Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dazzling Jewelry, A Jersey Girl, and Denville

I was born and raised on Long Island, and moved to New Jersey when I was ten years old (the same age that my son is right now). And while they say that you can take the girl out of New York but you can't take New York out of the girl, I tend to disagree. I'm a total Jersey girl. 

I love this state, with all it's beauty and changing seasons. I love the New Jersey attitude, and that when I am out of state, somehow, everybody knows I'm from Jersey. There is so much to love about this state, and now I've just found one more reason to be proud.

Dazzle Candy.

After the tremendous damage that had been done to Denville (my neighboring town), I got heavily involved in fundraising. I started a Denville of the Day post on facebook, asking everyone to visit a particular store that was reopening, or one that could just use a few more customers. In the process, I've met some really amazing people. I wanted to do one more fundraiser, something that I knew people would enjoy, and that would bring people into the center of town.

I'd had some ideas, and some of those almost turned into events. I wanted to do something, but not just anything. It had to be cool, and different. And that's when I found Dazzle Candy. I was on facebook and saw that someone I knew liked the page, so I checked it out. I wasn't sure what Dazzle Candy was. It's  a line of jewelry started by a young woman from Wayne. Wayne! I spent years in and around Wayne, and was so excited to see that someone from Wayne had started a business like this.

Now, before I go any further, I must say that I la-la-love Buddhas. BUDDHAS WERE ALL OVER HER BRACELETS! Score! I kept scrolling through the photos and saw that many of her pieces were worn by women from the Real Housewives of New Jersey. It's one of my favorite shows. I looked on her page and saw that she was scheduled to do an upcoming girls night out shopping event (and on the same day that we are doing our holiday boutique!), so I thought I'd see if she'd be willing to do a trunk show for us. 

The answer is yes!

I haven't been this excited about jewelry in a while. I love beads, Buddhas, and bangles, all of which she has. (And if you watch RHONJ, you will see poor Caroline Manzo sitting at the table in Punta Cana with a migraine, and gorgeous Dazzle Candy bangles on her wrist. For more on which RHONJ girls wore which Dazzle Candy pieces, click here).  Dazzle Candy is high end costume jewelry that you will love so much, I swear, and that will have your friends asking, "OMG! Where did you get that?"

Dazzle Candy bangles (photo from Dazzle Candy facebook page)
I love this. It's the custom big Buddha bracelet. (Photo from the Dazzle Candy facebook page)

Your answer will be, "Oh, at the Dazzle Candy Trunk show that was held in Denville." The trunk show, oh, I can barely stand the excitement, will be held at a space that I often rent for events, the Gallery at River's Edge in Denville. I will be providing wine (bought locally at Denville Liquors) and cheese, and Beth Moran of Sweet Stuff by Beth (sold at Simplify Market) has generously offered to donate some yummy confections! In addition, Trish of Serene Serene (the fab salon on West Main in Denville) will be showing the Fall 2011 line from Mirage Cosmetics, and will help shoppers find their best colors of lipsticks and eyeshadow for fall. If you like what she does for you, good news! She will have make up at the event for sale, so you don't have to go home and try to figure out how to match what she did.

We will also have a great door prize, filled with product both bought and donated from shops in and around town. Shop this event with cash or checks only, please.

We are asking people to RSVP for this event, since we expect a large crowd, and are asking $10 per person as a donation to Denville's Hurricane Irene fund. Those who wish to attend can mail a check written directly to the "Denville PAL Hurricane Relief Fund" to Tiffany Palisi, PO Box 243, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046. Your check will get your name on the guest list for this event. You can also give us a check that night, unless we have a full house.

Check out all that Dazzle Candy has to offer, including her latest custom bracelets from the "My Loves" collection, at

For more information on this event, contact me directly at Looking forward to seeing you all there, shopping Dazzle Candy's jewelry and t-shirts, and having a nice glass of wine with you. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because We Love Our Pets...

If you have a pet, you know that the kind of love shared between a pet and it's owner is unparalleled. Animals love big and unconditionally. They know when you are feeling down, or need to cuddle. And on your very worst day, when it feels like the sky is falling, they know just how to comfort you.

I've had horses, hamsters, and dogs. I tried having cats (twice) but both my son and I are allergic. We gave our first cat to my brother and his wife, and he is now eight years old. Two years later, we tried again, hoping that we could adjust, but my son ended up on an inhaler and those two perfect kittens, Darth Vader and Diego, were returned. Our hearts broke.

Now, my neighbor's cat is a visiting friend of the family. Bella is a dog in cat's clothing. Seriously. It's so funny. She's a tiny thing but she hunts squirrels, snakes, and chipmunks, and has left me a handful of kills, including a blue jay. We used to let her into the house for five minutes at a clip, but it did start to have an effect on our allergies, so we can't let her in anymore. It's so hard. Today, she tried to get in anyhow, and ended up clinging to the screen in my bathroom as if to scream, "Let me IN!"

My iPhone shot of Bella, trying to climb her way in through the bathroom screen.

Animals have a way of getting deep into our hearts.

For the holidays, I get tons of holiday cards (and please, add me to your mailing list: PO Box 243, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046). Many are family shots, or photos of the children, but only a few of them feature people's pets, which is really a shame since they are such a big part of our lives.

I got the idea to have Ward do pet portraits, after a recent family shoot at the Cove went wild. A dear friend of ours had us do a portrait of her kids for her husband's birthday. Her dog (who is like a fourth daughter) kept jumping into the shot. It was so cute that it got me wondering why people don't put their pets in their holiday cards. Of all the shots, some of the best are the ones that include their dog.

After a big brainstorming session, Ward and I have decided to offer pet portraits at a local spot. We have designated shooting dates, and booking people in thirty minute increments. Some people are booking their dogs (without humans), as a cute second family card (sending out one from the whole family, and one from the dogs; tres chic) while others included their dogs in their own family portraits. We've also had people who are dog families (sans kids) dress their dogs up for fun photos, and added cute sentiments to the cards like, Don't let your holiday go to the dogs. Relax and enjoy!

We've even been booked to visit a barn in Mendham to photograph a woman with her horse. It's been amazing.

For information on having your pet's portrait done, please contact us at or by calling (973) 784-3030. We are booking up fast so call or email today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Peggy Chang's Pumpkin Bread Recipe

As promised, my lovelies...

Peggy Chang's Pumpkin Bread (makes 2 loafs)

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease two coffee tins or two loaf pans.

