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Jersey Shore, United States
In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muahhh!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter W is for Whitesbog and Women's History

Almost there...we're so close to the end now I can taste it. W is for Whitesbog Village and Women's History in this  final lap of my A-Z Challenge, a tour of my home state of New Jersey.
Cranberry bog at Whitesbog Village
I couldn't decide between telling you all about Whitesbog Village, which is an important part of NJ history, or Alice Paul, a New Jersey native who was instrumental in Women's History. I couldn't decide between the two, so I am telling you about both.

Whitesbog General Store, back in the day
First up, Whitesbog. Whitesbog is an important part of NJ history, and is listed both on the State and National Registers of Historic sites. In the early 1900's, Whitesbog was the largest cranberry farm in New Jersey. Its founder, Joseph J. White, was a nationally recognized leader in the cranberry industry. In 1916, Elizabeth C. White collaborated with Dr. Frederick A. Coville of the US Dept. of Agriculture and successfully developed the first cultivated blueberry at Whitesbog. Today, you can come visit for a living history tour or shop in the Whitesbog General Store, take a guided tour or go off on your own on to bike, hike, kayak, fish or explore the surrounding 3,000 acres of cranberry bogs, blueberry fields, reservoirs, sugar sand roads and Pine Barrens forests.

Now, who was Alice Paul and why was she so important to Women's History? Alice Paul was the creator of some of the most outstanding political achievements on behalf of women in the 20th century. She was born to Quaker parents on January 11, 1885 in Moorestown, NJ. The Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel is a wonderful stop on my tour of NJ. Not just for NJ history, but for women's history as well. Ms. Paul dedicated her entire life to the single cause of securing equal rights for all women. As a mother of three girls, making a stop and visiting the Alice Paul Institute to learn more about this incredible woman, was a must. But how do these two tie together on my tour of NJ?


This year, in celebration of New Jersey's 350th Anniversary, Whitesbog Village happens to be hosting a special Women's History Trail exhibit that features legendary Jersey women and historic sites that celebrate their work. This will, of course,  include an exhibit of none other than, Alice Paul. 


My favorite Alice Paul quote of all is short and sweet, "Deeds, not words."
Outside the Alice Paul Institute

I highly recommend both a visit to the Alice Paul Institute, as well as a visit to Whitesbog Village. Why not check them both out and learn more about New Jersey and it's rich history at the Women's History Trail Exhibit in Whitesbog this summer?


The girls and I saw this tricked out bus sitting in the parking lot of Alice Paul Institute

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter V is for Vineyards

The A-Z theme I chose this year has been a tour of all my favorite places in the state of New Jersey. Letter V on the stop is going to stand for Vineyards.
Renault Vineyard,  if you look closely, you can make out the golf course behind the vines.
Yes, I said vineyards!! Jersey has them, and a good number of them too.  (48 wineries to be exact) My personal favorite is the Renault Winery, in Egg Harbor City, (on the southern end of the state) which is the oldest in all of New Jersey, and recognized as one of the oldest continuously active wineries in the entire US.
My beautiful cousin Lauren got married at the Renault Winery
Here she is posing with a portrait of  Louis Nicholas Renault, painted on an old wine barrel. 
The winery's story begins in Europe, with one man and a sap-eating insect. Master Vintner, Louis Nicholas Renault was a representative of the ancient champagne house of the Duke of Montebello in Rheims, France when Europe was hit by the greatest disaster in the history of wine. The introduction of phylloxera, a parasitic aphid in the mid 1800s. It nearly destroyed France's entire wine industry.
Waving to the Hubs from the balcony of  our room at the Tuscan House, the hotel at Renault. 
In 1855, Renault set his sights on the new world in hopes of saving his vines. His first attempt to reestablish a vineyard was in California, but phylloxera had unfortunately destroyed the root systems of grapes there too. It was then Renault heard about a native American grape that grew on the east coast, a grape that had a natural resistance to certain pests and disease. Renault headed for south Jersey, where this grape was rumored to thrive. Finding a climate and soil similar to that which he knew in France, Renault decided to settle and establish his vineyard there. In 1864 he purchased the land in Galloway Township. By, 1870 he introduced his New Jersey Champagne.
I am quite fond of the Renault's Blueberry Champagne. It's like nothing I've tasted anywhere else. Super sweet, but I love it.

Today, the Renault Winery is open for historic winery tours, tastings and festivals throughout the year. It has an 18-hole champion golf course, a gourmet restaurant that's fabulous, it holds beautiful weddings and is home to the Tuscany House, a 50 room hotel, with yet another great restaurant within, named Josephs. All this makes the Renault Winery a necessary stop on Jaybird's tour of my favorite places to visit in New Jersey.
This is my favorite pic of me and my momma, at my cousin Lauren's wedding, held at the Renault Winery


Friday, April 24, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter Unique Eats

Okay, today's Letter U might be a stretch, but we are coming down to the end of this A-Z so please humor me and allow letter U to represent Unique Eats. Yes, today's post is going to be all about some foods that are extremely popular here in New Jersey, but I'm not too sure about the rest of the country...

It's funny, because of NJ's location (between New York and Pennsylvania) you can always tell what part of Jersey someone is from, by how they order their food.


You will most likely call it pork roll, if you are from South Jersey or the Philly area. But it is also known as Taylor Ham to North Jersey folks and most New Yorkers. The Hawaiians have their spam, but here in Jersey we've got our pork roll. And man, oh man, there is nothing  better than a hot pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll for breakfast!!

What is pork roll, exactly? It's a pork based processed meat originating in New Jersey. It was developed by John Taylor of Trenton, NJ back in 1856. Pork roll is not available on the West Coast, so whenever we had visitors from back East, we told them not to bother coming, if they didn't stuff their luggage with some good old fashioned pork roll.


Another unique food item that originated and was created in Atlantic City, New Jersey is salt water taffy. What kid from Jersey hasn't been caught walking down the boards with a piece of salt water taffy stuck between their teeth? Forget ta bout it!! Now, millions of boxes of salt water taffy is sold world-wide. But it all started in little old Jersey.

I'll never forget when we moved out to California, and my dad called for pizza the first time. He said, in his super North Jersey accent,  "I'd like to order two large pies please."

After a full minutes pause, the girl on the other side of the phone said, "Um sir, we um, don't like, sell pie here. This is a pizza place!" Ha.

To us Jersey folks, pizza has always been known as "pie". And let me tell you how disappointed we were with that West Coast version of pizza. If you can't fold a slice in half, it's not real pizza!! At least, not to us.

This is how we eat pizza in Jersey. Folded in half!

So, what about you? What foods are unique to your neck of the woods? Do you fold your pizza in half? Have you ever tried a porkroll, egg and cheese on a hard roll? (You don't know what you're missing if you haven't!) What about good old fashioned Atlantic City salt water taffy? Ever tried it?




Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-Z Challenge letter T is for Trenton

Hey all. We are coming down to the final six days of the challenge and I can't hardly believe it. Time has just been flying by. So, the theme I went with this year was to represent my home state of New Jersey. We've been on a whirlwind tour, stopping at all my favorite places here from A-Z.

Letter T is for Trenton.  Trenton is our capital city and it sits in Mercer County. If you have never been to the state's capital, it's worth a visit. Last year, I visited the capital on a class trip with one of my daughter. The tour of the state house, pictured below, was really informative and the kids enjoyed the tour they were given, as well as hearing about how laws are made and voted on.

It was an extremely impressive sight to see, especially for the kids.
 

Overall, the highlight of the day was (hands down) our visit to The Old Barracks Museum, where living history is reenacted. That, was my favorite part of the trip, because the kids got really excited about interacting and learning in this type of format. There is A LOT of history to be learned here, and I really believe it's much more fun and engaging for the kids (and me) to learn about history in this type of format. 






Have you ever been to a living history museum? What's your state capital? Have  you ever visited?


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-Z Letter S is for Smithville


I may have highlighted Smithville on this blog in the past, but it has to make a repeat performance today for the Letter S. My A-Z theme, which is a tour through my home state of New Jersey, just has to stop down in Galloway Township, in South Jersey because Smithville IS it. My all time favorite haunt. If you are ever interested in stalking Jaybird, here's your chance. Because this is where you will find me.

You may spot me cruising around the shops, drinking my freshly ground and brewed hot coffee from Cook's Corner. Maybe you'll spot me grabbing a slice of pizza at Costello's and eating it outside on the deck. If I feel like dressing up and being posh, you'll see me and The Hubs dining at The Ole Smithville Inn. Perhaps you'll spy me putting my kiddos on the Carousel for a ride. Maybe you'll catch the comedic show of  Jaybird trying to run and dodge the roosters and chickens and ducks and geese that like to hoover by the gazebos and tend to chase after me, looking for a free hand out. Better yet, if it's a nice, warm, sunshiny day, you'll most likely hear my loud, obnoxious and quite distinctive laugh as I try not to capsize the paddle boat I am jumping into for a turn around the lake... But it's more likely you'll catch me riding dirty on the Smithville Railroad Train. If it's not so nice out,  you find me hanging out at The Underground, the Punk/Rock store, listening to music and shopping for cool swag or playing video games in the arcade. No matter what time of year it is, I always have a ton o' fun at Historic Smithville. It's a must visit spot on my tour of New Jersey.

















Below: No, I didn't loose my mind. Smithville hosts a "Zombie Walk" every  October.
These two creatures are my friends, Becca and Mark dressed and ready to go Zombie Walking.!!





Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter R is for Red Bank

My A-Z theme is a tour of my home state New Jersey. Today's stop: Red Bank.
Downtown Red Bank, love, love, love to shop here.
Red Bank is in Monmouth County and is one of those hip towns that's both a cultural and social hot spot. It's chock full of never-ending events to keep you coming back for more. Red Bank hosts my  personal favorite event the International Flavor Festival. The IFF is when 25 of Red Banks finest restaurants sell (for charity) International favorites, including Korean, Thai, Italian, Chinese, All American, Mexican, Irish and many more food samples..as well as International beer and wine. YUM.
William "Count" Basie, jazz pianist
One of my favorite venues to take in a concert or show

One of my other favorite things to do in Red Bank is go to the Count Basie Theatre, named after the famous jazz pianist, William James "Count" Basie. They host all kinds of concerts and events here. After a concert, you can usually find me right next door. Hanging out here: 

The Broadway Diner is right next door to the Count Basie, so convenient!!
Red Bank always has so much going on. The next few months will be even better with the return of the Red Bank Farmer's Market every weekend and StreetLife, which hosts live entertainment and street artists on the sidewalks downtown every Saturday evening from 6-9. Then, in July, The Food & Wine Walk shouldn't be missed, as well as the 6th Annual Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival! I could go on and on listing all of the things you could do in Red Bank.

Does Red Bank sound like the kind of place you'd like to hang? Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Red Bank is one of those places in NJ where you are most likely to run into a celebrity, just hanging out or walking down the streets.  Like, Bon Jovi. He hangs in  Red Bank a lot. He launched his first "community restaurant" for charity here called  Soul Kitchen. At Soul Kitchen, there are no prices on the menu because it accepts both cash and volunteer hours as payment.  It's worth checking out:

What is your favorite place to hang out and why? What brings you out- a festival, a theatre, art, concerts, food, charity events or all of the above, like me. - Only 8 days left of A-Z everyone; I can hardly believe it!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter Q is for Quirky Facts and Quick Cover Reveal

Please allow me to interrupt the A-Z Challenge for a moment in order to do a "Q"uick cover reveal and shout out to my buddy Brandon Ax- he just released this cover for his new novel, Lightbringer, which is  the third book in his Light Bringer Saga. The art on this cover is really cool check it out:
In celebration of his cover reveal and new novel, Brandon is having a special sale on his first and second novels in this series, Elemental and Ashes. The sale ends tomorrow, Tuesday April 21, so jump on this great deal and check out these books today. Thanks!

Now, on to the A-Z Challenge- today is the letter Q.  My theme this year is a tour of my home state New Jersey. But I was hard pressed to find anywhere or anything to highlight that starts with the letter Q.  So I decided to list 10 quick, quirky facts about New Jersey:

1. Jersey Girls don't pump gas. And I, for one, am thrilled to death we don't have to. 
2. Believe it or not, New Jersey has more horses than Kentucky.
3.The first basketball game was played in none other than Hoboken, New Jersey in 1846.
4. NJ is the nation's most densely populated state with an average of 1030 people per square mile.
5. The first drive-in movie opened in Camden, New Jersey.
6. Street names for the game of Monopoly were taken from real ones in  Atlantic City, NJ.
7. The light bulb and motion picture projector were both invented by Thomas Edison in NJ.
8. NJ ranks high in the production of almost ALL garden vegetables. It also produces cranberries, blueberries and peaches. 
9. Atlantic City is home to the world's longest boardwalk!
10: Here's a fact I'm not very proud of: about one-sixth of all the drugs manufactured in the US come from NJ. 

Did you know any of those facts? Are you surprised about any? What's unique or quirky about your home state? And please don't forget to go check out The Writer's Storm and Brandon's new cover.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter P is for Princeton

My A-Z theme this year is a tour of all of my favorite places to visit in my home state of New Jersey. On this bright, sunny, Saturday morning we find ourselves on the letter P.

Princeton University
Princeton is one of those iconic towns that is known to all because of the Ivy League University that shares the same name. I think every New Jersey resident should, at one point or another, take the time to visit Princeton and the surrounding area.
Here is a nice shot of some of that famous Ivy
Princeton Choir Chapel, so beautiful 

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind living in these dorm rooms.

No matter how many times I visit Princeton, it's never enough. It doesn't matter whether or not we go into Princeton to take a stroll down the historic streets, see a football game, shop, dine, visit an art exhibit, hear a lecture or the Princeton Chapel Choir perform, I honestly can't get enough of this town. There is always so much to do and see and the excitement this kind of university town buzzes with is infectious. My two older girls have been treated to a special Princeton Uni tour with their gifted and talented classes. The highlight of the tour, (for my twelve year old)  was when she went to purchase a granola bar in one of the campus stores and she was asked if she had her student id on her.. Oh my word, that child came home lit up like a little lightening bug hollering, 

"Mom, mom, guess what? They actually thought I was a student!!" 

Have any of you ever gone to Princeton? Do any of you live near a famous campus or have you attended an Ivy League School?  Did any of you ever notice that Princeton University's initials are PU? Ha.  -Jaybird out. 



Friday, April 17, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter O is for Ocean Grove

Here we are at Letter O in the A-Z Challenge and I'm not even sure how I got here. It's been a crazy couple of weeks so far and quite a challenge to say the least, but I am determined to press on... My theme this year is a tour of my home state of New Jersey. Today I'd like to take you to visit a town that time forgot, Ocean Grove. Ocean Grove is located in Monmouth County, which is considered not that far North or South, but pretty much smack dab in the middle of Jersey.

Here is a picture of the tents in Ocean Grove, past and present.
Not all that much has changed. And if I'm going to live in a tent for the summer,
this is the kind I could get used to. Not quite what you normally picture when someone says "tent".
Aren't they beautiful? 

Visiting Ocean Grove, New Jersey is like stepping back in time. This town was founded in 1869, when a group of ministers and friends camped at what is now called Founders Park. After a candlelight prayer service they dedicated themselves to establishing a permanent Christian camp meeting community. Summer camp meetings were set up in tents, and this tradition that started over 130 years ago, still goes on today.

Lake Avenue Home ca 1870RulesThe community established some strict rules and regulations to  live by, which included the prohibition of liquor.  Yes, Ocean Grove is still a dry town. Now I know a lot of people are put off by that, but not this girl. As a veteran Jersey Shore resident who used to live in Seaside and was woken up one too many times by loud, obnoxious, drunken revelers who felt the need to urinate, vomit or fight in my front yard or park in our driveway, I have to say living in a dry town really appeals to me. Because it kind of eliminates and discourages this kind of behavior. The beaches and boardwalk at Ocean Grove remain spotless and family friendly. Most of your typical "Jersey Shore" reality tv stars and the like are not drawn to this quiet, seaside refuge. I wonder if that had anything to do with Fodor's naming the beach at Ocean Grove, NJ to be one of the top 15 to visit in the world!  Ocean Grove is really the town that time forgot, but I absolutely love it. It's one of my favorite places in Jersey, it's truly worth a visit.

The beach at Ocean Grove, New Jersey