Monday, September 26, 2011

Back to the Cafeteria

I don't live in NYC but Amy does. So, every few months I try to get in there to see her, have dinner and catch up. I was supposed to go two weeks ago but she had a meeting and I had the E. Coli or whatever it was that was ailing me. I was able to go last week and just didn't get a chance to talk about it.

Poor Amy, with all the amazing restaurants in NYC, I literally make her go to the same one, Every. Single. Time. I love, love, love, Cafeteria- I can't even tell you exactly why I love it- It's LOUD as hell. You could possibly lose your voice yelling above the music. It takes forever to get a table, and a lot of the time, the service is for complete crap. Last year, I convinced my friends Stephanie & Jenn to go there when Jenn was pregnant.  Our waiter told his name was Jack Daniels. We actually all ordered something non-alcoholic for a beverage. I ordered just a diet soda so it looked like a diet soda. They both ordered some kind of berry lemonade. When they got the drinks, they didn't look like a mason jar like they were supposed to be in, but they did look like they could be berry lemonade. Yeah, they were both berry mojitos. More than VERY alcoholic. Hi, pregnant person. Major liability. He wasn't even really sorry- so it was more about major asshole. (And no, Jenn didn't drink it. We realized it with a sip each). Jenn had to say something to get us comped for drinks after that. It should have been automatic. And the last time Amy and I were there, the bartender was so rude to us, right away, it was baffling.

BUT, the good points- it's the gayest of the gay that work there and they're either smokin' hot or super funny or both. The hosts are usually the funniest. One time, I was able to trade my red velvet cupcakes I'd just gotten from Magnolia to the host for a quicker chance at a table. It went from a 45 minute wait to ten minutes. The butter for the bread biscuit tastes like it has sugar in it, every entree I've had has been fab, and depending on what you get, it's not too hard on the wallet. I finally committed their "Blue Plate Special" menu to memory so I know next time I have to come in on a Thursday. That's Honey Roasted Turkey-
Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes-Sauteed Green Beans-Rosie's Cranberry Sauce and Pan Drippings night. That is my absolute favorite meal there.

Anyway, Amy and I usually end up there for about 3-4 hours and no one seems to care (except my kid who seems to think I only live to put him to bed & gives B tons of shit when I'm not there). I never feel rushed. We got to sit outside this time so it wasn't AS loud. They have a mouthwatering dessert menu where I'd like to dive head first into almost everything on it.

Amy also lives in what I happen to think is THE coolest area ever. She lives in the teens, in Chelsea. There is ALWAYS parking on either her street or the one next to it. There are all kinds of fun places around her. I had to park around the block from her apartment this time, for the first time in the past four times I'd been there, so I got to see some new places I've never seen. I saw this place Lulu's- Well, I've never met a dessert place I didn't want to try. It's very sleek, minimal, etc. But, FUN stuff. They have their own versions of "twinkie"- chocolate covered, chocolate covered "yodel", and all kinds of spectacular looking cakes. I could only grab what I thought would fit nicely in my pocketbook through dinner without getting destroyed or destroying my bag. I got a chocolate covered "twinkie". I ate it the next day for dessert and yeah, it was good. I had shared Amy's berries & cream at Cafeteria that night after dinner and didn't think I really needed the twinkie.

For dinner I had their Wedge Salad to start and the Chimichurri Grilled Hanger Steak, Heirloom Tomatoes, Crumbled Gorgonzola Polenta Fries and Basil Aioli for the entree. It was SO good. I didn't even have enough to take home. I always have enough to take home, anywhere. But, they don't overload you, which is good for me.

I highly recommend Cafeteria, Lulu's, Chelsea, and...well, Amy.

So, thanks, Amy for a great night of food and awesome conversation. Not rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor hail will keep me from coming to see you. I cherish every minute. It was the night before the WGirls auction so I'm honored I wasn't bumped for last minute preparation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Putting the Red in Velvet

I'm back on the cupcake subject. I happened to stop into my store today to say hi to my husband and he asked me to run an errand on Rock Rd. I left E in the store and was walking up the street past Books, Bytes & Beyond when I saw a man at the corner just past Rocca holding what looked like a tray of sample something. As I got closer, he said, "I have something for you...". I saw he had cake. Well, of course I forgot all about my errand, for cake.

I tasted a piece of plain vanilla cake. It was good. He introduced himself as the owner of the cupcake shop, A la Cupcakes:  I told him I'd been in there but hadn't gotten around to giving them another go. He asked if I'd come in and check out what they'd done in the five months they'd been open and last I'd been there. I came in and he introduced me to Pam, the other owner/baker/designer of all things cake in there.

It still looked sparse as far as the cases go, but there are reasons for that. They make everything fresh that day, from organic ingredients- organic flour & sugar, and they don't sell any "old" cupcakes/pastries. So, they only make enough for that day. Now, I told them, unless they get the time to tell someone that, one would have no idea. I assume the average person is in a hurry, might be on a cell phone, and running in and out. Maybe plaques on the wall with their story or ingredient lists, or something- kind of like in Tasty D'Lite/The Lite Choice.  I KNOW those are lo-cal and Kosher because it's all over the place in there.

The organic thing is a huge selling point for me. As I said in my last blog, I was sick for about a week from a pesticide laden apple & there is news everyday about something gross or harmful in food we're consuming and feeding our children. Hey, cupcakes may not be part of the basic food groups, but they kind of are for me.  And if you gave me a choice of two cakes to give to my kid, one with organic ingredients and one with not- I'm going to pick the one with the healthier ingredients every time.  I'm sure they could do a little more with presentation to make the cases look more full or interesting, but it's only been five months so I cut them a little slack.

Today, the cupcakes looked a little bigger than the last time I was in there and they had some really interesting flavors. I really want to try this vanilla raspberry one with raspberry preserves inside. That's right up my alley. So, they are also doing the whole "stuffed cupcake" thing when the recipe calls for it. They have the "Hostess" one with the chocolate frosting and tell-tale white swirl. Of course there are the staples of vanilla/vanilla, chocolate/chocolate, etc.

I had to run out because I needed to get my child from my store before he caused too much chaos. As I was about to go, Pam offered me a sample of a small red velvet cupcake. I used to LOVE red velvet. But, I don't know, the popularization of it here has seemed to bastardize it somehow. I was ordering it everywhere it was offered and I have to say, a lot of what I bought was not good. I was kind of nauseated by the thought of any more red velvet PRIOR to today. But, I remembered my first taste of it, when it was good somewhere (maybe that was Billy's Bakery in NYC but I'm not totally sure), and recalled how much I loved it and would seek it out. There was no way I was turning down free cake so of course I took it. But more, for two reasons. One, I did say I'd be back to check them out once they had time to get settled. Two, someone DID write as a comment on my other blog about cupcakes that A la Cupcakes made them a red velvet cake that was fabulous. I felt I needed to try it out.

I ate it quickly on my way up the street. I did my errand and I actually jogged (those who know me know, I am no runner unless someone is chasing me) back to their store to tell them that it was THE BEST red velvet I've ever tasted. The cake was super moist and the FROSTING...Oh. My. God. It was PERFECT. I think that's a huge problem with many of the cakes/cupcakes I've tried. Some frosting is seriously nauseating. It's too sweet or not creamy enough or I don't know what. But, a lot of times, it doesn't taste fresh. Sometimes it can even taste chemical. THIS, this was the lightest, fluffiest cream cheese frosting that melted in my mouth. I can see it getting a little messy because it doesn't have that thicker, stiffer feel of a cream cheese frosting. But, I prefer this- I'd just lick my finger. It was almost like fresh whipped cream with a cream cheese edge to it. Really, really good. I'd totally buy it as a cake or cupcakes. I'm back loving red velvet. Well, theirs, anyway.

I think the best way to describe the cake part is "homemade". It tastes like someone who knows what they're doing baked it from scratch in their house. Not mass produced or frozen then thawed kind of cake.

They also make breads & cookies too- I honestly didn't even have time to look at the breads and there were some cookies but not a lot. I wish they did have more stuff- if everything else is as good as the cupcake I had, then I'm sure I'd be back to buy.  I love a good Blondie, I love specialty brownies like chocolate cheese when it's done right, etc. I'd also love to see some nice cookie platters. If I was going to someone's house for a playdate, I'd like to be able to get a nice small platter or box of a variety of pretty cookies. Those oblong cookies with the chocolate/sprinkles on the one end & jelly filling. More of a full service bakery feel. Wyckoff Bakery going out of business left a real hole for a good place to get baked goods to take on the go.  BUT, maybe just concentrating on the cupcakes is the way to go for now- they're obviously doing something correctly by the taste of the cake so maybe they don't want to get in over their head.

They also do all kinds of cakes- I saw pictures of what looked like a beautiful cross Christening cake. There was a two-tier birthday cake that looked like a "Desserts of Distinction" cake my friend had for her son's recent birthday. There were others too that looked really pretty.

Anyway- I'd high-tail it over there for some red velvet if you're hungry for cupcakes and want something really good. They also do deliveries too. I'm not sure how that works or who they deliver to, but if I worked in an office, I'd certainly consider Cupcake Wednesdays!

Oh, and loved that John was on the corner giving out cake. If I could have someone in a lampshade costume outside my store, I would. Great way of getting people in. Shows you care and really want people to try your product. Everyone stop by and get a taste while he's still out there! It would be cool if he was in a cupcake costume, but who knows, Halloween is coming!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hair We Go...

Well, *I* go. Loving this school thing for E for many reasons, one of which, I get to make an appointment for me without trying to secure childcare. My hairdresser is a 30 min ride with no traffic so I have a hard time trying to get there knowing an hour of driving time has to be accounted for when asking someone to watch E. Why do I go so far away when there are FIVE salons on the main drag in my town? Because everyone knows that once you find your perfect hair person, you drive any amount of miles. Who doesn't want movie-star hair?