Blend the following in one bowl:

  • 2/3 c shortening (1 1/2 sticks butter)
  • 2 2/3 c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 c canned pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 c water

In another bowl, mix:

  • 3 1/3 c flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 3/4 c wheat germ

Add wet mixture to dry. Blend well, but do not over mix. Pour mixture into two greased loaf pans or coffee tins. Bake at 350* for approximately 1 hour. Enjoy.
Add wet to dry

Halloween's A Comin' (and there's a pumpkin bread recipe to go with it)

I've never shared Peggy Chang's Pumpkin Bread recipe with you. It's the most delicious pumpkin bread; it's almost like carrot cake but with a pumpkin spice that's so sweet and satisfying, it makes you want to cry. Sometimes, I add mini chocolate chips to the mix and, well, there is nothing better. Not even baked apples, or a fresh from the oven pumpkin pie with a flaky crust. Peggy Chang's Pumpkin Bread is the best. She used to bake hers in coffee tins, but since I get my coffee in bags, I just use little loaf pans. Sometimes, I make it in muffin tins. Anyway works, as long as you watch the cooking time. I really want to share that recipe with you now, but it's late, and I'm not motivated to go to the kitchen and get it. I promise I will get it to you soon, because it's that good. You simply must try it. Peggy is my mother's neighbor, and when I was young, Peggy shared this recipe with my mom. It makes two loafs, and it's so amazing that I make it at least a couple of times every fall.

Moist and delicious pumpkin bread (which is really more like a cake). Yum.

Now I know it's still September (barely), but after this long super-hot summer, that only ceased to be stifling when it was raining, I am ready for a new season. Usually, I am chomping at the bit to begin my Halloween decorating. I get a full six weeks in by decorating my house the day after my mother's birthday, September 19th. My decorations never stay up longer than November 1st so I start early. To me, visions of the undead, grey ghosts, and tattered bats, look all the more dreary after their holiday has passed. That's why I start decorating in mid-September; to maximize my decoration (personal) viewing.

This year, though, on the 19th, I had no steam left in me to decorate. Perhaps it was the weather, or something in the mood that surrounded me, but I just couldn't usher in Halloween. I tried, oh, I tried, to no avail. I planted lots of mums, but that was the furthest I'd gotten. I've been exhausted and overworked. I just couldn't stand the thought of unpacking all that stuff, and putting it out.

It wasn't until W and I were out with two of our kids on Friday -- when I saw orange lights and pumpkin cut-outs -- that I got in the mood. It hit hard. It was like all of a sudden, I couldn't wait to decorate. I could barely hold all the boxes of lights -- one string of purple, the rest orange -- while my fingertips gripped onto a 30 pack of pumpkins die-cuts. W looked at me, noticing that I was hinging on hysteria, and said cautiously, "Don't we have a ton of lights at home?"

It didn't matter to me. I wanted the lights, and I wanted them now!

We got home, and while W was barbecuing ribs on the grill, and the potatoes were cooking (in preparation for being smashed together and smothered in butter and whole milk, which M loved), I went outside and started wrapping the lamp post in orange string lights. The kids had already opened the pack of pumpkins and were sticking them in every window of the house. It was festive as all get out. Afterward, I moved to the side porch, where I proceeded to wrap strings of lights (that we did have at the house, as W had mentioned) around the porch. The warm glow of orange brought autumn into my heart, in full force.

As we ate the ribs (W made them perfectly, both dry and wet ribs), mashed potatoes, and corn while gathered around our handmade, reclaimed wood table, I felt hopelessly overjoyed.

The next day at my house, I was out early stringing lights through my evergreens. It was hot, about 80*, and one of my neighbors just had to ask (in a concerned parental tone) when I was going to start lighting them up. I assured him it wouldn't before October 1st, and was commended for being so ahead of the game. (Sidebar: if there is any nice, warm day in November, it's the day that I cancel all of my appointments and string all of my front yard evergreens with string lights in anticipation of Christmas. I use the super long lights that the landscapers use, and I still go through about 10 strings. I don't set the timer to light them up until Black Friday. It's so worth it, though, because the eve after Thanksgiving, my lights go on at dusk and my work is done. No stringing in 30* weather.) It seems, though, that the Halloween spirit got the best of me, because last night (Sunday) those babies were aglow. They are on a dusk to dawn timer, and coming home tonight, after dusk, and seeing those lights made me smile.

The giant dumpster, that is sitting in my driveway just waiting to catch the contents (including walls and floors) of my son's room, has been wrapped in caution tape and has a mummy hanging on the front of it. I plan on making a sign with the words "Dump Dead Bodies Here" on it, to add to the Halloween fright. The spirit is in me, yes it is. I was so moved that I also took out most of the decorations I have for inside. All I need now is to light a fire and watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

And for that pumpkin bread recipe, I promise to post it as tomorrow's blog entry.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What We Teach Our Kids (make a pledge)

I recently got an amazing compliment from a woman who I see often, and know fairly well. She works/owns my favorite diner, and has known me, W and our children for over 5 years. She was watching me with W and his younger daughter, sitting at a table doing homework. As we were leaving, the woman mentioned that she is amazed at our relationship, and that she has never seen such love between a woman and a child, who was not hers from birth. It's natural for me to feel so close to them; we've been in each other's lives since they were very young (M was in pre-school when we began our life together) and frankly, they are the two greatest girls I have ever met. They are so easy to love.

I feel very close to W's kids, and that I value the time that I get to spend with them. Sometimes we cook together, other times, we cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. I help with homework, and take them to the pottery place to make gifts for family.

It's the same with my son. I work very hard to show him love and respect. I listen when he talks to me, I take the time to do fun things with him. We laugh together, watch television shows that have lessons. We read, each of us taking turns reading a page, back and forth. I talk to him about everything that I can, about the things that happen in life, or might happen, and what they mean to us personally. I am far from perfect, and I tell him that. I explain that being human means making mistakes, screwing up, and not knowing it all. It's all okay, as long as we keep trying to better ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago, W was teaching the kids how to use a fire extinguisher, and they each took turns putting out fires with it (he lit the fires safely in the chiminea). As I watched, my heart grew. To say that it was magical to watch W teach the kids how to put out fires, and to teach them that lesson, would minimize it. Even to say that watching the kids learn a life lesson, all together, with W at the helm, wouldn't do it justice. It was one of those things that when you see it, you feel it, and you know that it's a family moment that will carve a giant, permanent notch in your heart. It's these moments that make us tight knit, and that make memories that get banked and built upon.

