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The gorgeous weather today has everyone smiling and reveling in the signs of spring! After a beautiful day on the ball field our family was ready for some delicious treats as we settled in for “family movie night.” We called upon an old favorite as we all agreed that we needed to taste spring! This recipe is from one of our favorite TV chefs, Giada DeLaurentis. Give it a whirl. It is super simple and guaranteed to give YOU a true, “Taste of Spring!!”
Pea Pesto Crostini
4 to 6 servings
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, defrosted
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 8 (1/2-inch thick) slices whole-grain baguette or ciabatta bread, preferably day-old, * see Cook’s Note
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 small tomato, diced
For the pea pesto: Pulse together the peas, garlic, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
For the crostini: Preheat a stovetop griddle or grill pan on medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the sliced bread with olive oil and grill until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bread to a clean surface and spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the prepared pesto on each slice.
Top with tomato halves and serve.
“Clap if you believe in fairies….” It’s a line at the end of Peter Pan that we all clap along to, even if in our hearts we aren’t quite sure those fairies REALLY do exist. Well, after my recent adventures along the Columbia Trail in Hunterdon County, I will be clapping with certainty every time I hear that line from now on.
Recently my family of 3 has rediscovered the joy in bicycle riding. We started small, exploring the trail along our local park, taking our bikes on errands around town and simply cruising around the neighborhood.
Once we discovered the fun we could have on our bikes, we decided to explore some of the trails around NJ. Traillink.com is a wonderful website that will provide you with information about trails around the country. They list the trail distance, display a map, describe the material the trail is made of and post many reviews from previous visitors. By using this website we discovered the COLUMBIA TRAIL, which runs from High Bridge to Long Valley. Since we love the beauty of that area, we decided to give it a try. The trail is gorgeous! It is a nicely shaded path along the south branch of the Raritan River. The sun dapples the landscape as it peaks through the many varieties of trees. You might spy a deer, a groundhog or your favorite New Jersey birds as you ride. There are benches along the trail to provide resting areas to enjoy the gifts of nature and there is even a beautiful bridge where you can pause to enjoy the breathtaking Ken Lockwood Gorge and the Lake Solitude Falls.
On our first excursion we parked near Califon and headed to High Bridge. It was 7 miles in this direction and we intended to stop in the quaint town of High Bridge for lunch and a brief respite. After enjoying delicious burgers and a few libations at Mrs. Reilly’s Pub House, we began our 7 mile trek back to our parking spot. This part of the ride seemed harder….our daughter felt tired and mom and dad seemed more winded after a beer or two at lunch. We all questioned how we would make it back to the car. That is when the magic happened.
Suddenly our daughter Kayleigh spied something odd. She slowed her bike to explore it and announced that she had discovered a “fairy house!” As we dismounted our bicycles we were shocked to see a tiny hinged door at the foot of an old oak tress. The sign on the door called it the Gnome Home and there was a bounty of treasures inside! A journal beside the loot asked that the visitors take a treasure and leave a treasure. How neat! We dug into our backpack for a treasure to leave and Kayleigh selected a plastic turtle as her souvenir. Suddenly the ride was a wee bit easier with this happy discovery.
Little did we know there were more fairy houses to be discovered! As we continued along the path we were now noticing little home after little home. Some were intricate, some more simple. All were hidden among the trees, the leaves and the large stones. There were houses with doorbells, decks and even outhouses. Many had themes including one near the Califon Train Station that is modeled to resemble a fairy size version of the train station. As we took photos of each we giggled at the cunning and creativity of the magical imps who must have created these joyful little palaces. Interestingly, we even noticed some statues of fairies, gnomes and leprechauns on our journey. Kayleigh surmised the pixies had been watching us and turned into statues as we ventured closer, all in an effort to remain mysterious.
Our journey had again become joyful, filled with excitement wondering what we would find around the next bend. Having stopped for a water break we shared our photos with fellow nature lovers who had not yet happened to notice the fairy houses on their journey. We are sure they continued along the trail with a new perspective.
