Tag Archives: New Jersey

Escapology

Escapology Opens in Garwood – The Live Escape Room Right in Your Neighborhood!

 

Escapology

Many of you may have heard about the escape room frenzy – they seem to be popping up and no one knows exactly what they involve unless you have actually participated in one. I’m here to tell you that the very BEST escape room around is opening up just minutes from the Cranford/Westfield area and is going to be around for quite some time because it’s just that exciting!

Adults, like kids, get bored easily with the same old thing. The new Escapology Escape Rooms in Garwood (Escapology Home Page) at 300 South Avenue next to Crunch Fitness has the most intriguing and gorgeous rooms around! They will keep changing as long as you keep visiting with your friends and family! Read all about the latest in group entertainment and what you can expect when they open their doors.Their soft opening is scheduled for NEXT FRIDAY, November 24 at 11:00 am! Walk-ins are welcome while they work on training their fabulous staff!

I sat down over the summer to speak with one of the owners, a Westfield resident – Michael DiChiaro. Believe it or not – he’s an airline pilot with a passion for mystery and riddles! He filled me in on why the partners decided to start this business in Garwood, why escape rooms were on the mind, and what keeps them excited every day when they go into work!

 

The franchise owners are Michael DiChiaro and his wife, Michelle DiChiaro. They joined with their friends, James Minniti and Ana Minniti. Michael explained, “This is a family entertainment business”. They discovered the fascination with escape rooms while his eight-year-old daughter was playing similar games on her IPad one day. She loved them so much that he scoured the internet to see if they existed in real life. They found the impressive company, Escapology, and Michael and his wife went for a visit. “We really loved the entire concept – it’s fun being a detective – like playing Clue!”

They wanted to open up a local entertainment center that was geared towards family entertainment, corporate team building, and hanging out with friends. The owners fell in love with the franchise Escapology because each room is intricately designed with televisions, amazing scenery, and hidden clues that could possibly open secret doors! This is the largest franchise in the business of escape rooms and is an overseas company that started in the United States in Orlando and Las Vegas. Michael stated, “There is no match to the quality of this particular company – amazing quality with computer based training!” Escapology is really like live “Clue” – you have some facts and you go and solve a problem.

With 42 escape rooms already in New Jersey, the partners felt the need to set up business in Garwood because the area was rich with families and so close to neighboring towns and NYC area residents! The Garwood location will be the first Escapology in the Northeast.

 

Unique to Escapology -there will be a large lobby and private lounge perfect for hosting gatherings of friends, business events, or epic parties. Six people will be able to play a mystery in any of the six themed rooms! Each experience is approximately 60 minutes – or depending on how quickly you are able to solve the mystery! With the addition of a private party room – this makes for a great afternoon or evening night out!

EscapologyOne can host huge events perfect for 80-90 people. A business could do a presentation in the lobby with breakfast or a birthday party with a chance to mingle afterwards. The presence of a large television can be used for any purpose – photo slideshow, business presentation, and videos! Escapology is also offering catering from local restaurants to add to the party experience!

Michael recommended that the age for playing the escape games is 8 years and up due to the complexity of the puzzles (however any child under the age of 8 is welcome and FREE). Individuals ages 8 and older will be asked to pay the special Grand Opening Price of $29 (Saving Santa room slightly more)! Children 18 and younger must have a signed waiver. The business welcomes everyone to come out and enjoy the excitement of escape rooms – perfect for large families, scouting events (earn a patch for a scavenger hunt/detective work), birthday parties for kids and adults, corporate events, mingling with friends, and holiday fun!

Here is a peek at the six rooms that you can experience at Escapology…

Cuban Crisis: You are Don Frederico, a CIA Field Operative, your code name is Gerrard “Gerry” Droller and you work directly for the President of the United States, J.F. Kennedy. Your mission is to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s palace, locate the secret KGB office, and find out who was responsible for shooting down the American plane.

Arizona Shootout: The whole shoot out takes only 30 seconds – the most terrifying 30 seconds of your life! After the dust settles, 3 bodies lay in front of you. Quickly, you notice two of your people are injured but the rest are unharmed. The marshals have won the fight! However, there is some bad news: the other 2 outlaws are nowhere to be found. The marshals must quickly identify who has been shot and who is on the run. You will have 60 minutes to complete this task or the 2 outlaws will surely escape to Mexico!

Antidote: You are a team of scientists investigating Dr. Brandt’s abandoned laboratory. You’ve been tasked with finding the only known antidote to virus TS-51 before it gets passed into enemy hands.

