Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Jersey Botanical Garden hosts holiday open house

"Historic Skylands Manor in the New Jersey State Botanical Garden will be filled with a display of holiday décor during its annual Holiday Open House from November 30 to December 3." For more information, go to the full story here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Jersey Home, Garden and Kitchen Tours this Week

  • Colts Neck Kitchen Tour
    Explore 10 kitchens throughout Colts Neck. The tour includes a complimentary wine and food sampling at Four JGs Vineyard (on Hillsdale Road) with chef Chris Brandl of Brandl Restaurant in Belmar as guest chef.

    Wednesday, September 27th

    Tickets are $45 each and are only available at the following establishments:
    Folio Art Glass in Colts Neck
    Mulberry Market in Colts Neck
    Better Housekeeping Shop in Red Bank

  • Tasting Tour of Allenhurst, Interlaken, Loch Arbor, Ocean, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove Homes.
    This tour features 11 themed kitchens with samplings of cuisine served by local chefs. Each kitchen will also feature a designed table and floral display sponsored by the area designers and florists. This is a fundraiser sponsored by Pope John XXIII Regional School, 73 Wickapecko Drive, Ocean Township.

    Saturday, September 30th
    10am to 3pm
    Tickets $40 in advance/$45 day of the Tour
    Limited Availability
    To purchase tickets in advance call 732-663-0736
    or email

  • A Day in Old Mount Tabor - Thirteenth Annual House Tour
    The Mt.Tabor Historical Society is sponsoring a self-guided walking tour of 15 Victorian cottages and historic buildings. Other attractions include a quilt exhibit, an ironworking demonstration, period costumes, and musical entertainment.
    Saturday, September 30, 2006
    11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    $20.00 per person
    For additional information and/or advance tickets, call 973-586-1564

  • Moonlight Garden Tour – Old Bridge
    Ten gardens will be open to the public on Sept. 30 as part of the Moonlight Parade of Ponds. This tour will showcase winter gardening at night. Contributions to one of two charities is requested: Township With a Heart, a private nonprofit organization, and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. More information here.

    R.S.V.P. by Sept. 28
    Gather at 6 pm Sept. 30 at the headquarters of Groundskeeper, 2545 Route 516., Old Bridge.
    Sandwiches and soft drinks will be served.
    The guided bus tour will depart at 7 pm.
    Call (732) 679-8600 or visit for more information, or e-mail

  • Forest Hill, Newark
    A self-guided tour of some of Forest Hill's most gracious homes and buildings. “Tour goers will visit the interiors of 7 of Forest Hill’s most beautiful homes, including an apartment in Newark’s first co-op building, designed to rival New York City’s Dakota, the William Clark Mansion, now the home of the North Ward Center, Inc., and a former SRO which has been faithfully restored by its current owner and was featured in scenes from the move Jacobs Ladder. The architectural styles of the homes range from combinations of Colonial and Greek revival, to Scottish Revival and Georgian. The interiors have been faithfully restored and updated where needed by the owners, some of who have lived in Forest Hill for years and some who are among our newest neighbors.”

    Sunday, October 1, 2006, 11am to 4:30pm.
    Tickets will be available for sale at $20 per person on the porch of 190 Ballantine Parkway.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Six Miles on the Delaware River

Earlier this week we took a very enjoyable trip on the Delaware River between Frenchtown, NJ and Point Pleasant, Pa. This is a very calm stretch of the Delaware River; There are no rapids or whitewater. The total distance was approximately 6 miles. We were 7 people in all – four that were comfortable on the water, and three novices. We rented three canoes and a kayak.

The river was five feet above normal and flowing at about twice its’ usual speed. The entire six miles took us just over an hour. Under normal conditions, the trip should take about two hours.

To start, we drove to Point Pleasant, Pa and rented the canoes and kayaks at River Country. The cost was $25 per person for the canoes and $34 for the kayak. This price included all equipment and a ride north to a point just below the bridge to Frenchtown. We were also offered “insurance” for $1.50 per person which we declined. The canoes and kayak were stored at the put-in spot. They were in very good condition. The entire livery operation was nicely organized.

