Tag Archives: Community

Little Free Library 07090

Message in a Bottle: A Feel-Good Story at the Perfect Time!

Like many of us this past week, Sara Liptack of Little Free Library 07090 in Westfield and her family were saddened and upset by the recent violence in our country. A message from two best friends in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina quickly changed Sara’s mood and she felt the need to share her incredible experience with the entire community!

Little Free Library 07090

During a fun night out with Cross Fit friends over the summer – Sara decided to keep a unique bottle of coconut rum that her friend had brought back from his hometown in Puerto Rico. Being an Earth Science teacher at Westfield High School, she was fascinated by ocean currents and how messages in bottles have been used in scientific studies. Sara, her husband, and her daughter Lyra decided to take that bottle and have some “good old-fashioned fun!”

 

They wrote a letter on August 18, 2017 and told of the location of drop-off in the sea, their excitement to see how far the letter would travel, and shared their contact information. The family rolled it up tightly and placed it in inside. Sara’s father “Pop-Pop Steward”, an avid fisherman, went out on his boat about 6 miles from Manasquan Inlet and tossed the bottle into the sea on September 7.

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Time passed and heavy tropical storms came and went. Sara said she was talking to her husband just the other day as they were collecting sea glass at the shore. Both wondered when or if they would ever find out about the bottle. She anticipated it could be even a decade before she would hear anything. Sara worried that perhaps someone would just see it and think the bottle was trash.

 

Literally one week later she received an amazing text. Best friends Wende and Christine from Kitty Hawk, a very small beach town in the Outer Banks of NC, had discovered the bottle during one of their morning walks on October 5! This was less than one month from entry into the ocean! They thought the bottle was cool and then realized there was a message inside. They fell in love with the fact that someone was on the other side of a heartfelt story and quickly texted Sara.

Sara was utterly amazed that these two women had not only found the bottle – but in the exact opposite direction as she had speculated! She was so happy that they were also happy to connect with her! She figured the intense tropical storms were the cause for the interesting direction of the message’s path into NC. The crazy part of this whole story is that Sara’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live in this small town of Kitty Hawk yet neither family knew each other! Maybe now they can all remain friends and visit!

 

Sara commented that this has been such an exciting experience. Wende and Christine wrote a new letter and included everyone’s contact information. They tossed the bottle back out to the sea. Sara was able to share with her class the interesting news and her students have been eager to investigate the history of using communication and science experiments through bottles. She feels that in this digital age, it’s a true “old school adventure”. She wants her students to realize that there is more to experience in life than just on an iPhone or iPad.

 

This is definitely a “stay tuned” type of story. I can’t wait to see where the bottle turns up next! With the craziness in the news this week, Sara’s impression on this story is one that we can all take to heart – “it happened to the right people at the right time”. Perhaps one small story of connection can motivate others to do the same.

 

You can visit on Facebook at Little Free Library 07090 or stop by to grab a book at 710 E Broad St in Westfield!

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Cranford’s Yale Terrace Brewery: 25 Years in the Making!

Yale Terrace BreweryCranford residents and all surrounding towns began rejoicing at the very mention of Yale Terrace Brewery coming to town. The opening of a craft brewery right in the heart of town is pure joy to all! Craft beer lovers – your prayers have been answered. Welcome Yale Terrace Brewery to 26 Eastman Street.

 The Yale Terrace Brewery website is packed full of information at ytbrewery.com but I needed to know the information that wasn’t posted on social media. I met with Vinny Savinelli – longtime Cranford resident and beloved owner of Vinny’s Pizza and Pasta to get the real scoop. As he told me the story of how the brewery was created, it was immediately evident that brewing with his best buddies has been a life-long passion.

 

Vinny related that it all started on Yale Terrace in West Orange with four friends: Pete Merrigan (the brewmeister who has the ingredients down to a science), Tom Brisco (the first mate), Rob Jones (official beer lover and taste-tester), and himself (the most business-minded of the crew). They grew up together as children and have been best friends since 1992. “I was there every day since junior high school!” commented Vinny.

 “We all get together and brew – we experiment with many different things – all different grains and grain quality from Europe, Canada, Oregon, Washington, and New York.” He mentioned that they are “always brewing, mastering, and experimenting with new concepts”.

 “We are even putting berries in our beer! We love our wine-infused IPA – it’s absolutely fantastic!” exclaimed Vinny.

Yale Terrace Brewery 

All of their beers are named only by a number. Each number represents a house number on a street of someone close to them. It could be a friend, relative, or someone they met during the journey of growing up together. The number could also refer to a memory or experience that they had at one of those locations! The owners joke that these beers will make for great conversations with customers – trying to guess what each one means! Here’s a freebie: # 19 Morse Street has a special Cranford connection to one of the owners!

