Category Archives: Cranford NJ Community Information

Kristina Elio Koza

Take a Trip Through a Book: A Cranford Mother Makes Her Debut as a Children’s Author and Illustrator!

 Kristina Elio Koza

I am so excited for Cranford resident, Kristina Elio Kozak, and her first children’s book due out December 5th! She has accomplished what so many people have dreamed of – taking epic adventures with her family and then being able to publish a story to keep the memories alive for years to come. “The Travels of Adventurous Alexander and Relentless Russell: Dominican Republic” is the first of many children’s books about her travels with her family. She truly hopes to inspire children to learn more about other cultures and to take them on a trip through a storybook!

This elementary school teacher and Literacy Coach in Woodbridge Township has lived in  Kristina Elio KozaCranford for 14 years. She has a supportive husband, two sons (ages 12 and 13), and is lucky enough to take family trips around the world! Her family travels quite often. “It’s truly an adventure from start to finish!”, stated Kristina. They make it their mission to find the most unique trips and Kristina loves to do all of the research. She commented that she really wanted to make it a goal that her family travelled every year because they can learn so much by experiencing cultures personally – not just in text books. In fact, the family just returned from a two-week trip to Italy a few months ago!

 Kristina Elio KozaHer current book is based on their first family trip together in the Dominican Republic. The boys were old enough to travel and truly be able to learn from their experiences. They had such life-changing moments that when they returned home, she felt the need to do something with all the memories and lessons they had learned. A close friend encouraged her to sit down and write a children’s book.

It took her two years to finally finish the book in a way that truly represented the experience and what she wanted to present to all families. She diligently researched all of the facts and took art classes to prepare! All of the illustrations are hand-drawn by Kristina and are based on the family photos that were taken!

 Kristina Elio KozaThe highlight of the book is “Snakeman”. She commented that her son was determined to take a picture next to a man with snakes all around his neck. She and her husband tried to tell him that this could be a figment of his imagination and the chances of actually meeting this “Snakeman” may not happen. However, sure enough when they stepped off the jeep on one of their expeditions… there he was! A man wrapped in snakes who actually put snakes in his mouth! The story also takes the reader on the same adventures as the family – a tour of a school, a monster jeep ride, someone’s actual home, a chocolate plantation, an amber museum, a horseback ride to the waterfalls, and a gorgeous beach!

She’s currently writing her next book about the family’s travels to Costa Rico. From tree house sleepovers to Tarzan swings – Kristina has everyone’s interest piqued on what to expect from Adventurous Alexander and Relentless Russell this time!

The take-away from her books is that she feels very lucky and blessed to be able to take these educational trips with her family. Kristina realizes that there are so many kids who may never be able to travel and she wants to bring her experiences back home to everyone. “I want children to be able to travel through my books – to be able to put themselves in the story!”

 Kristina Elio Koza

At the end of her story, the reader can find a charitable foundation connected to the region of the trip destination. For the current book, the focus is on Save the Children  and Children.org – both focus on helping children in need and also give back to the Dominican Republic. Kristina chose these organizations because she learned on her trip that 5th grade is the cut-off for many children in that region. Most families have to pay for middle school and high school and the costs are too high. Therefore, children are forced to start working at a very young age. She wants to make it her mission to provide supplies and donations to keep these children in the classroom and receive an education.

Exciting news in store for Kristina! You can purchase her book here at Mascot Books! Her Amazon pre-sale is going extremely well and you can add your name to the list at Amazon Pre-Sale. As of December 5, “The Travels of Adventurous Alexander and Relentless Russell” will be available at Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Mascots Books.

PeriwinklesAnd finally…our beloved Periwinkles Fine Gifts in Cranford at 17 Union Avenue North has her book in stock and Kristina will be the highlight at her Book Signing on Saturday, December 9 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm! What a perfect gift for the holidays!

 Congratulations on your first book, Kristina – we can’t wait for what’s in store and where we will go with you on your many adventures!

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Bella Organici

Cranford’s Bella Organici: Expanding and Celebrating a New Westfield Location!

Bella Organici

Perhaps you’ve met Danielle Decostello around town… This mom of two is a powerhouse – both at her popular small business, Bella Organici, and in the community doing charity work for causes that she feels is important and impactful. Danielle has quite a bit going on right now and wants to invite the entire community to celebrate with her!

 

Danielle was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to New Jersey in 2011. She opened the doors to Bella Organici – Meditation Studio and Holistic Esthetic & Medical Aesthetic Skin Care Salon in 2009. The studio is located at 29 Alden Street in Cranford. She initially started the company to offer safe organic tans for her clients. As the business grew, she realized the increasing need for other organic treatments and products. She made it her mission to create her own line of organic skin care products. Danielle received her NJ cosmetology license and started to offer a full spa menu at Bella Organici.

 

Bella Organici is truly a creative and unique salon where you will want to sample from more than one of the services that are offered! From DIY classes to her renowned organic spray tans…Bella is one-stop shopping for detox and wellness!

 

Organic Tans: the safest and most natural looking organic tans – formulated by Danielle while she was pregnant with her second child!

