, a fresh and dried flower store, where the owner, Nancy Lee, designs not only the floral arrangements and the dried flower wreaths that line the walls but also cuts most of the fresh flowers in season from her own garden.
The tables are arranged with fresh floral bouquets and dried flowers designed in interesting designs. I like that the store is not overwhelmed with flowers all over the place and the look is a minimalist where you can enjoy the beauty of the flowers and they are showcased in their simplest form.
The beauty of Petals and Moss arrangements
Petals & Moss at Christmastime
Petals & Moss at Christmas time in 2021
Next to Petals and Moss was this wonderful display for Fall where the Christmas usually stands
When I was visiting Red Hook in October of 2022 for the Sheep and Wool Festival on the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, I stopped up to walk around the town again. I stopped in I2evolve, a small arts and crafts store that also serves as an expressive art school for local children at 18 East Main Street. The where having a ‘Haunted Halloween Village’ event.
The Haunted Halloween Village at I2Evolve was a lot of fun
The ghoulish welcome into the store
The Haunted Halloween Village event was the owner showcasing the children’s art on tables all over the store. It seems that her students in her art school came up with so many creative haunted houses that she created a ‘village’ to display the students work. It was a very clever idea and it was a lot of fun looking at all the students creativity in their work. So many of them were loaded with details and interesting embellishments. The owner of the store, Kim Popolizio, took me on a quick tour of the store before the families arrived with their kids (who were the artists of all of these wonderful pieces).
The main part of the village
More of the ‘village’ homes
The inside of the store and the ghostly village to the side
The kids were so creative!
So much detail and attention into these works
After touring all the villages, I stopped at the concession stand that the owner had set up in the back. She had “Witches Brew” which was a green fruit punch, a cotton candy machine, a popcorn machine, cider doughnuts, candy and coffee and tea all of which was between $1.00 and $2.00. What a good businesswoman not gouging her guests! People loved it and it was really busy (plus the cider doughnuts were delicious!)
The owner insisted I see her patio in the back so I made the trip outside. It was still warm and in the 60’s when I visited so it was pleasant to go outside. What a wonderful place to relax.
The patio section of I2Evolve is a nice place to relax from the crowds of the store
The outside patio
In a small truck stand down the road at 33 East Market Street is the seasonal business and weekends only during the cooler months is Terry’s Country Bakeshop. Terry sets up a small table of reasonably priced baked goods such as cider doughnuts, scones, crumb cake, cinnamon rolls and small pies (prices are seasonal). Don’t miss her cider doughnuts ($1.00). They were excellent. She is also quite the conversationalist. We had a nice chat.
Terry’s Country Bakeshop at 22 East Market Street
Crossing the street at the intersection of Market and Broadway, I like to head north to my favorite restaurant in Red Hook, Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. I cannot tell you how good the food is here in a few sentences. For a small pizzeria, the food is excellent, the service is friendly and the prices are amazingly fair. For a family on a budget, the restaurant is the perfect place to dine. It was unfortunately closed on Sunday.
The food and service at Village Pizza III is excellent!
The many times I have eaten here over the holiday season and on my visits to the area for functions, I really love coming here for lunch and dinner. The red sauce here is just delicious and has a rich tomato flavor that makes every dish wonderful. The Chicken Parmesan dinner with spaghetti could feed two people easily. It is loaded with gooey mozzarella cheese.
The Spaghetti and meatballs are out of this world. Three golf ball sized freshly made meatballs on top of what looked like a half pound of spaghetti. The red sauce here is amazing. The calzones are overstuffed with ingredients and the pizza has the most amazing combination of spices and cheeses. Each bite is like heaven. There is not one thing on the menu that is not delicious.
The pizza here is fantastic!
The prices here are extremely fair.
The elusive J & J Gourmet at 1 East Market Street was closed for a third time when I visited there in 2021. Oh well, I will have to wait until another time to have breakfast there. (The restaurant closed in January 2022 and the place is now empty).
J & J’s Gourmet Restaurant at 1 East Market Street (closed in January 2022)
The last visit I made to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop, I had one of her Fruit Loop Doughnuts that was an over-sized cake doughnut topped with a thick vanilla icing and finished with lots of colorful fruit loops. Their over-sized Cinnamon Rolls on another visit were layered in sweet cinnamon in a buttery dough. On a recent visit, I had their jelly doughnuts, and they are filled with the most amazing jelly.
The baker herself has waited on me and is extremely engaging and when it is okay to eat inside again, it is a relaxing experience to just sit and talk. For now, there is a tent outside for dining and enjoying your dessert.