 

The brewery will always have their 4 core beers (just like their friendship). They are #17 Yale Terrace: Cream Ale, #26 Yale: Oatmeal Stout, #34 Yale Terrace: Vienna Lager, and #161 Main Street: IPA. You can meet all of these beers at their home website. Throughout the year they will frequently rotate seasonal beers and special brews– for up to 8 beers on tap at a time. “We have 24 beers that we are all proud of – and will rotate weekly!” Vinny’s personal favorite? A Scottish IPA with five different hops imported from Scotland – the hop extract is placed in the whirlpool at the end and he claims that it’s phenomenal!

 

Why did they choose Cranford for their brewery location? Aside from the fact that Vinny’s pizza parlor is next door, he mentioned that “it’s all about the community – most breweries are on back roads or warehouses. This is in the center of town and next to a commuter train station – it’s the ideal location! The response from Cranford and the whole area has been tremendous! The support has been great – from the community and local businesses.”

 

The majority of the extensive licensing process is complete so it’s full steam ahead for getting the brewery to open as soon as possible (they are hoping mid-September). The owners want everyone to know that this is not just a place to sit and drink! The plan is to be open at least 6 days a week. Customers can expect to have live music, trivia night, and sports games on the flat screen TVs throughout the room. They want to have classes on brewing beer starting with the fermentation process on the premises. They want people to come in empty-handed and they will walk you through the process of brewing. At the end of the experience you have created your own beer in their brewery. The owners will also conduct tours of the brewing process and hope for customers to come in to drink pints and go home with growlers!

 

The grand opening is going to be “major” according to Vinny. Craft beer lovers should anticipate giveaways of YTB merchandise, live music, and incredible food from Vinny’s. The first day will be “open for everyone to come – expect mayhem and craziness!”

 

Yale Terrace BreweryWhat can YOU do before the doors open soon? Their YTB green shirts are everything! If you don’t own one get it NOW! Head here: YTB Store. That shirt is your ticket to the hottest event in town and the key to getting VIP information before anyone else! Owner Rob Jones also has a VIP Member fundraising campaign found here: YTB GoFundMe. For a limited time, you can gain VIP status and earn reward levels ranging from YTB accessories to a personalized brewing session with you and your friends!

 

Want the most current events and brewery info at the touch of a button? Join the mailing list at YTB Website and like them on Facebook at YTB Facebook

 

Yale Terrace BreweryAt the end of the interview I realized that I wasn’t just excited for a craft brewery to be opening in Cranford, I was happy for these four owners. Vinny commented that “it’s crazy that the four of us get along so well!” It isn’t often that friends get to work together and create something that they’ve been doing for 25 years! I’m rooting for this town and the lifelong friendship of these four men. I have no doubt that the surrounding towns will embrace the brewery and the owners as well. So, when you visit YTB in the near future – raise a pint to these guys who have been “creating unique quality beers…from grain to glass”!

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NosVino

NosVino: The Euro Café Brought to Westfield

NosVinoHave you ever exited a restaurant at night with half a bottle of wine still waiting to be finished? (Ok, it doesn’t happen to me very often, either!) You get my drift, though, right? The party has broken up and you still want to keep the evening going! Chris LoBrace, manager of the new NosVino in Westfield, has the answer to your evening woes!

 

The new outdoor seating at NosVino, an upscale wine and beer store on Central Avenue, is a welcomed sight to the Westfield restaurant goer searching to find a seating area to complete the evening.  Re-opened in August 2016 under a new look and new name (formerly Cool Vines), the process of obtaining a sidewalk café license was a bit of a process. But now that the bistro and chairs are in place – everyone is wondering what to expect! This store is ground-breaking, being the first wine store of its kind to obtain an outdoor café.

 

“To be honest, this is a good town for couples and families, but there isn’t much public space to enjoy alcohol and just sit outside!” commented Chris.  

 

So, what exactly is this café connected to the store? Chris stated, “We wanted people to behave the same way as restaurants, but with our store.” A big dream, some bistro chairs and flowers, and the space was created. Here’s how it works. You purchase an adult beverage of your choice from inside the store and hopefully some of their delicious charcuterie (more about that later).  After that, the experience is all yours. They recommend bringing your own method of keeping your wine chill, your own corkscrew/bottle opener, and glasses – whatever accoutrements you would bring to an outdoor picnic! Then pick a spot outside and enjoy the scenery and the company of the people who came with you!

 

Basically, once you exit the store you are in downtown Westfield and have entered Café NosVino! Folks- this is not a restaurant, a bar, nor are they serving booze. What you do have is a “self-service café”, mentioned Chris. The employees at NosVino are “not allowed to handle the alcoholic products in any way.”

 

“We have a lot of cool stuff!” added Chris. Yes, they certainly do! NosVino means “our wine”. Owner Erick Garcia has truly hand-picked an impressive array of domestic and imported wine and beer. You can find the best rosé, microbrews, champagne, and ciders all cooling in their refrigerated section! The shelves are stocked with Asher’s chocolate products from Pennsylvania, Plymouth Artisan Cheese from Vermont, domestic pre-sliced prosciutto, figs, and chorizo.