 

Bella OrganiciFacials: all treatments are 60 minutes and include a massage! Bella facials are for all ages and skin types – everything is medical grade and organic! The salon also offers microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and enzyme peels to name a few!

 

Cellulite Treatment: using blended herbs in pre-soaked bandages – your arms, legs, and stomach are wrapped to tighten the skin and reduce the look of cellulite!

 

Meditation and Yoga: enjoy all of these classes in her warm and inviting studio! Bella Organici offers Meditation Yoga, Happy Hour Yoga (posing with beer in hand has never been more fun), Candelight Yoga, Glow Yoga (paint your body with glow-in-the-dark paint), Bella 101 Meditation, & Aromatherapy Meditation

Aerial Yoga: straight from the NYC studios – Bella offers this new style of yoga that combines traditional yoga poses, pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock!

 

Other services that sound amazing…Lebanese/Brazilian/Cryo Wraps, Himalayan Salt Therapy for back and skin, CIT Microneedling, Sculpt Ice, and Laser Hair Removal!

 

Spirituality: Bella even offers Medium Readings by Laura Cifadelli as well as Ganesha Readings and Chakra Cleansing!

 

Bella OrganiciThe salon also has a Skin Bar with an Herbalist, Alchemy

Classes where you learn about essentional oils and can shop holistic retail – oils, herbs, crystals, makeup, and organic skin care. Fresh, organic ingredients are whipped into body butters, lip gloss, scrubs, soaps, masks, and washes!

 

 

 

 

Bella Organici is known for exciting Pop Up events and DIY Classes – this is what Danielle has in store for November…

 

November 13: Microblade Pop Up: Head to Dirt Clean Culture Beauty Shop in Westfield from 10 am till 12 pm and let them make your eyebrows perfect! All details at the Facebook Event here: Microblade Pop Up

 

November 13: Bladed by Fee Fee: at Bella Organici in Cranford at 6:00 pm–keep those eyebrows fancy for the holidays! All details at the Facebook Event here:  Bladed by Fee Fee

 

November 21: Skin Party: 7:30 pm at Juice House in Garwood. Come to this DIY event where Melissa will be helping you make scented essential oil rollers and Danielle will be assisting you with your own pumpkin face mask! All event details at the Facebook Event here: Skin Party

 

November 21: Lash Party: 9:30 am till 7:30 pm at Dirt Clean in Westfield – attend this pop up and get a lash lift! All event details at the Facebook Event here: Lash Party

 

November 21: Home Made Betty Pop Up:  7:00 pm at Dirt Clean in Westfield – sample this luxurious homemade, vegan skin care line and experience education, food, sips, and fun shopping! RSVP and details at the Facebook Event here: Home Made Betty Pop Up

 

And finally… Congratulations to Danielle and Bella Organici for their One Year Anniversary! They will be celebrating Cranford style on November 16 at the salon at 29 Alden Street from 7:00 – 9:00 pm! This celebration will have light sips and bites, raffles, free skin care demos, and raffle prizes! Be sure to stop in! All event details at the Facebook Event here: One Year Anniversary

 

Bella Gives Back… Danielle loves giving back to the community and wants to spend more of her time with family charities and helping to put an end to human trafficking. She will be running numerous fundraisers in 2018. Danielle recently partnered with Fire Me Up Studio in Cranford for “Art for Puerto Rico” – 100% of proceeds from this event went to the Harimau Conservation organization to assist with rebuilding after Hurricane Maria.

 

Currently, she is accepting feminine hygiene products at the shop till November 20 for Covenant House, a non-profit organization for homeless teenagers.

 

What’s in the future for Danielle? She’s opening a Westfield location! Since half of her clientele were Westfield moms – she decided to make a big business decision to franchise Bella Organici to other women for 2018! The Westfield store will have a Grand Opening on November 25 at 719 South Avenue. Stop by for live music, food, and giveaways!

 

Danielle wants everyone to know that “beauty comes in all shapes and colors” and she loves watching her clients embody their inner beauty. Take a moment to stop by any one of Bella Organici’s locations and see what’s in store for YOU! Let Bella make your beautiful inside and out for the holidays!

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Playa Bowls

GRAND OPENING!! Cranford is Crazy for Playa Bowls!!

 

Cranford is crazy for Playa Bowls and our newest Playa Bowl spot just opened at 102B North Union Avenue! The smell of the salty air, the waves crashing, the sound of seagulls, the wind in your hair…anyone who has been to this blissful place knows that you are immediately transported back to the shore! Not only is Playa Bowls known for their fabulous acai bowls and smoothies, but it’s how they have recreated the feel at the beach that keeps everyone coming back for more!

 

Playa Bowls was founded in 2014 after owners Robert Guiliani and Abby Taylor discovered that the people of the Jersey Shore had yet to savor the nutritious and delicious acai bowls like they had discovered on their many surf trips to the West Coast. They went to work to create their own version of a healthy acai bowl at small stand at the corner of 8th Ave and Ocean Ave in Belmar, New Jersey. Of course, they were an immediate sensation and soon after they opened their first store right behind the original stand!