The excellent doughnuts and cinnamon rolls
Village Bake Shop decorated for the Christmas holidays in 2021
Next door to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop is one of the most creative, imaginary and interesting toy stores I have ever seen. Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway. This colorful little store caters to the Lilliputian crowd and has all the things you need for a small child or creative tween.
Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway is out of a fairy tale book.
Little Pickles is one of those stores I wish was around when I was a kid. Even the big kid in me loves visiting the store when I am in Red Hook. One of the stores is dedicated to clothing, shoes and accessories for the small child in need of everyday items. In the room is a castle to explore and wooden trains to play with while your siblings’ shop (these things are currently not available because of COVID-19).
The outside of the store has a whimsical candy and ice cream shop and lots of little ‘stocking stuffers’ for a quick gift. Lining the shelves in the front of the store, there are balloons, magnets, small games and puzzles that are perfect for the creative child’s birthday party.
This is where children come for that special gift
The back of the store has a assortment of games, puzzles, magic tricks, science experiments and board games. During these tough times with all of us having to stay in it has the perfect collection of items for family game night.
The back of Little Pickles is perfect for family game night.
A brand-new store to the shopping area at 9 West Market Street is The Crow’s Nest, another unique gift shop that supports women artists and craftspeople and specializes in merchandise that is eco-friendly and Free-Trade. Owner Sarah Carlson says that she searches the world to find items that support female artisans who offer handmade one of kind gifts and home products. The shelves and tables are lined with interesting merchandise.
Walking down North Broadway and turning the corner to West Market Street. Another store stands out for its interesting gift items and fascinating artwork Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where all things are equestrian.
The Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where it’s all-things horses.
The gallery is so unique with the theme with all the artists carried in the store is all things horses. Paintings large and small line the walls and the tables are ladened with jewelry, statuary, small sculptures and gifts for the perfect host present.
The beautiful jewelry at Equis Gallery
The store carries the work of many local and distant artists and is all unique to the store. It is always nice talking to the gallery owner, Juliet Harrison, who always greets you with a smile and makes you feel welcome.
The work here is revolving so there are always new artists to see.
Equis Gallery owner Juliet R. Harrison
A wonderful video on the Equis Gallery
Walking back down West Market Street and heading down South Broadway, I headed to Golden Wok Chinese Restaurant at 7479 South Broadway, but the place had no dining area open inside. On a recent trip to Red Hook, I stopped in for dinner.
I ordered from their extensive Cantonese menu and had for dinner the Beef and Broccoli combination platter with Fried Rice and Egg Roll ($11.95). It was a nice sized portion and have to say that the Fried Rice here is excellent.
Beef and Broccoli with Fried Rice at Golden Wok at 7479 South Broadway
What was nice is that Downtown Red Hook during the summer months has a little park with tables for outdoor dining. On Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00pm-8:00pm have live entertainment. The woman guitarist that evening was wonderful and attracted a nice crowd on this warm Spring night. It was a nice way to dine with the warm breezes passing by and conversing with other people at the table.
When I was here last Summer (Pre-COVID-19), there was another enjoyable concert in the parking lot next to Village Hall that was free for the evening with local musicians. That was a nice night and people really had a nice time listening to the music and talking with their neighbors. It must be a nice place to grow up.
The Memorial Day Parade in Red Hook NY from 2008
After my walk around Downtown Red Hook, it was back to Rhinebeck for lunch. There is another branch of Village Pizza in Downtown Rhinebeck as well but I now wanted something different as it was getting even hotter outside and I wanted something light.
Downtown artworks during the fall of 2022
So, I headed to Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street, a restaurant I have eaten at many times over the last twenty years of visiting Rhinebeck. The food is always consistent here and the service very friendly. Like the rest of downtown’s all over the nation, the sidewalks and streets of the Main Street have been changed to an outdoor cafe. Pete’s Famous has good number of tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk under the trees and street which made for a nice experience.
Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street in Rhinebeck, NY
I had a sudden craving for a Turkey Club sandwich and the restaurant did not disappoint. The sandwich was layered with freshly roasted turkey, juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce and crisp bacon lathered with mayo on toasted white bread. It was a nice combination of flavors and tastes and the fries just came out of the fryer.
The turkey club with fries here is excellent.
It was nice to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and watch people walk by. It made it almost seem like there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. I am not too sure how long all of this will last but for that afternoon everything felt okay.
On a cool February day in 2022, it was a Hot Turkey platter that warmed me up after a tour of the Mills Mansion. Layers of fresh turkey are mounded on top of white bread with a side of mashed potatoes topped with a yellow turkey gravy was like heaven on a cold day. It was served with a side of cranberry sauce and fresh string beans that tasted like Thanksgiving all over again. The meal also started with a small bowl of Chicken and Rice soup which warmed me up. The food at Pete’s Famous Restaurant is always excellent.