I've been going to Don Grazano since he was working at Arthur Angelo in New Milford when I was in college. He then opened his own place in New Milford, then another place in Norwood, closed New Milford and now just has Norwood- Salon Azano, 451 Livingston Street, Norwood:

He's super busy so if you want an appointment, you best have your calendar out and expect it to take a few weeks to get in to see him unless you have a flexible schedule. But, I've never had a bad haircut or color and lately, I've been just deferring to his thoughts on what I should do with my hair. Before I go further though, I should say, he's not going to just do whatever you want if he thinks it's going to damage your hair or make it (and by extension, him) look bad. So, be ready for a bit of a 'tude if you try to tell him how to do what he does best. You have to have trust. If you bring in a picture of someone's hair that is a totally different type than yours and you say, "I want this hair", he's going to be honest and tell you whether you can realistically have it or not. Don't get pissy- that's his job. You don't want someone coming into your job and telling you how to do it- you'd have an attitude too! Just go with his recommendation and you'll leave with a haircut/color that will get you compliments everywhere you go. I know because people on the street have stopped me to ask where I get my hair done. I swear.

So, the biggest reason why I've been going there for so many years (I'm 37 now and college was a LONG time ago), is personal attention. I went to college an hour and a half away and would drive or have someone drive me all the way back up to Bergen County to have him cut & color me. At times, like when I was working in NYC and commuting, I couldn't make it to him within his open hours, so I'd try someone else here and there. I tried two places in the city, one in Maywood and one in Woodridge. So dumb. Big mistake. I should've just taken a personal day.

My biggest issue with all the other places was feeling like I was forgotten about. Don isn't afraid to shampoo you. He may be the "owner" but his attitude doesn't scream "owner". He isn't too important for any of the jobs he expects anyone else to do there. There is Brittany who does my shampoo usually if I'm lucky enough to get her to wash my hair. There is nothing I look forward to more than my professional hair washing and she is the best around. It's like a real massage and hair washing all rolled into one. She really cares about what she's doing and you can tell. But, if for whatever reason she wasn't there or had another client (she cuts too), Don does it. He did it today actually. Brittany had a male walk-in haircut so that was that.

At these other places, I was paying more, yet, I felt like I had 20 different people touching my head and I didn't like it. One person shampooing, another drying, another timing the toner, whatever. First, I then have to tip all these other people, driving my bill up ridiculously. One time, at a place in the city, they put toner on my hair and left me in the back shivering (it was freezing in there mid-winter) for who knows how long. I spent the entire time wondering if they forgot about me. They didn't tell me what was going on or what to expect and I couldn't see anyone back there. Since I never experienced the 20 person cut & color before, I was freaking out on the inside. I was five seconds from getting up to find someone before someone came back to get me.

The point is, if I'm paying for the top dog in the salon, that's who I want. I understand that other people do shampoo but I'm sorry- everything else should be done by the person I made the appointment with. Don has NEVER had someone else blow-dry my hair which is what happened at one of the other places. I'm pretty sure most people also go to their hairdresser because of the "relationship" they have. They feel comfortable, they dish, they get to know each other. That's why there are so many articles written about "breaking up with a hairdresser" and how difficult it is to do. I don't know how you cultivate a relationship with a hairdresser (or is it stylist? colorist? both?) if you see them for five minutes and they send you off to someone else. I get it if you purposely go to one person for a cut and another for color, but not if you're going to the same one for both.

There are two other girls who cut and color there- Melissa & Sani have been there for years- it's not like every time you walk in you see new faces. That says something about any business. I don't know how long Brittany has been there but it's definitely been years, just not sure it's as long as the other two.

I just love the personal atmosphere of Salon Azano. The prices are mid-range of places in the area. I've seen WAY more expensive (for less personal attention) and less. They sell the complete line of Eufora products. I never was a big fan of buying salon products before but any that I have bought from Don I fell totally in love with. They made a huge difference in my hair quality. He only sells what he believes in, not just what is going to make him money. He's extremely passionate about what goes on your hair so you feel good about what you're purchasing. There's never been a huge sales pitch, he just tells it like it is and let's you make the decision. Even if he knows I don't have the cash at the moment to purchase, he still goes through all the details of what the new products will do for me. He sells other stuff too but I'm talking about hair right now, so I'll leave that to him or his website to tell you about the other stuff he does there. Intrigued? I would be too. Check it out!

Basically I highly recommend. Although by doing this, it'll probably make it harder for me to get an appointment. Oh well. They deserve the recognition!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catch Up

Yeah, it's been a few days. I've been sick for about 10 days. I've barely left my house since Friday September 9th. I was able to eek out that post about my beloved WGirls because their event is coming up but I haven't had much to say. I figured I'd play a little catch up now before I dive into the Emmy Awards tonight. I'll steal a line from my friend Evangeline who loves TV as much as I do- "This is MY football".

Anyway, so my first PSA is to be careful to wash your apples VERY carefully before eating.  That was how I got sick first. I usually buy organic and wash well, but this time, I didn't buy organic AND I just gave it a quick rinse because I was in a hurry. Well, then I'm reminded by my husband that apples are one of the "Dirty Dozen", the 12 dirtiest (pesticides) fruits out there and I should be more careful. Thank you very much a few bites too late. If you want more info on the fruits and veggies most covered in pesticides, here you go-  How do I know it was the apple? Well, I didn't eat anything else out of the ordinary and I got sick shortly after eating the apple. I'm sticking with that as the culprit. So, this sickness lasted about six days and I get to eat nothing but white rice, plain bagels, and chicken broth (from the Kosher Nosh-, which is great BTW).

Around day #3 of that sickness, I started feeling like I was getting a cold or having an allergy attack. It was a cold. I was in denial. Normally I take those Zicam Zavors- I love these. And Airborne in pink grapefruit flavor- I don't care if there are reports that neither of these does anything for you. It's a mental thing. They both taste good and it makes me feel like I have some control. But, I was afraid to take either because of the stomach problem. So, mental or not, it's now September 18, and I'm still fighting this cold.

I have some more PSA's though. We normally go to Bensi in Paramus Park every Saturday night for dinner. It's our thing. I've probably mentioned it in a prior blog. Anyway, that's our thing. But, I was at a 1st b-day party with E this Saturday and we ate lunch/dinner later than usual. When B came home from work we got to talking, he kind of wanted to go to TGIFridays so I said fine. B said there was on up 17N so we left the house around 6p to go there. Yeah, it's out of business. We were passing Macaroni Grill so I asked him if he wanted to try there or go to the Friday's in Hackensack and he wanted to go to Hackensack. Now, I'm all the way up in Ramsey/Mahwah so it wasn't a quick ride.

We get all the way to Hackensack and it was an HOUR wait for Friday's. We went across to Applebees. Same thing. So, I said we should just get pizza in the same parking lot as Applebees. Oh, the pizza place there? "Coming Soon". I just started laughing. We're in Bergen County and we cannot find ONE place to eat without an HOUR or more wait. B said we should just go to a diner. He was ready to naw off his own arm and E was having meltdowns getting in and out of the car. We got on Rt 4 East and decided to go to that new diner- "4 West Diner". We missed the exit. Went to go to a diner in Englewood. Closed.

FINALLY, we ended up at Cassie's on Dean St in Englewood- We used to LOVE Cassie's. And really, no one can beat or replicate their awesome pear salad. But, our meals sucked. I got lobster ravioli and I don't know, it just wasn't good. B tried their whole wheat personal pizza and he wasn't impressed either. Hopefully they were just having an off night. I will say the actual vodka sauce the ravioli was in was really good. It was the actual ravioli I didn't like. We both highly recommend the pear salad though.

My PSA or moral of the whole sordid story- Either go out for dinner on a Saturday night at Early Bird Special hour- like 5-6p or MAKE RESERVATIONS somewhere. Anywhere that is willing to take them. Who thought Friday's would be so popular when there are six better (in my opinion) restaurants across the street?? I'm not sure we could've even gotten a table at a pizza place in that area (by Riverside Square) if we could even find one. Even Coach House's parking lot was PACKED! I was about to pull into Ikea for food. It's cheap, it's relatively good, and was open.

Today E had his second Teddy Tennis class at the Tenafly Racquet Club. The owner of this Teddy Tennis franchise is REALLY passionate about it and it shows. She LOVES what she does. I wish I could remember her name, but I'm not sure we got it before she really went into detail explaining the whole program. It is GREAT for kids E's age and I guess until 5 years old-ish. At 6 yrs old they have more of an intense kind of program. I'm so glad we did this with E. We get to watch on a TV screen in the waiting area/lobby what he's doing and he seems like he's having a terrific time learning the basics of tennis to music. He said he had a lot of fun so we're happy.

Then we went to the Ridgewood Street Fair which I mentioned in my street fair blog earlier. This is a really good street fair if you have kids. They have a lot of those blow up slides and two bounce houses. I stand by that you need to get there early- It starts at noon, we were there at noon, and we still had to wait on line. Not long lines at that time, but the street part of the event was already almost unwalkable there were so many people. I had E in a stroller which is a pain for everyone because it's tight, but he would have been lost in 5 seconds in that crowd. I can't say they had anything really awesome or different in terms of what was being sold, but there were some nice jewelry stands, the food looked good and it's just a nice event. It's Bergen County so no stores were really open but Ridgewood Coffee Company was booming, they have tables outside to sit and yummy treats to eat.

They have a petting zoo and pony rides, but they animals looked kind of gross. I swear, the pony rides had signs all over them that said "Pet ponies at own risk. They may bite". I find this EXTREMELY odd. What? You can't find some ponies that won't possibly bite the children riding on them. I've never seen that before. I know many people are against these kind of things- traveling petting zoos and the ponies on those metal arms that go around in a circle- I'm not going to debate that. I'm just saying this was a very gross looking animal area and it was go at your own risk.

The Ridgewood Street Fair is always around the third Sunday in September. It was a gorgeous day for it- not too cold or hot, sunny, and no hint of rain.

So, it was a good day for the most part, busy....I seem to be on the tail end of my sickness. But the day would not be complete without a call to Poison Control. What?? Yeah, that's what I said. E got a jellybean sized cut on his nose. I tried putting a band-aid on it and he kept touching it all day. I had the brilliant idea of putting New-Skin on his nose instead of a bandaid. Well, it got in his eye. That's not good. So, my last PSA of the night is that if that happens, flush the eye for 10 minutes in warm water and you should be good. E is fine now. But, of course it ranked up up there in the Top 5 scariest moments. Anytime you have to call Poison Control it's a scary moment. You hope it never happens again, yet since kids are kids, I'm sure it will.

