Friday, December 30, 2011

New Jersey Day Trips

Frequent readers of the PillsPress know we enjoy taking day trips, and writing about our experiences. This book: "New Jersey Day Trips," by Patrick Sarver will help me discover more hidden treasures in my home state.

I first saw this book at Aunt Barbara's house. She used it to find places for Ashley and I to visit with her last August. As I leafed through the book I found places we have visited, places that have been recommended to us, and new places to find and explore.

I like that the book also includes destinations just over the borders of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

In 2012 I look forward to using this book to find new destinations.

Christmas Church Services

Looking back over the years, my favorite church services have taken place at Christmastime. Growing up we always participated in the Christmas Pageant at the Reformed Church of Oradell, NJ. My two sisters and I were most often angels. Every time I hear the song "Oh Holy Night!" I still have an urge to "fall on my knees" and raise my arms on cue.

The year Ashley was born, we were cast as Mary, Joseph and (9-month-old) baby Jesus. Two years later when Hayden was born, Ashley and I were again in the cast as a sheep with her shepherd.  Then my parents moved to Robbinsville, NJ and found a church closer to home.

Living down here we have created our own traditions of attending Christmastime services. My favorite service is always "The Carol of Many Nations" at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The familiar Advent and Christmas scriptures are read by PTS students, staff and faculty in their native tongues. Each of the three services has a different group of people reading the scriptures. This year there was a Deaf performing artist (Noah Buchholz) who encouraged the crowd to help him present his scripture verse. Hymns are sung from all over the globe and in many different languages.The service concludes with the reading of Matthew 5:14 ("You are the light of the World.") said in each of the languages, and the passing of the light as the student choir sings "Peace, Peace." It humbles me to be reminded that God and Jesus are in every corner of the globe.

On Christmas Eve we normally attend two, if not three, services. As in the past few years, we attend the 7 PM service at Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church. This year Ashley sang with the Children's Choir. My favorite part of the service is when the children go up and decorate the Nativity Scene with any tiny plastic animal they have -- even rhinos. As our church has two services, and we go to the earlier of the two, we often catch up with friends from the other service at this one.

Ideally after a nap, we attend the 11 PM service at The First Presbyterian Church of Hamilton Square. Due to the late time, the candlelight service is not a kid-friendly. That's fine by us, though, as Ashley tends to sleep while Pastor Doug preaches.

We drive home past Woodlane Avenue, which always sets up a runway for Santa.

Like magic, Ashley always wakes up when we come home. Thanks to NORAD, she knows Santa arrives in Lawrenceville about the time we are at church. Sure enough, when she opens the front door -- the gifts are waiting to be opened and the stocking is full. Yes, we do stay awake and open presents. This also means, we have the chance to sleep in late on Christmas morning.

A final picture of a church service from a few years ago. The Pennington Presbyterian Church was undergoing renovations, so they held their early evening service in a local barn. The message of the babe being born in a stable seemed to come to life as we were in a barn.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boxing Day in Morristown, NJ

In our family, Boxing Day is also known as my Dad's birthday. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, Don had the 26th off from work. We decided to meet up with my parents in Morristown, NJ to celebrate Dad's 68th birthday, and see some history.

Our first stop was the Ford Mansion. General Washington and his entourage stayed here in the winter of 1779-1780. The Ford Family, widow and her 4 children, shared their home with Washington, Martha Washington, 5 aides-de-camp and 18 servants. Eric, our guide, told us sometimes they housed 30-50 people, and had entertained up to 100 people.

View out the keyhole. Ashley had the original idea, Don may have taken this picture. Hard to tell as the camera keeps being passed between the three of us.

Looks like the aides-de-camp just walked away for a few minutes.

Further up the road is the Wick House at Jockey Hollow. I have fond memories of visiting Aunt Debra here when she was a docent in the mid-1970s. To me, the place has not changed a bit. My parents, though, could spot the changes.

For as well-lit as the Ford Mansion was, the Wick House was just as dark.

