SQUEEZE IT ALL IN

May 10, 2017

What a wild, wonderful,  and wacky weekend we had.

Friday the 5th of May (duh) was Cinco de Mayo.

You do know that there is a reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo other than eating Mexican food and drinking, right?  In 1861 Mexico declared a temporary stop on the repayment of foreign debts, so English, Spanish, and French troops invaded the country. By April 1862 the English and Spanish had withdrawn, but the French remained in an attempt to establish a monarchy, and to restrain U.S. power in in North America. On May 5, 1862, a poorly equipped  army under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated French troops at the Battle of Puebla.

Although the fighting continued and the French were not driven out for another five years, the victory at Puebla¬†became a symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination. The city, which was later renamed Puebla de Zaragoza, still celebrates, but not so much in most of the rest of the country. In the mid-20th-century, the U.S. ¬†celebration of Cinco de Mayo became a way for¬†Mexican immigrants to encourage pride in their ¬†heritage. ¬†For the rest of us, it’s ¬†a bacchanal.

So, we¬†gotta’ celebrate, right? Here in AC, there are lots of venues to choose from. ¬†But we decided on Veracruz a new Mexican restaurant that opened at Harrah’s Casino about two months ago. We chose it because of the enticing advertising. ¬†Not one, but two, Happy Hours – Patron Girls giving away gifts – and Margaritas made from scratch. Feast your eyes on this – maybe one of the most delicious Margaritas I’ve ever had – ever!

And Guacamole with Blue Crab Chunks – can you hear the angels singing ??? ¬†We met lots of fun people, and had a really good time. If you’re in AC- get going. ¬†There were 5 other bars on my list to visit, but after a few drinks at Veracruz, home was the only place that really sounded good.

Saturday was the Kentucky Derby.  But before we settled in to watch the race, we saw the opera, Samson and Delilah, by Camille Saint-Saens, Op. 47,  a grand opera in three acts and four scenes  to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire.

 

Here is one of the actors who played, and of course sang, as Abimelch, satrap of Gaza.   By the way, a satrap  is a local ruler.

By now you should know it wasn’t just an opera in a theater. ¬†Oh no, this opera was held in a beautiful private home in the Venice Park section of Atlantic City.

We were told to bring our own seats, as it was always very crowded.  Guess what?  There were only four of us in the audience, and they performed anyway.  How delightful is that?  They even had champagne and snacks Рall gratis.  And by the way, admission is also free, with a free -will-donation.

If you are interested, they will be performing Rigoletto on Saturday, June 19, and Otello on August 5th.  Both will be held at 8pm, at the Community Presbyterian Church in Brigantine, NJ.

After the opera, we made a beeline for the Hi-Point Pub. ¬†Although many venues were showing the derby, we were cutting it pretty close, and didn’t want to miss anything. ¬†We took a seat at the bar. ¬†The didn’t have the makings for a Mint Julep, so we¬†settled Maker’s Mark on the rocks.

We bet on Patch, a blind- in- one- eye horse, TapwritРbecause Tim heard he was good in the mud, an Fast and Accurate, because I love grey horses.  Look at this horse Рa thing of beauty.

If you watched the race, you know we were big losers. ¬†Always Dreaming was the winner. ¬†Did I mention that we used to own a horse? ¬†Yep, her name was Nightmare. ¬†We kept her in an open lot next to our home when we lived in St. Thomas. ¬†When we moved back to the states, we had to sell her, but it was fun while it lasted. ¬†I think that’s why we try to stay on top of the derby – that and the mint juleps – it’s all about tradition !

Look at this magnificent creature…Always Dreaming.

After the race, we headed home to just sit and relax.  It was a very busy weekend, and we loved every minute of it.

By the way, we’ve started a list of necessities for our next road trip. ¬†I can’t tell you the exact date – but stay tuned for the ride – it won’t be long.

SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME

April 29, 2017

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while – but we’re back. ¬†It was a blog-worthy day, if you will. ¬†Smithville Village had a New Age Fair and Drum Circle on the Village Greene, sponsored by Herban Legends. ¬†Herban Legend is a “Fair Trade Socially Conscious Boutique carrying hand-made clothing & accessories, jewelry, visual art & metaphysical materials such as singing bowls, sage, incense, etc., as well as unique & unusual gifts, natural organic body care products, teas & sauces. ¬†The Legend also conducts & sponsors workshops in chakra and crystal healing, spiritual cleansing using sage & other wonders from the Earth, Tarot Readings….and much more” ¬† – 205 N Belleview ¬†Ave,¬†Hammonton, NJ 08037. ¬†¬†I thought I’d give them a plug because I enjoyed myself so much, and I plan on visiting the shop – maybe you will too.

A blanket was set up with various drums so people could borrow, in case you didn’t bring or have your own.

 

I don’t have one, but here I am anyway.

It was our first 85 degree,  and higher,  day of the year.  The organizers were good enough to set tents in a circle, with chairs under them for shade.  Great idea!

If you’ve never been in a drum circle, it is way cool. ¬†It reminds me of chanting “OM” in a yoga class. All of the voices seem to turn into one, that vibrate your very inner core – same with the drum circle. Try it – I think you’ll like it!

Along with the drum circle, there were vendors of all sorts – acupuncture, massage, a juice and kombucha bar, a henna booth, essential oils, and lots more.

When we left Smithville Village, we were in the mood for peace and beauty.  We headed over to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

We drove the 8-mile Wildlife Self-Guided Tour. ¬†Brochures were available in the newly built Visitor’s Center. ¬†The habitat consists of 47,000 acres, which is actively managed for migratory birds. ¬†But that’s not all. ¬†The Diamondback Terrapin (turtle), ¬†is a species of turtle native to the brackish coastal marshes of New Jersey. ¬†And they are protected here as well.

Spring is certainly¬†¬†time for L’Amour!!!

Mom, dad and babies.

Those little yellow balls to the right are baby chicks.

A lone snowy egret.

Look at this beautiful Red-winged Blackbird.

We’ll probably make this drive a 1,000 times over the course of the year. ¬†It’s only a 5 minute drive from our house, and there are different creatures to see in different seasons. ¬†If you’re headed to the shore, plan a visit here – you won’t be disappointed.

WELCOME TO SOMER’S POINT

Being Saturday night, we decided to kick it up a notch, and head to the Bay Fest in Somer’s Point. ¬†The Bayfest is now the largest, single day festival in South Jersey, with¬† food, crafts, and music, with an emphasis on food!!!

Yikes!!! It is any wonder_________________________________ (you fill in the blank).

We wanted to hear some good music, so we headed to BAIA, a restaurant/bar, with a band on the deck. ¬†We had seen this band before, and we both really love the old-school calypso, soca, ¬†and reggae sounds of ¬†Verdict (verdictisin.com). ¬†If you have the chance to see/hear them – do – you’ll feel like you’re in the islands for sure.

 

Just so you know – Tim has been working on the Casita for days, getting it ready for our upcoming road trip. ¬†It looks great. ¬†Don’t you agree?

Depending on the weather, we should be going on a “shake-down cruise” next weekend. ¬†We’re thinking Cape May, because there is so much there to see and do, and it’s close to home if we need a tune-up of some kind. ¬†There are also many campgrounds in Cape May and surrounding areas.. ¬† If all goes well, the next post should be about our trip to Cape May. ¬†Stay tuned !!!

 

ANOTHER BOAT ???‚õĶÔłŹ‚õĶÔłŹ‚õĶÔłŹMAYBE YES, POSSIBLY NO ūüö§ūüö§ūüö§

March 21, 2017

Hi Everyone, and Happy First Day of Spring.

ūüö§

We attended the Atlantic city Boat Show, which was held¬†March 1-5, 2017 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. ¬†We’re thinking about buying a small boat, given our proximity to water. ¬†In fact, I’ve had an interest in exploring these waterways for many years. ¬†There’s something intriguing to me about traveling on the water through narrow water paths through the marsh.

We have enough space for a small boat in our storage spot, right behind the Casita. ¬†There are many, many small craft marinas around here, and a few launch ramps. ¬†In fact, there’s one about a mile from our house.

