Category Archives: Community Information

Solar Eclipse

The Great American Solar Eclipse: How to Celebrate NJ Style!

Solar EclipseThe greatest astronomical event in decades is about the take over the United States on August 21 and the country is ready to celebrate! This momentous experience has been coined “The Great American Solar Eclipse” because of the total eclipse’s path spanning across 14 states starting with Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 am PDT and ending in Charleston, SC at 4:05 pm EDT. NASA’s official website on the eclipse is here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/. Americans are excited due to the fact this is the first coast-coast eclipse in 99 years – since 1918! The day will also be a memorable experience for all current adults and children. Are you ready for this event? Here is everything you need to know – from safety to solar party events!

 

A couple seconds after our fastest shutter speed exposure bracketing began, the slower shutter speeds reveal he extent of the sun's corona. The longer shutter speeds wash out the prominences erupting from the sun's surface.

A couple seconds after our fastest shutter speed exposure bracketing began, the slower shutter speeds reveal he extent of the sun’s corona. The longer shutter speeds wash out the prominences erupting from the sun’s surface.

According to NASA, the “moon passes between the earth and sun – totally obscuring the image of the sun”. Day becomes night for a few seconds! Will you see the stars? Scientists say “no”- but you may see Venus in the Western Sky – below and to the right of the sun. According to astronomers, this will be “the most photographed, most Instagrammed, most Tweeted eclipse ever!” Click here for NASA’s video of the path of the eclipse: The Path of the Eclipse

 

 

While New Jersey is not in the direct path of the eclipse, residents will definitely have a spectacular view! Our state will see a “partial” eclipse – about 70-75% of the sun will be covered. Here is the timeline of the day:

  • New Jersey will begin to experience a partial effect around 1:22 pm
  • The moon will gradually cover the sun until a maximum eclipse (75 percent sunlight blockage in the Garden State) occurs at 2:45 pm, lasting about two minutes.
  • The eclipse will be finished at 4 pm

Protect Your Eyes!

IMG_6176NASA warns eclipse watchers that homemade filters and sunglasses are NOT SAFE!! It is crucial that you and your family are wearing proper, certified solar viewing glasses and that they are held to your face with your hands (for children). All viewers in the Garden State need to wear their glasses for the ENTIRE event – especially prior to the maximum effect! Even a small amount of exposure is dangerous. There is never a safe time to look up at the sky when it’s only 70% blockage! Make sure your little ones are in constant supervision during the event and that they are never looking up at the sky without protective eyewear!

 

NASA recognizes 5 safe eclipse glasses that are “certified” – meaning that they meet international standards for safe solar view and they have the ISO Logo and letters CE (ISO 12312-2). These companies are Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optics, TSE 17, and Baader Planetarium. If you don’t have glasses, try to get them ASAP – most are sold out online! Do not buy from any street vendors and if it doesn’t have the logo, do not trust it! You cannot look at the eclipse through your smartphone or any unfiltered camera, telescope, or binoculars. Do not take pictures with your phone either! Your equipment must have a “solar neutral density filter” and you have to be wearing filters for your eyes. Here’s a guide to how to view the eclipse safely: Solar Eclipse Safety

 

Events in Town That You Won’t Want to Miss!

 

Cranford Public Library’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party: If you are 7 years and older, head to the library for a science workshop about the eclipse starting at 11:00 am. Solar eclipse glasses will be handed out at this event. All families are welcome to join the library staff at Sherman Field down the street from 1:00 – 3:00 pm for the eclipse viewing. Bring blankets and chairs! Protective eyewear will be distributed while supplies last! Children must be with a caregiver.

 

Westfield Memorial Library: All are welcome to visit the library from 10:00 am till 3:00 pm to enjoy live streaming of NASA’s live videos of the eclipse!

 

Scotch Plains Public Library: Join them for a family friendly solar eclipse celebration at 11:00 am. The library will host crafts, activities, and themed treats. Come to make your own pinhole camera and free viewing glasses will be provided while supplies last!

 

Trailside Nature and Science Center: Head over from 12:00 – 3:00 pm for an eclipse viewing – weather permitting. Please bring your own solar eclipse glasses!

 

Elizabeth Public Library: Enjoy an eclipse viewing with presentations from a local astronomer (glasses provided) or choose to watch a live NASA Solar Eclipse video feed!

 

Other Events Throughout the State…

 

Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College Math Campus, Toms River, NJ: Members of A.S.T.R.A. and planetarium staff will be present for FREE eclipse activities including solar telescopes for safe viewing!