The river was just beautiful. The air temperature rose to the mid 80’s. The water temperature was 66 degrees. About halfway down, we stopped paddling and just floated. You could actually make it the entire six miles without paddling. During the summer season, you can buy lunch on an island in the river from the River Hotdog Man. Alternatively, River Country has a café on premises. These are both good options if you have kids with you.

In addition to the high water, there were many signs of the recent rains and spring/summer floods. There are trees and other debris all along the shore on both sides. Cleanups are being organized for the next few weekends. For more information on these see The Delaware River Journal.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Book Review: O'New Jersey: Daytripping, Backroads, Eateries, Funky Adventures (3rd Edition)

by Robert Heide & John Gilman

Orginally published in 1992, O'New Jersey: Daytripping, Backroads, Eateries, Funky Adventures was updated and re-released in 2006. It is a mixture of history, pop-culture and facts, all organized into daytrips. This is not a standard travel book and it doesn’t try to be.

For each daytrip, there are directions, suggestions on what to see and visit, facts about the area, anecdotes, and highlights of local eateries. There is no attempt to be comprehensive, especially when it comes to places to eat. The authors highlight their favorites, or the ones that the local residents all patronize. In general, their recommendations a very good. Since the book is about daytrips, the authors do not include information on where to stay.

Daytrips include Hoboken, Paterson, The Great Swamp, Lambertville, Ocean Grove, The Pine Barrens, and many others. Some descriptions are more informative than others. Even though the book has been updated, there seems to be some gaps. For instance, one trip suggests visiting Thomas Edison’s factory site in West Orange. This National Park has been closed for renovations since 2003. If any particuliar site is important to your trip, I would call ahead. Check out the Amazon listing for a full list of Chapters(each chapter is a daytrip).

If you are looking for a comprehensive book on New Jersey Travel, this is not the book for you. It is most useful as a companion book for the history, anecdotes, and accompanying facts that are provided. It is a fun, fast read. I would rate it a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Upcoming Events and Activities

Here is a short list of events for the next few weeks. Please add other events that you know of in the comments section.

  • 5th Annual House Tour Of LBI. Saturday, September 16. 10am to 3pm.

    Tour newly constructed homes on Long Beach Island — beach front and bay front. St. Francis Community Center, 47th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Brant Beach, (609) 494-8861. Tickets are $35. Proceeds benefit programs and services offered at St. Francis Community Center.

  • War on Trash. Saturdays, September 16 and September 23

    Help clean up the Delaware River. Rain or Shine. More information at the Delaware River Journal.

  • Gourmet Chefs in Designer Kitchens Tour. Saturday, September 16. 10:30am to 3pm.

    Tour six kitchens in Toms River, Island Heights, Seaside Park and Bayville. Each home will have a local Chef who will prepare and serve a specialty from their area restaurant. Sponsored by the White Pine Twig of the Community Medical Center Auxiliary Association.

  • Walking Tour: Broad Street Highlights. Thursday September 21. 1pm to 2:30pm.

    Re-Discover Newark: Explore its architecture, history, and importance as an American city since 1666. Run by the New Jersey Historical Society. The tour is free.

  • Lilac Restoration Project. Saturday, September 23. 10am.

    The New Jersey Botanical Garden Lilac volunteers "invite you to a hands-on learning experience in the Lilac Garden with Dan Ryniec, Lilac Curator at Brooklyn Botanical Garden." Free.

  • Colts Neck Kitchen Tour. Wednesday, September 27th 9:30-2:30.

    Explore ten kitchens throughout Colts Neck. Complimentary wine and food sampling at Four JGs Vineyard (on Hillsdale Road) with chef Chris Brandl of Brandl Restaurant in Belmar as guest chef. Tickets are $45 each. Sponsored by the Colts Neck PTO.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Organic Garden Tour in Montclair

Pat Kenschaft of Montclair is inviting “Everyone and their friends” to her Open Garden next Saturday, September 23, 2006. Kenschaft is a Mathematics Professor at MSU and spends her spare time tending her garden, among other things. She has raised all of her family’s vegetables organically for over 25 years.

The Open Garden tour last spring was quite interesting and this falls tour looks just as promising. In her email announcing the Open Garden Kenschaft says, “This year's garden is different from others because of the wild rain, wind, and woodchucks. The garden isn't as planned as usual, but we are still eating feasts every evening.” Current crops include collards, kale, chinese cabbage, Malabar spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and climbing beans. Some of these will be harvested all winter.