It isn’t pretty, but it does the trick. ¬†They even have a parking lot to keep your truck and trailer.¬†And, it is all gratis! ¬†Don’t speak Latin people? – that’s FREE! ¬†Yep, it’s a state park, and we are now residents. ¬† So…

The boat show had lots of boats and accessories. ¬†I thought there would be a few large, and larger motor and sailboats in the bunch – but there weren’t – just motor boats. ¬†Small ones! ¬†Not that we were going to buy a big one, mind you – I guess we’re just used to the Annapolis boat shows which are outdoors and pretty unbelievable to see, where you can climb on and off of some of the most spectacular boats/yachts in the world. ¬†But actually, for us, this was perfect.

The entrance was plain and simple

To the left of the entryway, there was a photo op that Tim just could not resist.

The first thing that met our eyes when we walked into the show was this incredible sand sculpture.

It was done by sand sculptor extraordinaire, John Gowdy.  If you want to know a bit about him or see more of his work, go to       www.jgowdy.com

Some of the boats we looked at  were this style.  Meh!

But this was my very favorite of that lot.

But here’s the thing…do we really need a boat this large? ¬†I mean we want to be able to take out a few people, mostly our three grandsons. ¬†So do we purchase, insure, and store something like this for the less than a handful of times we would actually take guests out? ¬†That remains to be seen. ¬†I was thinking more of something like this –

or even this-

I  really want to explore the waterways in the marshes.  To my eyes, they are quite beautiful.

All along the marshes, there are small restaurants and bars. ¬†You can tie up your boat, and go in for a little refreshment and a bite to eat. ¬†This one is called Mott’s Creek Inn.

Not very fancy, right? ¬†But the drinks are good, and the food is delicious, and there’s often live music. ¬†Plus, it sits just a few feet away from the Redneck Yacht Club.

Right across the street from Mott’s Creek Inn, this sign is posted .

UGH! ¬†You know how I feel about mosquitoes and green heads. ¬†But this year, I am determined to enjoy my summer at the shore, and at times, ¬†on the marshes. ¬†Note: ¬†Someone told me to wipe all exposed areas with Listerine. ¬†You let it dry, and voila – no bugs. ¬†Hmmm. ¬†I’ll try anything! ¬†And if it works, I’ll let y’all know.

Crazy!  I had no idea that this world existed just a few miles from the glitz and glamour of Atlantic City casinos.

This is another restaurant/bar on the banks of the marsh. ¬†It’s called Oyster Creek Inn Restaurant and Boat Bar.

This happens to be an excellent restaurant, with very long lines during the summer.

I’m sure you get the idea! A boat sounds like fantastic fun. ¬†But we have nothing but time to decide. ¬†We plan on hitting the road in our Casita again sometime soon. ¬†Believe it or not, we miss the road. Don’t get me wrong, we love our new home. ¬†But,¬†the road is our siren song. And very, very soon we plan to take another road trip. ¬†In fact, we are currently in the planning stages. ¬†Canada? ¬†Florida? ¬†The States we haven’t been to yet — all are being considered. For those of you who follow along, you know our trip to Mexico came to an abrupt halt; ¬†something to do with a leased vehicle. ¬†We have recently purchased the truck, so Mexico is back in our sights. ¬†I’m thinking for the winter makes the most sense. ¬†How about you?

We hosted a St. Patrick’s Day EVE party. It’s been so long since we’ve entertained in our home, that it took lots of our time to plan, prepare and host. ¬†You all would have been pretty proud of me. ¬†I even made Beer Bread, Irish Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie, Guiness Chocolate Cake (below),

 

Bailey’s Irish Cream Cake and Irish Apple Cake with Custard sauce — all from scratch. ¬† Oh wait, let’s not forget Shamrock-shaped pasta (since I’m Italian). ¬†As well as lots of other stuff. ¬†We really enjoyed ourselves, and believe / hope every one else did as well. ¬† On the day of, we went to McGettigan’s Irish Pub for corned beef and cabbage, and music of course, ¬†with friends.

That’s it for now – see you next time, hopefully with plans for the road trip.

 

 

SEA ISLE CITY – ANOTHER “WHO KNEW” PLACE

February, 2017

If you live close by, or are crossing the country and find yourself in New Jersey – you’re in for a treat. ¬†Sea Isle City is a beach town, in Cape May County, New Jersey. ¬†The weekend of February 18th and 19th kicked off the 2017 season, with a Polar Bear Plunge. ¬†The “plungers” were very lucky this year, with temps in the 60s. ¬†Could have been snowing in February! ¬†Everyone looked like¬†they were having great time. ¬†Some more than others.

Afterwards, there was a Post-Plunge Party, with a Costume Contest Awards Ceremony.  Costumes you ask?  Yep Рsome people dressed in costumes to take the plunge. Well Рdressed Рundressed Рplunged Рdressed.  All in good fun.

There was plenty of police presence to “keep the peace”.

I must say that this kind of partying is not really my thing. Huge crowds, many of them tipsy or totaled, as the case may be. ¬†We even saw a guy passed out on someone’s front lawn – not cool at all !!! ¬†But the plunge was something I had never seen, so…

However, the real reason to go to Sea Isle City is the absolutely gorgeous, 1 1/2 mile beach.  Check this out.

It really is a summer playground. ¬†The huge beach caters to all interests. ¬†There are¬†Catamaran and Sailboat Launching Beaches,¬†Kayaking Beaches, ¬†Kiteboarding Beaches,¬†Rafting Beaches,¬†Surf-Fishing Beaches, ¬†Surfing Beaches, and Volleyball Beaches. ¬†I think that’s pretty amazing. ¬†Now, there are general beach rules.

And, there are rules that go with each type of beach, but nothing that would stop you from having a wonderful day.  (Check out the website at the bottom of the page for rules).

Oh, I almost forgot !!!!!!!  Very Important !!!

Most beaches in New Jersey require a beach tag , which you must pay for, to enjoy the beach.  On Wednesdays, beaches here are FREE!!!

EVEN MORE IMPORTANT –¬†Beach wheelchairs are available at no charge from the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol. However you must have a place to store the chair and a way to transport the chair to your location. The chairs are designed to be used in the sand and have large balloon wheels. They can be signed out for up to 5 days. It is best to call the Sea Isle Beach Patrol to make a reservation as there are a limited number of chairs. You will need two forms of ID to sign out a beach wheel chair. Reserved chairs must be picked up by 11:30 AM at Beach Patrol Headquarters on the Promenade at 44th Street. ¬†I think that’s an excellent idea.

Other towns have chairs, but they are not free. ¬†Au contraire, they are quite expensive IMO. ¬†For example, ¬†1 day -$75.00 up to 1 week – $225. ¬†Mobility On Wheels Atlantic City ¬†offers its customers “state of the art Deming Design”¬†beach wheelchair rental.¬†Mobility On Wheels has the largest beach wheelchair rental, with sizes from petite sizes to heavy-duty bariatric wheelchairs, all with reticulating leg platforms. ¬†FYI – I was a rehab nurse for a number of years, so this info is particularly interesting to me.

Aside from the beaches and water activities, there are lots of happenings. Here are a few –

MARCH 2017

St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Celebration

This is a picture of St. Patrick’s Day parade from 2016. ¬†My favorite part is that the mayor is leading the parade – and his name? ¬†Leonard Desiderio.

APRIL 2017

Easter Program

Art & Craft Show

MAY 2017

The Largest Cousins Reunion In America

Memorial Day Ceremony

JUNE 2017

ESA/South Jersey District Surfing Contest

Sea Isle Beer Fest

Full Moon Beach Yoga – ON THE BEACH – 8-9pm

Isn’t this great?

Skimmer Antique Auto Show & Parade

Skimmer Festival: Free Guided Historical Trolley Tours

Sea Isle City Food Truck Invitational

JULY 2017

Concert – Real Diamond (Neil Diamond Tribute)

Independence Day Concert with Ed Vezinho/Jim Ward Big Band

Fireworks

Concert – Coast To Coast (Earth, Wind & Fire Tribute)

Full Moon Beach Yoga – ON THE BEACH

Concert – The Rat Pack Tribute Show (Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr. & Marilyn Monroe)

Baby Parade -The Sea Isle City Baby Parade celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2016. ¬†Check this out. ¬†This is a great idea and picture. They took third place in the “Riding”¬†Division. Looks like an adorable day – full of oohing and aahing.