Budapest Express: Moving through the cabins and gathering evidence, the killer knows you are hot on their trail and has decided you are their next target. With you out of the picture they would be free to escape when the train stops. Solve the riddles and puzzles, gather the evidence and solve the murder before it’s too late!

TH3 C0D3: You are an FBI agent and know that Nitr0 always provides a kill code for every crime in case things go awry. You must find that code, kill the program, and escape within the hour so you don’t take the fall for the biggest crime in American history

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Saving Santa: (Just in time for the holidays!) PLEASE NOTE! This game is designed for children and is perfect perfect for 5 to 14-year-olds. Adults will find this game too easy so bring the children and let them solve the puzzles! Four-year-olds may be a little young but the room has a fun design and there are special treasures to find along the way! Their Secret Elves will guide you through the game and let you know whether the adults may need to help the youngsters along! Escapees MIGHT actually get to meet Santa who MIGHT have a small gift to thank them for saving him!! But don’t let on….

It’s just too much fun and I can’t wait to bring my friends and family to experience a PRIVATE game room – because you NEVER play with strangers! Make sure you book online NOW for any date on or after December 7: Escapology Online Booking. Again, there is a soft opening on Black Friday, November 24 – just walk in anytime starting at 11:00 am!

With the holidays right around the corner– it’s a great time to visit with friends and family. Visit their website at Escapology Garwood to find out more information on your visit and to order gift certificates! Make sure to “Like” and follow their Facebook page EscapologyNJ for current deals and promotions! Call 908-232-2222 for any questions or email Michael or one of his partners at [email protected]

Garwood’s original real-life escape game experience! Located in a prime spot next to Crunch Fitness in the Kings Shopping Center, up to 6 players will be challenged in this new attraction by working together to find clues, solve puzzles, and pick locks that will free them from the game room. Do YOU have what it takes to escape?

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Solar Eclipse

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Protect Your Eyes!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Other Events Throughout the State…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Other Ways to Enjoy the Eclipse-

 

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

 

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

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Strong As A Mother Fitness in Cranford NJ

We mothers have all been there–trying to get our post-baby bodies to look like they did pre-baby! But STRONG AS A MOTHER FITNESS classes are helping local moms gain strength and fitness (and quite possibly fit into those old jeans), all while bonding with their babies! 

Jenna Rosa and Dana Ryszetnyk launched Strong as a Mother Fitness in September of 2016, offering mommy-and-me exercise classes to the local community. “Each of us was drawn to postpartum fitness after the birth of our first child. We recognized that this type of fitness class was missing from our community.” Both Jenna and Dana are certified group exercise instructors, and Dana has been teaching pre- and post-natal exercise for 10 years, so she is an expert in this field. 

Jenna and Dana host classes indoors at the Strength and Fitness Club located at 570 South Ave E. in Cranford, and they also conduct outdoor classes at Unami Park during warm weather months. All fitness levels are welcome in Strong As a Mother Fitness classes. According to Dana, “It doesn’t matter if you worked out until the day you gave birth or if you have never stepped foot in a gym. We offer modifications to meet everyone’s needs and our classes are a judgment free space. We like to say strong mamas aren’t born, they’re made.” 

Mothers may attend the classes as soon as they’re cleared by their doctors or midwives to return to exercise (generally at least 6 weeks postpartum). Each mother brings her baby, and the ages range from 6 weeks old to 2+. Dana said, “Our moms like the balance between getting a good workout and tending to their child’s needs. We have eliminated the need for childcare, which they love. Beyond the physical health benefits of our classes, our moms appreciate the comaraderie of the group. We organize monthly events for our students outside of the gym. This further promotes our sense of community.”

Classes cost $18 each for drop-in, and there are significant savings if you buy bulk class packages (5 classes for $80, 10 classes for $150, unlimited monthly classes for $120). The fact that you don’t have to pay for childcare while getting a workout makes these classes such an excellent value. 

The Strong As a Mother class schedule can be found on their Facebook page @Strongasamotherfitness as well as on their website: www.strongasamotherfitness.com. You must register to attend each class by 8:30 am the morning of the class: https://strongasamotherfitness.com/classes/

Best of luck to all the mommies out there who take the leap and try a workout with Strong As a Mother Fitness . . . I’m sure both you and your bundle of joy will enjoy it immensely! 

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Check Out Kidoolo….A GREAT New Kid’s Party Place in Springfield!