I didn’t want to stay for dessert because I has passed an ice cream stand on the way back from Red Hook that I have wanted to try for years but it is closed during the times I usually come up to Rhinebeck, Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North in Rhinebeck. Do not miss coming here during the warmer months! It’s worth the whole trip.
Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North is amazing!!
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
This little ice cream shop right near the Dutchess County Fairgrounds looks like it had just been renovated and landscaped. The back part of the building has a nice sized lawn with chairs and tables (socially distanced perfectly) that is the perfect place to enjoy your ice cream or lunch items on their listing.
Del’s lunch menu
The ice cream here is so thick and creamy and has the most unique flavors. On the recommendation of the young lady working there I tried the Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Swirl and the Honey Lavender ice creams. The Lemon Poppyseed is also excellent. I do not say this much but after biting into the Honey Lavender ice cream I thought I saw God. The ice cream was amazing!
The Ice Cream menu at Del’s Dairy Creme
It was just the right combination of flavors of sweetness and tartness. The Blueberry ice cream is made from fresh fruit from the farm and you could taste the flavors sweetness and creaminess from the fresh milk and cream from the farm.
The Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream here is excellent!
Del’s is Americana during the summer months. It is the place that people look like they have been coming to since the 1960’s and with a new owner and a modernized building brings it into the twenty-first century. It is the perfect place to stop with the family.
In the Fall months around Halloween, the warm weather was a pleasure in Del’s backyard seating area.
After the long and relaxing lunch, I headed back to the Mills Mansion for the “Lecture on the Portico” for a talk on the servants’ role at the mansion when the family was in house for the late Summer and Fall months. I have to admit with such a large lunch and dessert inside me and the weather being so warm (it was about 92 degrees at this point), I was getting sleepy and started to nod off during the lecture.
Mills Mansion “Servants Talk”
It was an interesting lecture on household items that the servants would have used to maintain the mansion during the summer months. They explained how the servants used the hand-cranked ice cream machine to make the summer treat and showed us their ice cream scoop for the perfect serving of the frozen treat.
Other items that were explained to us to run the household were a meat press for creating juices for broths, a bottle closer for opened beverages and a mop wringer for cleanups. It is interesting the amount of time it took to keep the mansion clean and the items needed to do the work at a time when electrical cleaning items did not exist. It took an army of servants to keep the mansion running.
It was so nice to relax and enjoy the breezes on the portico (the front porch) while listening to the lecture. I think this is the reason why on top of digesting a big lunch why I kept falling asleep. The heat did not help either. Still, it was a nice way to see the mansion in a different light by seeing it from the outside looking in. The grounds have so much to offer and the lecture topics are very interesting.
The portico of the mansion is a nice place for meetings.
It was just nice to be back up in the Hudson River Valley again for Christmas in 2021. I had not been up here since February for the last Tea Lecture (see my review on the mansion above) and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an interesting way to still visit the mansion and tour the grounds and have a new sense of scenery.
Red Hook, NY is one of those picturesque little towns at Christmas time with elegant lights on the stores and trees in the downtown area and stores so beautifully merchandised giving the town the look of a Currier & Ives carving.
Downtown Red Hook at dusk at Christmas time
Spending time at the holidays in Red Hook is also special. The merchants do such a nice job decorating their windows for Christmas and all the older buildings in the downtown are decorated with garland, red ribbons and white lights. It looks like a Currier & Ives print especially at night when the whole town is lit up.
Petals & Moss at Christmas time
Petals & Moss at Christmas time in 2021
During the usual holiday season, the town holds the “Snowflake Festival” the second Saturday in December (the first weekend in December is the big “Sinterklaas” festival in Rhinebeck and that gets all the people the first weekend) and that is a nice family event.
Red Hook, NY at Christmas is like a picture out of Currier & Ives
Red Hook is so peaceful on a pre- or post-Christmas night. I visited on New Year’s Day and most of the stores and restaurants were closed but still at twilight, the Christmas holiday with all its hope and dreams is still alive and appreciated at night. The Christmas season in the Hudson River Valley especially in these small towns is really special.
Red Hook is so beautiful at Christmas time
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop decorated for Christmas in 2021
The Red Hook, NY village Christmas tree in 2021
Christmas is a special time in the Hudson River Valley and you need to travel to these small towns to appreciate how the towns decorate themselves and welcome Santa.
Downtown Christmas 2022
Downtown Red Hook Christmas tree 2022
It is such a pleasure to visit the Hudson River Valley. The towns are so quaint during the holiday season from Halloween to Christmas Day. They are special places.