1-Mile Ocean Swim

Concert – Lights Out (Frankie Valli & Four Seasons Tribute)

Concert – Country Music Live Event (Jess Zimmerman & Audra McLaughlin from “The Voice”)

AUGUST 2017

Concert – The Glimmer Twins (Rolling Stones Tribute)

Full Moon Beach Yoga – ON THE BEACH

PHOTO OPS

There area few photo ops besides the beach – here’s Tim in what used to be a lifeguard boat.

And me takin’ breeze in a gazebo on the boardwalk. ¬†Speaking of boardwalks. ¬†There isn’t actually a boardwalk in Sea Isle City – no boards – no wood. ¬†They have built up the dunes, and created an asphalt walkway on the very top, which is called The Promenade.

CAMPING: ¬†There are no campgrounds in Sea Isle City proper. ¬†The closest are –

Ocean View Resort Campground- 2.67 miles NW
Ocean View, New Jersey   It has 1173 sites.

Echo Farms Campground is also in Ocean View, with 237 sites.

Note: ¬†I haven’t stayed in either, but they both get pretty good reviews. ¬†I’ll give them a try this summer, and give a full report.

If you want more info on Sea Isle City, please go to-

www.visitsicnj.com

 

FIVE FINGER TOURNAMENT ( A MORRA ) IN HAMMONTON

February, 2017

HAMMONTON, New Jersey. ¬†Oh yeah! ¬†After a little research, we decided to take a ride to Hammonton, NJ, a short 30 minute drive. We ran into our next door neighbor as we pulled out of the drive, and chatted for a bit. ¬†We mentioned that we were headed to Hammonton for the day to check it out. ¬†“Why are you gonna’do that? ¬†There’s nothing there – just a small town”. ¬†Now I have to admit that gave us pause – but not enough to stop us from going.

So why Hammonton (H). ¬†Well, as I’ve said before, I’m an Italian – American. ¬†All four of my grandparents are from Italy. ¬†I’ve heard that Hammonton is mainly an Italian town – so of course, I wanted check it out. ¬†With a little research, I found that Hammonton is between 45% and 54% Italian. I read an article about Hammonton, where the author admitted to not having the appropriate pedigree – an Italian last name, and a birth certificate from South Jersey. ¬†She goes on to say that even though she moved there when she was 10 years old, she was still an “iffy” Hammontonian. ¬†It wasn’t always that way. ¬†Hammonton was settled in 1812, and named for John Hammond Coffin – the “d” was lost over time. ¬†John was the son of William Coffin, who owned a lumber mill and glassworks in the town. ¬†He became interested in real estate and realized that “COFFINTOWN” was not very conducive to sales. ¬†So he removed his name, and named the development after his son, JOHN HAMMOND.

Hammonton is within the National Pineland Reserve, and is one of 52 municipalities in New Jersey. ¬†In 2014, creditdonkey.com reported it as the 2nd happiest town in New Jersey. ¬†How they measured that, I don’t have a clue. A few famous people were born in Hammonton – ¬† Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo,¬†¬†a member of the American Mafia who eventually became the Boss of the Philadelphia crime family. ¬†Most importantly to me, it is THE BLUEBERRY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. ¬†Its location¬†in the Pine Barrens is mostly sandy ground, which¬†is ideal¬†for growing blueberries. ¬†As we drove around the area, we¬†saw acres of land with blueberry bushes. ¬†Of course, the berries won’t be ready for picking until summer, but we took a few pics¬†of the rows of empty bushes.

A fact – they use the same kind of hose systems to water the bushes as is used for wine grapes, making it quite labor-intensive. ¬†Agriculture is what brought the Italians to this area 100 years or so ago – farming, garment making and wine producing is what has kept them here. ¬†The best way to learn about Hammonton is through its people. Hammontonians are family-oriented, civic-minded, and dedicated to the place they call home, or so I’ve read.

Every summer in July, there is the¬†Feast of “Our Lady of Carmel”, started on July 1st, 1875. ¬†There is a procession of the statue of Our Lady, ¬†as well as other statues of Catholic dignitaries, carried through the town by parish volunteers.

Many of the hundreds of spectators lining the 3-mile route, hold handfuls of money to pin to the sashes on the saints.  In Belmont Hills, PA, where I spent my childhood, there was a similar procession.  St. George was carried through the streets of the town as all of the children and many adults pinned our dollars to his sash while saying a little prayer.  For us, it was so much fun.

¬†After the procession, there is a carnival for the kids, and lots of drinking and eating. You will find something very interesting going on –¬†Five Finger Tournaments, known in Italy as “A MORRA“. For me, this was way cool to see. I remember my Dad and his brothers and friends playing this game at every family gathering. ¬†Hammonton still has an Italian Fingers Team. It is very loud, and very competitive. ¬†In fact, in some provinces in Italy A Morra has been banned because people have killed each other over it. ¬†Perhaps it has a little something to do with the gambling that goes along with it – ya’ think ???

It’s kind of like hard core “rock, paper, scissors”. ¬†If you want to see the game being played, check this out. ¬†Go o youtube.com. ¬†In the search bar put ¬†“a¬†morra”, and click on the first¬†show.

Along Bellevue Avenue, the main street, there are lots of restaurants and shops. I thought it rather weird that there were at lot of MEXICAN restaurants. I have to confess, we ate in one.  It was the most prominent building on the street, sitting at #101 Bellevue.  Check this out :

EL MARIACHI LOCO
Address: 101 Bellevue Ave

On the side of this building, we saw this sign – of course Tim, the rebel, had to “lean”. ¬†Don’t you just love him ?

This BYOB was pretty authentic. ¬†After eating my “pozole”, and Tim his “Mexican style” tacos, we checked out a few other places.

THE EAGLE THEATER

The following history is from the Eagle Theater website –

“The Eagle Theatre‚Äôs beginnings were humble, with just a simple announcement printed in the local newspaper in June of 1914, stating that ‚ÄúMr. Litke will put up a concrete building on his lot on Vine Street, for his moving picture winter theatre.‚ÄĚ From that, the Eagle Theatre was born.

The Eagle Theatre functioned as a silent movie theatre and playhouse from 1914 until 1944, when it was then sold to the Pentecostal Assembly of God and converted into a church. The church occupied the building for 15 years, then sold it to Harry and Evelyn Hitman in 1959. The Hitman’s used the building for storage until 2006. By that time, the old building was on the verge of being demolition. Tracy Petrongolo, the head of the Hammonton’s arts and cultural committee, researched the building’s history and determined that it was worthy of preservation. What followed was a remarkable example of dedication by a devoted base of volunteers who were intent on seeing the theatre restored.

Since reopening in June of 2009, the Eagle Theatre has quickly grown into an artistic epicenter of the South Jersey region. Located in the heart of the Hammonton Art District, the Eagle Theatre of today features performances of a professional caliber in one of the most intimate and comfortable venues in the area. We look forward to sharing with you our theatre, our town, and the joy of the performing arts”.

 

THE FUNKY COW, at 224 Bellevue Avenue, is a newly opened waffle cafe. ¬†It is charmingly decorated with “cow decor”. ¬†My favorites were the cow-shaped seats outside the cafe, where you can sit and have a taste from their very waffle-icious menu.

 

BAGLIANI’S MARKET, at 417 12th street, is a place we will most definitely return to again and again. ¬†It is a market dedicated to mostly Italian food items. ¬†If you need an Italian deli market, this is worth the trip.

I put this picture in because it was a “wow” item. ¬†Prosciutto for $44.99 a pound. ¬†I’m sure it’s crazy delicious, but…

Check out this deli section.  YUM !!!

Our final stop was the WHITE HORSE WINERY, at 106 Hall Street. which opened less than 1 year ago.

We purchased two tastings.  It was $10 per person, and it included two take-home glasses.  I must say Рall of the wines are quite good.  This is Kearsie, she is co-manager of the tasting department Рand really knows her wines.