A Party Place Like No Other!

kidoolo

There’s a new PARTY PLACE in Springfield, and it’s just what the doctor–okay, the kids–ordered! I had my assistant Christine check out the space with her two children ages 7 and 6, since mine are a wee bit too old for this spot, and her kids are already begging to go back!

Kidoolo (pronounced KID-uh-loo) opened on Route 22 in Springfield this past fall. Owned by husband-and-wife team Trish Stephens and Marc Turner of Westfield, Kidoolo doesn’t look like any other party place in our area. You won’t be accosted by crazy, swirly, brightly colored patterns on the walls and carpets when you enter. The interior design of Kidoolo is sleek and modern, clean as a whistle, and actually pleasant for parents to look at. Christine said, “I found myself asking where they got the cool leather benches for parents to sit on!”

There is a main sitting area for parents, with an adjacent “bar” where you can order light snacks and beverages. When Christine and her family were visiting, they were offered free ice water, which was a nice touch. Off the main lobby are our different play areas:

  • A climbing structure and toys.
  • An interactive dance floor area (not a separate room) featuring games projected onto the floor and a twinkling disco ball above.
  • A state-of-the-art laser tag arena, styled to look like New York City.
  • A video game room with 8 flat-screen TVs, various game consoles with tons of games, and bench seating, similar to the interior of a Game Truck.

Kidoolo was Trish’s vision, after receiving her MBA and working for 20 years in business and marketing for such companies as Nickelodeon. Trish said, “I  saw a void in the market when I was s earching for great kids’ play venues that provided awesome parties that weren’t overly crowded and were a little swanky . Also based on families hectic schedules, I wanted to offer exceptional services that made party planning stress free and extremely easy.”

 

Christine’s kids were able to play in all but the video game room, which wasn’t operating at that time. Christine said, “My kids actually did play on the climbing structure for a few minutes, but I would definitely say it’s best suited for children under age six. It’s a great spot for younger siblings to play while older siblings enjoy the other play areas.” 

She went on, “The dance floor was a lot of fun for my kids–they’ve seen this at other indoor play areas, but this one was actually working correctly, whereas similar floors at other locales seem not to work as well. They even played a successful faux soccer game!”

Kidoolo According to Christine, laser tag was the biggest hit with her family. “We were ALL dripping sweat and cracking up by the end of it; we had the best time doing it together as a family. The room is very dark, lighted by black lights, with lots of New York landmarks and buildings to hid behind, and it looks really snazzy. Music and sound effects blast through while you’re playing. All of our laser guns worked perfectly, which I imagine could be a concern. My daughter was a little scared at first because of the darkness and the loudness, and the manager was kind enough to turn the sound down for us! Each laser tag game lasts 8 minutes. You can purchase just one game, or an hour of games, which is what we did.” 

With a private party room on site and various all-inclusive theme party packages, Kidoolo seems like a terrific choice for any kid’s birthday celebration. A great way to check out the facilities before you book a party is to bring your kids for open play or open laser tag. Open Play (which only includes the climbing structure and dance floor) is held Tuesday through Thursday from 10am-4pm, Fridays from 10am-8-m, and Saturdays during select hours as listed the Kidoolo Facebook page (@Kidoolo). Laser Tag is available Friday evenings and select Saturday hours as listed on Facebook. 

Look out for a GRAND OPENING event on Saturday, January 28 from 12:30-3pm! 

For more information about Kidoolo, visit their website at http://www.kidooloplay.com.

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For Sale! 338 Warren St, Scotch Plains

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Look no further than this 4-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath colonial in Scotch Plains that has the curb appeal, living space, and location you’re looking for! Gorgeous hardwood floors highlight the open floor plan of the first floor, with large living room, updated kitchen with center island and breakfast area, formal dining room, bedroom/office, and powder room. The second floor boasts a spacious master suite with full bath, two additional large bedrooms, and second full bath. The partially finished basement offers exceptional recreation space and laundry room. A parklike backyard, quiet corner lot location, extra deep attached garage, and central air complete this move-in-ready home. Conveniently located close to NYC transportation and within 1 mile of vibrant downtown Scotch Plains!

Priced to sell at $659,000 Fill out the form below for more details and to schedule a private tour!

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Garwood NJ Welcomes Alfano Renovations!

Garwood NJ Welcomes Alfano Renovations

alfano1THE KITCHEN. It’s the heart of the home, which is why everyone wants it to be the NICEST room in the house, am I right? It’s also the room where you’ll get the best return on your investment if you renovate it. Alfano Renovations recently opened in Garwood, and they’re all about making dream kitchens (and all other renovations) a reality!

