Category Archives: Westfield Township NJ

Westfield Resident Pens a Page-Turner

Few things bring me as much pleasure as a GOOD BOOK, and when I enjoy one, I like to spread the word about it. You might have heard of the bestselling novel “The Memory Box,” but did you know it was written by a Westfield resident? I caught up with the author to get the scoop on how her riveting debut novel came to be!

Eva Lesko Natiello Eva Lesko Natiello has lived in Westfield for the past 15 years with her husband and two teenage children, and only started writing creatively 12 years ago. Eva said, “I actually never planned on writing a book, but one day I read in the ‘New York Times’ an article about people Googling themselves. This was back when people just started Googling themselves. The article told the story of a teenager who Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list. He didn’t know that he was kidnapped when he was two years old, until he Googled himself. When I read that article I thought it would be a great idea for a psychological thriller. ‘The Memory Box’ is about a NJ suburban mom who Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember.” If that isn’t a great premise for a suspenseful novel, I don’t know what is!

Eva revealed that living in Westfield greatly influenced “The Memory Box.” She said, “‘The Memory Box’ is a fictionalized version of Westfield, which I called Farhaven. The opening scene at the schoolyard was inspired by the grounds of Franklin School. Some streets in the book were unintentionally named after streets in Westfield. When I was in the throes of creative inspiration and the writing was coming fast, I would use street names from town just as place holders for when I’d have time to really think about names. I never wanted to interrupt writing flow with naming, but in the end I never went back to change them. People think that some of the characters are based on locals, and they will stop me in the grocery store or at a party to tell me their theory of who the characters are based on. That’s always funny for me. None of the characters in the book are based on real people. But they are definitely relatable.”

Admit it: if you haven’t already read the book, you want to now!

The Memory BoxI enjoy interviewing creative people, because I get a sneak peek into the inner workings of their minds, almost like a magician revealing the secrets behind his tricks. Eva described a little of her writing process to me: “My current routine is to write 1500 words a day, and I usually write first thing in the morning and I will typically stop by noon. After noon, I work on the business side of being an indie author: marketing, public relations, distribution, etc. I also blog, so that needs to be fit in somewhere. I do have loose outlines for the novel in progress. It keeps my first draft organized and on target, but honestly, once the writing flows it can take me in directions I’d never planned. So it’s important for me not to stay too committed to the outlines. The characters always have their own ideas!”

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’re sure to be motivated by the story of how “The Memory Box” came to be published, because it did NOT happen overnight. Eva recounted, “When I finally finished writing and editing ‘The Memory Box,’ I queried literary agents in hopes of getting representation. Unfortunately, after about three years of writing to agents, I was rejected 81 times and could not find one to work with. This was a tough time for me because I thought if I couldn’t get an agent, the book would never be published. So I put it away for over a year and worked on other projects. Then one day a book called ‘Gone Girl’ was published, and after reading that book and seeing its success, I realized ‘The Memory Box,’ which is in the same genre, had a potential audience out there. That’s when I decided to self-publish. It took a long time to learn about self-publishing and cover designing, and copyediting, and distribution, marketing etc. It finally was published in June 2014 and is available worldwide. I have also started to sell the foreign rights to the book, which is very exciting. And last spring, the audio book rights were sold at auction. You can imagine how happy I am that I didn’t leave it in a desk draw to collect dust!”

“The Memory Box” went on to become a New York Times bestseller and even reached #1 on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com,  and it’s been one of the top ten bestselling books at The Town Book Store in Westfield for three years running. Eva had this to say about the wild success of her novel: “Honestly, it has surpassed my wildest dreams. And I’m additionally proud of its success because it’s self-published. It’s very difficult to author a book and then do all of the business behind it as well. Indie authors, these days, are called authorpreneurs. It’s the perfect name for what we do.”

So many of us are members of book clubs (which is where I first learned about ‘The Memory Box’), and Eva is no stranger to them and has visited with dozens of book clubs to discuss her book. She makes sure to acknowledge those that have contributed to the success of ‘The Memory Box.’ “I am very grateful to the community for all of their support. I am sure that ‘The Memory Box’ would not have been as successful without the enthusiasm of the community, book clubs, and readers who have been so excited to spread the word. Thank you, readers!”