Time with the kids is always time well spent. You have to know that. We all have our kids for a handful of years to teach them our morals, what matters to us, and to be a positive influence in their lives. Before you know it, they are off with their friends, and those friends become the primary influence. If we've done well, our kids will be able to sort through the things that they are presented with (when we are not around), and hopefully use their good judgement to decide what's right for them.

Freshman student Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself, at age 14, this past Saturday. He had been bullied, tormented, for years in school and online. Bullying is a problem that seems to be getting worse, not better. As parents, if we keep an open and trusting dialogue with our kids, and allow them to speak honestly about what they are feeling and doing, we have a much better chance of protecting them, advocating for them, and helping them find solutions. Our kids might tell us things that we don't want to hear (and that can be hard), but it's our job to listen, process what they are saying, and help to steer them in the right direction. Mostly, it's crucial that our kids know by both words and example that they are loved, all the time, regardless of the path that they choose in life.

Rodemeyer made a video talking about his experience with coming out of the closet, for the "It Gets Better" project. He said how he'd been bullied and called names like "fag" in the halls of his school and online; watching it made me cry. When he made the video, he was in a good place. He made it just months ago. Knowing that he killed himself due to the endless tormenting that he received from his peers is simply horrifying. How could this have been avoided? I don't have the answer, but I do know that if the bullying had been stopped, it's more likely that Rodemeyer might have chosen to live. In the video, he seems relieved and hopeful. You can watch the sweet two-minute video by clicking here.

I showed the video to my son. I explained what it meant and why the boy made it. I also explained how he was bullied and that the torment of being bullied caused Rodemeyer to kill himself. Verbal abuse is abuse, nonetheless, and can be as bad (if not worse) as physical abuse. I wanted my son to see it, both to know that bullying is not an acceptable option, and to also know that if he ever felt that he was being bullied, that he had to speak up.

Stop the hate.

Talk to your children. Talk to them about everything. About school, friends, girls/boys, feelings, drugs, sex, smoking. No topic (that they bring to you) should be off limits. Keep it at an age appropriate level, and allow them to ask any questions they may have. You may find that they have questions that are uncomfortable for you to answer. Answer them anyway, and leave space for your kids to ask more questions. It's a gift to have them come to you.

Make a pledge to stop bullying, and to live with respect. Do it with your kids. You can visit the Stop Bullying Speak Up facebook page to get started, or visit  My son and I made the pledge written below. Please write your own pledge and have your kids write theirs.

"I pledge to be a good role model, and to treat people how I wish to be treated. I pledge to speak up when someone is being bullied or when I am being bullied. I pledge to be respectful and kind." TP & JH

Watch this empowering video with your kids. It's beautiful and powerful. 

Please repost this blog. Spread the word. Stop the hate.

Something Sweet

Years ago, when I was an impressionable young woman, I worked with a girl named Michelle. She was in her mid-20s, fairly thin, and was always talking about food. Though I thought it was a bit obsessive, I remembered specifically two cool things from her. One was that the amount of meat that you eat should be able to fit in the palm of your hand. For me, that's about a 4 - 6 oz. filet mignon. The other was that she said she always had to finish a meal with something sweet. A Hershey kiss, a Tootsie Roll. Something. It didn't have to be cake, or a cookie, just something little.

I'd never done it before, or even thought about it until that point, but for whatever reason, it stuck in my mind. Years later, I read in a magazine that if you are hungry for something sweet, you could kill the craving by eating something salty or vice versa. So her sweet trick suddenly made sense. And I adopted it as my own.

Usually, after W and I go to our favorite diner, where I have what my friend Mandy calls, the Tiffany salad (garden salad, green peppers, cucumbers, feta, with well-grilled chicken and Mina's homemade dressing), I stop at the smoke shop next door for one medium size Tootsie Roll. It's about the size of a finger, so it's big enough to be satisfying without being outrageous.

At home, after a meal, I have a handful of rainbow sprinkles. 20 calories and it makes the meal feel complete. Sometimes, I will have a few Panda licorice pieces. Now, my new favorite after dinner sweet is a s'mores marshmallow. Just one.

Plush Puffs are riDUNKulous and 100% natural. Low calorie, too.

I bought them, I believed, for my son. I got him hot cocoa and saw these gourmet marshmallows in different flavors and thought they would be great for him. Everytime I made the cocoa though, he wanted me to make him a baked apple to eat with it, so he always passed on the option for a marshmallow in his cocoa. He left me no choice but to open the bag and try them for myself.


I found my new sweet snack. Five marshmallows are 80 calories, that's just 16 calories for one. Which is hard to believe because they are so rich, and have chocolate chips in them. Better still, they have no high fructose corn syrup. (Have you noticed how those four words dropped from our vocabulary the minute the corn growers started the "it's the same as sugar" campaign? It's not. It's a bad thing.)

I checked the website for more information, and guess what? They sell them as some Whole Foods (but none in New Jersey) and select stores. The only store that sells them in New Jersey is Dash of Thyme Gourmet, where I got mine. They've been featured on the Food Network's show, Unwrapped; on the Today show, and on the blog, Daily Candy.

I can only imagine what they might taste like floating in a cup of hot cocoa...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go Loco for Local

As we head into fall (and emerge from the wake of the hurricane and flooding), it's important to start thinking really local. I've heard a lot of people talk about doing their holiday shopping early (some even now), and I beg you to please shop locally. Wherever you live, whether it's in my neck of the woods or in the middle of Idaho, shop locally and from independently owned shops.

I know that the economy has everyone tightening their purse strings, and getting soap at Wal-Mart for under a dollar is far more appealing than buying a $5 bar. But if you can, do it. American was built strong ideals, and people who took care of people in their community. They knew the owners of the hardware store, they knew the butcher, the pharmacist. As we've gotten more global, we've sort of let go of that small town mentality, but it's that very mentality that will keep us afloat.

Wondering how you can go local? Buy your coffee from independently owned coffee shops, especially your beans. Get gift items at small shops, the ones where the owners are behind the register. Get your shoes at mom and pop shoe stores instead of the mall. Buy from people who care, who want to succeed, and who give back to the community. This doesn't mean you can't supplement from chain stores. I'm just asking that you first search through the local shops for what you need, and if you really cannot find it, then go ahead and cave to the chains.

This image is from the Boonton Main Street page. Will you take the indie challenge, too?

