Summer School (at the Grape Escape in Dayton)

Snack time at winemaking school.

This week brought me back to school for workshops, and getting organized and prepared for school to start up again in September.  But that’s it.  Everything is finished and now, my vacation can really begin.

Though the school year has ended, I won’t be entirely without some kind of school this summer.  I’m attending Winemaking School at the Grape Escape in Dayton with friends from work.  We’re learning how to make a Syrah from Chile, but there is actually a whole lot more “friends” to this experience than there is “school.”  The guides are a ton of fun and full of great information, but when we’re not working with them on the wine we get to hang out and socialize a bit.  There are tables and couches set up for groups to bring their own snacks and drinks.  In between the “lessons” this is a great place to catch up with friends – or to come on your own to make some new ones.


Stirring the mixture after the grapes were first crushed.

Checking the sugar content.

We’ve had two classes so far.  The first day, we crushed the grapes.  The tiny, dark grapes were dumped – stems and all – into a machine that separated them, began to crush them, and got rid of any material we didn’t need.  Our wine was pumped into the storage vat, and we checked the sugar levels.

Everything checked out nicely and our wine was left to begin fermenting.  I was surprised to learn that the wine is drinkable at every stage of the process – I’m not sure why I didn’t think that would be the case, but it is.  We got to taste our wine that we had just crushed, and it was a sweet, fresh juice.  We were told that from the taste of this initial juice, we would get a good sense of what the final wine will taste like.  We’ll see!

And Pressed

It's a group effort!

On our second day of class, a few weeks after the crushing – when most of the fermentation that will happen has already taken place – we pressed the grapes.  This process promised to be just as messy, if not messier, than the first day so I came prepared in dark colors.  We pressed the wine – extracting the juice from the “must” and sent it into the oak barrels for another few weeks or so.  The remaining solid parts of the grapes were collected to be used for agricultural purposes – nothing was wasted.

Our freshly pressed wine on its way to the oak barrel.

We have two more sessions of Winemaking School to go: racking and bottling.  This is a really fun process and definitely something I would consider doing again in the future.  It makes for a great family activity – the kids can come and be a part of the entire process – and gives everyone a fun reason to get together.

I’m thinking I might even try to persuade some family members in the area to go in on a barrel with me.  Maybe I can get a few family stories out of them for the genealogy project while we’re there…

The Jersey Girl

Rutgers Day 2011

Trying a Tornado Potato at Rutgers Day!

Saturday’s weather was absolutely perfect for a fun Rutgers Day!

Though there were countless things to see and do on several RU campuses, we chose the Cook/Douglass campus so that my nephews could see the animals.  The boys had a blast with the animals, playing basketball games, jumping in giant bouncy objects, getting their faces painted, and eating fun food.  I have to say, I enjoyed the food too!

Healthy diets were put on hold on Saturday while we ate things like Tornado Potatoes and frozen limeade.  Yum.

My main course: Crab cake sandwich from Sherri's Crab Cakes.

Once the boys had enough fun for the day and went home to take their naps, I stayed with friends to enjoy the NJ Folk Festival for a while.  Artists and vendors showcased handcrafted items and each booth was more interesting than the last.

After walking around for a while, we sat on the lawn among many other groups and families to enjoy the warm sun and a cool breeze. It was the perfect spot for a mid-afternoon doze!

Though I didn’t get to try any liquid nitrogen ice cream (or any ice cream at all) this year, it was still an amazing time.  Next year, I’m planning to try another campus and see about that ice cream!

The Jersey Girl

Rutgers Day is almost here!

Spring break is over.  We’re back to school.  But this time, we’re revived and refreshed, and now the light at the end of the tunnel, the countdown to the summer, has officially begun.  (There are 39 days for me.)

Warmer weather events are in full swing, like this weekend’s Rutgers Day.  On Saturday, on three RU campuses (Busch, College Ave, and Cook/Douglass) there will be hundreds of different things to do and see: we’ll be able to see solar power displays, learn about faith traditions from around the world, build and fly kites, and make liquid nitrogen ice cream.  (You know that last one definitely caught my attention!)

I'm going to check out how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream at Rutgers Day this year! (photo from the Rutgers Day blog)

There is literally something for every age and every interest at Rutgers Day.  Check out the main Rutgers Day website and the special Rutgers Day blog for more information.

My RU t-shirt, comfy sneakers, and sunscreen are all ready to go for Saturday.  Hope to see you there!