On that note, I'm finally getting to watch the Emmy's!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Near & Dear: WGirls

I don't know why I didn't do an entry prior to this about a group very near and dear to my heart- the WGirls. But, having realized their big event, the bachelor/bachelorette auction is coming up next week, I thought this was an appropriate time.

Back in 2004 I was only working part-time in a tanning salon having been laid off by my job working for an indoor tanning lotion company. One day in September I was reading Craigslist and saw an ad from Amy Heller looking for other professional women in the NYC area who really wanted to make friends, go out and do fun stuff, and who knows....I figured it couldn't hurt to go meet her- I had lots of time on my hands to go into the city, I didn't live far away, and I thought her ad sounded great. I didn't have a lot of single friends to go out with and I hadn't really experienced going out much in the city since I'd moved back to north Jersey from central Jersey in 2001.

I showed up to meet Amy and so did about 10 other women. It was really cool. I worked on Tuesday & Thursday nights and the general consensus was that Wednesday was the best night for everyone to meet. We decided to call ourselves the Wednesday Girls, which got shortened to the "WGirls" eventually. At first we didn't really have an objective except for making friendships and going out. So we did and we had a lot of fun. I got to know and love Amy. From the minute I met her I should have known she was destined for greatness and that even if she didn't know it consciously, somewhere in her she knew what she was doing....

We met in September '04 and we decided to throw a holiday party, just for fun, at Bogarts in mid-town. We had no idea who would or wouldn't show, we just made an Evite and we all just invited everyone we knew. The place was PACKED. We couldn't believe that just on our little Evite & word of mouth we were able to throw a successful event. The wheels started turning as to what we could do with this.  Then, on December 26, 2004 the earthquake & tsunami in the Indian Ocean occurred.  By the time this happened, we'd lost some members of our little group to boyfriends or disinterest and gained some- a few of them related to Amy. Some of them knew people who might be in the affected areas at the time of the tsunami so it became kind of personal to want to do something for those living in the aftermath of that horror. 

We had a solid little group of about 10 members and we were motivated to action quickly. Admittedly, I also wanted to meet boys so I suggested we do a bachelor/bachelorette auction, where I also would be auctioned off. Amy was our unofficial president and she got the ball rolling, did the organizing, and then some. Like I said, we had a really great group and everyone had something to offer. I know a lot of people and so does Amy. We were able to secure bachelors and bachelorettes in a snap, got a place (Ruby Falls, no long in existence- at least under that name) big enough to hold 500 people, sat around making bid paddles in Amy's apartment till all hours of the night. For me, as late as the NJ Transit bus would still take me home to NJ. I fell down the stairs in Amy's apartment building and broke three fingernails for this cause. But we did a lot of laughing, a lot of gluing numbers to wood, and had the bags under our eyes to prove it.

A LOT of work went into that first auction. A LOT of people put in TONS of time and effort. And it was so successful. I believe we raised over 20k for Save the Children and another organization that is escaping me. Maybe Amy will comment here and remind me. We learned SO much about putting on a large scale event like that. Amy found her calling.

Since then, The WGIRLS organization was incorporated in 2007 and granted not-for-profit status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) retroactive to 2007 in August 2009. Many events have been had, much money has been donated to amazing causes, and lifelong friendships have been made. We've all cheered for engagements, danced at each other's weddings, celebrated new babies, & been there for each other through good, bad and loss. When my mom died unexpectedly in October of 2009, even though I'm out in the 'burbs and my girls are all spread out over the city, they trekked out here for a hug and support. It's sort of like a big sorority. I'm one of the founding members, older now, married with a kid and doing my thing, but my affection for the group remains as strong as it was in 2004. I have great, hysterical, fun, funny memories of nights out, events, preparations, late night talks, and more that I'll cherish forever. I love that I met Amy and the girls right after I turned 30, I'm now 37, there are girls joining left and right from their early 20's on, and it's just getting bigger and bigger. It's a place for anyone looking to meet people while doing good for those less fortunate around them.

The WGirls are pretty well-known throughout the city and it's spawned at least 15 chapters (probably more as I type) in and OUTSIDE the US. There are events all throughout the year benefiting women and children in need in numerous charity organizations. But, the biggest event that raises the most money and takes the most amount of planning and hard work is the auction.

So, my advice is either join, donate, or GO to this year's auction. It's Thursday, September 22nd at Highline Ballroom in NYC. Info is here- It's such a fun event this time benefiting Donors Choose-

For more info on the WGirls or to find/start a chapter in your area:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dance Fever

Today was E's first class at Wyckoff School of Dance. I can say it is 100% worth it! He LOVED it. The class was made up of three little girls around 3.5 yrs old and E, who is only 2.5. I was a little nervous for him because all the girls are older, one has taken ballet prior, and who knows with him- you never know if he's going to behave. To be perfectly honest, while he seemed to enjoy the trial in the summer, I was in the room and he decided the barre was more of a monkey bar and hung from it. I assume this is frowned upon during class.

Without me in the room, he flourished. I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom. He's a Tasmanian Devil in music class (I'm in the room for that). He doesn't listen so well in there or follow directions. He's getting better but I have no illusions about my child. That's why I was so proud and pleasantly surprised that he jumped into this class like he was Danny Terio.  He only lost focus maybe 2-3 times for just a moment but since it's such a small class, the teacher really reigned him in quickly.

It definitely wasn't girl-centric. Any boy could take that class without their PARENT feeling awkward (I say parent, because I doubt kids feel very specific gender roles yet). I feel sad knowing that many dads would have an issue with this kind of class. I know B wasn't jumping for joy at the prospect when he came home and saw E in "leggings" (ok, they were pj bottoms but quite form-fitting) and his new black ballet slippers. He did give me the side-eye then quickly say to E, "WOW! Are those your new ballet shoes?? How COOL!" which I thoroughly appreciated. I would have been furious had he goofed on him or made a disparaging comment.  Luckily my husband trusts my judgment in these areas, which I appreciate.

I took video of E through the two-way mirror and sent it to B and he was super impressed and proud too. It was the first video I've bothered to post to Facebook. So, suffice to say, I'm so happy with this choice of classes. When E came out of the dance studio to me, he was beaming.

Thanks to Wyckoff School of Dance for a wonderful experience. Eat it- "In the Spotlight" in Waldwick for suggesting "Karate or Gymnastics because boys his age don't have the attention span and it's inappropriate to be butterflies" and such. You. Were. Wrong.

Monday, September 12, 2011

School Days

E started school today! He looked so cute and was so excited. I'm SO happy we did the camp beforehand. There were some kids clinging and crying and thank goodness he wasn't one of them. We got there about ten minutes early and so did everyone else. It was kind of cool that were all in this "holding pen" area, so E got to spot some of his camp friends and I got to catch up with some of the moms I'm friendly with.

It was a little chaotic with everyone bringing in their supplies (2 boxes of tissues, 2 boxes of wipes, a package of diapers and a full second set of clothes). We needed to find his cubby, put his giant backpack away (I didn't know there were more toddler-sized bags, as I was focused on getting him one with Yo Gabba Gabba on it), and send him into his classroom. Today would be his first day eating lunch in a classroom setting too. I was a little nervous but I figured he and the teachers would work it out.

Both B and I took him. While I think it was important for us to all have that little milestone, I think it made him a little nervous. He's very daddy-centric on Sundays because that is the only day B is around all day, and B spends the majority of the time with him. I do laundry and other things on Sundays if we're home. I hadn't been feeling well since Thursday so B was also giving me some time to myself. So, today, in both of us taking him, I sort of think he was missing Daddy a lot. E also doesn't like too much change in his routines. He likes everyone to have their "job". Mommy takes him to camp and Mommy picks him up.

When I picked him up he'd been crying a little. The teachers said it had just happened a few minutes ago, for no particular reason. They thought he was tired. He probably was- he got up super early this morning.  And he had been having an allergy attack over the weekend and this morning. When I came in the room, he ran over to me, crying, but then he was fine. His tears are quick. But, then we got in the car and he was asking for Daddy. (So, yes, B, you may have been correct this time that I should have taken him myself like it was a camp day). He continued to ask for Daddy a few times until he took his nap an hour later.

I'm sure he had a great day. I think had he not had allergies and didn't get up so early, he would've had a 100% cry-free day. Hopefully Claritin will work, he'll rest up and he'll be fine for Wednesday. He has his first ballet class tomorrow so hopefully he'll be fine for that....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Swim Diaper PSA

Disposable diapers are expensive in general. But, swim diapers for some reason are even more expensive. Not sure the rationale here considering they aren't the most absorbent things. Maybe it's whatever magic they use to make them not bulk up when peed in or waterlogged. I don't know. What I do know is that I'd been shelling out a ton of money on them. They range like $10-$12 for like 10 or 11 of them. I know it's something like that.

Lo and behold, a Nestie posted that her mom threw a used (pee only) swim diaper in the washer and dryer with a bathing suit by mistake. And it came out clean and reusable.

I figured it was worth a shot. I figured it could fall apart in either the washer or dryer and that would suck to clean out. Or, it could work, and I could save a lot of money. I looked at it not being any more gross than washing cloth diapers. I have no issue with cloth diapers, by the way, but at my town pool, the rule is swim diapers in the kiddie pool and no diapers at all in the big pool. Well, if you're going to the pool every day (and sometimes 2x/day), that's A LOT of swim diapers.

I threw some swim diapers in the washer and dryer, and I'll be damned. It totally worked. They were a little wrinkly after, but they didn't lose their shape and were fine to wear again. They even smelled nice from laundry detergent. I'm kind of bummed I only learned this now, when by next summer he'll be potty trained. (He better be- I'm not diapering a 3.5 yr old butt with man-poops). But, for all my friends with non-potty goers for next summer, here's your nugget of info on saving money. I got to do it a few times and if we sign E up for swim lessons at the end of fall or in the winter, they'll come in handy.

No, I wouldn't attempt a poop one. Those are 100% garbage worthy. At least for us. I won't go into detail because no one needs that, but just suffice to say, there is just no way of saving and washing pooped in swim diapers.

I tried both Huggies and Pampers and both survived the washer AND dryer. I don't know how many times you could reuse, but I'm going with at least once or twice.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off to Work I go

So, I'm at work today, in my store, Shades of Soho, in Glen Rock. Yes, we also have a store in Norwood. I'm not usually here, at my store, because I'm taking care of my son. But, my husband is taking a class and we have no one else to work in the store. Well, and no one is better than me anyway.