Here are my big tips, and local places to buy from. If you aren't local, just apply the tips and discover fabulous shops in your area. I am sure I am forgetting a ton, so please post your comments on the blog in the comment section (can be anonymous, if you desire), for others to read.

Grocery Items
Things you absolutely, positively must get from a grocery store can probably also be found in a health food store. Try there before going to a big chain store. Also try farmer's markets, while they are still open. Maple syrup, pancake mix, and some other kitchen staples can be found at Dash of Thyme Gourmet on Broadway in Denville. They even have olive oil, poured fresh from a vat, at your request. How's that for fresh?

Get your coffee beans, or grinds, from an independently owned coffee shop. Locally, you can buy coffee beans (whole and ground) at Heavenly Temptations on Main Street in Boonton, and Mara's in Denville. My friend Steven Schnitzler (raised locally in Montville) is an avid supporter of small town shopping and has a coffee company, so you can always buy from him, wherever you live. He's a good guy with a big heart who always gives back to the community. Even after he's moved out of town, his heart still exists in Montville. His shop, Port City Java, can be found online at

Gourmet Foods
Get your gourmet food and pantry items from small, specialty shops, like Dash of Thyme Gourmet on Broadway in Denville, and Heavenly Temptations in Boonton. Dash of Thyme has everything from dips and salsa, to jams, hot sauces, seasoning mixes, artisan biscotti, chocolate bars, and candles. When you walk into their shop, you will immediately feel like you are in the right place. Whenever Sergio & Co. reopens (on Broadway in Denville), please do your shopping for Italian meats, cheeses, and Italian specialties there.

Home Goods & Hostess Gifts
Instead of going to Home Goods for hostess gifts, visit Surprises In Store, and Dash of Thyme Gourmet (both in Denville); Savannah Hope Vintage in Boonton; and the newly opened Simplify Marketplace in Mountain Lakes. Savannah Hope Vintage has tons of gorgeous furniture, but also has vintage plates, decor, artwork, plus handmade jewelry, repurposed flatware, ecofriendly items include unbleached reusable coffee filters. Cool greeting cards, too.

Simplify Marketplace has trendy pillows and blankets, great gifts for kids, books, jewelry and more. The also offer fresh flower arrangements, and will soon have baked goods. Surprises In Store has blankets that feature our local towns on them, New Jersey finger towels and pillows, Vera Bradley bags, and other fun items. Dash of Thyme has cheese cutting sets, mugs, candles, and decorating items.

Teacher's Gifts/Gifts for Neighbors
Gifts for teachers, neighbors, and locals are so easy, when you take the indie challenge. Let me start by saying that I know a lot of teachers personally, and not one has said they need/want another #1 Teacher anything! Gift sets are always fabulous, and being the girlfriend and business partner of Ward Vogt, I highly suggest giving his note card set as a gift. He has packs of Mountain Lakes note cards, Denville note cards, and Boonton note cards. His Mountain Lakes note cards are available at Simplify Marketplace in Mountain Lakes; and all three sets, along with single image note cards, are available at Savannah Hope Vintage in Mountain Lakes. His award winning photo of Downtown Denville at Dawn is featured at a postcard, available for sale by the register, at Surprises In Store. While we, Ward Vogt Designs, are a local business, we don't have a storefront. Please still shop our small, independently owned business. You can visit our virtual shop (for things that aren't in local stores, and custom prints) on etsy at

For bottles of wine, champagne, and beer for parties and gifts, please go to Denville Liquors on Broadway in Denville. The owners are the nicest people in the world. Their storefront window shattered during Irene, people were trying to steal their liquor (the police had to sit outside all night watching the store), and they had to open and pour down the drain, every bottle of alcohol. Buy all your alcohol from them for as long as you drink!

Want to stop for a drink? The Second Half on Main should be reopening by the end of September, so swing by the bar and say hello to the owners, while grabbing a beer.

Books & Magazines 
Buy your gag gifts, magazines, and newspapers at United Smoke Shop in Denville. In Boonton, Bobby's News and Gifts carries every imaginable magazine, high end gift wrap and bows, books, and Boonton t-shirts. He also has lots of book signings, so check back regularly for those.

Dog Treats
Dog food, biscuits, collars, and cakes! (yes, cakes) can be found at the famed Bubba Rose Biscuit Co. on Main Street in Boonton. All made on premises, and all very tasty (even for people).

Ladies Dresses, Clothing, Jackets, Bags
Party dresses, sweaters, jeans, and bags can be found at both Lotus Boutique and Robyn's Closet, both on Main Street in Boonton. Second hand versions of the same items can be found at Renew Restyle Designer Consignment Boutique in Denville.

Cell Phones
Need a new cell phone? Don't go to the mall. Visit the Verizon store in the Walgreens strip mall in Denville. They are the nicest people and will help you in any way that they can.

Fun for Kids
Make a gift with your kids, at Brushes and Bisque, on Broadway in Denville. You paint a ceramic piece, pay for it, and pick it up fired and ready just a few days later. Great gifts for parents and grandparents, and fun to do. Also, Dash of Thyme has baking and cooking kits for kids, and cookie cutters, too.

Don't buy your flowers in the supermarket (I buy mine at Simplify, and then get extra blooms at the supermarket to cut up and put in mini vases). Get them locally at Simplify Marketplace in Mountain Lakes, Moody Blooms on Main Street in Boonton, or at Broadway Florist in Denville.

Gifts for Men
When it comes to shopping for men, look no further than Bob's Men's Shop on Main Street in Boonton. It's fabulous. They have every great designer, including Tommy Bahama, and sizes to fit all men. Plus, they giftwrap! I also like the idea of gift certificates to what I call, man places. I've gotten gift certificates from Mountain Lakes Motors (great idea for oil changes, tune ups, tire rotations), and Mountain Lakes Car Wash. You can buy a book of washes from them (you can do that, too, in Boonton at the Boonton Car Wash).

Pampering for Women
Anything from the Urban Muse in Denville is wonderful. Mani/Pedi gift certificates from Denville Nails is a great idea (or any of the gazillion local nail salons). For mind/body gifts, gift certificates to Prana Yoga (Denville) and Balance Acupuncture Center (Boonton) are great ideas. Heck, just go in now to either place for some stress relief.

Sugar & Sweets
Desserts for parties are a no-brainer. Denville's Sugar Mommy cupcakes are simply amazing! In Mountain Lakes, Beth Moran of Simplify Marketplace, takes custom orders in everything from extravagant cakes to lollies (lollipops made with cake and beautifully decorated). I hear that she may be opening a bakery at the back of her store, Simplify, but check directly with her for details.