You can follow Eva and read her blog on her website: https://evanatiello.com. If you’re a fan of ‘The Memory Box,” please comment! 

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

INDIGO ART STUDIO IS ONE OF THE HOTTEST PARTY PLACES IN OUR AREA!

I’ve been asked this question by several friends and blog readers: Where are the BEST PLACES TO HOST A PARTY in the Cranford-Westfield Area? Well, there are quite a few, and I’m happy to report that there’s a beautiful new spot in Westfield where kids’ and adult events alike are becoming the talk of the town! It’s called Indigo Art Studio, and I know you will love it.

IndigoLocated on the second floor of the stunning Arcanum Hall building on the corner of East Broad and Elm Street, Indigo is family-owned and operated by siblings Sam Korkmaz and Bee McGee. According to Sam, “Our family has been living in Westfield for 18 years. We also own Roman Boutique and Roma Tailor in the same building. We love Westfield and it was the perfect location for us to open Indigo.”

Naturally I was curious about the name of the business–Indigo. Sam said, “The name Indigo was inspired from a restaurant and lounge in Hawaii. The place was whimsical, magical, and we felt the euphoria as soon as my sister and I walked in. Our studio space is so eclectic and beautiful that the name Indigo was the perfect choice.”

Sam went on to talk about the treasured past of Arcanum Hall. “Our building is a historical building. It was built in 1893 and has so much history. President Teddy Roosevelt gave his Whistle Stop speech on the third floor balcony in 1912. We had to share the history and this beauty with the community. And Indigo has the most enchanting view of downtown Westfield. Its whimsical and exquisite decor coupled with its history and the view make Indigo one of the most unique locations for special events.”

So what types of parties are being hosted at Indigo? Sam said, “We wanted to create a concept where EVERY age can enjoy. We decorated the place and made it very whimsical and different. We now host kids’ theme art birthday parties, sweet sixteens, bridal showers, corporate events, fundraisers, cocktail parties, and any special events. We’ve hosted pop-up art classes for kids and adults. We also rent out space to art vendors, cake decorators, and anyone who wants to showcase their talents and events. Our motto is, we don’t simply host events, we create amazing memories.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see from the photos, Indigo has already hosted a bevy of beautiful parties and events. Sam told me that the most rewarding one so far was a fundraiser for the Lederman Strong foundation. “We helped a family in need and had a swabbing station for bone marrow donors. It was wonderful to see our community coming together for a great cause.”

Make sure you follow Indigo on Facebook (@indigoartstudiowestfield) and Instagram (@indigowestfield) to find out about upcoming events. To learn more about booking an event at Indigo, call (908) 917-9867. 

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

The Westfield Farmers Market Offers Much More Than Local Produce!

farmer's marketIf you’re anything like me, you try to SHOP LOCAL and EAT LOCAL whenever possible. Well, you can kill two birds with one stone by visiting the fabulous WESTFIELD FARMERS MARKET, open every Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm from now until October 29th! You’ll find everything from Jersey Fresh produce, baked goods, dog treats, fair trade coffee, cooking spices, and take-home Italian meals–what’s not to love??

The Westfield Farmers Market sets up on the south side of the Westfield train station, where there is still plenty of free parking spots available on Sundays. Here’s a list of the terrific vendors:

Chickadee Creek Farm – certified organic vegetable, flower and herb farm

Donaldson Farms – fresh produce

Skeba Family Farm – fresh produce

A & M Naturals – natural soaps, body butters, lip balm, and candles

Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruits

High Mountain Foods – frozen pastas such as ravioli; focaccia; pickles; fresh mozzarella

Lithuanian Bakery – breads, pies, and donuts

Little Bear’s Biscuit Barkery – gourmet organic dog treats

Mo’Pweeze Bakery – delectable and divine allergy-free cupcakes and baked goods

Neil’s Sharpening Services – bring your kitchen knives, scissors, and tools (3rd Saturday of each month only)