 

Playa Bowls is now known throughout New Jersey and they have expanded into Rutgers Campus and up into North Jersey! Abby is so excited that they have been so welcomed throughout the state as more cities are going “bowls deep”! Abby described for me how much conscious selection goes into each and every ingredient in their bowls, smoothies, and other menu items. She said, “We have the best quality around – we don’t blend our acai with anything else to add sugar!” Abby also contributes the success to the “vibe” inside each and every Playa Bowls. She said that it’s truly a “culture” – people want to order and then actually hang out because of the “chill atmosphere”.

 

Playa Bowls is now a franchise and the Cranford restaurant is owned by Alan Valenti and nephew Stephen Valenti of Morristown’s Olive Lucy’s Kitchen Table. They are excited to bring Playa Bowls to Cranford! Alan initially fell in love with this acai shop as a customer. He wanted to pursue the franchise and his wife, Allison (originally from Cranford), drew him into this close-knit community. Alan and Stephen see Cranford as an “up and coming town” and love the momentum of the small businesses in downtown. (Hat tip to our fabulous Downtown Management Corp!!)  From families to young professionals – it’s truly the best town to introduce a hot new spot!

 

From our conversation, it was evident that Alan is excited about this venture. He mentioned that their acai bowls only have 10 grams of sugar and the highest quality of acai that no one else is providing. It’s such a thick acai bowl and “once you have your first bite you can taste the difference!” Playa Bowls appeals to those who are health conscious. You can add the best ingredients such as fruit, coconut, Nutella, pitaya, and chia! They will abe providing Fall Bowls all season long! Customers can add autumn flavors to their smoothies and bowls such as pumpkin granola, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, and caramel apple!

 

Alan feels that Playa Bowls is a big family and loves that Abby and Robert are 100% “hands on” with every store that they open. Abby does all the artwork for each and every Playa Bowls. Alan commented that her pieces are “beautiful and personalized for each store” – you will never see the same thing twice! Each creation of Abby’s is unique for a particular town and their energy! Even the flooring and lighting at the Cranford shop will be different and customized for Cranford!

 

Alan, Stephen, Rob, and Abby look forward to being a “part of the fabric of the community” of Cranford. I know that the area will be flocking to their gorgeous, beachy shop! Make sure you keep updated with their stunning Instagram feed and posts at playabowlscranford ! We are all ready to “go bowls deep”!

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Fish Stand

Cranford Fish Stand: Fresh, Sustainable, and Local!

Fish StandEveryone is excited for the opening of Cranford Fish Stand, located at 200 South Avenue East, this Thursday, October 19! We spoke with owners Jill Sabochick, John Sabochick, and Kevin Pipchick earlier this summer to find out how they differ from other markets, why they chose Cranford, and how they plan on making fish fun! While talking over coffee about this new fish adventure – I quickly realized that this group of friends are seriously having a great time working together! Jill, John, and Kevin all worked at a small business software company prior to 2014. They moved around from city to city together and finally ended up in Jersey City! While living in JC, the friends realized that they craved fresh seafood. Fish markets in NYC were in an abundance, but they found a lack of fresh fish in this downtown area. John commented, “We just said, we should do this!”

 

They all wanted to provide a product that was sustainably sourced. They found local people in the industry who were able to inform them where the fish came from and where it was caught. Since everyone was in a small business together, their entrepreneurial spirit was a huge asset! The friends began their fish business at the local farmer’s market in Jersey City. Their fresh product became in high demand and the business expanded in 2015. They opened up their first store, Jersey City Fish Stand, approximately one and a half years ago. Because of the popularity of fish markets and consumers craving to know more about where their meals come from – Jersey City Fish Stand was recognized locally in a Summer 2017 issue of USA Today!

Cranford Fish Stand

 

The owners are now ready to take their exploding business to other areas of New Jersey and Cranford is lucky enough to be the site of their second store! Jill attributes the popularity of the fish market business to the fact that “people are obsessed with sustainably-sourced fish –where it came from and how it was caught.” “The industry is so interesting right now with customers wanting to be informed with purchases!” she remarked. The goal for their Cranford Fish Stand is to truly provide the customer with a unique shopping experience.

 

They want you to embrace the concept that “fish is fun!” There are so many types of fish to encounter, that over the course of the year -over 200 could make their debut at Cranford Fish Stand! The menu will rotate based on the season and “what’s catching”. John explained that there are a lot of fisheries that they work with and they hand select from those distribution sites. “Everything is provided fresh, never frozen. We only bring in enough to sell within 24 hours. This is what makes us very unique – the fact that our menu is changing daily!”

Their staples will be salmon, bass, and scallops. Clams and oysters will often come from Barnegat Bay, NJ as well as other fisheries in Point Pleasant and South Jersey. The owners will supplement local fish with selections from Southern Atlantic, Gulf, West Coast, and Alaskan fisheries. Each day there will be approximately a dozen varieties in their front case.

 

So, what can you, the customer, expect when you walk through the doors of Cranford Fish Stand? Jill remarked that they want you to have a “personal walk-through experience”. The employees will guide you through your selection, the origination of the catch, and provide cooking techniques for each choice! She commented, “It’s a true personal shopping experience when you walk in the door – with fish!”