I love what I do. I really do. I get super excited when someone brings in a cool lamp and it's up to me to find the right shade, the right fabrics, and the right finial. I love seeing a lamp come in the store and knowing exactly what should go on it. Of course, since I do think I know it all, I get bummed when the customer doesn't agree with me, but they usually do. Most people go home thrilled with their purchase and I'm satisfied I sold them something that was unique, gave their lamp a total makeover, and they got something that can make them happy when they look at it.

We spend a lot of money on advertising and we advertise a lot. I just wish people would read and adhere to what's in the ad. In every ad it says, BRING YOUR LAMP. Some people just flat out don't bring it. We always tell people over the phone they need to bring their lamp. They get here, they tell me they don't need it, I talk to them for a few minutes and then they say, "I guess I really should have brought the lamp". I don't know WHY people are so resistant to bringing it. I wouldn't go to buy a dress without my body, a hat without my head, and you CAN'T get the right lampshade withOUT your lamp. Then are the people, I find even more odd, that actually bring the lamp, but come in the store without it and argue that they want to see what we have first. Well, we have everything and what isn't on the shelf we can make. You can't just "see" what we have because we need to see the lamp to see what goes on it. It's IN YOUR CAR. We'll help you go get it. Just bring it in. I've had 20 minute conversations about what we might be able to put on your lamp hypothetically, when in 20 minutes you could have been on your way home having purchased a shade. It's totally baffling.

I had someone this morning who had the lamp in the car. She came in with her old accordion-like plastic shade from 1974. I asked if I could help her. Her answer? "Probably not". How is that an answer? Why would you come somewhere if you didn't think you could be helped. If you are a sociopath and I'm a shoemaker and I ask if I could help you and you say "probably not", then sure, you may be correct. But, if you need lighting or a lampshade, I'm 99.9% sure I CAN help you. Unless you need a shade made out of hemp, bamboo, fur, gum, feathers, or some other weird substance, we're pretty well-versed in this arena. Turns out, I could help her, but it was one of those, "well, it's in a room no one goes in so I'll have to check with my husband". Okay.

I had another person who didn't bring the lamp because it was a floor lamp. Yes, we need to see those too. Because as I'm looking for a shade, it comes out that it's a swing arm lamp. That makes a HUGE difference. Now I know, especially without the lamp, the shade I sell you can't be even a quarter of an inch longer than the previous shade because it will hit the arm. I go through a whole thing, trying to find something close to what they had. People forget to give these details. They come back in, with the new shade, and say "It didn't fit". Yet, they still didn't bring the lamp. Double baffling.  I find it insane when they say they came from "far away" too. You came from far away without everything you need to make your purchase? Really? I wish I had that kind of time to waste.

You know what makes all this head scratching worth it? The people that totally get and appreciate what we do. There was a couple that came in to fix two lamps and get two shades. One shade they took home and the other we're making. They were here for 45 min, we were chatting and picking out fabrics and trim together, they were able to make up their mind, together, without bickering with each other or being rude to me, and you could tell they loved our stuff. They were a pleasure to work with. The last time I was working, there was a man, his wife and their 6 yr old daughter. His lamp had a whole story how he brought a pair home from another country, he gave the other one to a really good client and now just has the one. He loved this lamp. He and his family were here for an hour and half, we tried on a lot of shades, but ultimately he picked one, we made it, and he's over the moon about how it looks. He's come back since for other shades. I love hearing people's stories about acquiring old lamps, how much they love their piece, and how much they love having their lamp resuscitated with a new handmade lampshade.

***Had to stop writing because people came in the store***


The people with the floor lamp just came back. With the lamp. And swatches from their couch. Totally different than what I was picturing. We made it fun. We tried on about six different colors and shapes. They came in with a beige colored plastic sort of shade. She thought she needed a wide (across the bottom) shade because she needed light. No, she only needed a fabric shade vs a plastic one. The fabric let all the light out. Now she won't even need to move the swing arm to read. When you have a plastic shade (on the inside), it makes all the light go down instead of out, up and around. She ended up getting a really cool finial too- it looked like green and yellow leaves in a brass circle. Prior to this, she just had an old brass cap finial. It looked like a brand new lamp when it walked out our door. I feel happy now.

We really get more people who love and "get" what we do here than those that don't. That's why we still do it. It's just the people that make me crazy who make things way more difficult than they have to that can mess up my day. But, at least I sometimes get a good story out of it. People insist on bringing their dogs in here. One lady held her dog up to my desk and in baby talk told me that "Baby" (her dog) has really wet paws. Ok, well, then why is Baby in my store where he could put his wet paws all over the lampshades? There was a dog in here today. I don't dislike dogs. In fact, if I was ever to get a dog, these tiny ones people seem to bring in here are the type I'd like. This, today, though was no teacup Yorkie- it was a middle size dog on a leash. I just find it so entitled to bring an animal into someone's place of business that isn't a kennel or specifically dog friendly. We have breakable items at dog level. I'm wondering what they'd say if Fifi lifted her leg and pissed all over some shades. Can I use the same philosophy as "you break it, you buy it"- as in, "you peed on it, it's yours."??? I'm not sure what people are thinking when they bring their dog in here. The same places I'd be wary of taking my rambunctious toddler into are the same places I'd be thinking my dog probably isn't their target customer.

I've met some really fun & interesting people too. I've had great conversations, heard heartbreaking life stories, I've had people send me photos of the lamps with the new shades in their home to put on my "brag board", and I've gotten cards and letters of gratitude for making their grandmother/aunt/mom's lamp(s) look fantastic and fresh. That's why I call us the bridal store of lampshades. Because people can be as emotional about dressing their lamps as they can about dressing for their wedding day. Sometimes we're dealing with a real emotional connection between people and their lighting. We understand that and want you to have an "experience", not just swipe your credit card.

I just wish some people would remember that we don't "just work here". This is our life, this is what we do, and we care what people go home with. I'm bossy and opinionated about what you buy in here because people are going to see it, hopefully they're going to have an opinion on it too, and I want it to look beautiful. If you're looking for the same old, same old, we do have it, I just don't want you to have it. I want you to have something extraordinary. I don't want you sell you a large white drum shade circa 1965. And believe it or not, you can HAVE extraordinary at an affordable price. You just have to have a little imagination, be flexible about what would work in your space, and know that a lampshade doesn't have to be beige. I'm willing to bet we're usually spot on with the first shade we pick for you. It may not be what you think your style is, but I guarantee it will look great on your lamp.

I'm ending my day today with the greatest, most pleasant customer I've had in the past few times I've worked in my store. She was just a pleasure to work with. She had beautiful old lamps that she wanted to dress up. She had style and expected her lamps to have style too. Traditional and formal but nothing boring or run of the mill. She didn't hem and haw about price, she knew what she liked right away, and she just wanted shades that restored her lamps to their former glory. She more than made up for any abuse I took today and the mess I made and had to clean up of all the shades in the store. Thank you, Mrs. O.  You make it worth it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wee Play, Nanuet NY

It's been raining and generally crappy out the week before school and all E's activities start so I needed something to do. My friend Cheryl asked me if I've been to Wee Play in Nanuet. I'd never even heard of it. And I wasn't sure if I was feeling the drive. But yesterday, I really had nothing to do, nowhere to take E, and the thought of staying in wasn't exactly appealing. I went to Stroller Strides from 9a-10a and then started the journey from Garden State Plaza (where my class is held on Tues/Thurs/Sat) to Nanuet.

From GSP it only took like 15-20 min. That wasn't bad at all. No traffic and a pretty basic route. It's near the Nanuet Mall (which I thought closed, but the parking lot was pretty jammin').

It's a little like Funtime Junction in Fairfield, NJ but from anywhere in the room you could basically see your child. It's big, but there are really no nooks & crannies. It wasn't crowded for a crappy day in the late morning/early afternoon.  They have a bounce house which E mostly had to himself, an indoor Little Tikes large climber/slide area, a GIANT sandbox (which miraculously has sand that doesn't cling to your child), shopping carts, basketballs/hoop, tricycles, like six of those Cozy Coupes, play food, "stations" like I've heard are in the Children's Museum (kitchen, gas station, pizza shoppe) in Paramus.  It has one of those large jungle gym things sort of like at Kids U but it's way more managable and E could totally do it on his own, and did. They have a smaller gated area for very small children- infant to 12 months I'd guess. I didn't go in there but it looked decent. It's nice to have an area away from bigger children.

Quite a few people there had infants and older children. Not really older than five years old I think, but that's the oldest age I would think a kid would be interested there.  Most people were watching their kids except one woman who wasn't phased by the kids she was in charge of throwing sand. Outside the sandbox.

You are not allowed/supposed to bring in your own food but I'm not sure they are super strict about it. They do sell everything there. A lunch is $4.25 which includes either nuggets, grilled cheese, half slice of pizza, or a peanut butter and jelly and a juice box and chips/cookies. You can also buy other things a la carte.  They had some "healthier" options- I saw some Pirate Booty. I didn't really explore the food thing because I had our lunch in a cooler bag in the car and E threw something at a girl and pulled him out of there faster than he could even open his mouth to protest.

 The one con is also what I'd like about the food thing I guess- they're way relaxed about everything. They don't ask for any info from you when you come. Usually, when you go to any of these places, you have to sign a waiver, or at least give them your name/address/phone/email. Even at least for marketing purposes or whatever. There was one girl working in addition to the man at the desk and she wasn't doing much of anything. I asked her to clean the sand up (from the sand throwers) off this apparatus E was using and she never did it. I was helping keep things neat and organized because I am used to that from Park N Play. All the parents at PNP are responsible to just make sure the toys get put away and your kid doesn't just Tazmanian Devil through the place and leave. It seems clean, I actually don't think the toys look worn like someone mentioned to Cheryl- I've definitely seen worse. Wait till I get to my review of Elite Gymnastics in Hawthorne. Anyway- I feel like Cutie Patootie in Englewood does a MUCH better job with their staff being on top of the mess and keeping stuff organized. Granted, Wee Play is bigger, has more stuff, and is less expensive in general. Their free play is about the same but the membership at CP for unlimited play is expensive.