Nicola’s Pasta Fresca – artisinal homemade pasta

Paolo’s Kitchen – frozen prepared Italian-style entrees

Patricia and Paul – artisans of fine oils and balsamics

Reign Coffee – specializes in Organic Fair Trade coffee from Central America

Top of the Mountain Honey Bee Farms – 100% pure and natural local honey

Wildtree Organic Spice Blends with Fran – rubs, seasonings, dressing, and marinades

WildtreeI caught up with Fran Prybylski, who runs the “Wildree with Fran” booth. After sampling her yummy offerings, I could see why people rave aboutWildtree products, even non-cooks like myself! Fran sells Wildtree certified organic spice blends, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings, as well as an array of flavored grapeseed oils (all products are peanut-free!). They’re designed to make cooking easier, as they are all matched up with simple recipes.

According to Fran: “The Wildtree products help families prepare and serve healthy meals on the table quickly. Since they’re made with certified organic ingredients,  the flavors are bright and delicious. Even in my own home, Wildtree always provides an answer to the mealtime dilemma of ‘What’s for dinner?'” A Westfield resident, Fran is no stranger when it comes to cooking, and said, “I love to mentor and inspire people to cook delicious food in their kitchens or outdoor grills.” Fran frequently hosts cooking workshops where participants make 10 hearty take-home freezer meals using Wildtree seasonings and oils.

At her Farmers Market Booth, Fran’s customers love sampling the different marinades, salad dressings, and sauces. “My top-selling products consistently are: Asian Ginger Plum Dressing & Marinade, Wicked Good Slow Cooker Sauce, Rancher Steak Rub, and the Scampi Blend seasoning. However, the Outrageous Orange Sauce, Spicy Thai Chili Sauce, and Happenin Hot Pepper Jelly have become super popular this season at the Market.” Ummm, I’m pretty sure I’d eat my own hand if it were cooked in that Wicked Good sauce!

I asked Fran about the vibe among the vendors at the Farmers Market. “There is such a nice camaraderie here. I make an effort to greet all the vendors at some point throughout the day. My first friends at the Farmers Market were the members of the Greater Area of Westfield Chamber of Commerce. The Market’s Director, Chris Devine, has been supportive and so much fun to work with. I always appreciate Tim York, Mary, and Gene’s weekly visit to check in on me. My favorite neighbors are the A&M Naturals ladies that sell handmade soaps. Sam from Chickadee Creek Farms is an inspiration to watch as she soley sets up and breaks down her gorgeous organic produce stand. I’ve enjoyed watching Mo’Pweeze bakery’s success as a true allergen-free bakery in NJ. And Nicola’s fresh pasta creations are so delicious and my weekly lunch.”

See! Even the vendors themselves shop at and enjoy the Market! So if you’re in town this Saturday, make a point of heading to the Westfield Farmer’s Market, where you’ll not only find great food but meet some great people too.

You can reach Wildtree with Fran at (917) 226-1958 or visit her Facebook page: Meal Plan with Fran.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

GHOS Training in Westfield NJ

If you resolved to get fit this year, but haven’t been quite lived up to that plan (or even started!), it’s not too late! According to Nasir Pharoah Guest–owner of the new GHOS Training Facility in Westfield–today is the perfect day to start working toward a healthier you.

GHOS

GHOS opened just this December, but the facility already has many members who swear they are now lifers! GHOS stands for Go Hard or Starve, which may sound a little too hardcore for some of us newbies, but there are many facets to the GHOS mission.

Nasir explained, “GHOS is an exclusive Life Balance and Weight Management program. We understand that in order for people to make weight management simple and lasting, a person must first find balance in their life.” GHOS is not simply a gym, and the extensive list of services at GHOS will clue you in to how well-rounded it is:

Nutrition Assessments

Nutrition Guidance Counseling

Meal plans

Meal Prep Service

Detox Cleansing

Fitness Assessment

Personal Training

Small Group Training (2-4 ppl)

Private Group Training

Indoor Cycling / Spinning

Functional Training

Boot Camps

Tactical Athletic Conditioning

And that list is just the beginning! Down the road, GHOS will offer TRX Suspension (Total Body Resistance Training), Monthly Nutrition Work Shops, Quarterly Open Houses, Food Shopping 101 (learning how to grocery shop) and GHOS KIDS ACADEMY. Also in the works is a TCY (Take Care of You) program for stay-at-home moms. Nasir said, “Mothers are so very important to their families, but it’s important that they take time for themselves to nurture their mind, body, and soul. Getting out and being physical is crucial.”