Though a little brisk, it was a beautiful day for a mile hike up to the cabins where the soldiers spent the winter of 1779-1780. These huts were reconstructed in the 1960s. What surprised us was how the configuration of the 12 bunks varied in each hut.

Damage from the Halloween 2011 snowstorm was still evident. Lots of downed trees and piles of branches. They seem to be falling faster than the park services can keep on top of them.

Lunch was at the Minuteman Restaurant, a pie shop/diner I remember eating in when my parents took us to Morristown. The place has not changed much since the mid-1970s -- I believe Mom said she remembered different artwork on the walls. Not surprisingly, I could not find a website for the restaurant. It is the kind of place that has not been touched by 21st century technology. A great place to dine while time traveling.

Grounds for Sculpture

I was recently listening to BEN FM when I heard an ad for the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. The ad featured "Winter Wonderland" on Friday and Saturday evenings in December. The ad also said the Grounds for Sculpture is located "just outside Princeton." Locals know this just another stretch of the definition of Princeton's boundaries. Google Maps puts this at a 23-minute drive, barring traffic, of course.

Driving from the Hamilton Train Station to the Grounds for Sculpture you see dozens of enormous sculptures -- from a giant tooth to a giant Impressionist painting come to life. Someday I will park my car and take pictures of these sculptures. These are a mere sampling of the artwork that is behind the gates.

We still remember the days when the Grounds for Sculpture were free, hence it is hard for us to shell out the admission fees. We have since visited on rare days when the place has an open house, and hence is crowded. The Winter Wonderland event encouraged us to return and pay to visit.

The place was founded by sculpture, and heir to the J&J fortune, J. Seward Johnson as a place to display his art, and to make art accessible to more people. Groundbreaking began in 1989 on the former site of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. It opened to the public in 1992.

Don can be seen in the background taking a picture.

I think we are united in our feeling that our favorite sculptures are those by J. Seward Johnson that bring impressionist paintings to life.

I like this, one, too. Reminds me of a giant erector set.

I love that visitors are encouraged to engage with the art and pose with it.

The Grounds for Sculpture are beautiful in every season. Personally. I'm hoping to return after a snow storm to take pictures. Don took most of our pictures when we went last week.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lawrenceville Patch!

Yesterday the Lawrenceville Patch ( turned one.

I started with them just over a year ago first by taking pictures of schools and parks around town. In February I became a Freelance Reporter.

Today my editor listed links to some of the top stories. While his list includes some of my stories, I thought I would do the same and highlight a few of my favorite stories.

10) Whiz Kids! For a few months I was a columnist for the Lawrenceville Patch. Promise Klink was my first Whiz Kid. Sadly, the column was discontinued over the summer.

9) St. Baldrick's Fundraiser. My original plan was to take a few pictures and leave. I became inspired by their stories and their courage -- especially moving were talking to the 3 girls and 2 women who had their heads shaved. This was my first non-school story.

8) Emile B. Klein, cyclist/artist traveling around the country. Though the article was quite long, there was a lot more I could say about him. I was the only Lawrenceville reporter to interview him. After my story, he was asked to speak to a group at a local synagogue. The Whiz Kid weekly column turned into a monthly Greatest Person article. He was the first Greatest Person.

7) Occupy WallStreet on the move. While walking for 10 miles as the group traveled through Princeton and Lawrenceville, I felt as if I was participating in history. How cool is that? I gained an insider's view into the Occupy Movement and was paid to do it! Taking pictures in the dark was new for me. Looking at these pictures, I realized I have a lot to learn about photography -- and I want to learn it. I was the only only who covered this story in Lawrenceville.

6) Farmer's Market Closes Early. While most of the article was written by my editor, Michael Ratcliffe, I gained new insights into being a reporter as I covered this story. I was sent out on a quick story to find out about why the Farmer's Market was closing 6 weeks early. I left with a story full of scandal -- trouble is, I don't like to cover scandal. My editor kindly called my sources and ran the story. Only one of the three other papers covered the scandalous side of the story, the other two wrote in more general terms about the closing.