 They have a wine club for anyone interested, with lots of perks.  They often have music and fun events.  Check it out at  whitehorsewinery.com

BTW – so cool – their label was created by world-renowned local artist, Jamie Wyeth. According to the website, “Mr. Wyeth has captured the bold, independent spirit of White Horse Winery. We are proud to display this inspiring work of art on each and every bottle of White Horse Winery wine”.

All I can say about Hammonton is, “Who Knew ?” ¬†Halfway between Philadelphia and the shore, it is well worth the visit !!!

I RESOLVE TO MAKE NO RESOLUTIONS

 

January, 2017

Well here we are – 2017. ¬†If you’re reading this post, you are lucky enough to be able to continue on the journey of life. On January 1st, most of us have been conditioned to make resolutions for the next year – things about yourself you would like to improve. ¬† ¬†After saying “Happy New Year”, ¬†the most often asked question is, “Did you make any resolutions”? ¬†My answer is an emphatic, “no”. ¬†Oh sure, ¬†I used to make them – long lists of them. ¬†And then about ¬†January 5th or so, I’d begin to scold myself for a lack of discipline and worse. ¬†It became a negative in my life – just another thing to sabotage my mellow.

Webster says:

res·o·lu·tion

ňĆrez…ôňąloÕěoSH(…ô)n/
noun
1.
a firm decision to do or not to do something.
synonyms: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, plan; commitment, pledge, promise

See where it says, “firm decision”? ¬† I’m not really into firm decisions. ¬†So darn rigid! ¬†¬†Almost impossible for a human being like me.

Several years ago, I decided to make goals instead.

goal
…°Ňćl/
noun
1. the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
synonyms: objective, aim, end, target, design, intention, intent, plan, purpose.

So much better…

The new year brings with it a sense of new a beginning, an opportunity to right any wrongs, perceived or real, and to make some positive changes – ¬†to begin the next part of the journey. ¬†I live my life in gratitude, thanking the powers that be for the life and luck I’ve been given. For my husband – my love, best friend, and partner in crime, our sons and their wives, ¬†the three lights of our lives, our grandsons, and for our families – aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I set ¬†goals that will make my life full. I have found that if I don’t have a list of things to do, or a record of things I’d like to accomplish, I will usually put things off until ma√Īana. ¬†I’ve listed a few things that I think are essential to emotional health and, therefore, physical health.

1. Subscribe To Mindfulness. Try not to think about what you should or should not be doing. ¬†Sometimes when we’re having fun, thoughts tend to creep in like “I should be cleaning the floor, or doing the laundry”. ¬†I say, enjoy what you’re doing at this moment. I promise you, the household chores will wait.

2. ¬†Be Brave When Making Choices. ¬†If you don’t like the situation you’re in, change it. ¬†If you know you can be happier, or want to be a better person – go for it. Go to school, make a move, leave that dead-end job, travel. ¬†Find your bliss.

3. ¬†Be Who You Want To Be. ¬†I believe that we are the sum of all of our past actions – it makes us who we are today. ¬†But if you aren’t satisfied with the current “you”, ¬†turn your life around. ¬† Be who you want to be today. ¬†Live an authentic life. You want to get a tattoo – change your hair color – shave your head – take opera lessons – go ahead. ¬†You won’t be sorry you tried, and it can always go back to the way it was. ¬†No real harm done.

4. If You’re Happy – Go On And Show It.¬†‚Äď Sometimes I think I laugh too loudly – full and hardy. It’s just who I am – demure by no means. ¬†Express your delight. ¬†I promise, it feels so good. ¬† Never be afraid to laugh out loud. Show your joy.

5. Be An Optimist ‚Äď In the end, life is a point of view of your own making. When you’re feeling blue, look at the goodness in yourself and all around you. ¬†You can turn things around – it is within you to do so. ¬†Sure, there are lots of things that can make you sad or angry. ¬†It’s ok to have those emotions for short while – then lose them. ¬†Don’t carry them on your shoulders – they are very heavy. ¬†It can and will get worse if you let it. ¬†Move on! One more thing I can promise you. ¬†Everything turns out the best in the end. ¬†Maybe not today or tomorrow – but it does. ¬†I’ve experienced it firsthand over and over throughout my life. One of my favorite lines is from the movie, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.¬†‚ÄúIt will be alright in the end and if it is not alright, it is not the end.‚ÄĚ (see note #2 below)

6. ¬†Be Kind – ¬† Every day, in every way. ¬†Don’t get into gossip. ¬†Don’t spread rumours. ¬†Think the best of people, until they prove you wrong. Remember, we all have a bad day, month or year. ¬†Be understanding. Freely give compliments. ¬†Kindness doesn’t cost a penny. ¬†Your smile may be the one thing that changes another person’s day from one of sadness to one of possibility.

 

6. Find The ¬†Adventure, and Beauty ¬†All Around You ‚Äď ¬† ¬†Sometimes you have to look for it. ¬†But when you find it – take advantage of it. ¬†And you don’t necessarily have to travel or vacation to see it. ¬†Look in your own yard, neighborhood,or town. ¬†Trust me – it’s there.

 

7.¬†Delight In Your Own Beauty ‚Äď ¬†Don’t spend endless amounts of time in front of a mirror critiquing yourself (or others). ¬†You have to believe that you‚Äôre a god(ess) in your own way. Think about the wonder of you. Own it. Flaunt it.

 

8.  Keep Moving.

You’ve heard it before. ¬†If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. ¬†Yep – take it from me – It’s true. It doesn’t matter what you choose – walk, exercise, garden, yoga, lift weights, swim. ¬†Anything!!! ¬†Everyone knows that any kind of exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve ¬†mental health. ¬†It can relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, improve memory, help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood. And you don‚Äôt have to be a fitness fanatic for the benefits to kick in. ¬†Doing a little something every day can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can use movement as a powerful way to feel better.

I hope that 2017 proves to be your best journey yet !    Go for it.

NOTE:  Thanks to Google Clipart for the wonderful  photos.

NOTE #2: ¬†John Lennon famously said,¬†‚ÄúEverything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.‚ÄĚ ¬†Being a super sleuth, I found that this was based on a quote by a Brazilian writer named Fernando Sabino, who said, ¬†‚ÄúIn the end, everything will be ok. If it‚Äôs not ok, it‚Äôs not yet the end.‚ÄĚ ¬†Anyway, the message is always the same.

 

TRAVEL VS VACATION

 

December, 2016

In my humble opinion (IMHO), the concepts of travel and vacation are different,¬†¬†but both are pretty darn great. ¬† Please don’t take this as an official statement that one is better than the other.

To me a vacation is usually something like ¬†a week long getaway to an all-inclusive resort with an emphasis on relaxation and fun. ¬†It can be skiing, surfing, or just sunning on a beach. ¬†It’s a chance to go somewhere new or familiar,¬†to get away from the day-to-day stresses of life and hard work, ¬†and enjoy some free time. Usually, we ¬†don‚Äôt learn much on vacation – at least that is not our primary concern. ¬†It doesn‚Äôt make us ¬†better people, expand our horizons, or help us develop new ideas. To me, a vacation should be easy. ¬†This doesn‚Äôt mean vacations are in any way a bad thing. ¬†I love vacationing. Cruises and beaches are among my favorite destinations, but I do recognize these activities for what they are. ¬†Basically, if your drink has an umbrella in it, there’s a good chance you are on vacation.

Strictly speaking, travel means moving from one place to another. ¬†Traveling isn’t usually easy, and for most, ¬†it’s not relaxing.

It often involves  discovering cultures, expanding horizons, learning a new language, trying new foods, maybe staying in crappy hostels, backpacking, camping, and/or RVing.

This is a pic of a pretty crowded hostel bedroom.  No privacy here.

¬†Lately for us, it’s RVing. ¬†It can be a challenge. It often involves work. But it’s worth it because it’s the kind of adventure that can leave you with a lasting sense of awe. ¬†Memories for a lifetime. ¬† People travel to experience a different way of living. To try new things and see new sights. ¬† It means meeting other travelers and locals. ¬†It’s drinking and eating in local spots – even dive bars. ¬†It’s walking, biking and taking public transportation. ¬†In a foreign county, it may even mean ¬†learning a few new phrases. ¬†The very personal benefits include the fact that it opens your eyes – ¬†you may even learn who you are.