Alfano Renovations began in Monmouth County and just opened its second location at 331 South Ave in Garwood. If you’re thinking about redoing the kitchen in your home, you should take a walk through their showroom. It’s so helpful l to look at cabinets, countertops, and fixtures in person as opposed to just browsing online to get a sense of what you truly like and need for your home. Among the cabinetry brands you’ll see in the showroom are Aristokraft, KitchenCraft, Candlelight Cabinetry, Schrock, and Wolf. 

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Alfano Renovations does much more than kitchens. Their residential services include bathroom renovation, home additions, interior remodeling, and custom building, in addition to the many services they provide on the commercial level. 

I love supporting family-owned businesses, and Alfano Renovations is exactly that, family-owned for more than 20 years! Michael Alfano manages the showrooms, design work, proposals, client visits, and deliveries of materials; while his father and two brothers coordinate the installation of materials and oversee all renovations and inspections. 

Unlike some similar businesses in the area, Alfano Renovations is a licensed contractor and showroom under one roof, so you don’t have to shop for your materials and the people to install them in two different places! They handle everything from design to completion, and their results are beautiful, as you can see from the photos. Michael said, “We have made the renovation process very easy and more streamlined so people can work on their daily lives and we can work on their project.”

Alfano Renovations is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, and by private appointments. Visit their website at alfanorenovations.com or call 732-922-2020 for more information. 

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Bella Organici in Downtown Cranford Takes Beauty to a Whole New Level!

Downtown Cranford is home to yet another new and exciting business (woman-owned, I’m proud to add!). Bella Organici recently opened on Alden Street, a spa boutique dedicated to helping you “love your skin, soul, and glow.” 

Bella Organici

Owner Danielle Deco grew up in the beauty business: her father owns several wildly successful spas around the United States and in Dubai. But Danielle didn’t merely ride on the coattails of her father. She received a BA in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University, so she knows the science behind the beauty industry. Danielle went to cosmetology school in Chicago and makes sure to keep current by continually enrolling in courses and seminars to learn the latest treatments. She holds a master cosmetology license from Chicago and a NJ estheticians’s license.

Danielle has operated spa boutiques in Hoboken and Fair Lawn, and opened the Cranford location this past September. If you’re a fan of the NJ Housewives, guess what–Danielle has treated some of them, along with a host of other celebrities! She lives right in town with her husband and two beautiful sons (one in high school and one in preschool!), and she knew she could bring something different to Downtown Cranford. 

Bella Organici wears many hats. Among the services you can receive there: high-end facials, back treatments (“facials” for your back coupled with mini massage and hot stones), luxury foot treatments, spray tanning, nutrition consultation, makeup application, body wraps/scrubs, and more. In addition to those services, Bella Organici has a spacious meditation room where unique classes are held, such a recent vegan cooking class, beginner’s yoga, chakra cleanses, and others. It’s also a boutique where you can purchase skin care, jewelry, candles, and other goodies. 

What makes Bella Organici truly different from other boutiques that offer similar services is that ALL their products are ORGANIC (hence the name of the business). Danielle is vigilant about seeking out holistic skin- and body-care products that are natural and beneficial to your skin. Even her spray-tanning solution is organic, made in the USA, and won’t leave you with that all-too-familiar fake-tan stink! And if you’re in need of more serious skin treatment, Bella Organici has both a doctor and registered nurse on staff to administer medical aesthetic skincare. Danielle said, “My clients are loyal and keep returning for our services, because we’re honest, and our approach is ‘beauty before madness,’ meaning that we strive for the least invasive measures possible to help you achieve your beauty goals.” 

Bella Organici

I had my assistant, Christine, test out a service at Bella Organici: an ice facial. According to Danielle, “We’re the only East Coast spa from Maine to Florida that carries Sculpt Ice. It helps detoxify acne and tighten the skin.” Christine had this to say after her facial: “I went for a test drive at a car dealership after the facial. I don’t know if it was a sales tactic, but the salesperson would not stop raving about my ‘glowing skin’! And two different people that day mistook me for being in my twenties.” (I’m gonna out her right now: she’s 40!)

Bella Organici is located at 29 Alden Street (downstairs). Call 908-313-8232 to book an appointment. Visit their website at http://www.bellaorganici.com for a list of services, and make sure to follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date about their upcoming classes and events. 

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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.”

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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. 

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The Cranford-Westfield Area Makes the Perfect Family Staycation!