5) A tie for the story about Kayla's blanket drive and Nate's coat drive. After seeing my articles, they each received an award from the Mercer County Freeholders (I did not write the story about their award).

4) I covered a lot of school news this year. While I personally love covering plays and concerts, this article stands out because of where it might lead. The high school's science department was transformed into Willy Wonka Nights so the big students could teach the younger students about Food Science. A museum in Illinois saw my article and are talking to those in charge to see if the program could also happen in Illinois.

3) Skyping became a recurring topic. I covered three Skyping stories. Sadly I was not sent to Taiwan to cover the story when one of our elementary schools Skyped with an elementary school on the other side of the globe. The Lawrence Senior Center was the recipient of the local Skyping stories. Third-graders skyping, same students meeting the seniors, and a virtual concert.

2) We all know bullying is wrong, but I got to meet Nadin Khoury, a teen who was bullied and makes it his mission to speak to his peers to get the message across. His first talk to his peers took place at Lawrence Middle School. This was my first event where I had to share space with the local news station. This story was national news.

1) I interviewed four moms who started their own businesses and put together an article about the changing American Dream. Hoping these moms get some business out of my article.

This list is in no particular order. Just as they popped in my head. I do find that I love going places in town and seeing people smile when they see me. It is even better when they come up to me and want to give me a story for Patch, or help me make my story even better.

As I sit here and type this I think of many other stories I loved covering, too. I wrote three articles about our library celebrating its 50th anniversary. A local elementary school also turned 50 this year (1961 was a boom year for Lawrenceville). We had an earthquake. Over the past year I wrote 65 stories -- and enjoyed covering each one.

Do you have a favorite that I did not list?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Run, Run, Run

This year I earned my first running medal. On May 1st I ran Philadelphia’s 10-mile Broad Street Run. While I went from one end of Broad St to the other, Don, Ashley and friends, Kevin Gruenfeld and Trish Bennett, handed Gatorade to thousands of runners at mile 7.8.

My big race this year was Disneyland’s Half Marathon on September 4th – also known as “The Happiest Race on Earth.” This was the focus behind my training. It was wonderful! Disney really knows how to organize a race.

I trained bi-coastally with my honorary aunt, Joanie Morris. We emailed each other encouragement. On the big day we stayed together until the finish line. The experience was so amazing I kept forgetting we were going 13.1 miles.

I took 200 pictures during the race. There are pictures of us with Disney characters, plus action shots of us running through the castle, Disney’s back stage area, Anaheim Angels stadium and the streets of Anaheim. In the end, we earned our medals and had smiles on our faces.

After the race we walked a mile back to our hotel, where we checked out and celebrated at Mimi’s Café. Don, Ashley and I spent the rest of the day at Disneyland before catching our red-eye flight home.

November 5th I ran a women’s-only race in Long Branch, NJ called Beauty and the Beach. In just under an hour I ran 5 miles. It was a lot of fun! The "medal" awarded for the event was a beautiful shoe necklace.

PillsPress as a Blog

Last December the Pillsbury Press went online as a blog: At the time we planned to have both an electronic version and traditional Christmas card edition. Twelve months later we are second-guessing that logic. While we are not saying this is the 19th and final edition of the Pillsbury Press, it might be.

Please visit our blog for more stories and pictures about us. Blog stories include tours of historic sites we visited this year, as well as my impressions of each of them. There are stories about the plays we were in. We also wrote about two trips to Virginia. During one of them we visited with Judy and Mike Wodynski. Judy is the person responsible for Don and me meeting on June 12, 1989. There is also more information about our giant road trip and our trip to the Statue of Liberty. Mostly it is a collection of activities too small to fit here.

If you are not online, we can print the articles for you.


Anaheim, CA. Visiting Disneyland is like a reunion for us. We make plans to catch-up with old friends and make new ones, too.