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It can help you discover new skills, and give you a new perspective.  If you’re going to a new place to discover how they see the world, you can probably safely describe it as travel.

There is a hybrid version Р you can  vacation while you travel. For example, you can go on a two week  trip to anywhere, spend one week going to museums, learning a language, and trying new foods.  During the second week, just swim, snorkel, sun, and relax. In fact, for a really great trip I would definitely recommend taking a vacation from your travel. I know that sounds weird, but if you think about it, it does make sense. While we were traveling on the road for 14 months in our trailer, we planned at least a one day stay in a hotel room each month.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to inspire others to take that leap to travel, or at least that first step.  The following have inspired me.

And of course, my very, very favorite by Mark Twain. ¬†Read this several times – over and over again, until it sinks in. ¬†No matter whether you want to go on a vacation or travel – just do it !!! ¬†You’re never too old to try something new. ¬†In fact, I would argue that it helps keep you young, vibrant, ¬†and interesting. ¬†There are so many excuses for not hitting the road. ¬†But we don’t know what the future will bring – at any age. ¬†So many people we’ve met had this plan and that, wanted to try this, and wanted to try that. Unfortunately, It never happened, and now never will. ¬† ¬†Don’t let the lack of money stand in your way. ¬†There are ways to make money while traveling. ¬†I have one piece of advice, ¬†DO NOT WAIT !!!

This will be my last post for 2016. ¬†I hope you all have enjoyed taking this journey with us thus far. ¬†We have many travel plans for 2017, and much to share. Until then –

For my Christian Friends

For my Jewish Friends

For my African American Friends

For my Muslim Friends

For my Wiccan/Pagan Friends

and for my Buddhist Friends.

and finally, for Everyone

NOTE:  Thank you Google Clip Art for the lovely illustrations.

See you all in January, 2017 !!1

 

JERSEY DEVIL IN THE PINE BARRENS !!!

December, 2016

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Without a doubt, New Jersey’s oldest, most persistent, and significant piece of folklore is the tale of the notorious Jersey Devil.  The illustration above from WeirdNJ.com is my favorite. Almost everyone (around here) has heard of the Jersey Devil, but few (if any)  have seen him.   It has been almost 300 years now, that Jerseyans have told tales of the beast that stalks the Pine Barrens (more about the Pine Barrens later) and terrorizes local residents and animals.  This story begs a few questions: Why have New Jerseyans embraced this legend so steadfastly? Is there actually some sort of creature roaming the Pine Barrens of Southern NJ, and if so, what the heck is it?

The creature is often described as a two-legged flying beast ¬†with hooves, but there are many different variations.¬† The common description is that of a kangaroo-like creature with the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. It supposedly ¬†moves very fast and often is described as letting out a “blood-curdling scream”. ¬†Sometimes at night, it’s eyes glow and are red in color.

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This is one¬†popular version of ¬†the story: ¬†Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, stated that “this one would be the Devil”. In 1735, Mother Leeds, supposedly a witch and mistress, and the ¬†father, who was the Devil, gave birth to a normal son. ¬†Just after birth, it changed to a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it killed the midwife before flying up the chimney, circling the village, and heading toward the Jersey Pines.

Just last evening, I spoke with a few locals who believe this version of the story: Mother Leeds birthed a son who was horribly disfigured. Not knowing what to do, they locked him in the basement where he was fed, but never taken care of or even taught to speak Рhis only sounds were animalistic and horrifying.  One day, he escaped from his basement cage, and ran off to live in the safety of the dense Pine Barrens.

The following story , written by Brian Regal (below), a historian of science, technology and medicine sounds a bit more plausible.

regal

“Mother Leeds was merely part of the popular legend of the Jersey Devil created in the 20th century. Long-forgotten “colonial-era political intrigue” involving early New Jersey politicians, Benjamin Franklin, and rival almanac publisher Daniel Leeds, led to the Leeds family being portrayed as “political and religious monsters”, and it was this negative portrayal as the “Leeds Devil”, rather than any actual creature, that spawned the later legend of the Jersey Devil. ¬†Yep, I can believe that.

References to the Jersey Devil show-up in newspapers and other printed material in the twentieth century. The first major story came in 1909. ¬†During the week of January 16 through 23, ¬†newspapers of the time published hundreds of claimed encounters with the Jersey Devil from various parts of the state. Among the allegations were claims the creature “attacked” a trolley car in Haddon Heights and a social club in Camden. Police in Camden and Bristol, Pennsylvania supposedly fired on the creature to no effect. Other reports were about unidentified footprints in the snow, but soon sightings of creatures resembling the Jersey Devil were being reported throughout South Jersey and as far away as Delaware and Western Maryland. ¬†The widespread newspaper coverage led to a panic throughout the Delaware Valley even causing a number of schools to close and workers to stay home. During this period, it is rumored that the Philadelphia Zoo posted a $10,000 reward for the creature’s dung. ¬†Yuck! ¬†I can’t imagine what was brought in for examination…

It is from these sightings that the popular image of the creature‚ÄĒbatlike wings, horse head, claws, and general air of a dragon‚ÄĒbecame the norm.

This artist’s rendering was printed in The Philadelphia Bulletin, in January, 1909.

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Is it just me, or does he seem to be smiling???  Weird!!!

 

Other Reported Encounters

According to legend, while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs that were being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping its wings.  He fired a cannonball directly upon it, to no effect.

Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, and former King of Spain, is also claimed to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown estate around 1820.

In 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported in 1841, accompanied by tracks and screams.

A local farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attempted to steal his chickens. Afterward, he claimed that “none of 100 people he showed it to could identify it”. ¬†On July 27, 1937, an unknown animal “with red eyes” seen by residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania was compared to the Jersey Devil – ¬†it was reported by The Pennsylvania Bulletin.

In 1951, a group of Gibbstown, New Jersey boys claimed to have seen a ‘monster’ matching the Devil’s description. ¬†In 1957,¬†claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil’s description were circulated. ¬†In 1960, tracks and noises heard near Mays Landing were claimed to be from the Jersey Devil. ¬†During the same year, the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured. No one ever collected the money.

Skeptics believe the Jersey Devil is nothing more than ¬†creative ¬†Bogeyman stories ¬†told by bored Pine Barren residents (Pineys – more later) as a form of children’s entertainment.

What is a Piney?

“Piney” is a derogatory term that refers to native inhabitants of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Living conditions in the “Barrens” were considered inhospitable, and those that lived there were considered to be “the dregs of society, fugitives, poachers, moonshiners, runaway slaves or deserting soldiers”. Often, ¬†poor Pineys were forced to make a living in any way possible. They collected and sold sphagnum moss or pine cones, hunted, fished, and lived off of the land. Some of the pineys included notorious bandits known as the Pine Robbers. These bandits¬†were loosely organized criminal gangs and marauders who were British sympathizers during the American Revolutionary War who used the Pine Barrens to wreak havoc in the area.

Pineys were further demonized after two eugenics studies in the early 20th century, which depicted them as congenital idiots and criminals, most notably the research performed on “The Kallikak Family” by Henry H. Goddard. ¬†Pineys often fostered stories of how terrible the Pine Barrens are or how violent they were in order to discourage outsiders and law enforcement from entering the Barrens.

Today, Pineys tend to wear the label as a badge of honor, much like the term “redneck” has become in the Appalachian Mountains and the Southern United States.

Indulge me for just a moment here. ¬†Let’s assume the Jersey Devil does exist, and that he lives in the Pine Barrens. ¬†So what exactly is the Pine Barrens, and how can it keep a creature like this one hidden for so long?

The New Jersey Pine Barrens

According to PineyPower.com,¬†The Pine Barrens is part of 1.1 million acres of the Pinelands National Reserve, which ranges from northern Ocean County south and west, and occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area. It is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond Virginia and Boston Massachusetts ¬†That sounds like big enough space to hide in, right?

pinelans

Since ¬†there are lots of cool places to see and fun things to do in the Pine Barrens, and surrounding areas, ¬†Tim and I have decided to take a drive to have a little “look-see”, and of course, try to spot or hear the Jersey Devil. ¬†We found ourselves on Indian Cabin Road. ¬†It felt that we were onto something – a bit eerie. ¬†Signs began to show up that this was private property.