It's $14 for non members and $10 for members. There is no time limit on your stay. Cheryl told me about a punch card that allows for 10 visits and then a free one but I forgot about it and didn't get one.They have a "membership" for $25. I am not sure I see the value of paying the $25 membership fee because you still have to pay $10 each time you visit. It's $4 less which is great but unless you're going to come a lot, it doesn't seem to be worth it. It would be better if they had a real membership like pay a certain amount for the month and it would be unlimited or whatever. Some kind of real incentive deal to "join". An affordable unlimited play package would be great.

Cheryl also told me Carousel Cakes and Rockland Bakery are a block away. I saw Carousel on my way there so that would definitely entice me to come back.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New Park N Play

Last "season"- November through April, I literally used Park N Play 3-4x a week for about 2-3 hours a day. It's a GREAT deal if you live within 25 min of Ramsey, need someplace for your child to run around, blow off steam, learn to share, and socialize. It's also a nice socialization for parents/grandparents, etc. I met a lot of really nice people- moms, dads, nannies. For me it was great because it really tired E out and he made some good friends.

I got this email from them today so I thought I'd pass it along if you're looking for something that's "free play" and AFFORDABLE. I know not everyone can afford to do Little Gym, My Gym, Gymboree and those type of things, and the "free play" times at those can be inconvenient. This isn't structured at all and it's not "high end" in the least- but it's still a great place to let your kid do their thing.

The email:

Hello friends of Park 'N Play!

September is here, school is starting and the Park 'N Play Board of
Directors is getting ready to open for another season of fun! We will
open on Tuesday, November 1st. Membership for 2011-2012 will stay at $225
for a FULL SEASON OF UNLIMITED PLAY. We are offering our early sign-up
discount of $25 for those who get their registrations in by Oct 16th.

We will be accepting registrations at our Ramsey Day table this weekend,
and we'll also have a table at the Ramsey Farmer's Market on Sunday, Oct
16th from 10am til 2pm. If you can't make it to these events, just mail
your form and payment to PO Box 712, Ramsey NJ 07446. Remember to have it
in by Oct 16th for the $25 discount!

We're also hoping to have some "Meet-ups" at Finch playground now that the
older kids are back in school. Stay tuned, and make sure to "like" us on

Enjoy the Fall, and we'll see you when the weather gets cold! Please
forward this info to any friends that may be interested in playing with us
this winter!

The Board of the New Park 'N Play

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calling all Tiny Dancers!

Wyckoff School of Dance needs more kids to enroll in the Tuesday 10a "Wee Dance I" class. It's for 2.5-4 years old. Boys & Girls. If interested please call Karen at 201-848-8350. ASAP. Classes start next week! There are only two students enrolled in that class and I'm afraid she may have to cancel that class if no other kids enroll. Check them out!

I really like them- they take boys, the only thing he needs is ballet slippers. Dance Bag in Ridgewood (across from Whole Foods) sells them, in black for $15.30 (they give a "student discount" for any kid enrolled in a dance class- otherwise they would have been $18). It's reasonably priced and you can pay in two installments. Half up-front and the other half before Oct 31 if you want to finish out the year (from January on through the spring).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crappy turned Happy- "Bergen Town Center"

It used to be just "the Bergen Mall". And since we live in the mall Mecca of the United States (I have to assume), it was considered the crappiest of the FOUR within a 10 mile radius. Garden State Plaza, Paramus Park, Riverside Square, DISTANT last, Bergen Mall.

I never went there as a kid. "My" mall was Paramus Park. It was closest, it was the "hang out", you could smoke cigarettes in there. It had Canadians, Sid's Pants, Attivo, Just Shirts, KB Toys, and CVS. What else could a tween in the 80's want? I worked in CVS with Ann Marie when I was going into my sophomore year of high school. I think we spent as much time at the mall as we did in school. Anyway, Garden State Plaza wasn't the mini universe it is now, but it was building up. I wasn't old enough to hang at the mall when it was still an outdoor thing. It was farther and my mom didn't like to drive there. Riverside was more the "snooty mall". Expensive stores, not really teen friendly and it didn't have Restaurant Row. Bergen wasn't even really a thought. It was small and didn't have any stores to write home about.

Now- it's THE mall. Or "Town Center" as it's now called. If you're looking for steals & deals, look no further. It has SLOWLY been building. I like Saks Off Fifth & Marshalls but not enough to go that mall just for those. Easier just to stick to Loehmanns. But, once Century 21 came to it, it started it's journey to becoming a major player in the mall Mecca market here. Then Nordstrom Rack, Bloomingdales Outlet, and Neiman Last Call- boom, boom, boom and here we are. Not to mention there are now J Crew, Banana Republic and a Disney Store outlets too. That is in addition to Children's Place, Carters, Gymboree and Stride Rite. Gymboree Outlet is a little annoying because they don't take coupons or Gymbucks. So, you have to really just buy off the sale and clearance racks to do better than in the regular Gymboree stores. But Banana Republic is a HUGE hit. B got a shirt and pants for $90 that would have been $200 in the regular store. I got $60 Sperry shoes in the Stride Rite outlet for E for $24 last year. I can always find great deals in the Gap Outlet. If only Loehmanns would move in there....Ahhh, a girl can dream.

It was raining & I needed to kill an hour and a half with E. I was going to try to take him to a play place but honesty, I didn't feel like paying $14 or $15 dollars for an hour. So went to Bergen Town Center to check out Sugar and Plumm, Purveyors of Yumm
I wasn't sure what it was going to be beyond candy.  I had no idea what to expect. It's very pretty inside and have some of the most exquisite looking pastries I've seen.  Interestingly enough, the only pastry "missing", at least to me, is cupcakes. But, what I found the most intriguing and what would bring me back there is crepes. There is a crepe place in Fair Lawn, Creme de la Crepes-, and I've never eaten there, but this is just more convenient and appealing to me. They make them right there and you have a choice of sweet or savory. I'll be back for those.

Sugar and Plumm has candy, but still no match for my "Candy Store" in Garden State Plaza. For me, if you're going to carry Jelly Belly, you need to carry A LOT of the line. A few flavors aren't going to do it for me. But, they do have bulk candy there- just not sure how expensive they are. They had nostalgic candy, coffee, and some "regular" stuff like brownies and danish. It's the only place like it I've seen around- I think this is what Heavenly Treats in Glen Rock is trying to be, just on a much smaller scale. I think it's a great addition to the mall because while there is Bobby's Burger Palace, Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, Qdoba, Sarku Japan, Starbucks and Whole Foods, there was really nowhere for "sweets" or coffee. You can stop in Lindt but that's just chocolate, it's grab and go and there is only so much chocolate you can eat. If you're not going to have a Starbucks, Sugar and Plumm is a great way to go. It keeps with the smaller, a-step-up-from-fast-food restaurant thing & good monetary deal thing going on. It's not trying to be a more high-end Restaurant Row kind of destination.

I also have to mention Target. I'm not a Target shopper, or I wasn't, before they put a fresh market in there. They have almost everything I need, including a decent selection of organic stuff (including milk, puree pouches, Jammy Sammys). I used to have to drive all over to different markets but now, between Whole Foods and Target, I don't have to do nearly as much running around. With a toddler, this type of food shopping is a dream. I'd be thrilled if Shop Rite was actually connected to WF and Target, because SR is my main market of choice but at least they're in the same general parking lot area. No, I don't like to do SR At Home or Peapod. I like to pick my own stuff. I actually LIKE going to the supermarket. I just don't like doing it with a short human, otherwise known as a 2.5 yr old. One market- fine, but since I'm a brand shopper and no one market has it all, the getting him in and out of the carseat and in and out of the shopping carts is for the birds.

I'd say the only thing really missing is some kind of play area. What would be even better would be if a kids play gym kind of place opened INSIDE there. Then it would be heaven. Like if Cutie Patootie came up there, it would surely be a hit. Not a Little Gym or My Gym where you HAVE to have a membership. It has to be one of those places like a CP or a Funtime Junction where it's more pay-to-play. I'll be waiting for this...someone- Quick! Get on that!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Meet & Meat on the Street

I said I'd get to "Autumn" but I never said I was going to talk traditional. Well, not just yet anyway. When people talk about Fall, they always mention apple picking, foliage color changing, Back to School, and cooler, crisp weather. When I think Fall, I think STREET FAIRS. I guess that can also be a spring and summer thing, but I prefer the ones in September and October. Not that I don't love walking the goods in the spring and summer months, but doing it while it's raining or I'm melting isn't the most pleasant.

We went to the one in Rutherford on Labor Day. That was our kick-off into the Autumn street fair season. I'm still ruminating on what we saw there and how to describe it. Reading other people's descriptions, you'd think this was the be-all, end-all of street fairs. What I read online somewhere is that it has tripled in size, tons of vendors, food, etc. What we found was mostly....Etcetera.

First, we were inundated with political propaganda. I'll be honest- I couldn't tell who was whom, people were shoving promotional material in our faces and hands left and right. I think E was holding a balloon for a republican, and of course I was holding cards and papers for...well, something else. Second, it was huge- but it seemed mostly like junk out of Grandma's garage (attic, basement). WEIRD. Just. Weird. Old shoes, cups, plates, dirty handbags, paper dolls, and more. Lastly, it was like walking out of my car into 1986. If I could've taken photos (we tried) of the over-tanned, over-bleached hair, and stonewashed denim, I would have. But, I didn't want to get punched in the face. I even saw those old hanging feather things we used to wear in our hair in 7th grade. Not just being sold, but being worn. Still with the "roach clip" used to attach to hair...or whatever. I know feathers in the hair are the new "in" thing, but this is not what these 2011 6th & 7th graders are clamoring for. Trust me- Sydney (my mother's helper) & Jordan (Syd's sister) have the new fangled sort and they look nothing like the wares being sold here.

The food was decent. There were a lot of offerings. We were starving when we got there so we went right for the first burgers we found. But, there was Greek food, lots of desserts, and there were restaurants open that looked pretty good if we didn't want Street Meat. I bought a brownie that was pretty gross, but the cheeseburger was on the better end of the usual fair offerings.

Safe to say, while the Rutherford street fair was highly entertaining and for sure we'll be back, it isn't one of my favorite for buying things. What I can say is that I've never really been in Rutherford and there are some GORGEOUS old homes there. It almost looks like Ocean Grove, NJ. I'm not sure if they're considered Victorian, but some of them are simply stunning. I'd go back just to look at homes.