 

Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ: Head to their 3M Observatory to view the eclipse from 1-4 pm! Bring your own solar glasses!

 

Liberty Science Center: Soon to be “the largest planetarium in the U.S.” – events start at 10:00 am and conclude at 5:30 pm. There will be a STEM team to explain the science behind the eclipse as well as fun activities, lectures, telescope viewings, sun spotters, and live views from NASA! Enjoy a special 4:45 pm showing of the “Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon Laser Show”. Here is the event link: The Great American Eclipse at LSC

 

Newark Museum Dreyfuss Planetarium: Starting this Wednesday, August 16 through Friday, August 18 at 3:00 pm every day, enjoy the special presentation of “Eclipse: The Sun Revealed”. Recommended for children 8 and up, this video gives participants an up-close view of a total eclipse and explains the amazing science behind this natural phenomenon. Here is their awesome trailer: The Sun Revealed Trailer and the event website is listed here: Newark Museum The Sun Revealed Event

 

Other Ways to Enjoy the Eclipse-

 

NASA LIVE: Watch unprecedented images and live video of the eclipse from numerous spacecraft, the International Space Station, and from the Eclipse Ballooning Project (teams from universities fly balloons as high as 10,000 ft. and send back views through NASA TV). Click here to be directed to their website for all the live feeds: NASA Live Stream

 

Solar EclipseSo why such a big fuss over two minutes of the moon covering the sun? Is it worth it? I found a quote by Anthony Aveni, a retired professor of astronomy and astrology at Colgate that sums the excitement surrounding this total eclipse event: “Science has taken the myth out of the eclipse, but not the emotion.” August 21 promises to be a memorable and exciting day – let’s hope it’s a beautiful and cloudless day in New Jersey!

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NNO

August 1, 2017: Out and About on National Night Out!

 

This national event keeps getting bigger and better each year! In this day and age – the communities and their police departments need to have a working relationship in order to keep the towns safe and maintain open communication. On August 1, 2017, the goal across the country is to “promote community interaction with the police and increase public awareness of police programs in the community.” Crime prevention is key! Cranford, Westfield, and surrounding towns have a great night planned for everyone. Head outside, walk to the downtown, and enjoy a night meant for families!

 

Cranford: (6-9 pm) Meet at the Patrolman Robert F. Hand Plaza and on front of the lawn of the Cranford Police Department Headquarters. Police/emergency vehicles and police motorcycles will be present for children to explore. Kids will be able to meet police and safety personnel and find out more about their professions. An annual NJ Blood Drive will also take place– residents should consider donating blood as there is a huge shortage in the state of NJ! Other fun events this evening will include a live DJ, face painting, animal performers, a rock wall, bungee run, and a demonstration from Hands of Life!

 

Westfield: (6-9 pm) Meet at the North Avenue Train Station area during the town’s Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival! Not only will you enjoy the outdoor music, but the Westfield Police and Fire Departments will be present with personnel to meet and vehicles to tour! Children will receive free hot dogs and soda! Other activities include a fingerprinting station, prizes, coloring station, and children 14 and up can register for the Police Explorer Program.

 

Clark: (6-9 pm) Meet in the parking lot of Arthur L. Johnson High School. Emergency responder vehicles will be present for children to explore as well as the opportunity to meet hired protectors of the town! Other activities include food & drink, safety vehicles, and fire/safety equipment demonstrations!

 

Fanwood: (7pm-dusk) Meet at LaGrande Park for an exciting evening with the local fire/police departments! Families will experience games, face painting, “Dunk a Cop”, a bounce house, food, police cars, and ambulances for touring!

 

Scotch Plains: (6-9 pm) Meet at Alan Augustine Village Green for fun demonstrations by police, fingerprinting, inflatables, rides, and music by the local band, The Broadcasters!

 

Union County: (6-10 pm) Meet at Meisel Avenue Park in Springfield, NJ. Children can explore emergency vehicles and participate in games, activities, and police/fire department demonstrations. The evening concludes with a showing of “The Secret Life of Pets” at dusk. Bring a blanket, some picnic food, and be ready to hang with the family all night!

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Color Race

NJ Summer Races So Hot You’ll Want to Take up Running!

When it’s pushing 100 degrees outside and you’re a runner, you need some motivation to hit the pavement! After my friend told me about the Sea Girt 5K and the town’s Centennial celebration – I made it my mission to find the top 10 fun races this summer in New Jersey -personal opinion, of course!