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¬†As the road narrowed, the signs became more frequent. ¬†I guess whoever owned the land meant business. ¬†We ¬†heard stories of being run off the road, and a woman, complete with a rifle aimed directly at your head, who comes out of her home to confront you about your lack of knowledge about the words “private – stay out”. ¬†We decided to get the hell out of there.

We spent an entire day and evening trying to locate the gruesome creature – perhaps bones, or a corpse. ¬†All of a sudden, we heard ¬†one of the most hideous sounds we had ever heard. ¬†Loud, ¬†ferocious, and oddly changing. ¬†Driving slowly, and with the windows down, we followed the sound, getting closer and closer. ¬†Wait – there’s a sign. ¬†POPCORN PARK ZOO ! ¬†What have we here ???

zoosign

Popcorn Park Zoo is a wildlife rescue/animal sanctuary and refuge established in 1977 for the sole purpose of providing a refuge for animals that were sick, ¬†abandoned and/or abused. ¬†What a marvelous place! ¬†Of course, we went in to check this place out. ¬†There is a nominal admission fee – $5 per person ,and $4 for seniors. ¬†They sell “popcorn” (hence, popcorn zoo) if you would like to feed the animals – $2 for small, and $2.50 a large. ¬†The receptionist said we could feed any animal except the cats – they don’t like popcorn. ¬†Cats??? Hmmm. ¬†This place is very, very cool – lions and tigers and bears ( At this point, I ¬†must insert “oh my”). ¬†The hideous sounds we heard from the road were actually donkeys – heehawing with all of their might. The handsome fellow below was part of the “chorus”.

donkey

And when we passed by their area, they all came running to get their share of popcorn.  Believe it or not, they also have several gigantic brown bears, monkeys, and a number of tigers.

This is Kya – a blind Bengal tiger. ¬†Isn’t she beautiful?

kya

Here’s Sister reaching for a peanut

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NOTE:¬†Liste -up people, Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs are cute when they’re babies. ¬†But they grow up to be HUGE!!! ¬†If you don’t have the room for them, or the desire to take care of a gigantic pig – don’t buy one !!! ¬†Below is one of several pigs at the zoo.

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If you buy popcorn, be prepared to be accompanied by dozens of creatures, all looking for a handout. These guys came around at the beginning of our stroll.  Trust me, many, many more followed, going so far as to nudge the popcorn box.

duck2

At the end of a very satisfying day, we decided to have a bite to eat .¬†We didn’t ¬†get to see the Jersey Devil (this time). ¬† Besides, what would we have done if we actually spotted him? ¬† The only Jersey Devil we found was a namesake pub, JD’S BAR & GRILLE in Galloway, New Jersey. JD’s has good food, pretty good drinks, entertainment on the weekends, and great specials . ¬†We didn’t find the Devil, but JDs will have to do for now. ¬†Trust me – we’ll ¬†keep our eyes and ears open. ¬†Wouldn’t you?

jd

NOTE:  In Popular Culture

Who can ever forget The Sopranos??? ¬†“Pine Barrens” is the eleventh episode of the show’s third season. In this episode, Christopher and Paulie Walnuts take a guy to the the woods, and have hime dig his own grave, owing to a bad debt. ¬†If you haven’t ¬†seen The Sopranos – it’s a must !!! ¬†Especially if you’re a native. ¬†Many critics think this is one of the best episodes ever, including Time magazine.

sopranos

Folklorist, ¬†Jan Harold Brunvand wrote that the spread of contemporary pop culture has overtaken traditional Jersey Devil legends. ¬†One New Jersey group called the “Devil Hunters” refer to themselves as ‚Äúofficial researchers of the Jersey Devil”, and devote time to collecting reports, visiting historic sites, and going on night hunts in the Pine Barrens in order to “find proof” that the Jersey Devil does in fact exist.

The Jersey Devil has become a cultural icon in the state, inspiring several organizations to use the nickname. In professional hockey, the Eastern Hockey League Jersey Devils played from 1964 through 1973.  When the National Hockey League Colorado Rockies relocated to New Jersey in 1982, a fan poll voted to rename that team the New Jersey Devils.

jerseydevillogo

Tim and I will continue exploring this area.  Stay tuned for nature trails, wineries, casinos, campgrounds and a whole lot more.

SAM WITH A CAPITAL “S”

December 2, 20016

Good Mawnin’ – I gon’ tell you some ting – dat trip was dee bes !!!

As you may know, we used to live in the islands – 3 years St. Croix, 7 years in St. Thomas, and 3 months in Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, or BVI. ¬†We haven’t been back for about 5 years, so lots of changes. ¬†But what a trip — If you’ve never been, ¬†put it on your bucket list. ¬†The beauty is heavenly!!! ¬†For those of you interested in camping, I’ve included some info, ¬†as well as our sailing stops, and a few restaurant reviews.

It was a long haul to get to and from the boat.  Four plane trips, 2 ferry rides. and countless taxis.  We tried UBER  for the first time, and it worked out very well, while still in the USA.  I especially like that you know what it will cost before you start the trip.  Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous taxi drivers who go out of their way to run-up the meter when you are clearly new in town.  Not so with UBER Рyou can relax Рno listening to that infernal meter tick-tick-ticking.

On Saturday, we arrived in Tortola. ¬†There used to be a campgound at Brewer’s Bay, but it seems to be no longer in existence. We are here ¬†to ¬†board our 50′ Catamaran for a week of sailing the islands. “Tennessee Waltz” would be our home.

saba

The captain was my son Gene. ¬†The crew consisted of Gene’s wife Jenny, and my grandsons Timmy, Dan, and Matt. ¬†Also on board acting as crew were their friends the Cooks – Dad, Mom, and three sons, ¬†along with Tim and me. (Six boys, ranging in age from 6 to11). ¬†After a briefing for the captain and main crew, and a boat walk-through, we were on our way. ¬†First stop – Norman Island.

Norman Island is one of a number of islands reputed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate novel, Treasure Island. It¬†is a well-known destination for cruisers and other tourists because of three sea-level caves at the base of cliffs.

cave

The caves are ideal for snorkeling. ¬†There are ¬†no permanent inhabitants (other than wild goats), but there is a restaurant and bar named “Pirates Bight”. ¬†There is also an old schooner named the William Thornton, or “Willy T”, ¬†which operates as a bar and restaurant. ¬†The Willy T gets pretty rowdy, and is not suitable for small children. ¬†But we did explore the caves, and have dinner at the “Pirates Bight”.

Picture of “Pirate’s ¬†Bight”.

pirates-rest

What the heck is a “bight”? ¬†For years I’ve heard and said that word, not knowing what it means. ¬†Well, in geography, a bight is a bend or curve in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature. It typically indicates a large, open bay. It is distinguished from a sound by being shallower. OK – ¬†now we all ¬†know.

There are no campgrounds on Norman Island.

On the second day, we snorkeled at The indians, then spent the night on a mooring at Cooper Island. ¬†The Indians are four¬†rocky pinnacles that rise straight up, about 100′ from the ocean floor. It’s one of my favorite places to snorkel because it’s like being inside an aquarium.¬†There are lots of blue tangs, parrotfish, cow fish, damsel fish, sergeant majors, jacks, queen angels, wrasse, trunk fish, and all the usual suspects, including an eel or two. If you’re lucky, you might spot a queen trigger fish. ¬†You need luck because they’ve been pretty much fished out. ¬†Unfortunately for them, they happen to be delicious.

indians

This is a painting of a Queen Trigger Fish.

painting

Cooper Island used to be an overnight stop without too many tourists.  There was one building on the beach which served as a restaurant, and a dock that was home to more barracudas than I care to think about.  There were also a few simple beach cottages for rent.  Today, the island remains fairly simple, but the beach has tuned into a pretty large restaurant/bar complex.  The barracudas have moved on.  Although there is no campground on the island, staying in one of the cottages  is more akin to camping than to a luxury resort, although a bit pricey.

cooper2

Day three was an incredible day at The Baths on Virgin Gorda, and a night at Leverick Bay.  There are no camping facilities on Virgin Gorda at this time.