Onward to some of my favorite street fair offerings....My absolute favorite is the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival. I've missed like one since 2003. I'm pretty sure that's when I discovered it. And the one miss wasn't my fault. B got food poisoning from some bad hamburger at a motorcycle run. He was lying under the dining room table sick and moaning and I didn't think it right to leave. Anyway- I've never let him forget it. They just have the BEST stuff. Jewelry, baby/toddler clothes, unique handbags, paintings, photographs, pottery, statues, and more. We've always bought my mom and mother-in-law their birthday gifts there (October birthdays). I've gone in heat, chill and one year, in pouring rain with an infant. Granted, it's not the same since 3663 FOOD & Frozen Monkey have gone out of business, but I'll still be there. Get there EARLY. Once the crowd gets heavy, it's hard to see anything.

Another favorite is Ridgewood. It's usually before Hoboken and it's big. They have really good stuff too. I think a lot of the same or similar vendors are there. I got E an awesome Muno (Yo Gabba Gabba) towel last year. It was $35 and I was told by some loudmouth girl last year that she got it online for cheaper. Whatever- you go to a street fair to get cool stuff right there & support the vendors, not to look for it cheaper online. Towel has held up all year and my son likes it. This is another you have to get their EARLY. Parking is a little easier in Ridgewood than Hoboken. You're not paying $25 Event Parking even if you have to walk a little ways to get there. My favorite pair of earrings by E. Warder were purchased at this street fair in 2009. They have a nice range of items and you can definitely do some early holiday shopping there.

Rounding out my top 3 is Nyack, NY. They usually have a few spread out from May-September. I'm finding conflicting information on when it is this year- or maybe there are just more than one this fall. I've seen Sept 25 and Oct 9 online. When I get more solid info, I'll update but I'm putting up the links to what I've found. Nyack

I do also have an honorable mention that goes to Tenafly. I never seem to know exactly when this is going on until the day before. I usually see it in my town newspaper. But here is a listing of all the street fairs going on in the area- Anyway, we love to walk around Tenafly, it kind of sucks that it's on a Sunday and most of the shops are closed, but it's still nice to be able to eat outside at one of the many restaurants that offer that and to window shop.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Best of Bergen- Bergen Health & Life

Twice a year I ask people to vote for our store, Shades of Soho, for the "Best of Bergen" in either Bergen Health & Life or 201 Magazine. Every September (BH&L) and February (201) we wait with baited breath to see who won the Best Home Decor (or whatever they're calling it) category.

Usually we hear prior to the issues coming out whether we won. Sometimes they want a photo of the store or a product we carry. With Bergen Health & Life, they have a party to celebrate the issue and the Best of Bergen, Bergenfest, where the winners get a table and showcase their stuff. There are A LOT of food winners and they don't disappoint with what they bring. We won twice previously and showed at Bergenfest.

I was sitting on my couch watching General Hospital and waiting for E to get up from his nap. I heard the mailman drop my stuff in the box so I got up to get the mail. Imagine my surprise and happiness when I saw we won for Best Home Decor store in BH&L?!

So, I just want to say thanks to all who voted! We're not showing at Bergenfest this time. They want us to buy a table to show, and frankly, I feel if we won, we should be given a table. They wouldn't have a party without the winners so I'm definitely baffled how they are "honoring" the winners yet asking them to pay to be there.  But, whatever- we appreciate and are thrilled with the win. Bergenfest is a really fun time if you want a night out. The cocktails and the food are flowing and there are all kinds of contests and givaways.

My only advice is- GET THERE EARLY. It fills up QUICKLY and parking is a disaster. I would park off the grounds if you can- down a side street. Otherwise, trying to get out is not easy. And once the place fills up with people, it's hard to get to any table, get food, drink, etc.

You can buy tickets online and I saw there is some cool stuff going on if you buy the VIP ticket. Having gone to Bergenfest two different years, I'd say it's probably worth it to go VIP. Kind of the "go big or go home" kind of mentality. You might as well get all the benefits if you're going to bother.

Here is our win-

And to buy tickets-

Saturday, September 3, 2011

TV Time is All the Time

My friend Stephanie and I go to Stroller Strides and talk tv during a lot of it. Stephanie suggested I write something about the fall line-up, so here we go...

B and I love reality tv but we also watch real shows. One of our favorites is Lie to Me. It's now amongst the dead. I don't understand how people weren't watching and loving Dr Lightman. It was the best show ever. It took me awhile but I was even starting to see sex appeal in Tim Roth. I was SO longing for he and Foster to get together. Now it will only be in my dreams. I was missing Friday Night Lights the second Coach Taylor said Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose to his new Philly team. I will never understand how that show didn't make it on NBC.

I have to admit I'm not done with Brothers & Sisters yet so it hasn't hit me that it won't be back. Listen- I watch two shows while I'm on my thirty minute treadmill work-out in my basement- Brothers & Sisters and Desperate Housewives. I think I'm two B&S out and about three seasons out on DH. Yeah, tells you how often I go on the treadmill. Anyway...I'm sad about B&S. From where I am on it, it seems like there was a lot more story to tell. But, I see Emily VanCamp already has her own show, Revenge, that ABC is already hyping the hell out of, so good for her. I'll be watching. It looks like it has the right amount of soap in it. Since we're losing AMC & OLTL soon, I'll be looking for that extra dose of soap in my weekly opera.

As far as cancelled shows, those are all I care about.

New shows- I'm always hesitant to pick up any new shows. Every new show I have the slightest interest is gone before I can even remember the main characters name. As an aside though- I was one of the five people watching that show My Generation I joined Hulu + (LOVE this- totally worth the $7.99/mo) to be able to watch tv shows on my iphone. They only showed 2 episodes on ABC, but there were EIGHT. And I've watched six on my phone, usually around midnight. It was GOOD. What is WRONG with people?? Ok, so you see, I like it, it's gone. But, since DH is ending this year and eventually I'll get to the end, my soaps are dropping like flies, FNL, B&S, Lie to Me, and Men of a Certain Age are all done, I'm going to choose a few new ones for fall.

I keep seeing the promos for Revenge and I like Emily VanCamp. I'll give that a whirl. I was going to link to a blurb about the show but I can't find one with more than two sentences. Look, it's about revenge. Looks like there are hot people in it. I'm going to check out Pan Am. I'm thinking if you like Mad Men, this probably is somewhat like that. I'm not a huge fan of Mad Men but I do like nostalgia, so it seems like it might be cool. I may tune in to The Playboy Club, just because Playboy in all incarnations is fascinating to me. Why not? But it's also doing the Mad Men thing, so we'll see how all this copy-cat stuff works out. Usually, it doesn't. Coupling, anyone? Yeah, it wasn't the next Friends.

My last two are comedies. Aside from Modern Family, I haven't found a network comedy worth a real laugh since Friends or Seinfeld. From the promos you'd think that show Happy Endings was actually funny, but it isn't. At all. But, here comes Subergatory and I'm perking up a bit. Cheryl Hines is in it (from Curb Your Enthusiasm) and I like her, so I'm going to go with it. Lastly, I've heard Whitney Cummings numerous times on Howard Stern. She's funny. It looks a little off and inappropriate so I'm totally there. As long as it isn't watered down because it's network vs cable, it looks promising.

Other than that, I give up. It's all about the all mighty dollar and new shows are pulled by episode #2. I don't know how any show is expected to gain a following in two episodes, but that's how the cookie crumbles these days.

Oh, and I WILL be returning to One Tree Hill now that Lucas is too. I just have to figure out how to watch those last three or four episodes I missed last season. I think I threw in the towel when Brooke, Quinn and a pregnant Haley went out on the town in costume to do good deeds or break up a Mean Girls convention. I'm not sure having Lucas back without Peyton is going to be worth it but I need see it with my own eyes. I'm forever going to be annoyed though that they never had a real explanation for where the hell Leyton was all this time, but I'm still willing to give them a last shot in their final season.

What I will not be watching? Ringer. I don't know why, but I can't stand Sarah Michelle Gellar. I'm sure she's a perfectly nice person in real life, but I don't know- ever since Cruel Intentions and even All My Children, I just don't like her. She's grating to me. I wasn't a Buffy fan, sorry. I'm sure Buffy fans are thrilled. Go you. I can't get into her.

Reality tv: All the regulars are coming back and I'll be watching American Idol & The Bachelor. We've been watching Karaoke Battle USA now and it's FAB. Carnie Wilson makes the show. I'm sure The Soup has made a montage of her expressions. She seems possessed when people are singing. If they haven't goofed on her yet, they should. I hope this show never ends. I don't know if it's just a summer thing or goes into the fall or what, but it's a great time.  America's Got Talent has been taking up a lot of room on my dvr. It's okay this year. I'm more into the singers and they don't have anyone really root-worthy except maybe the little girl who sang Motley Crue. Hey- I liked Steven Retchless, the poledancer that looks like Ryan Phillippe in 54. Now I don't really care who wins.

I'm not usually a fan of Dancing with the Stars but Chaz Bono is on, I'm interested. Not sure why George Clooney's ex-girlfriend is on there. I don't think she's actually done anything besides that. But Chaz Bono, David Arquette and Ricki Lake?? I'm there. At least for some of it. It's one of those things I actually have to watch vs just sort of listening while typing and I can't devote that much attention to it.

I'm giving up on Biggest Loser without Bob & Jillian. We didn't even finish the last season and I want to...but two hours? There is too much filler. And without Jillian yelling at people it's not worth it.

Here's your list of renewed, cancelled and new shows coming to a tv near you within the next few weeks:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cupcake Wars

**I'm updating this because I feel SO differently now!!** April 2012

I'm not sure exactly when the cupcake craze started but I've always been crazy for cake. Give me my own personal portion and I'm happy. You'd think a cupcake is a cupcake right? How hard is it to make good cake? Hell, I'm not a baker by any stretch of the imagination, unless you call opening a box of Betty Crocker and following the directions a baker. If so, then just call me Buddy Valastro. My box-made cupcakes are always delish. Especially since I figured out that they get the frosting all thick and swirly with a decorator apparatus that I bought in Target. You'd assume that a place that specializes in cupcakes and has lines around the bend would give you a fabulous cup of moist cake. Unfortunately and surprisingly, that's not the case.