 

Fish StandCranford Fish Stand will also have specialty grocery items and oven-ready, prepared sides. Customers will be able to select side dishes, produce, marinades, soups, dips, and spreads. The owners want you to enjoy one-stop shopping for your meal. Once your fish has been chosen, you will be able to leave the store with everything that will complement the highlight of the meal! Jill commented that “people may not know that seafood is extremely easy to cook. We make it so you can choose a simple recipe or a more intricate version!”

 

Why did they choose their second location to be in Downtown Cranford? “We chose Cranford because it was a destination spot”, mentioned Kevin. It just so happens that Kevin grew up in Cranford and his family and friends still reside here! However, it wasn’t just the hometown draw that landed them their fish market in quintessential Cranford. Kevin commented that the “cultural and food scene is thriving!” “Everyone, young and old, is invested in the town. Small businesses are welcome and everything is local and unique. Hopefully the trend will continue on an upward swing! We feel the town will support us in this movement and this is our total motivation!”

 

Please join Jill, John, and Kevin as they open their doors to Cranford this Thursday, October 19. All information can be found at their Facebook Page, Cranford Fish Stand FB. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony that begins at 4:00 pm followed by a reception from 5:00 until 7:00 pm. New customers can enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, prizes, and of course…FISH!! The fun of fish is picking it out – let them make it an experience for you! In Cranford – everything is fresh, sustainable, and local!

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Porchfest 2017

Cranford Porchfest 2017: 24 Bands, 8 Porches, 1 Epic Celebration! 10/21/17 2-5pm

Porchfest 2017

I am so very excited that Cranford Porchfest is almost here and  even more thrilled MY PORCH is going to be part of this momentous event! How could I resist when I love this town and an epic collaborative music event is making its inaugural debut! My whole family, including my dog Lucy, has geared up to get our porch ready for three amazing bands in three hours! I sat down again with Randy Geis from Cranford Community Connection to find out everything concert-goers need to know for October 21. Here’s what to expect for the day of the event, how to plan your porch time, and what artists will be featured on the big day!

 

Randy explained that this is a FREE musical event and completely powered by the “do-it-yourself” concept. It is orchestrated by local volunteers, space provided by homeowners, entertainment performed by musicians donating their time, and a day enjoyed by the community! He commented that “every porch host, performer, and attendee is a co-creator and real-time manager of the event.” It’s meant to be an afternoon of families walking around Cranford “enjoying time together and the music we have put together.”

 

Porchfest 2017How to Plan Your Afternoon: Cranford Porchfest 2017 will take place on Saturday, October 21 starting at 2:00 pm. You can view all of the musical groups and porch locations throughout Cranford here at their Interactive Porchfest Map. Simply click on an icon and see everything happening at a particular home! Keep this map handy and use on your mobile device for the day of the event. Make sure you leave your home in plenty of time to make the first musical acts that start at 2:00 pm and then find what other performers you would like to watch at 3:00 and 4:00 pm! There will be 8 porches participating in Cranford Porchfest with 3 performances at each home. The set up and take down will all occur within the hour. At 5:30 pm the “big act” will perform at Eastman Plaza in front of Track 5 Coffee! (more about that at the end of the article). The road right in front of Track 5 Coffee will be blocked for this performance in order to accommodate the large crowd.

 

What to Bring: There will be no streets closed during the concerts, no outside food vendors brought in, and no souvenirs for sale. The committee encourages everyone to put a chair on their back, bring a stroller, ride a bike, run, or walk the town! They are committed to the sharing of public space! The Cranford Community Connection and Cranford Police would like to remind everyone that this is a family event and public alcohol consumption laws still apply. You are welcome to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy throughout the day. Please keep in mind that these are neighbors’ homes – so please take your trash with you!

 

There will be increased police presence during the day and areas directly in front of each participating house will be sectioned off to allow groups of people to enjoy the music. Each house will have a yard sign saying “Future Cranford Porchfest Location”. If you have any questions at all, you can quickly identify a Porchfest Staff member by their black “Roadies” t-shirt!

Performers: The Porchfest committee has been spotlighting performers on their Cranford Porchfest Facebook Page. They received an outpouring of applications over the summer and are pleased to announce an amazing variety of musical acts. In the mix of performers are artists in the areas of Rock, Folk, Blues, Piano, Irish Rock, Motown, Guitar, Song Writers, and DJs. Some band/solo highlights are Lovehandles, Tam Garcia, Dave D’Amico, Binge, Atomic Jam Band, and Elan Varner. Check out their inspiring stories throughout the different posts! At my porch you can find the highly anticipated Tom Molfetto, Vin Moretti, and Band Substances. The crew at my house can’t wait to hear all of them – and maybe Lucy will surprise everyone with her own one hit wonder!

 

The grand finale of the evening will Cranford’s own Alden Street Band playing at 5:30 pm at the Clocktower at Eastman Plaza! After enjoying the music at the porches, everyone is invited to come together to enjoy this local band! They will be playing your favorite classic rock and pop cover songs. What a way to go out with a bang!