 

Saturday, August 5: Sea Girt 5K Run/Walk

Registration/Information: http://www.seagirt5k.com/

Times: 5K Run/Walk begins at 8:30 a.m., Kids Races begin at 10:00 a.m., and Kids’ Activities are from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.

Info: This is a traditional Jersey Shore race made even better this year by the borough and Police/Fire Departments celebrating their Centennial! The race brings competitors, fun

runners, walkers, and children all together! This is a chip-timed run for those looking to improve their time and enter the race competitively. The kids’ activities involve a climbing wall, inflatables, obstacle courses, and ice cream!

Entertainment/Food: Live music from Billy Lawler Band and an after-race party at Fratello’s Restaurant and Bar

Proceeds: Money raised will benefit the Sea Girt Recreation Center and their programs for children and adults. This year the Sea Girt 5K also teamed up with Red Sneakers for Oakley – which raises awareness of childhood asthma/allergies.

 

Stomp The Grapes 5KSaturday, August 5: Egg Harbor Stomp the Grapes 5K

Registration/Information: Stomp the Grapes Race Info

Times: 5K Race begins at 9:00 a.m.

Info: Take a chip-timed run through the Renault Winery – just minutes from the Jersey Shore! Complimentary glass of wine for finishers over 21 and souvenir wine glass for all finishers!

Entertainment/Food: Refreshments for everyone immediately following. For an additional $10, you can enjoy a lunch buffet by the renowned executive chef of Renault Winery!

 

Saturday, August 19: Insane Inflatable 5K (Drum Point Sports Complex,Brick Township)

Inflatables RaceRegistration/Information: FB link for Inflatable 5K

Times: Race begins at 8:30 a.m.

Info: It’s not about the running, it’s the #CrazyFun! Feel like a kid going through insane obstacles like the “Wave Runner” or the “Mattress Run” on a 3.1-mile course.

Entertainment/Food: Midway Games & Inflatables, local food trucks, live radio station DJs, adult beverages, and merchandise/goodies from national and local sponsors!

 

Saturday, August 19: 1st Annual All Cancers Suck -5K Color Run/Walk (Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta, NJ)

Color RaceRegistration/Information: http://allcancerssuck.org/

Times: Race time from 9:30 a.m. till 12:00 p.m.

Info: A fun 5K/Walk/Run dedicated to the celebration of life and to recognize those living with cancer. A flat course with water misters and colors spraying/painting you the colors of a rainbow – representing the ribbons of all cancer colors!

Entertainment/Food: Vendors, goodie bags, and live music during and after the race!

Proceeds: Support whatever cancer your loved one is a survivor of or currently fighting – proceeds go to cancer research and awareness.

 

Sunday, August 20: Ocean City Guts & Glory 5K Run/Walk

Registration/Information: Guts & Glory Race Info: Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation

Times: 5K begins at 8:00 a.m.           

Info: Certified track, run/walk through the gorgeous Ocean City beach town, pets & strollers welcome!

Entertainment/Food: Ocean City is a hot shore spot – and the race promises music, food, and tons of fun!

Proceeds: All proceeds benefit the Cohn’s and Colitis Foundation which is the only IBD research and support organization for this disease

 

RaceTuesday, August 22: The Brew Run Series 5K/Fun Run: Human Village Brewing Company (Pitman, NJ)

Registration/Information: Brew Run Sign Up/info

Times: Race is from 6:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Info: 5K/Fun Run followed by immediate entrance to the brewery!

Entertainment/Food: Following the race there is a brewery tour, sampling of the local beer, music, and raffles. Party continues till 9:00 pm. There’s also race swag! Participants

choose from a Brew Run Growler or Pint Glass!

Proceeds: Money raised will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Gloucester County

 

Saturday, August 26: Apache Crossfit – Toms River Ratstafarian 5K/5-mile Run

IMG_5250Registration/Information: Ratstafarian Race Info

Times: Race begins at 10:00 a.m.

Info: If you’re a wilderness guy/gal, you’ll love this race! 100% off road running through swamps, creepy critters, streams (mid-calve deep), wood trails, and tons of yucky fun!

Entertainment/Food: Race ends with a celebratory party at The Bahama Breeze with dancing, eating, drinking, steel drums, and island atmosphere. All participants who pre-register get a hat, a rat bag, island drink, and food.

 

Saturday, August 26: Wall Township “Kids Tri for the Y”

Registration/Information: http://cymca.org/kidstriforthey/

Times: Tri events from 8:00 a.m. till 10:00 a.m.