Nasir has an extensive background as a multi-certified fitness trainer and nutrition expert, and he employs four other instructors at the GHOS facility. Of his trainers, Nasir commented: “All our staff members were once GHOS members. They know exactly what it’s like to be a member or client starting from the very beginning working their way through the ranks to become elite. Who better to guide you other then a person who was once in that same spot/position?”

If you’re a novice when it comes to fitness training, or simply haven’t worked out in a very long time, Nasir says not to fret. “GHOS is designed for all fitness levels and body types. We specializes in building up the beginner, a person with no fitness experience or physically challenged.” The community feeling at GHOS helps to bolster everyone, as every class is filled with high-fives and endless encouragement from your classmates and instructors.

GHOS Training Facility is located at 361 South Ave E. in Westfield and can be reached at (732) 762-1954. Follow GHOS on Facebook and Instagram, and visit the website at http://www.nasirguest.com/ to view class schedules and learn how to obtain a free guest pass. 

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

Utopia Salon and Day Spa in Westfield Exceeds Expectations!

Utopia Salon and Spa

I can hardly type this blog right now. Why? Because my limbs are like Jell-O, thanks to the blissfully relaxing MASSAGE I just got at Utopia Salon and Day Spa in Westfield! My Executive Assistant, Marketing Director, and I had decided upon a girls’ spa day to get rejuvenated before the end of the busy year, and it turned out to be the best … idea … ever!

Located at 349 South Ave, Utopia wears two hats: upscale salon on one side, and full-service spa on the other. I’d known about the hair services in the bustling salon, but I had no idea that the spa area of Utopia is truly a retreat all its own. Nubia Suarez has owned the salon and spa for 10 years now, and she says: “The name ‘Utopia’ means the ‘most perfect place on Earth,’ and that’s exactly what we strive for here at our own Utopia.”

When you enter the spa, you forget all about being in a hair salon in Westfield! You’re greeted by soft music, calm lighting, and offered ice water or a mimosa. The pedicure area is luxurious, with silk pillows at your back and tropical-esque baths at your feet. I was delighted to see fresh rose petals sprinkled on the beds in the massage rooms–not something you see at every massage!

We all got massages from Tina Silva, whose deft hands worked out all the knots–heck, I almost fell asleep! Tina utilized hot stones as well, something new to me, and it was incredibly relaxing. I also had a facial with Sueli Cifarelli (a licensed skin-care specialist who knows her stuff!), and my skin was positively glowing afterward! My assistant Angela had a soothing spa pedicure, followed by a beautiful yet subtle makeup application in the salon area. I have to confess that once I took a look at Angela’s gorgeous makeup, I immediately scheduled an appointment to have my own makeup done for a holiday party! That Olivia is an absolute GENIUS!!!

After our treatments we all wondered: 1) Why hadn’t we tried this place before, and 2) When could we come back?!! 

Utopia is currently offering some fabulous spa packages as winter specials–check them out on facebook or visit http://www.utopiasalonnj.com/. You can reach the salon and spa at: 908-928-0008. Tell them we sent ya!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

“The Gardens” is One of Westfield’s Most Picturesque Neighborhoods

Every once in a while I like to highlight one of the charming neighborhoods in our area. This week’s spotlight is on The Gardens section of Westfield, a truly picturesque neighborhood that is one of the most sought after places to live in town.

The Gardens comprise a little less than a quarter mile of the streets on the North side of town between Lawrence Ave. to the West and Mountain Ave. to the East. I love driving through the wide, winding streets of The Gardens, flanked on either side by sidewalks and towering birch trees.