 

NosVino’s vision for the present: They want to cater to restaurant goers who are frequenting the BYO’s in town. The store wants to provide an outdoor space for those who still “want to enjoy the evening in Westfield and finish their bottle of wine!” commented Chris. “We want people to have the Euro experience – that is how you kill the time- outdoor with friends! Maybe you go for that 2nd bottle of wine!” They also want to be that “rendezvous” point for parties.  “Start the night at NosVino and treat it as a “welcoming café!” said Chris. 

 

Plans and wishes for the future? They want to further define the café and individualize it. NosVino is planning formal food pairing suggestions with in-store wine and beer available for purchase. Streamed music outdoors is also in the works! 

 

Other notable features of the store?

·      Their Beer Club/Wine Club started this month. 

·      Free spirit/beer/wine tastings inside every Friday and Saturday.

·      Stop by for free wine tastings during Westfield jazz nights

·      Free delivery to all downtown restaurants Thursday-Sunday 5-9 pm

·      Schedule a private event for you and your friends for wine tasting classes, wine pairing seminars, whiskey sipping, and beer education!

 

For now, NosVino simply asks that you make use of this al fresco sidewalk café and do what the Euros do – sip the hours away enjoying the company of those around you!

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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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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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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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Another Iconic Cranford Home Sold!

307 Prospect Ave Cranford

 

Sometimes I can’t help but fall in love with a home that my clients are buying or selling. Just take one look at this stunning colonial on Prospect Ave in Cranford, and you’ll see why it was such a pleasure to help my clients Amy and Rich purchase this dream house! It is truly an iconic home with so many standout features that this family will get to enjoy for years to come. My personal favorite feature is the AMAZING sleeping porch at the top of the grand staircase! Currently used as a fantastic family room, it is not difficult to picture it being used during warm summer evenings long ago. It is so charming! And I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful town for anyone to buy a home in…that is why I love living and working in Cranford!

307 Prospect Ave Cranford

If you’re not living in your dream house yet, don’t worry … IT’S OUT THERE! And I can help you find it. You can search properties through this site, but better yet, give me a call or email me so we can discuss your goals. I’m always one step ahead of the market trends and often I know of properties before they hit the MLS. Let’s schedule an appointment to meet to discuss YOUR specific needs! Coffee on me!

 

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“Wood”n’t You Love A Handcrafted Gift?

One of my favorite words is HANDMADE. I admit I’m quick to fall in love with pretty much anything that’s been made by hand with tender loving care. I’m not crafty in the slightest, and maybe that’s why I’m all the more impressed by the talented local artisans we have in our midst, like Stephanie Mattielli of Westfield, whose woodworking business is taking off. 

westfield woodworkingStephanie’s business–eponymously named Stephanie Mattielli Woodworking–officially launched this past October, but her experience with woodworking goes way back. Stephanie said, “My dad taught me how to use tools at a young age, so I’ve always had an appreciation for building and tinkering in the workshop. My family actually built my parents’ house, and it took us five years. We worked on the weekends and after school. It took us six months alone to clear the land of the trees. My dad would cut the trees down, then into fifteen-inch sections, which would then be split into firewood. So part of my chores growing up would be to split and stack wood. I also worked with my dad in the summers in his business as his ‘apprentice’ working on everything from decks to roofing. I think because of this I’ve always enjoyed just putting on a tool belt and going to work.”

I have so much respect for anyone who works with their hands. And to be a woman excelling in a formerly male-dominated field like this . . . well, that just knocks my socks off! 

Using her woodworking expertise, Stephanie creates a variety of rustic-chic pieces that compliment any decor, including wooden slab trays, hostess trays, platforms, chargers, coasters, and stump tables. “My hairpin tables seem to be a fan favorite,” she said. 

All of the wood used in Stephanie’s pieces comes from her parents’ land in South Jersey; most of the wood is oak, but some pieces are made with cedar or birch. Stephanie cuts all the wood in her father’s workshop, but then she adds the finishing touches in her Westfield home. I was curious to know what tools she uses to create these beautiful works of art. “We use just about everything depending on the piece; chainsaw, planer, table saw, band saw, router, drill press, different sanders, etc. I probably spend the most time sanding as it feels like it’s a job never quite done.”

Wood is a material that will never go out of style, and if you browse Pinterest, Houzz, or design magazines, you’ll see just how popular natural wood furniture and accents are right now in the world of interior design. Stephanie said, “I love the joy in natural wood, which is everything from the grain to knots to organic cracks, and my work shows that. With my stump and hairpin tables, no two pieces are alike as they come from different parts of the tree so they can’t be recreated.” Stephanie’s pieces are unique conversation-starters, but they are also practical, and that combination makes them such wonderful additions to any home. 

You can shop the Stephanie Mattielli Woodworking collection on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StephanieMattielli. Follow her on Facebook @stephaniemattielliwoodworking for updates on new products that might be coming down the pike, such as cutting boards and coffee tables. If you have something in mind that you don’t see on her Etsy site, contact Stephanie, because she gladly takes on custom orders! 

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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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