Info: Join the YMCA of Wall Township for their inaugural triathlon for kids 16 years and under! Swim in the outdoor pool, take a trail bike ride, and complete a trail run! All events take place at Camp Zehnder

Entertainment/Food: Participants will get a t-shirt, refreshments, and awards will be presented

Proceeds: All money raised will benefit the Y’s Annual Campaign which provides summer camp scholarships to families in financial hardship. Proceeds also go toward the LIVESTRONG campaign which delivers YMCA classes to adult cancer survivors – focusing on overall healthy living.

 

Saturday, September 23: The Heroes for Children 5K and Family Fun Walk – West Orange, NJ

Superhero RaceRegistration/Information: Super Hero Race Info

Times: 5K Run is 9 a.m. till 11a.m. and Family Fun Run/Walk is 10 a.m. till 11:30 a.m.

Info: Meet at the South Mountain Clipper Pavilion for a morning of family fun! Certified 5K course on flat pavement. Raise awareness about child abuse/neglect in NJ. Superhero costumes encouraged!

Entertainment/Food: Following the race is music, face painting, crafts, activities, $5 admission to Turtle Back Zoo, Codey Arena, and miniGolf (day of race only)

Proceeds: Money raised will benefit local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) and Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) that make a difference in the lives of children of abuse/neglect

 

Sunday, September 24: Run the Vineyards – Down the Shore 5K (Cape May Winery)

Registration/Info: RuntheVineyardsDowntheShore5K

RaceTimes: Race time is from 9 a.m. till 12:00 p.m.

Info: Cape May Winery is the hottest winery destination this time of year! This is a chip-timed, 5K race with the last ¼ mile finishing through the winery! Walkers are welcome as long as you complete within one hour!

Entertainment/Food: Following the race enjoy 4 tasting areas with amazing views and plenty of seating in the vineyard. Your race souvenir will be a wine glass and tech shirt! Live music, food, and breathtaking views is all you need to complete the day!

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Be Van You

Have Paint, Will Travel!

Be Van You

You’ve probably have heard of these paint-and-sip shops and events that are trending right now, and for good reason–it’s a blast (I can say that because I’ve done it myself!). But two Cranford moms have a new spin on the paint-night business that will bring the artsy fun right to your front door! 

Be Van YouTammy and Jeanette launched Be Van You this March as a mobile paint-and-sip business that brings painting and crafting parties directly to clients. The name is a nod to Van Gogh–the idea being that even you (yes, YOU) can be an artist, because with Tammy’s expert yet gentle guidance, even those folks who can hardly draw stick figures become something of a Van Gough, and clients marvel over the beautiful art they never knew they could create! Jeanette said, “We want people to find the creativity in themselves. Just like in the movie Ratatouille, where the lesson is that anyone can cook, we believe that anyone can paint!” 

Be Van You isn’t just for adults who want to paint while enjoying a glass (or two … or three) of wine. Tammy and Jeanette offer parties for all ages, including kids, and they also cater to corporate clients as well for creative team-building events. 

What can you expect if you hire Be Van You to host a party at your home or business? Jeanette said, “We bring everything from tables and chairs to all the art supplies … we even have lighting to set up outside for under-the-stars parties, tarps to cover floors, and aprons. The only thing we don’t provide is liquor and food.” An adult paint party costs about $35 a person (8-person minimum at that price), and Be Van You makes everything super easy so that you can include a payment link for guests in your online invitation. And if you don’t want the party in your house, Be Van You will travel to the location of your choosing. 

They have several art party packages for children, and you can choose to add on face painting and goody bags to make it a party that the kids will never forget. These parties are terrific because each guest gets to go home with a work of art!

You can find more information about Be Van You on their Facebook page @BeVanYou or call (908) 324-8364

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6th Annual Miles With Moms 5K and Fun Run 4/23/17

Miles With Moms 5 K and Fun RunThe 6th Annual Miles with Moms 5K and Fun Run is fast approaching, and I’m thrilled to be a sponsor of this wonderful family-friendly race that raises money for the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ. The event will take place on Sunday, April 23rd at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, with the first race starting at 9 am, and it’s sure to be a memorable day for adults and kids alike. 

I caught up with Miles with Moms volunteer Jenn Gillman to chat about this year’s event. Jenn said, “This is an event that has something for EVERYONE in the family–a 5k race, 1 mile race, free fun run for kids, great music, delicious refreshments, wonderful raffle items, and ways to keep the kids busy. Runners, walkers, moms and dads with strollers, kids, friends and neighbors are all welcome.”