The houses are something to behold in this neighborhood–classic colonials and elegant tudors all look as if they were plucked from the pages of a picture book. The lots are wider here than in many other areas of Westfield, and homeowners take great care to manicure their landscapes meticulously. The proximity of The Gardens to downtown Westfield, to the shops of Mountainside, and to Route 22 make it a convenient place to live.

Kristen Pfister had been resident of The Gardens for seven years, and she has summed up its appeal so eloquently. She says: “My husband grew up in Westfield, and when we decided to start a family, we wanted to raise our children here. We looked at homes all over town. The first thing that attracted us to The Gardens were the tree-lined streets and beautiful colonial homes–it reminded us of the movie ‘Father of the Bride.'”

She continues: “In the time we have lived here, many young families have chosen to make The Gardens their home. The sound of children’s laughter now greets you when you step out your front door. Families take turns walking the kids to school. There is always a friend at the ready to lend you a cup of sugar or to share a glass of wine. In summer, it is the block party, and on Christmas Eve the luminaries that line the streets. It is all of these things and the feeling of being a part of something that makes The Gardens the perfect place for us to call home.”

Talk about a ringing endorsement for a neighborhood! Take a stroll through The Gardens and you’ll see why residents such as the Pfister family have fallen in love with where they live. And you all know you can call me anytime to view houses for sale on the beautiful streets of The Gardens, and elsewhere in the Cranford/Westfield area: 908-447-3579.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

Westfield Seafood is an Area Favorite!

Westfield Seafood Honest. Fresh. Seafood. Those three little words are the slogan behind Westfield Seafood, and the truth behind them is what has kept customers returning to the local fish market for decades.

The only way you could get your hands on fresher seafood (aside from chartering a fishing boat) is if you traveled to Fulton Fish Market in New York City at 3 a.m.–which is exactly what Westfield Seafood owner Vince Bruns does. EVERY DAY. Vince has owned Westfield Seafood since 1984, and you’ll find him expertly filleting fish behind the counter at any given point in the day.

Located adjacent to the South Ave Train Station lot in Westfield, there is free parking in front of the shop. Inside, don’t expect a fancy-looking market. Westfield Seafood is simple and no-nonsense, but the beauty is in the seafood itself.

Every day you’ll find about 20 different varieties of fresh fish, such as flounder; lemon sole; snapper; salmon; catfish; swordfish; tuna; tilapia; branzini; as well as a more variable selection of fish that are more seasonal or harder to come by, such as rainbow trout, shad, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, and more.

We love the house-prepared soups, especially the Manhattan clam chowder and lobster bisque. There is also a great selection of shellfish, including cooked shrimp done a variety of ways; Alaskan king crab legs steamed to order; blue and stone crab claws; and good ol’ lobster. And let’s not forget clams, oysters, and muscles, as the seasons permit.

There are a variety of prepared salads available in-store, from shrimp salad to tuna salad made from FRESH (not canned!) tuna. And if you’re in a pinch for dinner, you can always pick up one of Westsfield Seafood’s prepared entrees, like crab cakes or stuffed flounder, which you can just pop in the oven and then look like a hero.

So the next time you’re craving fresh seafood, or you want an impressive shrimp cocktail for your next party, call or stop by Westfield Seafood. They’re open 7 days a week: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 7 pm; Sunday 12 to 5 pm. 908-233-3042

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

Westfield NJ’s Iconic James Ward Mansion

There’s a beautiful building in Westfield that reminds me so much of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Can you guess which one I’m thinking of?

image2

It’s the James Ward Mansion, of course, on East Broad Street in downtown Westfield, and it is a very special building inside and out.

You can’t help but look at the exterior of the mansion when you’re strolling downtown: stunning orange paint flanked by dark green shutters, white french doors, and intricate black cast-iron balconies set it apart from any other building. Eponymous owner James Ward purchased the building in 1997 and extensively renovated it into the majestic 10,000-square-foot mansion it is today.

If the exterior of the mansion piques your interest, the interior will take your breath away. The main ballroom–aka the Grand Salon–features soaring 24-foot-high ceilings, ornate gilded trim and artwork on the walls, and a three-story fireplace, not to mention several balconies. I can’t think of a more perfect room for a wedding.