 

Everything you need to know for Cranford Porchfest 2017 is at their website at Cranford Porchfest Website – including the interactive map! The best advice Randy gave was to plan your day and try to visit different porches in town. The committee consciously chose porches within the four quadrants of town – so make it a point to tour Cranford! I can’t wait to see all of your pictures throughout the day using #cranfordporchfest and of course, #coolerincranford! Don’t forget to visit my porch at 7 Hamilton Avenue! The whole community is excited to be out and about in this glorious fall weather and enjoying “24 Bands, 8 Porches, 1 Epic Celebration”!

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Embellish

Cranford’s Embellish is Your Pinterest Project Dream Shop

EmbellishAt the height of the handmade craft frenzy where people can see something on Pinterest and bring it to life – Donna Del Guercio of the former “Belladonna’s Yarn Room and Interiors” brings you her new store, “Embellish”. You’ll be spending quite a bit of time in this store, located at 106 North Union Avenue in Downtown Cranford. Donna is set to open on Thursday, September 28! This is a one-stop crafting experience and unique to Cranford. From crocheting, to paper crafts, to large appliqued letters to decoupage – you will take delight in spending some quality crafting time at Embellish!

 

Donna had her highly popular and Cranford renowned fabric and furnishings store “Belladonna’s” but decided to take her creative side and her business in a new direction. Donna wanted to “reimagine the store as something else”. It was time for a change and to bring something to Cranford that was unique and in high demand! I sat down with Donna in the shop, which had already transformed itself into a crafters paradise, to find out what you have the opportunity to create in a few weeks!

You may see something on Pinterest and realize that you don’t have the correct materials or tools. This store exists to provide you a space to create anything and everything you want – from unique gifts, wall decals, birthday banners, signs, and embellished totes. Anything that you can think of – Embellish probably has all the equipment you need to make it a reality!

The highlight of the store is “AccuCut” – a machine that is known for its brilliant die-cutting ability. Donna began showing me the massive collection of templates that cuts plastic, cardboard, and other materials. The possibilities are endless with this equipment – perfect for die-cut personalized picture books, photo albums, journals, scrapbooks, party favor boxes, wall decals, and huge letters fit for decoupage.

Get ready for the holiday season now! The same old gifts at department stores are boring! Find the perfect gift for teachers, co-workers, employees, family members – all unique and individually designed by you! Wreaths, cards, and ornaments can be personalized and carefully handcrafted.

Speaking of events…Embellish will offer group classes focusing on a particular holiday. Donna hopes to have a preset group of classes that will be offered 3-4 times a week! Halloween/Fall crafts will include favor boxes, wreath making, floral arrangement demos, and crocheting scarfs. Winter/Holiday crafts will include ornaments, cowl scarf kits, favor boxes, table setting crafts, and homemade holiday cards! She has everything to make your holiday come to life with paper crafts and adornments! Embellish will also offer custom gift wrapping and custom favor boxes for those who are in a time crunch and need some crafty help!

Everything that is made during the seasonal classes will be available for purchase in the shop! Donna will have pre-made kits that you can take home and create on your own time! Since Donna used to be a storefront decorator – her store will be a gifters delight with all of the creations for you to “see and shop”!

 

EmbellishDonna will continue to provide her fans with knitting and crocheting classes! Sign up for “Beginning Knitting” on Tuesday nights: 10/3, 10/10, 10/17 and 10/24 from 6:30-8:00 pm. “Beginning Crochet” will be taught on Wednesday nights: 10/4, 10/11, 10/18 and 10/25 from 6:30-8:00 pm. The cost is $100 for four sessions. Call the store at 908-272-8100 or send Donna an email at [email protected]. Space is limited!

 

She will bring in guest “teachers” from time to time to instruct participants on a special craft item or method. Also, a brilliant corner of the shop is adorned with buttons, beads, and necklace/bracelet fastener for those individuals who want to learn to create their own jewelry! It’s truly a maker’s delight! For the future, Donna would like to be host to Ladies Night Out and BYOB gathering at Embellish where you can reunite with friends over crafting for a particular holiday or event!

 

EmbellishWhat makes Embellish so unique? Donna is opening this new shop to be a boutique crafting experience for you – the customer. It’s not just pre-made designs – but catering to a seasonal design that you would like to sit down and create! Better yet – the inspiration for her store is her little sister, Nicole, who recently passed away and who was “one of the most creative people”. In honor of Nicole, Donna is starting a foundation called the “pixiemagic”. Her sister was “the most generous person” and therefore 10% of each sale at Embellish will go toward this foundation which will reach out and benefit local charities to make a “real difference in individual’s lives”. This crafty store is going to be around for a long time – imagine all the possibilities that you can dream up and “embellish”! Craft away my friends! Be sure and stop by Thursday, September 28 from 9:00 am– 5:00 pm and tell Donna “hello”!

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GaGa Pits

Cranford is Going Gaga Over GaGa Pits!

Gaga PitsAnyone know what these things are? I didn’t either – but I HAD to find out because one magically on a Sunday afternoon at Orange Avenue Pool! Adults were scratching their heads and kids were screaming with delight! You’re about to reach a new level of “cool” with the kids because I’m about to school you on the game of GaGa and how a community came together to give Cranford the hottest new pastime for children!

According to the GaGa Center, “GaGa is a fast paced, high energy sport played in an octagonal pit. The more players the better! Dubbed a kinder gentler version of dodge ball, the game is played with a soft foam ball, and combines the skills of dodging, striking, running, and jumping, while trying to hit opponents with a ball below the knees. Players need to keep moving to avoid getting hit by the ball. Fun and easy, everyone gets a serious workout.”

Remember dodge ball in gym? I believe that’s pretty much banned now so they had to reinvent the wheel! With GaGa, about 10 children enter the “pit” and have to avoid being hit by the foam ball. Last player standing, wins. Then it starts all over again. I hear it’s quite addicting! For reference or if you want to look “cool at the pool” – here are some “official” rules that I found online. Of course, our Cranford kids may make up their own “house rules”!  GaGa Official Rules

So how did the GaGa Pit come to Cranford? News travels, folks! The GaGa Pit was constructed Sunday, July 9 and I had the name and number of the “head honcho” within the hour. I called up local Cranford resident, Frank Klapinski to find out how this phenomenon came to be at Orange Avenue Pool.

The story that unfolded is the very reason I love our town. Someone comes up with an idea for the community and, with the power of the people and the kindness of their hearts, it just gets done! Frank and some other local fathers had been to a cub scout event at Camp Speers in Dingmans Ferry, PA. Everyone had a blast with this new GaGa Pit and they all thought, “We need to do this! We have to bring this to Cranford!”

Upon arrival to Cranford, a “team” was assembled and their feet hit the ground running. They scoured the internet and found their desired pit design. Around Memorial Day the team called and met with the Director of Cranford’s Recreation & Park’s Department, Steve Robertazzi. Everyone put their heads together to come up with the perfect spot for the pit. The old tether ball court in the back corner of Orange Avenue Pool seemed like the perfect spot for this new addition! The group continued to meet to develop the plan, fundraise, and construct their materials list.

When they say, “It takes a village” – it truly did in this case! All of the pressure-treated wood came from Home Depot. The fathers and their children met during two nights off and cut the wood and preassembled walls. The Orange Avenue Pool staff, DPW, and the GaGa team took out the preexisting asphalt court and prepped the area for the arrival of the pit. Then all of the pieces were transported to Orange Avenue in pickup trucks that the fathers’ owned. Finally, on Sunday, July 9, they assembled the GaGa Pit in about two hours!

The children who knew about the game GaGa were very excited and soon began teaching the other children at the pool. Everyone came to watch this new game being played! Frank commented that the attraction of the game is that all age groups can be included and the “simple, unstructured rules” are appealing. “It keeps kids constantly active!”

Frank said that this project was a lot of fun. He mentioned, “We had a lot of cooperation – the dads were very excited.” This “GaGa team” (including Frank) consisted of all Cranford dads: Dave Mehr, Steve Kelly, Keith Muccigrosso, Andrew Soytka, Dominick Lanzisera, Cameron Andre, Greg Wofsy, Craig Sjursen, Robert Kelly, Chris Bath, and Joe Uglialoro.

Frank wanted to add a note of thanks to Cranford’s Steve Robertazzi and the pool staff, the DPW, Pat Giblin for supporting the idea, and the spouses for supporting the dads and their idea! He mentioned that the whole GaGa team is “happy to donate a small, fun thing back to Cranford!”

Okay folks – there it is! Read the rules and head over to the pool! See what all the fuss is about! It’s bound to be a great summer over there! Thanks Cranford dads for taking action and adding to our wonderful town. Who knows – you may start seeing more GaGa Pits popping up in unexpected places!

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Cranford Porchfest

Cranford Porchfest 2017: Taking Porch Sitting to a Whole New Level!

Cranford Porchfest

I can’t think of a more perfect union: porches and music! Add our quaint town of Cranford into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect day! Here comes Porchfest 2017 to Cranford! Folks, get ready for October 21st from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm!

A great town begins with people who care and have an invested interest in the happiness of all who reside. Thank you Cranford Community Connection for finding this national phenomenon and realizing that Porchfest is exactly what our town needs! Founded by Lesley Green and Gretchen Hildreth in Ithaca, New York in 2007 – the concept of Porchfest has taken the country by storm. When so much negativity is surrounding us, the need to come together as a community through the power of music and neighborly love is overwhelming.

 

Porchfest is a FREE musical event and completely powered by the “do-it-yourself” concept. It is orchestrated by local volunteers, space provided by homeowners, entertainment performed by musicians donating their time, and a day enjoyed by the community!

 

The purpose of the Cranford Community Connection is to bring the neighborhoods of Cranford together to celebrate community and friendship. The masterminds behind Porchfest are all Cranford residents: Ashley Legg, Randy Geis, Jennifer Geis, Owen Dingelstedt, Chris Lenza, Jackie Carr, and Patricia MacLean. When the group was asked to brainstorm an event that would be perfect for the town, Jennifer immediately thought of Porchfest. The committee’s instant response was, “Wow, we gotta do this – we have to make it happen!” Within the first few minutes of Randy Geis’ Facebook post in December, the “Likes” started pouring in! Everyone wondered what this was all about and the anticipation kept growing!

 

I sat down with Randy Geis to get an idea of their vision for Cranford Porchfest in October and how you can submit your perfect porch or enter your band/music group for consideration! Randy indicated that they want to keep the first Porchfest very simple. “Every porch host, performer, and attendee is in effect a co-creator and real-time manager of the event.” It’s meant to be an afternoon of families walking around Cranford – “enjoying time together and the music we have put together.”

 

He said, “Our goal is to hit the four quadrants in town!” They ideally would like the participating porches to represent those areas with equidistant walking into town. There will be no streets closed, no outside food vendors brought in, and no souvenirs for sale. The committee encourages everyone to put a chair on their back, bring a stroller, ride a bike, or walk the town.

 

The event will take place from 2:00pm – 5:00pm with 8 porches participating in Cranford Porchfest. There will be 3 performances at each home and the set up and take down will all occur within the hour. At 5:30pm the “big act” will perform in the gazebo next to the Cranford Fire Department!

 

The call out is right now for musical acts and porches and all information can be found at their new website Cranford Porchfest

 

So you think you have the perfect porch for a musical act?

Deadline to submit is July 13!!

Pssst! You don’t even have to have a REAL porch! The committee will take into consideration stoops, yards, driveways – anything that allows a large crowd to gather and is street-facing. They ask that you are available the date of the event and are willing to work with the 3 musical groups that will be performing at your home. Also, they hope you don’t mind music goers enjoying your lawn! If you think that you have the hot spot for a band and the traffic on your street is minimal – hurry to submit your home with pictures and address to Cranford Porchest. They will be choosing 8 homes and hope to have porches that represent each section of town. Once selected, you will receive further information from the committee.

 

I have a great band or musical act and would like to be considered!

Cranford PorchfestSubmissions will run from July 1 – September 1

Randy said that the committee wants music from “across the board” – they want to consider everything! You’re in luck! If you or someone you know is in a jug band, church group, solo act, string quartet, kid band, rock band, or can play a mean harmonica – you may just have a chance! They encourage groups from all over New Jersey – not just Cranford. All genres are welcome as long as you love to perform! You must be available on October 21, be able to complete your performance within an hour, and are ready to celebrate music in Cranford! Start by submitting your musical act or band to Cranford Porchfest.

 

The fall will definitely be exciting with the appearance of a new town-wide event that is focused on family, neighbors, and celebrating music within the community. Cranford is host to so many beautiful homes and the fact that music goers can walk or bike the streets of town to congregate on lawns and listen to music is simply heavenly. Cranford residents are all in such anticipation for this October afternoon! Stay posted for a future blog from me highlighting the specifics on Cranford Porchfest 2017 and what porches you’ll be rockin’ on!

(p.s. Sneak peak! The homes posted in this blog are ACTUAL porches that have already been selected!)

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The Nearly NewYorkers

The Nearly NewYorkers… A Cranford Culinary Workshop

Let’s face it–everyone loves to EAT, but not everyone loves to cook or knows how to do it well! Two savvy Cranford mothers came together to launch The Nearly NewYorkers, a culinary workshop that will light up your kitchen, enhance your cooking techniques, and bring your loved ones together for an evening of full bellies and lively conversation. 

 

Erin Reilly and Sydney O’Hagan both were born elsewhere and found themselves living in Manhattan. With all the joys and changes that children bring, they independently took the big leap and decided to move to the suburbs and each fell in love with Cranford…and the very same street. Sydney moved to Cranford in 2014, while Erin and her family moved in the following year, and Erin said, “We got along really well right away.”   

As Erin and Sydney’s friendship grew, they found they had a mutual love for wine, food, adventure dreaming, running, and travel. They started training together for a half marathon, and during the long runs they’d pick topics to discuss. On one such occasion, “dream vacations” was the discussion … for 11 miles. Each took her turn, and Sydney revealed her secret desire was to attend a culinary workshop hosted by renowned food writer and French chef Mimi Thorisson. Later that night Sydney sent Erin the details of the workshop: it would take place the Thorisson family’s 19th century, 27-room, sprawling French chateau nestled in the countryside of Médoc, France. (Discover Mimi’s stunning blog at thttp://mimithorisson.com/). With Sydney being the “dreamer” and Erin the “doer,” the trip was decided! It took a year of planning and funding along with a whole lot of support from friends and family, but soon they found themselves ready to board a plane to France!

The four-day workshop in the gorgeous French countryside was a dream come true for both of these moms as they sampled the very best of French wine and food and learned to create phenomenal dishes. Sydney shared, “We had an incredible time and we came home and were like” –as Erin finished her sentence–“it just followed us, the feeling. We had all this stuff we brought home … we thought we should have a dinner where we bring France home to everyone!” “As a thank you to them,” Erin added. “We tried to emulate what Mimi did.”

The concept of their business was easy. Sydney mentioned, “We constantly share meals with each other–eating each other’s food all the time. We know how the other person cooks.” The two families are always together eating lunches, snacks at the pool, dinner prep collaborations–the total advantage of living so close! They set out to create their workshop, focusing on what they thought was current and poignant to today’s households. Erin said, “This was a combination of the two interests – entertaining in a beautiful way to make people feel loved and special … and a workshop where we can teach people how to do something and maybe make it a little more easy, or fun, or try something they’ve never tried before.”

Why the name The Nearly NewYorkers? Don’t be offended thinking that they live in the suburbs yet are longing for their old NYC life. Just the opposite. They are loving the location of Cranford in such a rich, cultural environment. “You can have the best of all worlds here,” they agreed.

Their concentration is spot-on; how to cook meals using fresh and wholesome ingredients and stretch your dollar as far as it can go. They both grew up being taught that you “don’t throw things away – no one has the budget for it.” Sydney added that they want to teach you “how to use a product and get the most out of it.” And cooking novices need not fret; Erin said, “We’re not technical – we try to be ‘easy’ and ‘useful.’”  

The Nearly NewYorkers

Their first workshop focused on cooking with CSA produce, and the feedback they received from attendees was glowing. Erin said, “After our first night – it was literally roaring in here — everyone having such a good time– it was exactly as we wanted it to be! We want them to come in and be chilled out – have a cocktail and get to know each other.”

Have I piqued your interest now? Go to www.nearlynewyorkers.com and click on “Workshops.” Each workshop costs $40 ($5 off if you bring a friend) and includes cocktails and food pairing, cooking demonstrations, hands-on food prep, learning how to extend the ingredients into other meals, and an adorable take-home recipe package. These intimate workshops are held at Erin’s beautifully renovated Cranford home with an open concept great room that opens into a picturesque backyard deck and outdoor space perfect for entertaining!

Now here’s the scoop for what’s in store for the summer:

Canning and Fermentation Workshop (July 15): You’ll sample cocktails based on the theme – we’re talking Bloody Marys and “Red Beer” (secret recipe from Sydney’s mother!). Learn how to make homemade kombucha, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and sourdough bread. You’ll come away learning the entire canning process for preserving fruits/vegetables and how to store those more difficult liquids (broths, soups). Expect a memorable dessert – a little birdie mentioned sourdough waffles …  yum!

Back to School Lunches and Dinners Workshop (August 26): “Our kids like to cook and are adventurous eaters – they are interested in food. If they make it, they are more prone to eat it. School lunches are a good opportunity to engage kids in their food.” This workshop will focus on how to give kids their “protein” when many schools are nut-free, how to prepare fun bento-style lunches versus boring sandwiches, how to make the most of meal-prep Sundays, and “what tools are essential, and how to really stretch your dollar.”

  

What’s their vision for the future: bridal showers, Couples Night, Kids Baking Parties, Cooking Essentials for New Parents, What Every Newlywed Needs to Know, and more. And while their gorgeous and inviting homes are perfect for the intimate gatherings they currently offer, their big dreams may lead to their own commercial space one day. In the meantime – it’s another brilliant concept put into place by two moms with small kids who dreamt big and made it happen.

“Food is the central thing to everything– how we show our family we love them, how we entertain, how we take care of people. That’s how I want people to feel making food with us – they feel welcome, warm and special.”

Let The Nearly NewYorkers help you be the cook and entertainer you always dreamed to be!

 

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Cranford ROCKS!

Cranford ROCKS! A New and Fun Tradition!

My Assistant Angela is in LOVE with this rock... she tells her kids "Don't forget to be awesome!" before every soccer game!

My Assistant Angela is in LOVE with this rock… she tells her kids “Don’t forget to be awesome!” before every soccer game!

A Cranford mom (and one of my favorite clients EVER!) has brought an adorable new tradition to town that is making people smile left and right! It’s called Cranford Rocks, and it has nothing to do with music.

Kristen Mider moved with her husband and children from Brooklyn to Cranford 3 1/2 years ago. Back when she lived in Brooklyn, her family participated in something that is unofficially known as Kindness Rocks, where people of all ages paint rocks and hide them in the neighborhood for people to find. Kristen said, “The idea is that someone will stumble upon one of the rocks, and it will brighten their day.”

 

 

One of Kristen’s friends lost her son to suicide and asked that people create Kindness Rocks in his memory, and that further inspired Kristen to continue this activity.

 

Around 6 months ago Kristen launched the Cranford Rocks Facebook  group to introduce the Kindness Rocks theme to our town. “We were the first to create the rocks in Cranford, hide them, and post about it on Facebook, and as soon as we did, it just took off. The page went from having just a few followers to several hundred.”

Kristen stresses that everyone is welcome to participate–even adults who don’t have children have painted and left rocks. The rocks are often painted in very bright colors, sometimes with messages on them such as  “Let the Sun Shine” or “Be Kind.” 

Kristen’s kids have found rocks at Lincoln Park, Unami Park, Nomahegan Park, and even Eastman Plaza in Downtown Cranford. And they’ve made sure to hide just as many rocks as they’ve found. Kristen said, “It empowers the kids–I want them to know they have the power to make the world a nicer place and lift someone’s spirits. They get so excited when people post photos of their found rocks online.” 

So go out in your backyard, find a rock, paint it, and leave the rock where someone will find it and then hopefully pay it forward! 

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