The garden will be open September 23, from 2-5pm. It is located at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue in Montclair.

Montclair Hawk Watch - 50th Season

The Montclair Hawk Watch is open from September through November. Right now is the prime migration season. 10,000 to 40,000 Broad-winged Hawks will pass over the Montclair Hawk Lookout between September 14 and 28. On Sunday, September 17, there is an Open House from 10am to 5pm. On other days, the Hawk Watch is staffed by members of the New Jersey Audubon Society. The society members are there to answer questions and help visitors spot migrating birds. This year marks the 50th consecutive season of Hawk Watches in Montclair.

The day we went was a bit hazy, so the views of New York City were not all that clear. It was, however, fairly easy to spot the bald eagles and hawks that flew overhead. There were about 20 visitors at that time, and most had brought either binoculars or telescopes with them.

The access to the Hawk Watch is a short climb up some steep, well maintained steps. One thing that really struck me was a Pine tree laden with pine cones. I have not seen so many pine cones on one tree in a long while. For directions to the Hawk Watch, go here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sandy Hook in September

Saturday was a beautiful day and we spent the morning walking along the new Multi-Use Pathway (MUP) at Sandy Hook. The pathway is a fairly level five mile long paved trail intended for foot traffic, bicyclists and in-line skaters. It winds through maritime forests passing dunes, salt marshes, ocean beaches, bay front areas and historic sites.

There was quite a bit of activity at Sandy Hook Saturday morning, especially at the northern tip of the peninsula. The parking area at Gunnison Beach was full at 11am, probably do to the naturists. Many people parked in the more southern lots and walked or rode on the MUP to Gunnison Beach.

On the MUP, we passed many walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and one lone in-line skater. The pathway is perfect for all of these activites. We parked at Lot E and easily found the pathway. We then headed north through the Holly Forest. The holly trees are filled with berries yet to ripen. It will be interesting to go back later in the season to see the colors of the berries. The bayberry bushes were also loaded with berries. There are many wildflowers along the way that add interest to the scenery. Of particular note are the cactuses that grow among the holly trees. I don’t usually think of New Jersey as a place to find cactus growing wild.

There is no fee to park at Sandy Hook from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The MUP is a very level easy walk or ride appropriate for most any age or level of fitness.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thoughts on the Upcoming Weekend

The weather forcast for the upcoming weekend looks perfect. There are many organized events planned and plenty else to just enjoy. Here are my picks.

The Hoboken Italian Festival in Sinatra Park starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. From their website - "The highlight of the feast, beyond the fabulous variety of foods and entertainment, is the day long procession through the streets of Hoboken, including a pain staking reenactment of the "Blessing of the Fleet" in the Hudson River, all culminating with a huge fireworks extravaganza over the park. Sinatra Park, named after Hoboken's favorite son, Frank Sinatra, is where On The Waterfront was filmed in 1954." For a full schedule, go here: Hoboken Italian Festival.

The Raritan Bay Seafood Festival is Sunday, September 10th in South Amboy at the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. It runs from 11am to 6pm with the Marshall Tucker Band performing at 2pm. Admission is free and there is Shuttle Bus Service from the NJ Transit Train Station. Call 732.525.5977 for more information.

A Visit to Sandy Hook may be in order. I want to check out the recently completed 5-mile long Multi-Use Pathway. The 12-foot wide pathway accommodates walkers, bicyclists and in-line skaters. There is a ranger led Lenape Nature Walk on Saturday, September 9 at 2 pm. Meet at the Sandy Hook Visitor Center. On Sunday at 2pm there is a 2-hour tour of fortifications that once defended New York Harbor. The tour is free, however reservations are required. Call 732-872-5970. Remember to bring a flashlight.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

News from Other Blogs

A Current View of the NY Botanical Gardens - OldRoses over at A Gardening Year recently visited the NY Botanical Gardens. She has posted some great pictures of the gardens in late August. It is definitely worth a Click.

Tracking Ernesto Up the Delware - The Delaware River Journal is keeping track of possible flooding along the Delaware River, among others.