In Boonton, Heavenly Temptations makes daily sweets like brownies, cookies and slices of cakes. Right next door to Heavenly is Suzi Cakes, who makes the most amazing bite-sized treats. I've tasted them at events for Savannah Hope Vintage, and I have loved every bite. When Denville Dairy reopens, you must try their Candy Cane ice cream, and visit Sweet Expressions when they open, too (also a Denville favorite). Mara's has lots of sweet things, but my favorite there is the gelato. So while hoofing it around Denville, stop into Mara's for a gelato and a cup of coffee.

If you say Applebee's, I am just going to fall over. There are just too many restaurants too list, but my favorites are Montville Inn (Montville); Sogo, Cafe Metro, Casa Bella, Second Half on Main, Heritage Grill, Denville Diner, and Denville Pizza in Denville; Chili Willie's, Roma Pizzeria and Restaurant, and Thai Ping in Boonton.

Please let me know of your favorite local shops, or those that I may have forgotten or missed. I'd love to discover new places!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking From A Box... It's Cheesy (but not necessarily bad)

If you come over and tell me that you baked me a cake, I assume you mean it's from scratch. It's not Duncan Hines, just add eggs and oil box mix. It's flour, sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract. The whole shebang. And when you say you baked cookies, I assume it's a couple sticks of butter, sugar, eggs...  not break and bake cookies, or those David's Cookie dough batches that you stick in the freezer (though my neighbor is selling them so I bought some -- God knows what I'll do with that batter). I mean, scratch is scratch, and homemade is homemade.

You will imagine, then, why it's so hard for me to say that anything from a box is good. 

I received my order from Fun Pasta, a fundraising organization that donates all profits from sales to whatever fundraiser you support. I started an online fundraising campaign to raise money for the Save Sergio & Co. fund, and did some shopping at the site to get the ball rolling. I got different types of pasta, but also bought a kit. It's a mac and cheese kit. 

This is what you get when you cook from a box (a cool coloring sheet for the kiddos)!

Now, my favorite version of creamy mac and cheese starts with a roux and has nutmeg in it. My favorite baked version, taught to me by my Southern grandmother, has chunks of cheese and rough cut tomatoes in it, topped with a sprinkle of paprika. The kids, well, they like Annie's macaroni and cheese, or, dare I say, Kraft.

Since this was a fundraiser for Sergio & Co., I decided to hike up my order's total by ordering that kit. And when it came tonight, I asked my son if he'd like to try it for dinner, as a taste test. The additions to the powdered cheese (did I just write that? OMG) are very rich. A 1/2 c of butter (1 stick) and a 1/2 c of whole milk. I couldn't bring myself to adding all that fat (to something already processed), so I only added 1/4 c of butter, and a 1/4 c of whole milk.

The directions, and the calorie count. 

When all was said and done, we sat down for dinner, and I asked Johnny to do the taste test. It definitely looked creamy. One bite, a smile, and then two thumbs up. He really liked the pasta. The shapes are harder to make out than I imagined, but still, it was good pasta. And while he is too old to color the drawing that is included, younger kids might really enjoy it. 

If your kids like boxed mac 'n cheese, they will love this pasta.

Our choice was the Down on the Farm version of Easy, Cheesy Pasta.
If you prefer to make your mac and cheese from scratch, here's my version of the very rich and cheesy roux style.

the Domestic Goddess Gets Cheesy, Mac Daddy

  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 T salted butter (divided)
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 c gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 c extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs

  1. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into the water. Drain well. Set aside.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 T butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes or more, until thickened and smooth.
  3. Off the heat, add cheeses, 1 T salt, pepper & nutmeg. Add cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into 3 quart baking dish.
  4. Melt remaining 2 T butter, add breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top. 
  5. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ArtWalk, Meeting Sergio Supporters, and Guess Who's Back In Thyme?

Before I begin, I want to thank you all for your comments of support on the last blog post. I read every word over and over, and felt such thanks for having you all as friends. It means more than you could ever know. I am not a very social person, so when virtual friends become real ones, it's like magic. I cannot begin to thank you enough.

Now, on to the weekend update...

This weekend proved to be a very interesting one. On Friday night, Ward participated in Boonton Main Street's ArtWalk 2011. He was the visiting artist at both Skyclad Gallery and Savannah Hope Vintage. Though ArtWalk began at 4 p.m., we weren't able to attend until 6 p.m. I don't know what I was expecting, but what I saw was far more than anything I could have imagined. The streets were packed with cars, the sidewalks were bustling, and the vibe was amazing. I felt so lucky to be attending, and even luckier to be part of the event. Seriously, I have never seen this kind of turn out. I ran into all sorts of people from Mountain Lakes, Denville and, of course, Boonton. Oh, if you didn't attend, well, words cannot explain the atmosphere. (If you did, please comment below on the blog.) All of the galleries were packed with people, as were the shops between them. Chili Willie's Mexican Restaurant had a line out the door. It was exactly how Main Street should look every weekend.

Savannah Hope Vintage and Skyclad Gallery chose to donate 10% of all sales during ArtWalk to the Save Sergio & Co. fund. So of course, I had to shop...

Vintage basket from Savannah Hope Vintage, and...

a set of chenille pumpkins (handmade by the owner of the shop from vintage chenille)
I also got a vintage butter dish with matching salt and pepper shakers, and a handful of super cool greeting cards. I love everything! I'm glad I bought when I did, because they ended up raising $100 to donate to Save Sergio & Co.

Of the people that I ran into that night, one was a wild surprise. Stephanie Duehring is someone that I met through facebook. She became a fan of the Save Sergio & Co., and later, The Domestic Goddess Files and Ward Vogt Designs. She's been incredibly supportive (more, even, than some of my close friends) and seeing her smiling face at ArtWalk -- that she attended with her husband -- was just an added treat. Ward and I got to talk to them for a while, and to introduce them to ADeM from Savannah Hope Vintage, so it was really nice. We met and spoke with lots of really great people, and did a bit of networking. The night was a smashing success.

The next morning we had an early call for a sale we were working, and a wedding to attend later in the day. I really wanted to be at the Grand Re-Opening of Dash of Thyme Gourmet, but didn't see how I would have the time to go. We managed to split out of the sale pretty quickly and it was then that I realized I had time to both get a (much needed) manicure and go to Dash of Thyme. 

Dash of Thyme Gourmet really looks amazing. I cannot believe how quickly they pulled it all together. As I was walking in, I saw my new friend from the previous night, Stephanie, who was talking to Lisa, one of the owners. I hugged her excitedly, and then went to congratulate Lisa. As I was, someone said my name, I think, because a woman who has been a big supporter of the Save Sergio campaign, Lynn Hoffman, came right over and introduced herself to me. We began talking all about what was going on with the campaign, and everyone was so supportive. All agreed that Sergio has a huge, caring heart and that the fund is a good thing. It really made my day.

Of course, I wanted to shop to support them. As I was telling Stephanie and Lynn, if everyone buys what they can locally from independently owned shops, we can really help get people back on their feet. I bought a bunch of stuff, but didn't have my empty olive oil bottle (I have to go back for a refill). There's lots that you can buy there, instead of at the supermarket. Pancake mix, jams and jellies, all types of dips and salsa, hot sauce, seasonings, chocolate, and desserts. They also have great hostess gifts and cool kits for children.

I got (from L to R) Plush Puffs s'mores marshmallows, Prarie Dog chocolate bar (OMG! You must get one!), Fireside Cocoa (in both Caramel Chocolate, and Chocolate Truffle), Gilda's Biscotti in espresso, and a huge bucket of Farmhouse Pancake & Waffle Mix
Some of the purchases are treats (like the artisan marshmallows, chocolate, and biscotti), but my son drinks hot cocoa every day after school in cold weather, and eats pancakes most mornings. Instead of buying those staples in the supermarket, I am buying them here. The price, by the way, for the pancake mix, was cheaper at Dash of Thyme than at the supermarket! It's a bargain, and I am supporting a lovely, independently owned store.

The verdict on the cocoa: Johnny is very particular when it comes to hot cocoa. It must be chocolate-y and creamy. I made him the Fireside Cocoa in chocolate truffle (just boiled water and stirred), and let me tell you, he loved it! This is a big deal because he has snubbed some of the most expensive, organic cocoas on the market and this he drank until the mug was empty. 

I was on a high from the day (something had happened before ArtWalk that threw me for a loop and got me down temporarily) and I returned home to Ward to get ready for the wedding. Things didn't go quite as planned (do they ever?) but we ended up having a really fabulous night. Amazing, actually. Please go enjoy the rest of your weekend, and if you get a chance, go to Dash of Thyme. You'll be happy you did.

Visit Dash of Thyme Gourmet at 49 Broadway in Denville. They are open every day at 11 a.m.; 10 a.m. on Saturday. And yes, they are open on Sunday, so you can check them out today!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fresh Flower Thursday! (go buy yourself some flowers)

In the book, Happiness for Two by Alexandra Stoddard,  Stoddard talks about how to keep joy in your life, and in your relationships. Now, whether you are in a relationship or single, this chapter on flowers applies to you. It is Chapter 42: Bring Flowers Home. I've always been a fresh cut flower lover in three of four seasons (it's rare that I have them in summer). She even gave a talk at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show entitled, "Stress Reduction Through Flowers."

In my town (Mountain Lakes), we have a newly opened, independently operated store called Simplify Marketplace. They have Fresh Flower Thursday every Thursday. Their resident florist goes and picks flowers the night before and makes beautiful arrangements to sell each week. I love this idea. It's right before the weekend, and the flowers that I got last week are still looking lovely today.

Stoddard says, "When we love flowers, we can't afford not to bring them home. Flowers in our home greatly increase our happiness for two. You can buy one bunch and divide it into smaller vases to put in several rooms... or you can buy a single flower to put in a tall glass where you're likely to see it often. (my italics, DG)

Several recent studies prove the positive benefits of fresh flowers in the home... (recipients of fresh flowers) mood was elevated."

I truly believe this, and have kept fresh flowers in my house since my divorce. I have tons of plants including a beautiful, blooming orchid in the kitchen, a gift from Ward. I keep my bouquet on my Miami blue vintage table that I bought from Savannah Hope Vintage last year. When you walk into the house, or anywhere within the family room, you see them. You see them when you head to the bathroom. It's a perfect spot for them.

If you live locally, head to Simplify Marketplace (in the building attached to the Mountain Lakes market, near the parking lot) to get your fresh flowers! If you don't live in the area, still make today your fresh flower Thursday. If you can, support a florist or independently operated shop that sells them.

You deserve it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fundraising for Sergio & Co. Continues (with recipe included)

$8,000 raised so far for Sergio & Co. in personal donations. This does not include any of the current fundraisers. Here's one more, and we are hoping, praying, begging, a NJ Housewife to come do an event, which will blow the top off the fund! Let's keep it going. Let's give him a $20,000 check in November. Are you in?


Last year, my mother gave me a bag of harvest shaped pasta. It was a nice gift bag, too nice to use, I thought, on a regular day. I put it in my cabinet to save for a special dinner, but that dinner never came.

While making pasta for a moving party for my friend Kathy this weekend, I found the bag. It was great looking pasta but, had it expired? I searched for an expiration date and couldn't find one, so I went to the producer's website to see if I could find the info on there. While I didn't find one, I did notice that they do fundraisers. Of course, in my mind, pasta + fundraisers = Save Sergio & Co. (So does a NJ Housewife doing a meet and greet, but I am still waiting to hear back about that one!) I registered for information and within two days, got all the information I needed, including an account to start selling.

The tri-color angle hair pasta -- I am buying a bunch!

The cool thing is that the company sells different shapes of pasta and has sets like cheerleading pasta, college teams (including the Big 10), and holiday shapes (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Star of David, Christmas Tree). It even has dance pasta, gymnastic pasta, and Happy Birthday Pasta; dog lover & cat lover pasta, too. They also have different styles and flavors of angel hair  (including whole wheat), mac and cheese packages for the kids, chicken soup and chili gift sets, and meringue cookies. The "pink ribbon pasta"donates 10% of all packs sold (from their percentage) to Susan G. Komen. So 10% for breast cancer awareness, 40% for Sergio & Co. What could be better?

10% to Susan G. Komen, 40% to Save Sergio & Co.
Everybody wins, and it's pretty, too.

Here's the best part. When the fundraiser ends (on October 24th), the company sends me a check for 40% of all sales, payable to "Save Sergio & Co." FORTY PERCENT! That's a lot of money to add to the Save Sergio & Co. fund... if we sell the pasta, that is.

The Fun Pasta Save Sergio & Co fundraising page can be found by clicking here. Then, look to the right and click Shop Now.

Now, here's my favorite pasta recipe. It's a take on Aunt Linda's ricotta salata pasta recipe.

Aunt Linda's Pasta Salad, (modified by the Domestic Goddess)
  • 1 lb your favorite pasta
  • 1 c sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), cut into thin slices
  • a nice chunk of ricotta salata
  • two cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 handful of basil
  • dried oregano, to taste
  • garlic, to taste
  • salt, to taste
First, make the sun-dried tomatoes fabulous. Put about 1/4 c of olive oil (or more) in a pan on medium heat. Add the fresh garlic, powdered garlic, oregano, and salt, then the sun-dried tomatoes. Allow them to simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes. If it looks like the heat is too high, lower it to medium-low. You want the sun-dried tomatoes to cook in the oil and absorb the flavor, but not to brown. Longer time is better, just lower the heat and keep an eye on the tomatoes. (You can leave it sitting on a super low heat for an hour, and it will be amazing. Just be sure to watch for browning, and add oil as it gets soaked up by the sun-dried tomatoes.) Taste as you go, and add more seasoning as you see fit.

My sun-dried tomatoes. Oh, how I love them.

Boil pasta until al dente, then transfer to strainer. Drain water and rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking. Add a splash of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and blend to prevent the pasta from sticking, then allow to cool.

Transfer pasta from the strainer to a bowl, and pour the sun-dried tomatoes and oil on top of it. You can toss a little pasta back into the pan to pick up the remaining oil and seasoning, then return it to the bowl.

Tear basil into small pieces, until the pasta is colorful. The sun-dried tomatoes and basil colors should be balanced.

Roughly chop the ricotta salata into small chunks, and toss into the pasta. Blend well. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for later and serve at room temperature.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Above and Beyond Award (I am so honored)

Don't talk to me in the morning until I've got at least one cup of coffee in me. When I wake up, I need a few minutes to adjust to being awake, but until I've had a full cup of coffee in me, I'm not saying much. And what I do say is either grunted or forced.

Now, if you know this about me, you make me coffee before I wake up, or you steer clear of me until I've done it myself. It's rare that I will wait to have coffee until after I leave the house, you know, go pick a cup up. Those trips are for afternoons only. I literally don't leave the house without my coffee. Am I addicted? I think so, but frankly, I don't care as long as I always have a supply. It's so important that when I prepared for the hurricane, I brewed a big pot of coffee and put it in an old lemonade jar in the refrigerator, so that in the worst case, I'd at least have my cold, or room temperature coffee to get me through it all.

I've been doing a lot lately, to try and help those who were hit by the hurricane (locally). Ward and I decided to do a fundraising postcard sale to raise money for the Township of Denville Hurricane Irene Relief Fund. We sold limited edition prints of Sergio & Co. and donated 100% of all sales to a fund that I created, with the help of personal banker and friend, Fara Aliotta. I started a facebook page to support the fund, relay information and raise money, and already, just 12 days since the account was opened, we've raised over $8,000. Now, I am working on getting RHONJ Teresa Giudice to do a book signing of her cookbook, Fabulicious; Fara's getting all the food donated (including fresh mozzarella) and I will get wine and the venue. (This is if Teresa agrees to come... crossing fingers.)

I do this because I can, because I didn't suffer damage from the storm, and because every ounce of my body and mind is racing to help. Helping others makes me feel better about life. While I cannot reverse the damage, I can help to repair it. We all can, if we all chip in.

My friend, Steven, from back in the day (living in Montville, we used to wait for the bus together in middle school - whoa, loong time ago), awarded me with his "Above and Beyond Award". He owns the coffee company, Port City Java, and while he now resides with his wife and children in North Carolina, he saw my efforts and found it in his heart to commend me for them. I am so honored. I walked up to my front door this morning and smelled coffee, then looked down to see a box labeled Port City Java, and my heart lifted.

If only you could smell what I smelled when I saw this. Yumm.
Now this was good, but the best part was opening it up and finding a couple pounds of coffee beans. And a really sweet note. This is the goodness in people. Steve, I hope you don't mind me sharing your letter. It shows the kindness in people, something important to be reminded of nowadays.

A couple pounds of coffee beans and a really kind note.

Here you go - Enjoy! You have a pound of Costa Rica La Flora, and a pound of Sumatra Mandheling. The Costa Rica is more acidic, and is known as the Grace Kelly of coffees, refined and elegant. The Sumatra has a heavier body, and is more earthy in nature. I like them both.

The "above and beyond award" is because I like it when folks use the means at their disposal to help other folks out -- especially when we are talking about local friends, neighbors and businesses. My business may not be local to NJ, but the owner is! We (Port City Java) try to do everything we can to support other local businesses, and I appreciate it when others do the same. I look at this as a sort of "pay it forward" type of scenario. It's small gestures that make the communities we live in better. Wilmington, NC is also quite hurricane prone (I have been through eight now -- and that IS enough) so I sympathize with the plight of folks dealing with the aftermath.

Seems to me that you use your time and resources well to promote the art that your boyfriend produces, the stores and shops that you frequent, the community you live in, and you actually DO something rather than just sit back and let things happen as they may. We can't control everything (though I do try to sometimes) but you seek to make folks lives better -- a little bit, here and there. Every once in a while -- someone will notice!

Be well, 

I am sharing this, not to re-toot my own horn, but to show that while there are some that look for the negative in everything, there are others who search out the positive, and commend people for it. Steve, you are right, we can't control everything (I try to, sometimes, also). What we can control is how we respond to what we are given in life. Thank you for taking the time out to show me that what I am doing matters, and for shipping your fabulous coffee all the way up the East Coast.

You can find Port City Java online, and on facebook. Support them. Buy their coffee. They have great hearts and fabulous coffee.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Will A Skinny Italian Make the Save Sergio & Co. Fund Fabulicious?

As I sit watching tonight's episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, I fantasize about what it would be like to have RHONJ's beautiful housewife, Teresa Guidice, sitting at the Gallery At River's Edge signing her cookbooks, amongst red wine, fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto de parma. In my effort to raise money for my Save Sergio & Co. fund, I thought, who better to help us raise money than Teresa, who has written two Italian cookbooks, Skinny Italian and Fabulicious!

Fabulicious!, the family cookbook written by Teresa Guidice.

For those who aren't aware, Sergio & Co. Italian Specialties lost over $150,000 in food and equipment, so his loyal customers are helping to raise money on his behalf, to help him rebuild. Our Save Sergio & Co. page on facebook received over 1,700 likes in just over a week. There have been many small, independent fundraisers (including Stella & Dot, Ward Vogt Designs, and Keys to Learning), and we've received over $7,000 in personal donations since September 1. Having Teresa Guidice come sign her books would get tons of fans to the fundraiser, raise some money (as we would have a minimum donation fee of $5 per person to attend), and take it over the top. Perfect.

I found out that a friend I went to high school with is friends with Teresa, so I asked her to pitch the idea for me, which she graciously did (thanks Jeanne). I anxiously wait to hear back from her, hoping that Teresa will come and do the signing. She lives locally and seems to have a very generous heart, so I am hoping that will increase the chances of her coming to do the signing. What an honor and thrill it would be to have Teresa come and do a book signing for Sergio's!

Cross your fingers and say a little prayer that Teresa will do it. If she does, I promise to post it right away, so that we can have a big turnout, and a great event.

To read more about the devastation in Denville, NJ, including Sergio & Co., and the grassroots effort that I started to help Sergio, read Flood Won't Keep This Town Down by Lisa Kintish.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make Your Day Brighter (and Liz's rainy day shirt)

Back in the early 90's, I worked at JVC in Fairfield with a girl named Liz. We were both different than the rest of the employees. We were into drinking at dive bars in Alphabet City, smoking cigarettes, and listening to Pearl Jam. We were not corporate America. We just worked for corporate America to pay our party bills. We were grunge when grunge was the way to live.

I remember noticing that every time it rained, Liz wore this bright, vertical striped shirt. Other days, she wore black, or dark plaid with jeans or a black skirt. Finally, I asked, "So, what's with the shirt?" She looked at me with a smirk and said, "It's my rainy day shirt. I wear it whenever it rains to make my day a little brighter." While our friendship didn't last long, her rainy day shirt idea did. And in the 20 years since I met Liz, I've never thought about buying one. But with all this rain, flooding, and sadness, I decided that I needed to go find myself a good one.

My acupuncturist mentioned that incorporating some yellow into my home and wardrobe (and to get flowers that are naturally yellow) would help lift my spirits. I listened to what she said. As I type this, I am wearing a yellow tank top, and every time I look at it, well, I do feel happy.

With regard to flowers, I was unable to find yellow flowers, but did get a lovely bouquet today at Simplify Marketplace. It's Fresh Flower Thursday there every week. Just in time for the weekend. I love supporting local, independently owned stores, and Simplify is one of them. Check out my flowers.

I never buy flowers in the summer. They are blooming all around me, and the trees are covered in leaves. The environment is alive and flowers are not needed. Once the weather changes, though, I start needing flowers. It's times like now that seeing a small bouquet of flowers really brightens my day.

If you have the means to get around, please go treat yourself to a rainy day shirt. Mine was $5 at Mandee. Total bargain and yellow enough to make me happy. And please go buy yourself some flowers. I've read in many magazines and books, including a book on how to have happiness in your life, that flowers truly add a vibrancy to a home, and offer a sense of hope. So go for it. You deserve it.

If I Could Save the World

Artemis, huntress of the moon, make my aim true. Give me goals to seek and the constant determination to achieve them... Allow me the strength and wisdom to be my own mistress, not defined by the expectations of others.  (from a prayer to Artemis)

If I could save the world, I would. (I would also stop this relentless rain.) I wouldn't do it for praise, or out of responsibility for human kind. I would do it because it is in my nature to do so.

But I cannot do it all.

Everywhere around me, people are flooded in, losing their homes, losing their businesses. It's total devastation. I am trying to help where I can. It began with helping Sergio & Co. Italian Specialties. Their loss was unfathomable, and they did not have flood insurance. Yes, other shops have had major losses, but Sergio's has always been a home away from home for me, and apparently the 1,500+ other people who have liked the page I created, Save Sergio & Co. The page has a bunch of fundraisers going and, last I checked, the account had many deposits. I did what my heart told me to do, and with the help of my friend Fara Aliotta, we created an donation account to help Sergio get back on his feet again.

After opening a fund and the page, I found out that the town of Denville (where my boyfriend lives, I live in a neighboring town) just started another fund, The Township of Denville Hurricane Irene Relief Fund. Ward and I decided that we could do more to help, so we created a postcard to sell, and are donating 50% of the proceeds to that group.

In addition, I have just secured a space for my acupuncturist and her colleague to do free acupuncture for people who have had stress due to Hurricane Irene. It was their idea, Acupuncture Without Borders; I just found space and got it donated, so that the  acupuncturists are donating their services. Follow the blog for details -- I will post them as they become available.

I am trying to get another amazing (crossing fingers for TG) fundraiser together, but for now, that's what we've got in the works.

Alas, there have been naysayers. There have been people judging my efforts, asking why I started a fund for just one shop and not the whole town. The answer isn't easy but I'll try. I could not figure a way to find out who lost how much, and who needed more than who. I am no accountant. I also knew that Sergio had a huge following. I knew that people wanted him to stay in town, and would put their money where their mouths were. I figured if we got $5,000 or even $10,000 and split it amongst all the stores in need, well, it wouldn't do much for anybody. But if it all went to one beloved place, then we'd have a chance. Sergio's brought a ton of business to town. There was a line out the door there, every single day that they were open for lunch. Forget holiday time, there was always a line. Not just because of the great food, but because of the people who worked there. Go see the page and read all of the testimonials. It is truly unbelievable.

I am one person, a single mother, trying to sustain a solid family life, keep things stable, and make hot dinners for my family. I volunteer to do the bulletin board at school, and I am on the Lakers Green Team, which works to make the school a "greener" place. I am doing all that I can, while also working for two family businesses.

For those who judge me for not doing more, or doing it to their standards, I welcome you start your own fundraisers. Create pages to help. Raise money. Do what you can, in the ways that you choose. But please, don't criticize my process. I am doing the very best that I can.

I love Denville. I don't live there, but I eat there, I shop there, and I send my friends there to do the same. I have been to nearly every store that's reopened, and have dined in Denville literally every day since the flood waters cleared. I vote with my dollars and always spend a little more to support those independently owned businesses. I am a supporter of those businesses and believe in grassroots movements. My intentions are all good. Truly. I appreciate the support of all who are working with me to raise money and help those in need.

Keep posted for more information on upcoming fundraisers, and thank you for all of your support.