Back before E was even a thought, cupcakes were always on my mind. We lived in Englewood then so if the mood struck we'd just hop in the car, go over the bridge and high-tail it to Bleeker for cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. If they were good enough for Carrie Bradshaw, they had to be good enough for me. Yet, every time, I came away sort of disappointed. I'm a vanilla kind of gal and sugar is my BFF, but their frosting could probably put someone who is otherwise healthy in a diabetic coma. It's almost nauseating. There, I'd opt for chocolate. Chocolate on vanilla cake. It was...just...ok. The cake is kind of crumbly. I wouldn't call it moist at all. In my opinion that line out there was for two reasons- One, SATC, and two, because the place is so small, there is no room for more than a few people at the time. Brilliant on their part- Want to make your place look slammed all the time? Pick a REALLY small place.

We graduated from Magnolia and found Billy's Bakery on 9th Ave. They have good stuff. Also a small place but there is usually a fun, interesting crowd, they have a good selection, and I've never been disappointed with any selection I've made there.

Now that we have a child and live further into suburbia, we can't just run to NYC for cupcakes. We make do with what's here. And more and more options keep popping up. But, as I said above, not all cupcakes are built the same and they have very distinct qualities that may sway your decision as to where to buy. Since I've gone near and far and tasted many, I feel I'm qualified to be your guide on all things cupcake in the vicinity.

I do Stroller Strides in Riverside Square Mall 3x a week so I was there when Mr Cupcake first opened a location there. Great! Do your exercises and cancel it out with cake! I was fine with that. I happen to really like their cupcakes. Interestingly enough, this is the most polarizing of all the ones I'll be reviewing for you. I've found people either love or hate them. They're smaller than some of the others, which I like- it's portion control in a Super-Sized world. They're denser and a little oilier. BUT, the thing I like most about them is that their flavors are baked IN the cake. My favorite happens to be "Cookie Jar". It's Oreo and chocolate chip cookie baked into the cake, with a vanilla buttercream frosting and some cookie crumbles on top. They basically have four flavors of frosting (that I've tasted)- buttercream, chocolate, vanilla, and cream cheese to complement the different cake flavors. I liked everyone I tasted. Some of my other favorites are Birthday cake (vanilla cake, buttercream icing, sprinkles), French Toast (it tastes JUST like French Toast), and red velvet. His prices are the best of the bunch- $2 for any cupcake. No BS about "specialty" ones, which in other places, they all end up being. No differing prices for any cupcake.

Cupcakes by Carousel came into Ridgewood a little before Crumbs. I'd heard about Carousel on Oprah. She'd raved about their red velvet cake. I couldn't wait to try it. I LOVE this place's cake. The difference though, between this and Mr Cupcake is that their "flavors" are not in the cake, but on top. For instance, their "Oreo" cupcake is chocolate cake but crushed Oreos and cream built up high on top of the cupcake. Hostess looks just like the chocolate packaged one you had in your lunch as a kid, including the vanilla pigs tail swirl down the middle. It's chocolate cake, vanilla cream inside, and then the top is vanilla cream covered in chocolate with the swirl. It's FANTASTIC. My personal favorite is cookie dough. It's a vanilla cake with a frosting made to taste like cookie dough with pieces of cookie dough on top also.  B like Brownie and Peanut Butter Cup (pretty self-explanatory).

Their cakes are basically chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and carrot. Maybe there is a specialty one here and there. I can't rave enough about the TASTE. But, the prices? Sorry- but paying upwards of $3 for a cupcake to me is ridiculous. All I know is that they start at $2.50 I think but apparently not for any I ever pick. I went in for maybe 9 or 10 to bring to someone's house gathering and it cost me $29. I could've gotten a whole cake for less.

Crumbs- I'd heard of Crumbs long before it came to Ridgewood. I listen to Howard Stern- any regular listener knows the trials and tribulations of the Artie Cupcake and the Baba Booey. I tried some when we were in NYC once and I wasn't thrilled. First of all, most of them are so big, they're like a meal. You can think you're just going to eat half but that never happens. They do the "stuffed cupcake" thing where there are some with flavors inside, but the ones I tasted were just really, really sweet. They're also REALLY expensive. I'm talking close to $4 or more.  I needed a dessert to bring somewhere in a pinch, went there, and almost had a heart attack when I was told it was $18 for a 12 pack of mini cupcakes. $18? REALLY? Are they made with gold flakes?

I had to try them when they came to Ridgewood and I did have a slightly different experience. They have smaller ones which I did not see in NYC, at least the location and day I was there. I went to get a few to bring to a friend in Valley Hospital when she had her baby. I got a vanilla with strawberry frosting. I LOVED it. It was normal size, the cake was moist, and I loved the strawberry frosting. It wasn't just dyed vanilla. But, I discovered the strawberry is seasonal and it was gone after that one time in September, not to return until this spring. I very much prefer this smaller, saner size. So does my ass. They are open earlier/later hours than Cupcake by Carousel which CBC should note. Hint: When you have a huge competitor down the street, would it not behoove you to make sure you're open as often as they are??

One day I made B drive with me all the way to Nutley to try "Stuffed Cupcakes".I heard about them on The Nest so I had to see what the hype was all about. For me, that's exactly what it was- hype. We went on a Sunday and they did not have all the flavors they list on their site. Maybe it was about half. We bought four and they were GIANT, like Crumbs and way too sweet. I wasn't crazy about any of the flavors we bought and it was all just too much.

Over the winter I was waiting and waiting for Baked in a Cup to open in Ramsey. They FINALLY opened in the Spring. I was there in the first week. They had some really different flavors but it was SO limited when they first opened. I picked some plain ones- vanilla on vanilla, vanilla on chocolate, etc. They are REALLY small. They're about the size of a cupcake made in a tin in your house. And they had the nerve to charge way more than they should. They are EXPENSIVE for what you get. I don't remember the cost per cupcake but I know I was shocked. I never went back. They've expanded the menu- they have different flavors on different days. And I see on their website that they have vegan selections which is great because that isn't the easiest to find. I'd try it again if I was in Ramsey but I'm not running there for a special trip.

Heavenly Treats opened in Glen Rock. I admit I didn't want to like anything in there because we were trying to open a candy store in town and it seemed like they did it right under our nose. Technically they are not a cupcake joint, but they do sell cupcakes so I'm including them. Their store is GORGEOUS. They did a kick-ass job doing up the place. I know what it looked like before they came in and the transfomation could have been featured on one of those decor shows. But, unfortunately, the cupcakes I tried were not good. To put it nicely. I got a raspberry frosted one and I'll give them that the frosting was really yummy. But, the cake- it didn't taste fresh or moist at all. A friend got some before a playdate one day about a month later and they hadn't improved. I haven't been there since spring though so you never know if there's been any improvement. I don't think most people are going there for cupcakes anyway, but if you're going to sell them, you want them done right. They're not open on Mondays. I do not understand that in this economy. My store is open six days a week. We'd lose money if we closed on Mondays. Maybe they can afford it. Good for them.

I also was eagerly awaiting the opening of A La Cupcakes, also in Glen Rock. I was a little disappointed. I'd heard a lot about it prior to it coming in so I was hoping it was better than Heavenly Treats. The cake actually IS better. But, it looked kind of half-done in there and they had very little selection. I was there when it first opened so I'm sure it's worth another try. They were just small, very small, like Baked in a Cup. They do offer a larger size for $1 more, but they didn't have any the day I was there. I think I ate it in three bites. Taste was good though so I'm not complaining. I'll go back there. But, they're not open on Mondays either. Hello? Do you get the whole competition thing? If the other cupcake seller is closed on Monday, don't you think you might open then? Maybe I'm missing something...

So, size matters. Especially when it comes to cupcakes. There has to be a middle ground on size, people. I feel like Goldie Locks but there has to be a size that's "just right" so I'll give that to Mr Cupcakes. Their cupcakes are a good size and they pack a good flavor punch for the right price. I know people will disagree but too bad- these are my reviews. Feel free to comment and give you own!

***UPDATE!! 4-23-12***NO NO NO!!! My WINNER is A La Cupcakes in Glen Rock!! One, I was wrong on the sizes- I must have gotten a mini cupcake in there the first time. The regular cupcakes are around the same size as Mr Cupcakes and SO MUCH BETTER. I went back into A La Cupcakes months & months ago and I've been a 100% convert ever since. I'm literally there EVERY OTHER DAY. I'm addicted. I can't go anywhere else. My friend had Mr Cupcakes at her baby shower last weekend and I wasn't even tempted. I'm having Pam at A La Cupcakes do my birthday cake- I decided this a month or two ago and my birthday is in August. My son loves her sprinkle cookies so much, the promise of one is the only way to get him out of my store down the street to go home. I'm so nervous people won't know she's there and I NEED her to be there- she's not ON Rock Rd. She's on Glen, across from the senior apartments. Around the corner from Rocca. She sometimes makes me a vanilla with raspberry inside and I dream about it, it's so good.

Oh and she makes regular macaroons and French macarons and they're sick. I've tasted others that are all the same size, shape, "perfect" and they don't taste anywhere NEAR the same as Pam's do. She makes little mini pies which B really loved. He tried the pecan and sent me back for another the same week.

A La Cupcakes (Glen Rock)-
Baked in a Cup (Ramsey)-
Billy's Bakery-
Crumbs (Ridgewood & other locations)-
Cupcakes by Carousel (Oradell, Englewood *new*, & Rockland)-
Heavenly Treats-
Mr Cupcakes (Riverside Sq Mall, Oradell, Clifton)-
Stuffed Cupcakes (Nutley, *also sold in many retail shops around NY/NJ)-

I'm going to give a mention to Cupcake Cutie. What I've been told is that it's a mobile cupcake shop. From Facebook, it seems like half the people I grew up with know the girl, Sonja Kramer, who owns this company. All I've heard raves for her cupcakes. I read on her site that her cupcake truck roams all over Bergen so I'm waiting till it roams on over to Glen Rock. It sounds like a cool idea and if the cupcakes live up to the hype, I'll be all over that testimonial. Check her out-

Another mention is Cake Pops for You. I'm pretty sure they're sold out of Chestnut Deli- they don't have their own separate store. I bought a deal for one dozen cakepops for $15 from Suburban Momma. Normally I guess a dozen goes for $30. It's a bit steep but this isn't just a cupcake. These are more of an art. It's crumbled cake mixed with icing, formed into balls then dipped in chocolate. I did get to taste these at the Ridgewood sidewalk sale. The ones I tasted were amazing. They were chocolate cake though and that's not really my favorite so I'd like to experience the other flavors. I'm sure they'll be just as good. I know it's in a way more elite catagory than Entenmann's "pop 'ems", but they're about the same size, on a stick, and since I love the Entenmann's, I couldn't imagine not loving these too. Perfect size if you just want a taste. If you're looking for something more substantial, I'm afraid, you'd probably eat these all in one sitting by yourself. The price would have to be less for me if I was to do them as a favor or an acoutrement to other desserts even. I don't know what they do on price for bulk orders.