But the mansion is so much more than a ballroom–it’s a delight to meander through the many different and equally gorgeous rooms.

There’s the Garden Atrium, lush with live plants and a hypnotizing water fountain, with a glass dome roof that lets the sunlight pour in. The pristine Chapel houses a 300-year-old gate and has seen many a couple profess their vows. The Library is a bibliophile’s dream, replete with shelves of first-edition books.

The mansion also has a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen that can accommodate all catering wishes (check out the incredible turquoise island!). An intimate dining room that seats twenty and two bedrooms straight out of history complete the layout.

For more information about the James Ward Mansion or to plan an event there, call 908-389-0014.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

The Westfield Summer Concert Series 2015

I love how our bustling towns still feel like old-fashioned villages when the community comes together for family-friendly events. The Westfield Summer Concert Series is a classic example of that! On select dates throughout the summer, locals gather at Mindowaskin Park for great music under the setting sun.

Westfield NJ Mindowaskin ParkSponsored by the Westfield Recreation Department, the summer concerts will take place at the Mindowaskin bandstand from 7:30 to 9:00 pm on the following Thursdays:

June 25

July 2, 9, 16, 30

The Westfield Community Concert Band will perform at all of the above dates except for July 30, which will feature the Westfield Swing Band (no doubt some people will get up and dance at that one!). Attendees should bring their own lawn chairs or beach blankets. Best of all, the concerts are FREE!

And don’t forget about the Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival every Tuesday evening from July 7 to August 25: jazz musicians will be scattered throughout downtown Westfield entertaining diners and shoppers from 7-9 pm (rain date is every Wednesday). For more information visit http://www.westfieldtoday.com/jazzfestival.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it:

Bring Some of Nature’s Beauty Into Your Life At Williams Nursery in Westfield NJ!

A sure sign of spring is the reopening of Williams Nursery for the season. I swear I could spend all day roaming its greenhouses, awestruck by the beauty of thousands of flowers in bloom.

 

Williams NurseryDid you know that Williams Nursery dates back all the way to 1920, when it was started as Williams Floral Farm by Royalston Williams? The nursery has thrived through multiple generations, and is now helmed by Royalston’s great-grandson David Williams along with several members of his family.

Today’s Williams Nursery offers a complete selection of shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals, herbs, and vegetables. Right now you’ll find gorgeous Easter lilies and the area’s largest selection of pansies, including unique varieties with frilly edges. If you’re like me and have a black thumb, fret not! The staff is perennially (pun intended!) friendly and knowledgeable about all things horticulture.

What makes Williams stand out among other nurseries is its commitment to offering uncommon plants that are new and exciting. According to David: “I will travel to trial gardens around the country to personally see how the new is growing before bringing it into our store. One of the coolest plants that we will have this season is ketchup and fries, a new plant that is a tomato and potato grafted together as one plant. Very cool.”

Williams NurseryIf you’re a lover of butterflies, David and his staff can direct you toward perennials that will attract butterflies. And if you love hydrangeas as much as I do, Williams sells newer varieties that flower from May straight through to the first frost.

Williams holds special events throughout the year, including an annual Halloween costume contest and the town’s biggest Easter egg hunt. In the fall, the great lawns become something of a harvest festival, with a giant pumpkin patch and weekend hayrides, pony rides, corn maze, and other games. This May they will host an organic gardening seminar, and in June you can attend a cooking-with-fresh-herbs demonstration (dates to be determined–follow Williams on Facebook for info).

IMG_7549 Williams Nursery Don’t forget to visit their great gift shop as well. Aptly named The Gift House, the shop has everything from jewelry to candles to garden-themed housewares — heck, I even bought my mother-in-law a pretty little purse at Christmas — and the prices are more reasonable than you’d expect. You’ll also find local jams and honeys and so much more in the main garden house.

Williams Nursery is located at 524 Springfield Ave. in Westfield. They’re open 7 days a week from 9-5 and sometimes later. Visit their website at http://www.williamsnursery.com/home

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it: