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!