Lastly- I'm going to add Babycakes NYC. This is the vegan bakery to the Stars. I'm pretty sure I read about them in US Weekly. I bought them for E's 1st birthday party because you never know what kinds of allergies kids can have and these were pretty much "everything-free". I'm sure to a vegan they are fab. To someone who enjoys regular old cake, not-so-much. I did really like the frosting though. I don't know what it's made of, but it was an interesting taste and consistency. The kids really liked them and I felt okay letting a one year old eat it knowing it wasn't filled with processed crap. They make cakes and if you really are concerned about ingredients, they're the way to go. They're a little pricey but they deliver or you can pick them up. I opted to pick them up and I was there and back, to the Lower East Side during a weekday, mid-day in an hour and a half.

I think this enough information for you to find your sugar high cake of choice. I'm not going to turn down a cupcake but I definitely have my favorites and ones I might trade for box-made brownie....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More Power to Us

Oh, the things we take for granted. Like electricity. Who knew it would feel so great to flip on every light on in the house just because we could....

So, we were without power for four days. And it sucked. But, I know it could have been much worse. We had no water damage and no falling trees. I had a friend with a tree through her roof and many, many friends with water higher than their children in their basements and garages.

I'm not a nervous person by nature. I don't think the worst is going to happen, ever. I know media loves to hype things up too. So, I can't say I really prepared for this storm aside from getting a case of water. I had some batteries, I have a small flashlight, I have a few little push lights, and my husband has a lantern. I hadn't been food shopping for two weeks prior to the storm so I had to do my normal food shopping. In retrospect, that was kind of dumb because when my power went out, I lost a lot of the perishable food.

Then I couldn't escape the news. I'm an ABC News watcher because that's where all my soaps are (RIP AMC & OLTL...wah!). I hear "Tornado". Not a word thrown around much in these parts. THAT is what freaked me out. We had to worry that we might get water or we might get our roof blown off. Goodie.

Don't get me wrong- while other people were busy "hunkering down" on Saturday night, we still did our normal Bensi thing. Even though the mall was closed we weren't losing what could be our last chance to eat dinner out for awhile. Saturday night is Bensi night- come hell or high water (literally!), or both.

Usually my husband is the worrier in the house.  I don't know...for once, he didn't seem to give a crap. He was in some sort of weird denial. Well, since this is not usually my department, I gave in to the media hype and decided we'd all sleep in the basement. We have a finished basement but all of a sudden, those windows down there became places I was imagining streaming flood waters coming down. Whatever- I figured, we'd know if water was coming in where as if a tree came down, there would be no warning and one of us could be dead. I stuck with the water fear.

Worst "sleep" ever. If you could call it that. I'm a night owl and B a morning person so for once, this worked in our favor. We decided we'd take shifts watching and worrying so he fell asleep around 11p and I was up reading Soap Opera Digest and People while simultaneously being on Facebook (reading about more impending doom and what had already happened south of us) and on the Nest. I decided I'd get E from his crib around 1am. I wanted him to be REALLY sleeping by the time I got him. I scooped him up, and brought him to the REALLY COMFORTABLE (note the heavy sarcasm) futon he and I were to share. The kid is practically a sleepwalker. He was ALL OVER THE PLACE. Safe to say, I didn't really sleep. B woke up like every hour from 4a on to check things. Again, hindsight, I wish we all just slept in our beds because I woke up with a wicked headache and muscle spasms, but whatever- we were all safe.

At 7a, E woke up in a panic, not recognizing his surroundings and not digging it AT ALL. He kept demanding to go in his crib. By then, I didn't know what to believe about the storm because it seemed not as bad as predicted. He went back to sleep until 9:30a. That has never happened. Ever. But what to do with him since most likely then there would be no nap?  Non-stop Annie on dvd of course. Besides, "Tomorrow" was kind of appropriate for the moment. And E can belt it out like nobody's business.

We just spent the rest of the morning and part of the early afternoon alternating between news and Annie. Then....everything turned OFF. Lost power. We had sunny skies and no power. Weren't allows out of the house. Kind of scared to go out because there was a lot of branches/leaves/twigs and other debris around and we're not dumb. The wind was blowing and there was still concern for other trees to come down.

I really thought it would just pop back on and it never did. I was pissed we never really considered getting a generator. I was concerned about all the food I just bought and all the food I had stored. I have a refrigerator/freezer in the house but I also have one in the garage. I read that refrigerated food can last 4 hours. But, freezer food can last 24-48, the more packed, the longer it lasts.

Worse was that it was JUST US, and four neighbors next to each other across the street that lost power. One of my neighbors heard the transformer pop. How we were on the same grid with four houses across the street, I have no idea. We did borrow a generator, but lo and behold, B went back to his usual self and got paranoid about carbon monoxide. I got to watch all but about 10 minutes of the VMA's (BTW- LOVED Beyonce's announcement. Best moment.) before he came down like a bat out of hell to tell me I had to turn the generator off and that I'm obsessed with "media". Yeah, who isn't. But, I felt bad that he was so bothered, so I turned it off. Got to dvr Curb and Entourage but no RHoNJ. For shame.

Lucky for us, we have awesome neighbors (Shout out Val, Rich, Max & Cole), who connected us to their power with an extension cord from their garage to our fridge and tv/cable on Monday afternoon. Hey- we have priorities over here, especially with a toddler. More non-stop Annie. Of course. Weirdly, we also were one of the few that had cable intact. So, even in the dark, I was able to finally record RHoNJ. B was showering with E in twilight with a lantern.

We went to the Gotham Diner, which, I reviewed as being great for breakfast- but dinner there was a nightmare. SLOWEST service, waitress was like an old-lady version of Flo from Mel's Diner. She got E and my order wrong, totally, and we were there for over an hour. It was fine because E can roll with it and what were we rushing home for- to sit in the dark? But, I was cranky and starving so the experience could have been way better. At least we came home to Bachelor Pad on our borrowed electricity.

E, at 2.5 fared pretty well during all this drama. He went to bed about two hours later than normal most of the nights, he slept later, and he's been really whiny and dramatic but he could've been worse. I'm not even sure if it was the power being out or just normal "Terrible Two's" stuff actually. The weather outside was really beautiful Monday-Wednesday so we were able to go to our town pool. Shout out also to Glen Rock Municipal Pool workers. A lot of pools (Graydon for sure!) are now closed for the season because it would be too costly to fix and re-open just for Labor Day weekend. Glen Rock was clean, up and running on Monday after the storm. I just spent a lot of time out of the house.

On a more serious note, I am fully aware that people lost more than power and their reality tv shows.  We were very lucky. It could have been MUCH, MUCH, MUCH worse. My hometown, New Milford, was totally screwed and under water again. Parts of New Milford, Oradell, Teaneck, Bergenfield, Tenafly, etc all were either under water or still are having power outages. Garfield and Lodi- under water. We fared REALLY well and I am SO grateful. Hey- we lived. The power being out SUCKED. I lost a lot of money in groceries, but there are so many people, some acquaintances, that lost everything.

Homes in Mahwah and Suffern declared condemned. From what I understand that means that their homes aren't structurally sound anymore and it sounds like that's it- they'll never be allowed back in them. People in New Milford had to be rescued by boat. I watched the mayor of Suffern on the news talk about his community and I was crying. My heart broke for these people. And that's just a small portion of people. When I saw downtown Denville, I almost threw up. I've never been there, but their downtown looks like it could be downtown Glen Rock. We have a small business here in town. If what happened there, happened here, both B and I would have lost everything and for sure would have had to claim bankruptcy and probably both of us would have had a nervous breakdown. How can you prepare for that kind of devastation? You can't. My heart goes out to all those shop owners who are trying to pick up the pieces and figure it out in the aftermath.

If anyone knows of donation sites/areas, what people need, etc, please post in the comments section here so it's available to as many people as possible. I don't know anything about donations in Bergen or Passaic, but:

I pulled these off a friends FB pages-

Clothing donations: Social Services at Town Hall in Denville

Lake Hiawatha: Accepting donations of any sort - clothes, shoes, canned goods, school supplies, household items, cleaning supplies. Landmark Florist has a vacant store at 450 N Beverwyck Rd where the items will be stored and distributed. For any inquiries please call Landmark Florist at 973-316-8934 you can also call cell phone # 973-722-5668 Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Pompton Plains:

From News 12 site:
- The American Red Cross

- The Salvation Army

- Americares

- Residents interested in volunteering, can contact the Governor's Office of Volunteerism at (609) 633-9629 or (609) 775-5236 or email

- Those who need the help of volunteers and services may call 211 or go online at

- Agencies that wish to post their offers of volunteer assistance can go to
- KIDS – Kids in Distressed Situations

Disaster Assistance for Hurricane Irene

There is Federal Government disaster assistance available for New Jersey residents harmed by Hurricane Irene. If you yourself have not suffered damage, please forward this information to any family or friends who may need assistance.

Yesterday, President Obama issued a Major Disaster Declaration for damage resulting from Hurricane Irene in our state, which makes many New Jersey residents eligible for a number of Federal disaster relief programs. These programs offer grants and loans to individuals and loans to businesses.

The Federal Government has set up a website that allows people to apply online for assistance < >. This website consolidates the application process across several Federal agencies, including FEMA and the Small Business Administration. The website also reduces the number of forms you will ultimately have to fill out, shortens the time it takes to apply and allows you to check the progress of your applications online.

If you want to apply by phone rather than the Internet, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362).