 

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

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

CARNIVALS & FESTIVALS

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

Cranford Street Fair & Craft Show

August 21st, 11am – 5pm

Downtown Cranford

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

Kenilworth Fire Department Carnival 

August 15th-20th 

St. Theresa’s School

540 Washington Ave., Kenilworth

Hours: 

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

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

St. Bartholomew Italian Festival 

2032 Westfield Ave., Scotch Plains

September 2nd-5th

Hours:

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

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

Cranford Canoe Club

 A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:


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

250 Springfield Ave., Cranford

Hours: 

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

http://www.cranfordcanoeclub.com/

 

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

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

ECHO LAKE PARK

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

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

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM

1003 Morris Ave., Union

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

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

http://kean.edu/libertyhall

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

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

OUTDOOR MOVIES

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

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

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

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

OUTDOOR MUSIC

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

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

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

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

REEVES-REED ARBORETUM

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Hours: open from dawn till dusk 7 days a week

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

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

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

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Ponderosa Park

Cooper Road, Scotch Plains

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

Snyder Ave Park

240 Snyder Ave., Berkeley Heights

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

Warinanco Park

Entrance at St. George’s Ave in Roselle

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

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

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

TRAILSIDE NATURE CENTER

452 New Providence Road, Mountainside

Hours: Open 12-5pm, 7 days a week

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

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

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Local Business Owner’s Father is Laid To Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Flags

Having grown up with a father who bravely fought in the Korean Conflict, I have a deep appreciation for U.S. soldiers and their families. A local Cranford business owner was equally proud of his late father, who received a Purple Heart for his service in the military, and was able to secure a funeral for him in the famed Arlington National Cemetery. It seems fitting to share his experience with you as we approach Independence Day. 

Shaun Vanclief is the owner of one of Downtown Cranford’s best-loved boutiques: Atlantic Beach Soap Company. Shaun’s father passed away in 1997, and his mother followed in 2001, and both were cremated. Sean’s father had fought in the Battle of Normandy and received several accolades for his invaluable service. About two years ago, Shaun contacted Arlington National, where it’s a notoriously long process to arrange for funerals. Shaun said, “As luck would have it, they were just breaking ground for new mausoleums. I told them about my father, and asked if my mother could be interred with him, and they were very receptive to it.”

For those who don’t know, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia has been the burial grounds for former U.S. soldiers and widows of servicemen since the Civil War. There are currently more than 400,000 graves there. 

On June 6th of this year, Shaun had one of the most moving experiences of his life when his parents were laid to rest together at Arlington. I asked Shaun to describe the ceremony for me: “It was like a dance; I can’t explain it any other way. The whole experience was so fined-tuned and incredible, like a choreography. Right from the beginning with the chaplain down to the Arlington Ladies, whom I had never heard of before. I’m 58 years old, and I read a lot about American History, but I never knew the extent of service at Arlington National.” 

Shaun painted me picture of the scene at the interment. “Honor guards were stationed around us. My parents’ ashes were placed on a podium. I had supplied a flag, and they conducted a ceremony where they unfolded the flag over the remains while the chaplain gave a eulogy. A traditional 21-gun salute followed, and then ‘Taps’ played. They folded the flag back up, and one of the honor guards came to me with the flag, and consoled me. As soon as he backed away, one of the Arlington Ladies handed me a handwritten note of condolence.” 

Founded in 1948, the Arlington Ladies are a group of volunteers who all were either past servicewomen or who have lost a loved one at war. Their mission is to make sure that no one is buried alone. An Arlington Lady attends EVERY SINGLE FUNERAL at Arlington National Cemetery. And at the end of each funeral, one of the Ladies gives the next of kin a handwritten note. It is just such a lovely tradition. 

Shaun was so touched by the Arlington Ladies that he’s decided to launch a special soap for his shop, the sales of which will benefit the Arlington Ladies organization. Currently he’s waiting on approval to use their logo on the soap, and as soon as that permission is granted, he’ll launch it to the public. 

If you’ve never been to Atlantic Beach Soap Company, or it’s been a while since your last visit, definitely make a point to head over there this summer! Besides Shaun’s amazing-smelling handmade soaps and body products (I die for his coconut scent), he’s expanded the inventory into eclectic home goods and repurposed antiques. He also currently has three local artists, including Cynthia Dawley, who display their work in the store. And according to Shaun, “If I sell anything that is imported, it absolutely has to be fair trade.”

Be on the lookout for Sean’s new soap in the coming months! You can find Atlantic Beach Soap Company at 102 North Union Ave. in Cranford. Summer hours: Tuesday-Wednesday 11am to 6pm; Thursday-Friday 11am to 8pm; Saturday 11am to 6pm.

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