The Baths  are a result of geologic changes to granite that eroded into piles of boulders on the beach.  The boulders form natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches, and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. Since 1990, this area has been a BVI National Park.

baths

 Although it was a bit frightening getting onto the beach due to rough water, everyone had a great time exploring, climbing on the boulders, and swimming in the grottoes.

grotto

This it the Leverick Bay resort.  They had good food, and a pool for the kids to play in.  They even had a laundry that boaters could use Рwith six kids, you know we did laundry!

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On Tuesday we put the sails up, and headed for Anegada, my favorite island. ¬†Here’s a photo of Matthew (age 7) at the helm with my son Gene.

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Anegada was formed from coral and limestone. At its highest point the island is 28 feet above sea level. Anegada is 11 miles long and fringed with mile after mile of white sandy beaches. Named Anegada or the ‚ÄúDrowned Island‚ÄĚ by the Spanish, Anegada is famous for its horseshoe reef that extends 10 miles, and has claimed over 200 known shipwrecks. ¬†It is quite a trek to get there – and tricky. There are many ¬†coral heads and odd currents that surround the island. ¬†It is also difficult to identify landmarks and dangerous reef areas, making Anegada off limits for many charter companies, and in fact, it was once advertised as the ‚ÄúForbidden Cruise‚ÄĚ. ¬†Since we owned our own boat, we traveled to Anegada back when there were no water markers. ¬†One person stood at the bow with a hook, and pointed the way through the reef. ¬†The hook was used to push away from coral heads, if necessary. ¬†It was really, really scary, but very exciting, ¬†especially when you made it safely through the reef to your anchoring spot. Today there is a well-marked channel into Setting Point so, with ¬†good weather and a vigilant crew, the trip to Anegada is delightful.

What makes it so great? ¬†The beaches – ¬†Cow Wreck, Loblolly, and Flash of Beauty to name a few. ¬†The restaurants. The friendly people. The flamingoes – yep, there is a flock of them. ¬†The fishing. ¬†The lobster. ¬†And oh yes, there is campground . ¬†Actually, it’s a “glampground” at the Anegada Beach Club. ¬†The resort features seven uniquely designed and beautifully appointed Beachfront Luxury Tents. ¬†The tents are raised above the dunes and overlook a pristine, powder sand beach. ¬†The rate is $300/night¬†(yikes).

Picture of the outside –

glam

and of the inside –

insidetent

I did meet a young man who primitive camped on the dunes above the beach between Cow Wreck Beach and the Anegada Beach Club.  He said that no one bothered him there, but the wind was very strong, and the bugs almost ate him up alive.  Not for me!!!

Anegada is also known for the large salt ponds which cover much of the west end of the island.  In the 1830s, thousands of Caribbean flamingos lived in these ponds, but they were hunted for food and feathers throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and disappeared by 1950. Thankfully, they have been reestablished. As of 2016, the flamingo flock numbers approximately 200 birds. The birds are another tourist draw, but officials are trying to keep the number of visitors to the flamingo areas at a level that allows the birds to flourish.  Observation decks have been built to keep people in one area only.  if you are unaware of their existence and stumble across them, it is quite a shock Р but a good one.

flamingo

 

You may think a beach is a beach is a beach.  I disagree.  Check out Cow Wreck Beach.

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And to think that just days ago, I was sitting there having a pina colada -ahhhhhh…

All the kids at Cow Wreck

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From the left: Nolan, Danny, Mick, Matthew, Timmy, and Liam.  The kid crew.

The sun is setting at Loblolly Bay –

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Anegada has some of the best restaurants in the islands. ¬†Naturally, the specialty is seafood, with lobster as the star attraction. ¬†The Anegada Reef Hotel is usually our “go-to” place, the food is fabu.

The people are friendly, and are customer oriented. ¬†When we woke up on Wednesday morning at anchor, a small boat pulled alongside with a single passenger who began to belt out “Oh what a beautiful morning…”. ¬†Naturally, when he started singing, we all ran towards the sound, including the kids, to see who was singing. ¬†It was very cool. And then “Welcome to heaven on earth. ¬†My name is Sam, with a capital S, and I would like tell you a little about my restaurant. ¬†If you come for dinner, please call before 4pm to let us know you are coming, and if you go somewhere else, have a safe and wonderful time. ¬†But stop by to say hello”.

This is Sam –

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I could write a book about Anegada, but I have move on to our next stop,  Jost Van Dyke РWhite Bay during the day, and Great Harbour for dinner and overnight on a mooring.

Remember I told you we lived in Jost for a short while? ¬†Here’s a picture of White Bay.

apt

Do you see the blue and pale green awning?  OK Рnow look at the branch above it, partially obscuring a window.  That window was in our apartment.  Yep, I know Рspectacular, right?

Also on this beach is Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar and White Bay Campground. ¬†Ivan has tents, bare sites and cabins.

After playing on the beach, we motored around to Great Harbour and moored. ¬†It was Thanksgiving Day, and I knew Foxys wouldn’t let us down. ¬†Correct ! ¬†On the menu was a full Thanksgiving dinner, and it was delicious. ¬†Everyone had a great time.

For our last day, we went to Monkey Point, on Guana Island.  The snorkeling there is excellent.

monkey 

On our way to Soper’s Hole, to moor for the night, ¬†we were rewarded with this gorgeous sight.

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In the evening, we had one of the best meals we’ve ever had at a restaurant called¬†Scaramouche. ¬†This is an extraordinary restaurant owned by a man from Italy named Roberto and his wife Chiara. ¬†Please see my review in Food Section.

On Saturday, it was time to return Tennessee Waltz. ¬†We got up very early and decided to snorkel The Indians one last time. ¬†The kids took turns jumping off of the bow, climbing the ladder, and doing it ll over again. ¬†So fun! ¬†We got back to the charter company in time for the 12:00 noon check-in. ¬†Thankfully, the boat was in perfect condition. ¬†The Reilly and Cook families headed to the airport for their trip home. ¬†Tim and I returned to St. Thomas for a few days to chill. ¬†It was an excellent vacation, with memories I’ll cherish forever.

Note#1:  There are campgrounds in the United States Virgin Islands.

Water Island Рa 7 minute ferry ride from St Thomas will bring you to the Virgin Islands Campground.  It is an eco-sensitive resort with self-contained cottages.

St John

Cinnamon Bay Campground Рlocated inside Virgin Islands National Park.  40 rustic cottages, steps from the beach, platform tents and bare sites are available.

Maho Bay Campground Р has 114 eco- tents on Maho Bay.

Concordia Eco-Resort –¬†Concordia Eco-Resort offers two distinct types of accommodations – Eco-Tents that are wood framed, soft-sided structures. Units are available for the guest who prefers a more traditional room experience.

St Croix

Ridge to Reef Farm –¬†Agro-Eco Farm at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute ‚Äď the Virgin Islands‚Äô only certified Organic and Green Globe destination ‚Äď a sprawling 200-acre conservation forest farm with comfortable guest cabanas.

Mount Victory Camp –¬†Handcrafted Bungalows on a homestead in St. Croix‚Äôs West End Rainforest. ¬†The handcrafted bungalows are made from local tropical hardwoods. ¬†This is ‚Äúcamping‚ÄĚ at its most comfortable with handmade teak beds with linens, efficiency kitchens, and hot showers in a clean tiled bath house.

 

NOTE #2 Р When we arrived in Tortola,  I met two lovely young women, one from St. Croix, and one from St. Thomas.  I told them I would mention them in my blog, because they have a great cause.  Grace King is the founder of A.N.A.T.H.A. and  Ywamle Sheridan is the Director of Operations.  ANATHA is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide training, guidance, mentorship, and counsel to a adolescents facing the challenges of recovering from domestic abuse, substance abuse, as well as overcoming behavioral health conditions.  They seek to empower, enhance, and educate to create honorable citizens in the USVI.  Their website is   www.anatha.org.  Please support them if you are able.

anatha

WATTAMOONICA

November, 2016

Tim and I have been spending a lot of time making our new house a¬†home. ¬†It’s a job that will take some doing, so we decided that each day, from now on, we would spend a little less time working on the house, and a whole lot more time enjoying ourselves. ¬†For us, that usually means exploring. ¬†First up, Brigantine Island, with an area of 10.36 miles. ¬†The first record of Brigantine was in the logbook of the mate on Henry Hudson‚Äôs Ship in 1608. He wrote ‚ÄúThis is a very good land to fall in with ‚Äď a pleasant land to see.‚ÄĚ But apparently, ¬†they never actually landed on Brigantine Island. ¬†I’d like to know why – but there’s no one to ask!