The Jersey Girl

Milltown Mel and His Shadow

February 2, 2011 – Groundhog Day

by Jeffrey Morris
Jeffrey Morris

Jerry Guthlein and Milltown Mel (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

MILLTOWN, NJ – Milltown businessman, Jerry Guthlein, was surrounded by his team of groundhog wranglers this morning, attempting to coach Milltown Mel out of his den and predict the weather.  Mayor Gloria Bradford read a proclamation declaring that Milltown Mel would be the official weather forecaster for Milltown. Guthlein, sponsored the event to benefit  Elijah’s Promise, a food bank located in nearby New Brunswick, and attendees were asked to bring a canned food item for donation.

Jeffrey Morris

A brightly dressed crowd looks on while Milltown Mel determines when spring will arrive. (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Despite the icy weather, many Milltowners showed up for the event and were treated to hot coffee and donuts at the American Legion hall.  This is the third year that Guthlein has put on this event, and everyone seems to enjoy it, as well as the star of the show, Milltown Mel.

Oh! by the way, Mel’s prediction was for an early and warm spring. Let’s hope he’s right.

Jeffrey Morris

Milltown's groundhog wranglers included Ralph Jasionowski and Anthony Fama (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Hooked on New Jersey

Top Row Left to Right: Melissa Morris, Ilse Vliet, Lydia Lewis, Kathy Donovan, Janet Keller Laughlin, and Linda Rae Coughlin (curator) Bottom Row Left to Right, Janet Santaniello (curator), Susan Johnson, Dee Rosebrock, and Debbie Walsh

To show their appreciation for the Garden State, many talented women from New Jersey, and the surrounding area, have displayed their New Jersey-themed artwork in a special exhibit at The Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge, NJ.  This exhibit, Hooked on New Jersey, is unique because each piece of art is a handcrafted, hooked rug.

Yes, rug.  A rug like the ones you are familiar with on the floors in your homes.  However, these particular rugs have been specially designed and carefully crafted to celebrate the fabulous state of New Jersey.  They truly are works of art and collectively make up one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve been to in a while.

Kathleen Donovan and The Jersey Devil

Kathleen Donovan’s rug called THE JERSEY DEVIL was selected to appear on the promotional materials for the exhibit.   The Watchung, NJ resident says, “I have always had an interest and love of animals.  That interest crosses over to include animals in mythology and folklore.  We in New Jersey are lucky to have one well-known creature of folklore (or maybe not) the Jersey Devil.”   I was lucky enough to meet Donovan, who has been hooking rugs for 10 years, and chat with her a little bit about her artwork.  She hopes that her portrayal of the Jersey Devil will make people think of him as a graphic novel hero.  I can certainly see it!

Linda Woodbury's Lucy.

LUCY the elephant is a Jersey girl with whom many of us are familiar, but here, depicted by Linda Woodbury of Glen Ridge, NJ, we see her in a brand-new way.  Woodbury says, “Lucy has been an iconic symbol of the Jersey Shore throughout my life.  When I signed up for a class hooking ‘Women with Attitudes’ Lucy was a natural choice for a rug.  She does project great attitude, where she stands at the edge of the sand looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.  Lucy is visible from 8 miles out at sea, making New Jersey the only coastline in the world marked by a six-story high elephant shaped navigational aid.”

Cynthia Boult's New Jersey Vanity Plates

Cynthia Boults of Annandale, NJ designed her rug VANITY PLATE (along with the help of the NJ DOT!) after NJ’s license plate that reminds everyone – just in case they forget – that we are the Garden State.  Boults shares a little about why she was inspired to hook a rug with this design, “I moved to New Jersey in 2004…proudly put a Garden State license plate on my fire engine red farm truck!  This truly is the Garden State.”

Janet Keller Laughlin and symbols of New Jersey

Some of the artists have been hooking rugs for years, and others like Janet Keller Laughlin from Hopewell, NJ, have just gotten started.  Laughlin’s first rug design, HARMONY ALONG the DELAWARE, was adapted from her own original black and white illustration.  It took her over a year to complete, but the result is simply beautiful.  Of her rug, Laughlin says, “My rug design depicts the harmonious coexistence of New Jersey’s flora and fauna.  The “Trenton Makes the World Takes” bridge is the backdrop for the bucolic spring garden that features our state symbols…the red oak tree, the violet, the goldfinch, and the honeybee.  This illustration was the logo for the 2008 Garden Club of America Zone IV flower show held in Trenton, NJ.”

There are dozens of other beautiful rugs that I’d love to share with you, but you’re going to have to head over to Woodbridge and see them for yourself!  The Hooked on New Jersey exhibition, co-curated by Linda Rae Coughlin and Janet Santaniello, will run until October 24th.  Exhibit hours are 11am to 4pm Monday through Friday and 2pm to 4pm on the weekends.

Go check it out and (if you aren’t already) get hooked on NJ too!

The Jersey Girl

LEGOs & Blocks Program at the Milltown Public Library

A table covered with LEGOs at the Milltown Public Library.