If you’ve been hesitant to do a 5K with your children, this is the perfect “ice breaker” 5K since it’s specifically geared toward families. Jenn said, “We have special crafts, activities, and races just for young kids. Our DJ will be playing fun music appropriate for young listeners; we have a face painter who will be offering free face painting for kids; and Creative Kids from Scotch Plains and Tinkergarten will be back with plenty of hands-on activities for kids to partake in. We also have a free Fun Run for children age six and under where everyone gets to show their speed.”

Besides all the races and activities, there will be refreshments and lots of raffles with chances to win some great prizes. And let’s face it, any event is better when you leave with a prize in hand! There will also be awards given out for the top finishers in several categories of the races.

Based out of Garwood, the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ is a nonprofit that creates and supports a community for all mothers. According to Jenn, “The fundraising done through the Miles with Moms 5K helps pay for our rented space, keeps costs at a minimum so all of our programming is accessible to everyone, and pays for exciting events for our members.” 

The Mothers’ Center has been around for almost 40 years, offering daytime and evening activities for moms and their children, fostering lifelong friendships among Union County mothers. For more information about the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ, visit http://cnj.mom-mentum.org/

To register for the Miles with Moms 5K visit www.njmileswithmoms.org2017 flyerScreen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.37.52 AM

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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!! (Cranford and Westfield)

santa-kidsYou better watch out, you better not cry … oh who am I kidding, any sane child will cry in the face of a stranger dressed up as Santa Claus! But we love subjecting our children to it nonetheless! Here’s a list of places in the Cranford-Westfield Area where Jolly Old Saint Nick will make an appearance to delight (i.e., scare the bejeezus out of) your little ones. 

NOVEMBER 25, 6:00pm

Gazebo at corner of North Union and Springfield Ave, Cranford

Santa lights the tree; photos with Santa immediately after, $3 per child.

NOVEMBER 25-­27

Lord & Taylor, 609 North Ave. W., Westfield

Friday & Saturday 1-7pm, Sunday 1-4pm

Free 5″ x 7″ photo with donation of 2 cans of non­-perishable food for the Holy Trinity Westfield Food Pantry. Nominal shipping fee will apply. Additional photos can be purchased.

NOVEMBER 26, 12-4pm

Tiffany Pharmacy, 1115 South Ave W., Westfield

Visit with Santa, enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies, and receive 25% off gift department purchases while you’re there! Visiting with Santa is free, but you can purchase photo packages if you’d like. 

NOVEMBER 27, 3:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

Make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

NOVEMBER 27, 5:30pm

North Ave. W. Train Station, Westfield

Annual Tree Lighting with Santa & Mrs. Claus. Free.

NOVEMBER 29, 4:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

This is the second event where kids will make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

DECEMBER 3, 8:30am

Trinity Episcopal Church, 119 Forest Ave, Cranford

Pancakes, bagels, cereal, muffins, munchkins, juice, coffee & tea will be available. Jewelry, Christmas wreaths & grave covers, photo with Santa, fabulous raffle baskets 50/50 for sale. Breakfast tickets $6.00.

DECEMBER 8, 5:30pm

Giggles, 103 Miln Street, Cranford

$40 first child, $35 each sibling, includes indoor play. Email [email protected] for tickets.

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Cranford’s Chapman Plumbing Came to my RESCUE!!

chapman-storefront-spring

Plumbing. It’s something every homeowner has to deal with regularly, and sometimes it ain’t pretty! I recently had a major sewage backup (don’t things like that always seem to happen at the WORST possible time??), but thanks to the deft and quick work of Chapman Brothers Plumbing, my house survived relatively unscathed!

I was preparing for a trip out of the country, as luck would have it, when our main sewer line backed up, flooding our first floor. Bill from Chapman Brothers came within MINUTES, stopped the water flow, and dug a hole in the yard to cut into the pipe from the outside so that our basement wouldn’t get flooded. He snaked the pipe and used a camera to make sure the flow was clear. And all this was done in the middle of a THUNDERSTORM! I couldn’t have been in better hands.

Originally founded in 1932, Chapman Brothers is one of the longest running plumbing and heating companies in New Jersey! Owners Bill Schinestuhl and Tom Swick are master plumbers themselves, and you won’t find them sitting behind desks but out in the field every day getting their hands dirty, no pun intended. Their services span plumbing, heating, and air conditioning, and they are available 24/7 for emergencies–don’t you love hearing that?!