Since our first visit we have returned several times. All the original houses are still there and on our last trip we discovered at least 4 new homes. We also noticed many more statues of fairies and gnomes too! There are no signs to advertise the magic along this trail but for those in the know, whether walking or biking, it is a wonderful way to reconnect and bring the magic back into your family!
Recently there has been a flurry of news reports on a mysterious tiny door that has appeared at the base of a tree in Golden Gate Park. It’s adorable! It’s tiny and it has created quite a stir! People from all over the country are flocking to see this miniature portal; wondering just how it got there and why. This tiny little door has created a great sense of wonder in so many people. How did it get there? What does it mean? Is there really “magic in the forest???”
I don’t know about you but this story made me want to check it out. Sadly, a weekend trip to California is out of the question, HOWEVER I do believe in magic and I’ve discovered it right here in our beautiful garden state of New Jersey. Stay tuned for a post later today where you can learn where you too can find “magic in the forest!!!”
Good Morning sunshine! Today promises to be a beautiful spring Saturday, HOORAY!!!! It’s opening day for many children on both the softball and baseball fields all around New Jersey. It’s also a gorgeous day for a walk around the park, a bike ride or simply playing outside. I myself am planning to break out my brand new pink “bike with a basket” ! What are you going to do with this gorgeous day? Check out some of my past posts for some great outdoor ideas and then let me know how much you enjoyed them!!!
On a beautiful Saturday morning we planned our day as we donned our hiking shoes, applied the sunscreen and headed out route 78 towards Bucks County, PA. Our GPS informed us it would be a 58 minute ride and as we ambled through the gorgeous country farmland it felt like no time before we saw the sign for Ringing Rocks Park. As we exited our car we noted several other families with similar plans. Some had packed picnics, some even brought their dogs, but everyone carried a hammer. You see, Ringing Rocks Park is a 128 acre park that contains a field of boulders (about 8 acres) that have a very unusual property. When these rocks are struck with a hammer or another rock, they sound as if they are metal and hollow and ring with a sound similar to a metal pipe being struck. Though geologists have studied the properties of these mysterious rocks, most are baffled about the reason for their musical tones.
The trail signs are clearly marked so we embarked on our journey. I must note that I was glad we had chosen to wear appropriate footwear as this trail is rocky and is not meant for flip flops or fancy shoes. After about 1/4 mile walk, we began to hear the music of the rocks. Those who arrived before us had begun to explore the field, striking rocks of various shapes, sizes and colors, always smiling at the music they created. My daughter Kayleigh clearly couldn’t wait to join the fun and picked up her pace, arriving at the field just slightly before us. The actual field of rocks is a sight to behold. It begs on to wonder just how these rocks arrived here in what is a breathtaking gift of nature. Walking among the rocks is an exercise in balance, but once balanced, the joy of creating musical tones out weighed my fear of falling down. After playing in what might be called a genuine “rock concert” we continued along the trail, exploring and searching for the largest waterfall in Bucks County. Though I don’t think we found the largest waterfall, we did find a small beautiful version about a mile up the trail. Hunger pains began to rumble in our bellies so we decided to hike back to our car and search for a place to have lunch.
Luckily we realized that we were near Frenchtown, NJ where we could not only find a good place for lunch but we could also shop, rent bikes, or simply explore the beauty of this unique little village. We settled on Galasso’s Pizza on Bridge Street, after having heard from Friends that the pizza was to die for. Boy, are we glad we did! The owner greeted us from behind the counter which was filled with mouthwatering selections of pizza pies and paninnis. After drooling over the choices we each made selections and found a table. The good arrived quickly and we enjoyed what I must deem the best pizza I have had in New Jersey. If you are in this area you MUST check it out!!!
After lunch and a little shopping I was able t convince my family to take a little side trip to Sand Castle Winery which was just a mile up the road. Bob and I had visited this PA winery about 15 years ago and I remembered it as charming. As we approached the new castle style building, we were taken with the beauty of the vineyard. Though I have not yet been to Italy, I felt briefly transported as I was reminded of scenes from one of my favorite movies, Letters to Juliet. We adults enjoyed a tasting of the 15 wines bottled at the winery. Our host amused us with stories to accompany each selection and even provided Kayleigh with a non-alcoholic spiced fruit drink that would be lovely served warm at the holidays. Of course we purchased that selection as well as a few more and we began our journey back home. As we stopped at a farm stand to purchase some of the bounty of this great garden state, we reflected on a day well spent. It was a day we would not soon forget!!!
Last Christmas I received a gift more precious than gold; it was a piece of family
history, a link to my past. It was the passport my great grandmother used when she
arrived from Italy nearly a century ago.
I was blessed to have known and loved my great grandmother, “Big Grandma”, for
the first 22 years of my life. Her stories fascinated my siblings and me as we learned about a life so
different from the one we were living. It was difficult to imagine the hardships or the living conditions she endured, but we always listened carefully, creating pictures in our minds. “It was this fascination with family history that brought me to a museum in NYC where not only would I hear stories, but I could see first hand what life was like for immigrants in New York City as they began to assimilate into life in America.” This museum is called the Tenement Museum and is located at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. It is a must see for anyone captivated by the stories of their ancestors.
Our visit began with a tour of the neighborhood called “The Foods of the Lower East
Side.” Our guide was knowledgeable and amusing as he helped us to imagine how
families who were new to the country tried to hold onto their culture through the
comfort of food. “He explained that many families cooked meals native to
their countries, substituting local ingredients when traditional ones were
unavailable.” We discovered that many of our favorite foods are actually
Americanized versions of what they once were, based solely on what was available
at the time. We all loved the delicious morsels we were served as we walked down
the street learning the importance of food in the changing society. We ate kosher
pickles from the famous “Pickle Guys”, German pretzels, Italian cheeses and
Chinese dumplings. We sampled “Tostones”, which are fried plantains from a local
Dominican restaurant that provides a taste of home for recent immigrants to the
area. Finally, we concluded our culinary journey with cream puffs filled with a green
tea cream. A nod to the changing neighborhood which is now filled with young
upwardly mobile people who are more inclined to try “interesting foods”; a true
fusion of the generations through food.
Our next tour was entitled “Piecing It Together” and was held on the third floor of the
museum itself. This tenement, built in 1863, was once home to over 7,000 working
class immigrants. Now fully restored, each floor depicts the lives of the actual
occupants of the building at the turn of the century. Our tour focused on two Jewish
families who were in the garment business. Having some knowledge of Big
Grandma’s experiences in garment work I found this all the more fascinating.
What is instantly striking is realizing that the building, which could have
been used to house one family quite comfortably, had been divided into
apartments for twenty-two families! To say it was close quarters is an
understatement! Each apartment was a mere 350 square feet and many families
consisted of up to twelve children. Truly eye opening for my daughter living a
blessed life in suburban Cranford, NJ circa 2013!
Inside the apartment the docent regaled us with stories of how the families who
worked in the garment business might have used their home as both a place to live
and a place of business. We stood crowded in the dimly lit parlor that included a
sewing machine and garments displayed in various stages of completeness. We
admired the wives of the household who would have had to complete all of their
household chores while these garment workers took up space in their small home.
We understood the tensions that everyone would have felt. Though we visited on a
cool day, we were made aware of how a lack of air conditioning in these buildings
would have added to the angst in the room.
This hour long tour seemed to fly by in minutes. It left all of us
craving more. As we descended the stairway we concluded this
was a destination worth returning to and made plans for a trip in the near future. When we
return we look forward to touring one of the other apartments and hearing stories of families
from other cultures and backgrounds. This museum is a must see for anyone who is
interested in what life was like after Ellis Island. I know that it has inspired us to take an even
closer look into the lives of our ancestors!
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Have you noticed how addicted our children are to their electronic devices? Have you found yourself quoting your parents as you begin a sentence with, “when I was young…….?” My frustration with the cyber world hit a peak one afternoon and I decided to show my daughter and her friend just what life was like “back in the day.” I took them to the Red Mill Village in Clinton, NJ and though this time period was long before my childhood, we all realized that life was not only interesting but fun in the many years before electronics ruled our lives.
Our day began with a picturesque ride out route 78 to Clinton. It is a lovely ride that encourages one to exhale as you begin to pass farm land and country roads. Exit 15 is Clinton, a quaint Victorian style town, filled with unique boutiques and restaurants. The beautiful old fashioned bridge over the river in town encourages people to linger, to slow down and simply enjoy the view.
We parked at the Red Mill and entered into the museum store. We were greeted by a friendly docent who informed us that with our admission fee we were welcome to explore and enjoy all of the buildings on the property. On the day we toured there were not any special events scheduled therefore it was very quiet. We began our exploration in the famed red mill. The girls were immediately drawn to the great water wheel. It was fascinating to see the size of the gears, created so long ago, that still allow it to operate today. While in the mill we explored a great deal of old fashion equipment that appears sophisticated even today. One of the most interesting was a machine called a corn Sheller. Its job was to remove the kernels from the cob. This machine made time consuming work easier and much more efficient.
After departing the main building we set off for the outer buildings. We explored a quarry, some tenant houses, a general store, blacksmith and a one room school house. The young ladies had such fun role playing in the room with the chalkboards, old fashioned toys, and even a real dunce cap. Each building had so much to see and everything is clearly labeled to explain exactly what you are looking at. We ended our tour in the herb garden. We learned that each home would have an herb garden which would be used for both cooking and keeping the family healthy. We observed that everything served a purpose including the boxwoods. Since they are not only beautiful but well known for they pungent odor, we read that they were used as natural drying racks for both clean laundry and unlaundered clothes that needed refreshing. We were definitely impressed.
Before concluding our visit we were convinced by the children to stop into the museum shop one last time. It is filled with interesting choices meant to serve as souvenirs from a day at the village. The girls chose some candy sticks and a non-electronic toy called the 15 puzzle. It is a numbered puzzle that consists of sliding tiles in random order. The object of the puzzle is to put the numbers in order. It cost a mere $1.98.
Our day of exploration had made us hungry and we sought out a place that we could relax and get a bite to eat. Luck was on our side when we discovered Nino’s on the River. It seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. The outdoor seating was bustling on this beautiful day but we were lucky enough to score a table right next to the river. The menu was eclectic offering us burgers, salads and pasta dishes for lunch. As we placed our order we listened to the babbling river and watched the ducks swim beside us. The girls were captivated by their new toy and as they focused on solving their puzzles they commented that this was the original colonial version of game boy! As we reflected on the day we discussed how our lives today are both similar and different from those long ago. The girls realized how hard life was in the past but also giggled about the many fun and fascinating things they had discovered on their journey back in time.
After lunch we meandered through the downtown of Clinton. The shops are varied and inviting. We wandered in and out of everything from shoe shops to art galleries. The girls pointed out that on our next visit we could even rent canoes to explore the beautiful river front. We all agreed that we would definitely be back.
Our final stop on this fun filled day was Metropolitan Seafood in Lebanon NJ. Having lived in Clinton in the past I was well acquainted with this fine fish market and I knew bringing home dinner from here would be the perfect ending to a lovely day. Metropolitan has been recognized by The New York Times and the Food Network as one of the finest fish markets in NJ. Owner Mark Drabich knows his fish and is happy to share this knowledge with each and every customer. The store has expanded from a tiny shop in a strip mall to a much larger exciting market right on Route 22. The new size and chic styling has not changed the quality of the fish and service. Each customer is treated as though they are the only one. All questions are answered and recipes for the fish purchased are shared, often being written on a piece of butcher paper. On the day we visited, Mark not only told me how to cook the beautiful red snapper I purchased but also gave me a bit of marinade to enhance the delicious flavor. This is by far my favorite place to purchase fish and I was glad I had packed my cooler in anticipation of this final stop.
Our journey back in time had been worth the trip! The girls got a perspective on life before the electronics they are so dependent on and we moms enjoyed a day of quality time with our pre- teen daughters. We vowed to make these kind of trips a continued priority in our lives!