Books about LEGOs are extremely popular among kids of all ages at the Milltown Public Library.  Looking to find a way for their young patrons to have the chance to play with one of their favorite toys and socialize with others at the same time, the LEGOs & Blocks program was established.

“Kids came in and built houses, airplanes, and Star Wars ships out of LEGOs.  Babies and toddlers built towers and played with each other in the block area,” says Katie Llera, the youth services library intern at the Milltown Public Library.

The LEGOs & Blocks program is for children up to 6 years old.  “We have big chunky blocks on one side for babies and toddlers and then LEGOs on the other side for bigger kids,” says Llera.  Parents can be as involved with their child’s play as they would like to be.  Parents can help build LEGOs at the table or on the floor, or they can sit off to the side of the room to spend time chatting with other parents, reading magazines provided by the library, or enjoying light refreshments.

My adorable nephew having fun building with LEGOs.

My nephew (who loves to build with LEGOs) is going to start preschool this year, so when I told my sister about the LEGOs & Blocks program she thought it would be a great opportunity for him to socialize with children his own age before starting school in a few weeks.  He felt right at home and immediately began playing with the LEGOs and making friends with the other kids.  He had a blast!

Trying to better understand the fascination that kids have with LEGOs (though I have to admit they are a lot of fun to play with), I did a little reading online.  The company has a very long history and has been around since the early 1930s.  Something that I didn’t know before about LEGOs is that the company actually formed its name from the Danish words “LEg GOdt” meaning “play well.”  And what’s even more interesting about the LEGO name, is that though they didn’t know it at the time, the word also means “I put together” in Latin.

A LEGO fan shows off his airplane creation.

The LEGO & Blocks program is offered twice a month and at this time, no pre-registration is necessary.  In September, the LEGO events will take place on the 15th and 29th at 11:00am.  Children can bring their own LEGOs and blocks if they would like to.  Though, Llera reminds us, “We have lots of LEGOs and blocks for everyone!”

You can find out more information about this and other programs offered at the Milltown Library via the links below.

Here’s hoping you have fun and “play well” at the LEGO & Blocks event and can say “I put together” lots of fun creations!

The Jersey Girl

Sources and Related Links:
The Official  LEGO Website
The Milltown Public Library Website
Milltown Public Library Kids’ Page

Rutgers Gardens Farm Market ~ Something for Every Taste

Flowers from Chickadee Creek Farm of Pennington, NJ

Despite living here in New Jersey most of my life, as I travel through the state now, I’m finding places that I never visited (or even knew existed) before.  It’s very exciting!

A perfect example of this occurrence for me is the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market – it’s actually walking distance from where I grew up, but this week was the very first time that I’ve been there.

“The mission of the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market is to provide the local community, including residents, students, university faculty and staff, University Dining, and restaurants the opportunity to experience and purchase fresh, locally grown and/or prepared food products.”

The Rutgers Gardens Farm Market is conveniently located just a few yards off of Ryders Lane in New Brunswick, NJ and is open on Fridays from noon to 5pm during May through October.    There’s plenty of parking available – and something fresh and fantastic for every taste…

Amy Giovanelli from Stults Farm

Stults Farm – This is the first year that Stults Farm, a family operated farm that began back in 1915, is participating in the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market.  They bring plenty of fresh produce including blueberries, raspberries, basil, and honey from their Cranbury, NJ farm.

Daughter, Amy Giovanelli enjoys working at the farm market on Fridays.  She says, “I think it is great.  It’s very popular.  There are people constantly coming in.”

Cooperative Kitchen – At the tent for the Cooperative Kitchen (5 independent businesses sharing kitchen space in Princeton, NJ), you’ll find a number of different tasty treats.

  • From Ladydbug Luggage Gourmet Cookies & Cakes, owned by Annette Villaverde, I picked up a couple of buckles.  These small, moist cakes with a sugary crumb topping (just in case you don’t know what a buckle is – because I sure didn’t!) are a fabulous companion to a morning cup of coffee.  I tried both the cherry (which offers a tangy contrast to the sweetness of the cake) and the apricot (which provides a fun, chewy texture).  Ladybug Luggage provides custom cookies for any occasion and also specializes in decadent wedding cakes.
  • From Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, I tried a granola bar.  It doesn’t sound too exotic, but it wasn’t your average granola bar!  The granola mixed with dried fruits, puffed cereal, and seeds covered delicately in a sweet glaze makes for a delightful afternoon snack!  Owner of Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, Jen Carson, understands that quality ingredients are important and uses organic and locally grown ingredients whenever possible.  They will bake-to-order and deliver their personalized treats and beautiful cupcake towers (a fun alternative to a traditional cake) free of charge to the greater Princeton, NJ area.

    Annette Villaverde and Jen Carson, representing two of the Princeton, NJ Cooperative Kitchen businesses

  • Other Cooperative Kitchen companies include Wooden Spoon Catering Company, The Moonlight Bakers, and Simply Nic’s Specialty Foods.  From Nic’s Specialty Foods, I tried the Espresso-Cacao Nib.  This artisanal shortbread is cool and refreshing, just like a cold espresso drink, but subtle and sweet at the same time.  (The shortbread come two in a package, so make sure you share; it’s very tempting to eat them both at once!)

Enjoying the scented soaps from WoodsEdge Wools Farm (photo by Joan Morris)

WoodsEdge Wools Farm, LLC – Since 1976, Alpacas and Llamas are the stars of the show over at WoodsEdge Farm.  Representing the farm’s dedication to both beauty and value, manager, Brent Walker, brought beautiful scarves (which you know I love and had to try on despite the summer heat!), shawls, socks, and yarn to use for your own creations.  This tent is probably the most luxurious at the farm market and smells that way due to handmade, scented soaps for sale – soap scents include Rosemary Mint, and Oatmeal Lavender.  (Scented soaps are another weakness of mine!)

Varun and Naveen Jayaraman of Grab 'Em Snacks

Grab ‘Em Snacks – Mom and CEO of Grab ‘Em Snacks, Geetha Jayaraman, has done a great job with her business and raising her sons Varun and Naveen.  These polite and friendly salesmen really know the Hillborough, NJ company’s line of gourmet plantain chips!  The chips (that are gluten-free, rich in potassium and beta carotene, and contain no preservatives or artificial colors) come in flavors such as Salt Goodness, Cinful Cinnamon, and Fire-Me-Up Red Chili.  (By the way, when you visit the farm market and get to sample the chips for yourself and the guys warn you that a chip is going to be spicy, they’re really not kidding!)

Jonathan Lea having some Good Times with his kettle corn.

Good Times Kettle Corn – Summer is a great time for kettle corn.  (Actually, so is fall, winter, and spring when you think about it!)  Owner of Good Times Kettle Corn and Princeton University graduate, Jonathan Lea, couldn’t agree more.  The new business owner enjoys coming to the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market and enjoys working alongside the other regular venders.  “I do several markets with several of the other venders.  It’s a cohesive group of people,” Lea says.

When I first saw the tent for the kettle corn, I’ll be honest, my teeth began to hurt in anticipation of the sugar.  But since Lea was so friendly, and seemed to really enjoy himself as he bagged the kettle corn, I tasted some when he offered a sample…and I was delightfully surprised!  This corn was light, and fluffy and the sweetness was very subtle.  The coating is a nice balance of salty and sweet and covers the popcorn just enough so that it stays fluffy.  The bag that I took home with me (and shared just a little bit) was completely gone the next day!  Right now, Good Times is only available at on-site events and markets.  Keep an eye out though, because Lea is looking to branch out into local stores in the near future.

Benjamin Schellack, owner of OQ Coffee Co.

OQ Coffee – The New Brunswick, NJ based coffee company, founded by Evan Gentry and Benjamin Schellack, emphasizes quality and sustainability.  Coffee connoisseurs will appreciate that they use micro-lots, new crop, and specialty coffees (scoring 82+ on the international scale).  Eco-friendly consumers will appreciate that they meet or exceed Fair Trade standards, support shade-grown, organic, and bird-friendly coffees, and are always looking for ways to be more sustainable.  After speaking with Schellack, you’ll want to try some OQ coffee for yourself to see if it has anything to do with his lively and energetic personality.

FunniBonz getting us all ready for some serious summer BBQs!

Additional venders for the 2010 season include: Fruitwood Farms, Inc. from Monroeville, NJ, FunniBonz Barbeque Sauce from West Windsor, NJ, Picklelicious from Teaneck, NJ, Valley Shepherd Creamery from Long Valley, NJ, Chicakdee Creek Farm from Pennington, NJ, Ducky Life Tea from Asbury Park, NJ, Davidson Exotic Mushrooms, Stephan and Son’s Meat Store, The Village Bakery, and Yona’s Delights.

Mike from Picklelicious sets out some samples.

Rutgers Gardens – Volunteers from the gardens are at the farm market each Friday selling beautiful plants.  The day I was there, the lovely volunteers were also handing out red, white, or blue plants to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Beginning in August, they sell cut flower arrangements as well – the arrangements are usually around $5 each.  Plant sales are the majority of the Rutgers Gardens’ income, so the next time you are near New Brunswick on a Friday, take a drive down Ryders Lane, pick up some beautiful plants, and support the Rutgers Gardens.

The Jersey Girl