Bill said, “We’re local, and we try to respond to emergencies as fast as possible. We try to get the people back into business as fast we can, and we like working directly with homeowners. Our goal is to make everybody happy and build value in what we do.”

Chapman Brothers gives back to the community as well. Just this past spring, Bill and his team donated their labor and plumbing supplies to a local family in need that was featured on an episode of “George to the Rescue”! 

The Chapman Brothers offices are located at 36 North Avenue East in Cranford. According to Business Operations Manger Judy Swick, “It’s nice to have a storefront that people can walk into. We still provide customers with that old-fashioned face-to-face interaction, and after all these years, we’re not going anywhere.”

I’m sure glad that Chapman Brothers aren’t going anywhere, because I’ve got them on speed dial now. You can contact Chapman Brothers at 908-276-1320 or visit their website: http://www.chapmanbros.com.

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GREEN THUMBS GATHER AT THE SCOTCH PLAINS FANWOOD COMMMUNITY GARDEN!

As soon as I saw a photo of the lovely Scotch Plains Fanwood Community Garden, I just knew I had to blog about it. When I see people come together to make a difference in their community, it gets me right in the feelies. 

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LynnSusan Wurzburger of Scotch Plains is a retired attorney and avid gardner, as well as the chairperson of the SPF Community Garden Committee. Along with several other invaluable committee members (Billy Malone, Joyce Johnson, Wanderlan Silva, and Patrice Barth), LynnSusan has put her blood, sweat, and tears into this project of launching a community garden. After their original site location fell through, the Community Garden found its current (and perfect!) home on the grounds of the historic Frazee House in Scotch Plains. 

According to LynnSusan: “The Frazees always treated their property as a gathering place, even hosting meetings during the Revolutionary War. We want to salute them and bring people back to the land. With the Community Garden, we’ve returned part of their land to its original purpose, which was a farm.”

The SPF Community Garden occupies an 80′ by 80′ plot that is fenced in, plus another 20 feet beyond the fence line. The organization Groundwork Elizabeth: Come Grow with Us provided materials for the first 14 beds and set up a helpful irrigation system for the Garden. The remaining 14 beds were built by the committee and volunteers using materials that were donated or purchased using rental fees. In addition to the 28 beds, there are six “demonstration gardens.” 

The Garden officially opened in late July 2016, and already the beds are flourishing! Tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, pole beans, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, garlic, parsnips, and a variety of flowers (specifically those that attract pollinators) all are growing in abundance. But the Garden is about more than just plants. LynnSusan said, “We’ve built a sense of community here, and it has been so gratifying to see the gardeners who ordinarily would not have met each other in day-to-day life come together and be so welcoming and helpful to one another.”

LynnSusan went on to tell me about some of the goals of the Garden. “We hope to demonstrate how easy it is to grow your own food. We also want to inspire a sense of charity as we try to establish a giving garden to donate to El Centro in Plainfield. We encourage our gardnerers to ‘grow a row,’ meaning grow an extra row of a vegetable or fruit for donation purposes.” 

I loved hearing about how children are welcomed in the Garden. “We have a lot of young families who bring their kids with them. They children learn valuable lessons on how to plant, nurture, and harvest as well as eat what they grow. It’s essential to give kids an appreciation of the earth and teach them how to take care of it.”

Residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood as well as local organizations (one bed is currently being tended by a Girl Scout troop!) can rent a garden bed for $40 for a year. According to LynnSusan: “Next year we’re hoping to add 10-12 additional garden beds. We also plan to incorporate special gardens accessible to the elderly and disabled children.”

In October, the Community Garden will begin accepting applications for spring 2017. Current gardeners have first choice of beds, then it opens up to all the local residents and organizations on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

If you’d like to see the beautiful SPF Community Garden in person, visit the Harvest Homecoming fundraiser on October 1st from 11 am to 3 pm! This fun-filled family event is being cohosted by the Community Garden and the Rotary. There will be live music, food trucks, a petting zoo, face painting, children’s crafts, square dancing, games/prizes, and more! Although admission to the Harvest Homecoming is free, donations are welcomed that will benefit both the Garden and the Frazee House. 

The SPF Community Garden is located at the Frazee House: 1451 Raritan Road in Scotch Plains. If you would like to learn more about the Community Garden, visit their website at http://spfcommunitygarden.wix.com/garden, or donate to this wonderful grassroots organization through their GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/spfcommunitygarden

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The Cranford-Westfield Area Makes the Perfect Family Staycation!