The Lenni-Lanape tribe, who summered and fished here, called it Wattamoonica which meant ‚Äúplayground.‚ÄĚ In 1610 the first whalers and fishing boats appeared offshore. Some time later pirates, including the likes of Captain Kidd, were reported to have visited the Island and legend has it that treasure is buried here. ¬†Hmmm – when I¬†have¬†time, ¬†I think I’ll search for that.

The island was named for the many shipwrecks in the area, including those of brigantines.  The Brigantine shoals are two to three miles offshore.   Well over 300 vessels of all types have been wrecked on the shoals since the early 1700’s.   Records of these disasters were not well kept.

Back to the ship РThe brigantine was a two-masted sail boat,   having the main mast as the second and taller of the two masts.  The brigantine was the second most popular rig for ships built in the American colonies before 1775, the most popular type of vessel being a sloop. The brigantine was swifter and more easily maneuvered than a sloop or schooner, so it was used for purposes of piracy, espionage, and reconnoitering Рthink prohibition.

brigantine

 

Today, this is the bridge that crosses from Atlantic City to Brigantine Island. ¬†It’s the only way onto the island, unless you happen to have ¬†a boat. It’s ¬†been saddled with this not very creative name – the Atlantic City – Brigantine Connector. ¬†Cmon’ guys – I think you could have done a teensy bit better than that.

brigbridge

If you are over 35, you may remember  Brigantine Castle, which was built in 1975.   If you lived anywhere near here, and you never actually visited the castle, you may remember the TV commercials.  Every season they flashed across television screens from New York to Philadelphia.   There was  a vampire that leapt from a picture and sprung to life, a headless woman, monsters, goblins and other assorted ghouls.  And of course, creepy organ music.  (no, not all organ music is creepy).  Brigantine Castle was a spooky house extraordinaire.  For some reason, I remember visiting in the late 60s Рhow is that possible?  Hmmmm.

The “monsters” that worked in the five-story wood-and-foam clad building were mostly young drama majors from nearby colleges, whose sole purpose was to scare the be-jesus out of you. ¬†By the way, at the time, at 110 feet tall, and with 5 fully functional stories, ¬†it was the largest free-standing wooden structure in the US ¬†Among the castle’s most memorable attractions, and my favorite, ¬†was the rat room, a pitch-black hallway where “man-eating rats” scurried about the floor, and the “doctor of ratology” described her collection of “pets”. The rodents were actually garden hoses pushed through holes in the wall with recordings of shrill squealing and scratching piped in. ¬†In a pitch black room, they would push and pull the hoses at your legs as you walked through.

brigcastle

Because of neighbors’ ¬†constant complaints, ¬†suspected building code violations, and declining tourists, the attraction was closed in the mid-eighties, and finally razed to make way for condos.

But just because you can no longer visit the Castle,  do visit the island.  There are a few other great points of interest.

BEAUTIFUL BEACHES

Here is just one of many.

scene

The beaches have hundreds, maybe thousands of plovers, searching for food. ¬†They’re relentless in their search. ¬†I know you’ve seen them – running towards the water as it recedes, and then away from the water as it rushes towards the sand – endlessly. ¬†To me, they’re kind of funny to watch.

plovers

Here is one of the little cuties up close.

plover2

 

Party Beach

Is on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. ¬†And yes, I intend to buy a pass for my car to drive on the beach. ¬†Schlepping with all of your gear to and from the water’s edge is not much fun. Especially with children in tow.

partybeach

 

Brigantine Lighthouse Рwas constructed by the Island Development Real Estate Company in 1926 as part of an effort to attract residents to the island.  But the structure was too far from shore and too low to be used as a functioning lighthouse, so it has been used over the years as headquarters for the Brigantine Police Department, as a museum and as a gift shop, in addition to being a central identifying symbol of the city.  Today, people use it as a directional landmark.  If you are one of the many people who love lighthouses, add this to your collection.  If nothing else, it sure is different.

lighthouse

Did I mention it’s in the middle of a road round-a-bout. ¬†I had to risk life and limb to be in this photo.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center – was established in 1978, as New Jersey’s only marine stranding center. ¬†Today, ¬†the center rehabilitates and releases stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. ¬†It has rescued more than 3,900 whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles since it was formed. ¬†Once we’re set up, ¬†and finished with putting away boxes, I would like to volunteer here a few hours a week.

strand

Beginning October 1, 2016 it is only open for tours  Saturdays from 10am Р2pm. Should you want to visit, the address is 3625 Brigantine Boulevard, Brigantine, NJ ..

 

The Brigantine Hotel

This hotel still stands on the Atlantic coast side of the island.

divine

This is the hotel today. ¬†It was sold, and ¬†is now called Legacy Vacation Club Brigantine Beach. ¬†it’s not much to look at right now, but historically, it is remarkable. ¬†The Brigantine Hotel ¬†was an early integrated hotel starting in the 1940s. It was owned for a period by Father Divine’s International Peace Mission movement. ¬†That’s a whole other story worth a Google search. ¬† I am familiar with Father Divine, who is now deceased, and his Gladwyne, PA residence – Woodmont. ¬† As a young adult, and in high school, I ¬†often visited, and was treated to lunch. This is Woodmont today.

woodmont

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Wild Thing

Brigantine has one of the last “wild” beaches in NJ, ¬†Check out this fox we spotted on the beach. ¬†I was sure he would run when he saw us trying to take his picture. ¬†But no, he considered ¬†us, and ¬†instead of running, he just stretched, yawned, and slowly walked away. ¬†I guess he felt pretty safe.

 

fox

 

BRIGANTINE SEAWALL

wall

This town’s answer to a boardwalk doesn’t actually live up to that name, on the grounds that there isn’t a board in it. It’s a bit more than a quarter of a mile of concrete walkway on top of a seawall, or bulkhead. ¬† It’s raised a few feet above the sand, at the far north end of the developed section of Brigantine. ¬†It does have some of the amenities of modern boardwalks. There’s a coin-operated set of binoculars for looking out to sea. ¬†Walk along and you’ll find a few mileage markers, as you do on lots of boardwalks today – although, given it’s length, maybe they should be called ¬†tenth-of-a-mile markers. ¬†It does draw lots of folks. ¬†It’s short and it’s beautiful. Besides which, it is adjacent to the untamed beaches.

 

WORSE THAN MOSQUITOES

For those of you who follow this blog, you know I am not a a friend of the mosquito.  There is another creature who lives in Brigantine, that may be even worse, ( yes, worse! ) than mosquitoes.  It is the dreaded GREEN HEAD FLY.  For those of you unfamiliar with the green Head Рlet me introduce you.

greenhead

This is a nasty, nasty creature.  You see those pincers at the front of his face?  Well let me tell you that it can attach itself to your pants, in my case, my arse. and not let go.  It is determined to go through the pants and nibble, nay, painfully chomp on your flesh, and suck your blood. Even while Tim, the green head slayer, was swatting at him with his hand and anything else he could find, that relentless devil continued to try and gnaw a hole in my pants so as to make his entry.  Finally, Tim got him to stop, only by swatting the life out of him.  But let me tell you.  He has relatives, and lots of them.  Thank goodness, they are not out blood-sucking 24/7, they do have feeding hours, and mating times, and preferable weather conditions.  If mosquitoes like you, these suckers (literally), will love you.

I want to end on a positive note. The beaches on Brigantine are clean, big, ¬†and beautiful, and they call to you like a siren’s song – come and play. ¬†We plan on doing just that – just ¬†not when the green heads are hunting.

Note:  We soon leave for our boat charter in the British Virgin Islands.  My next post will tell you all about it. Have a safe and wonderful holiday.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!

turkey