 

If you didn’t get to travel anywhere for a vacation this summer, or if you already went somewhere but still have vacation days to take this month, why not enjoy a CHEAP and SUPER FUN STAYCATION before school starts up again? The Cranford-Westfield Area has so many great options for family fun (much of it FREE) … you truly don’t have to go far to have an amazing summer with your family!

Here is a list of just some of the fantastic outings you can take without even leaving Union County. If you know of other interesting places or events nearby, feel free to comment and share!

CARNIVALS & FESTIVALS

It ain’t summer without zeppoles, am I right?? Check out these festivals in our area.

Cranford Street Fair & Craft Show

August 21st, 11am – 5pm

Downtown Cranford

Over 200 food and craft vendors, plus kids’ attractions.

Kenilworth Fire Department Carnival 

August 15th-20th 

St. Theresa’s School

540 Washington Ave., Kenilworth

Hours: 

Old-fashioned fun including rides, food vendors, games, beer garden, money wheel, and pay-one-price wristband nights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday!

https://m.facebook.com/KenilworthFireRescue/

St. Bartholomew Italian Festival 

2032 Westfield Ave., Scotch Plains

September 2nd-5th

Hours:

This beloved annual festival features exceptional live music nightly, games, Italian food, raffles, and more!

http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/#2778

Cranford Canoe Club

 A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:


A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:CRANFORD CANOE CLUB

250 Springfield Ave., Cranford

Hours: 

Not just canoes but also kayaks are available for rent at the Canoe Club. Paddle your way through a scenic and very calm stretch of the Rahway River, and you’ll be reminded of why Cranford was once called “The Venice of New Jersey.” Life jackets are included with your rentals. The snack bar serves some seriously yummy ice cream and snacks as well. This should be on everyone’s summer bucket list!

http://www.cranfordcanoeclub.com/

 

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

ECHO LAKE PARK

Enter from Sprinfield Ave. in Westfield or Mountain Ave near Route 22 in Mountainside

You can spend a whole day at this gorgeous park by bringing fishing rods (the pond is well-stocked), renting paddle boats (only $10 for an hour!), visiting the shady playground, and enjoying a picnic (they have BBQ grills available, plus a full snack bar at the boathouse). And if you have a four-legged friend, bring Fido along to the great dog park at Echo Lake! 

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM

1003 Morris Ave., Union

Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am to 4pm; closed Sundays 

This is such a fantastic option for a rainy or too-hot day! Liberty Hall is very kid-friendly and always has exhibits that appeal to the younger set. Check out the TOYS THROUGH TIME exhibit, where kids can actually play with toys from decades past! Plus there are frequent family-friendly events going on at the museum grounds. Call the museum to reserve a tour. Admission is $12 per adult, $8 per child age 3-17, FREE for children under 3. Call 908-527-0400.

http://kean.edu/libertyhall

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

OUTDOOR MOVIES

There’s just something about watching a flick under the stars! Some of these movie showings will feature food trucks and even free popcorn!

FanwoodTuesday August 16th, 8:30pm at LaGrande Park, showing “The Good Dinosaur.”

Scotch Plains: Fridays August 19th (“Up”) and 26th (“Zootopia”) at dusk on the Village Green.

SummitMonday August 22nd at dusk, 356 Broad Street, showing “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

OUTDOOR MUSIC

I’m continually blown away by the talent of local musicians. BYO lawn chairs and blankets and listen to great music!

Clark: Summer Arts Festival, featuring yoga and live bands at Oak Ridge Park, Wednesdays August 17th and 24th, 6:30 pm. Rain cancels.

Rahway: Summer Concert series, Thursdays August 18th and 25th, 7:30 pm in front of Union County Performing Arts Center. Beer garden on site! If raining, concert is moved inside to the main stage.

Westfield: Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival, Tuesday nights through August 30th, 7 pm. Rain cancels.

REEVES-REED ARBORETUM

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Hours: open from dawn till dusk 7 days a week

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

This is a hidden gem of Union County–13+ acres of lush gardens and woods, perfect for leisurely hikes and bird-watching. Once inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, the arboretum is now listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Join a FREE TOUR of the grounds on Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm from now until October. Kids will enjoy the DISCOVERY SATURDAYS on August 20thand 27th in the Stackhouse Education Center: drop in anytime from 9 am to 1 pmfor stories, games, crafts, and a mini exploration! Discovery Saturday events are free for members, $5 per non member child; children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Here are THREE different spraygrounds to choose from in our area, and all of them are FREE to visit. Heck, you could probably visit all three in a day! Generally, the sprayers turn on when temps reach 82 degrees.

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Ponderosa Park

Cooper Road, Scotch Plains

Huge spray area and sprawling playground structures for all ages, restrooms, shaded picnic benches, and bike path. The ice-cream truck visits almost daily. Note: there is no shade in the playground area so bring hats and ample sunscreen and beware of hot playground equipment! Water shoes might be a good idea for the kids.

Snyder Ave Park

240 Snyder Ave., Berkeley Heights

Adorable fenced-in spray area adjacent to a cute playground, plus restrooms. Note: there is zero shade!

Warinanco Park

Entrance at St. George’s Ave in Roselle

Such a great park featuring a large, newer sprayground, plus two playgrounds and a pond with paddleboats (which you can rent for $10 per hour). 

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

TRAILSIDE NATURE CENTER

452 New Providence Road, Mountainside

Hours: Open 12-5pm, 7 days a week

With over 4,000 square feet of nature, history, and animal exhibits, Trailside is a great place to spend a rainy day with the kiddos! And in nice weather you can make a day of it by visiting the ginormous Watchung loop playground or taking a hike into Watchung Reservation.

http://www.ucnj.org/trailside/

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Child Development course offered at Cranford High School

                                              Cranford High School                                    I’ve always been a fan of elective high school classes that teach real-world, practical skills. The Child Development course at Cranford High School is an outstanding program that gives students hands-on practice with child care and education as they plan lessons and interact with preschool “Cougar Cubs,” who in turn get to experience a fun-filled and educational class all year!

Annamaria Bellino oversees the Family and Consumer Sciences Department at Cranford High, and the Child Development Course/Cougar Cubs Program is part of that department. According to Annamaria: “The Child Development course is a full-year elective open to students in grades 10-12, with the Cougar Cubs component running from October through May. Students who take the class have the Child Development course 5-days a week for 43 minutes daily. There are three sections of the class with 15 students in each class. On Mondays and Fridays, the high school students meet as a class to lesson-plan and work through the curriculum. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the preschool aged Cubs report from 9:15-11:15am as the three class periods cycle through the high school schedule (resulting in the Cubs working with a total of 45 high school students each day).”

Annamaria continued, “There is a certified Cranford High School staff member that teaches the class for high school credit and provides supervision to the high school students when they work with the Cubs.”

Parents who are interested in signing up their preschool age children for the Cubs program should contact Annamaria at: [email protected]. Children must be 3 1/2 years old at the start of the program (no older than 4), and must be potty-trained. The cost is $175 to enroll your Cub for one semester (October-January or January-May) or $325 for the entire year, plus a $25 registration fee. If you’ve priced out traditional preschool classes, you know this is a STEAL! You can download the application forms here: http://cranfordschools.org/new/uncategorized/cougar-cubs/

Below is an in-depth description of the program. For any students who are thinking about becoming teachers someday, this sounds like a wonderful foundation. And for parents who are looking to introduce their preschool children to a social and education setting, Cougar Cubs is the perfect stepping stone! Annamaria said, “This program is embraced by the entire Cranford Community. Many of the high school students who take Child Development were once participants in the preschool-type program and are eager to sit on the other side of the desk!”

 

Cougar Cubs: “Teens Teaching Tots and Tots Teaching Teens” Service-Learning in Child Development

Child Development is a service-learning elective in the Family & Consumer Sciences Department that introduces high school level students to the child education and care profession through a careful, psychology-grounded study of child development. It is designed to increase understanding of the basic concepts of child development and the developmental characteristics of children. This course is the foundation for planning appropriate activities for and establishing appropriate expectations of children, while offering an opportunity to study the various developmental domains (social, emotional, cognitive/language and physical). As part of the course, under the direction of a qualified teacher, there are regular opportunities for high school students to observe and interact with three and four year old children in our community in an early childhood setting of free play and child-to-child & child-to-teen interaction. 

Class Objectives for High School Students

  • To provide students with an opportunity for applying theory learned in the classroom.
  • To train students to use instructional strategies found effective in early childhood education. 

Goal for Cougar Cubs:

  • To provide a developmentally appropriate, hands-on learning environment that is not a pre-school but an opportunity to promote social, emotional, cognitive, and physical growth in preparation for formal schooling.
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