This year we timed our trip to overlap with Masumi Tsukamato’s visit. The best we could arrange was starting our trip as hers ended. Hurricane Irene nearly cancelled those plans, but thanks to a wonderful JetBlue agent, we met Masumi as planned. (You can read about that in our blog.) Masumi was sad because her flight home to Tokyo was the next morning, but happy to see us.

For Ashley, no trip to Disney is complete without seeing Brianna Garcia. Brianna is an extremely talented artist who is also very encouraging of Ashley’s artwork. Brianna and Ashley are kindred souls. It is always fun to see them play together in Disneyland.

Hurricane Irene also affected the travel plans of friends Patti and Neil Burd. They were stuck on the West Coast after their cruise. As luck would have it, they went to Disneyland during our vacation. Miss Patti, as Ashley calls her, is a docent at the Lenape Village at the Churchville Nature Center, where Ashley spends many nice Sunday afternoons. When Ashley saw Miss Patti at Disney her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

Also on this trip we reconnected with Kimberly Fero, a cast member who always has a bright smile and warm heart no matter the situation. Kimberly spent her day off with us playing in the Magic Kingdom.

A highlight of any trip is sitting around the piano at Coke Corner, listening to Robert Glenn serenade the crowd, and catching up with friends. No matter how long it has been since our last Disneyland vacation, and in this case it had been a full year, the group welcomes us back and fills us in on what we missed.        Jacquie

I Bike NYC

by Don

This year I developed a fondness for bicycling in Manhattan, which is quite surprising given my aversion to riding with traffic. What helps me is over the past three years, New York has added 200 miles of bike lanes, some of which are protected bike paths completely segregated from cars.

On four separate days I loaded my bike into the car and drove to New York to explore this new treasure.

On April 30 I went to the Blessing of the Bikes at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. I stood with my bike in the sanctuary along with hundreds of other cyclists and their bicycles. The priest read scripture, led us in prayer, and sprinkled us with holy water. After the service I joined the Five Borough Bicycle Club for a ride to Brooklyn and to the New Amsterdam Bike Show. Most of this ride was on the Greenway, which hugs the Manhattan coastline. 

Six weeks later I returned for the World Naked Bike Ride. Even though it was June, it was a frigid day and as a result the ride was cancelled. Instead, I cycled to the Plaza Hotel in search of a temporary display of Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals: Zodiac Heads” sculpture. While cycling along 1st Ave I realized the scope of the bike infrastructure. To my surprise, there were signs directing cyclists to various destinations.

A week later I returned at 8 PM for “Bike All Night.” This turned out to be too disorganized for me. I left the group and explored the Greenway, Broadway, the financial district and Central Park instead.

By far, my longest ride this year was the NYC Century on September 18. This ride, covering 100 miles in a single day, extended into Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The highlight was finally making it to the site of the 1964 World’s Fair and posing next to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tour de Fat

Chicago, IL. July took us on an adventure through 7 states in 9 days and numerous stops for local treats.

The road trip stemmed from Don’s desire to experience the Tour de Fat – a bicycle-centric festival sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company.

The festival was held in Palmer Square, a park on the outskirts of Chicago. Highlights included a performance by synchronized bicycle dancers (think synchronized swimming, but using bicycles instead of water), a bicycle parade, and The Bike Pit (artistically altered bicycles anyone could ride – Ashley’s favorite had a series of shoes in lieu of tires). There were also bicycle-themed skits and activities.

While in Chicago we walked along Lake Michigan, around downtown and on the Magnificent Mile, visiting the American Girl Store and the Disney Store. 

The trip turned into a personal “Tour de Fat.” It coincided with a major heat wave and each stop included sampling local ice cream and other sweets.

Our first stop was Columbus, OH. We stayed with Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom Smith. After touring Slate Run (a historic site), we stopped at Fantasy Cupcakes in Canal Winchester, OH with them and Cousin Laura. Later we visited Tom’s mom, Marge Smith, and his sister, Joanie Smith Morris. Joanie, my running partner, happened to be in Bexley at the same time, so we went on our only training run together. It was great running with her, and great to have a chance to burn off some calories.

While in Columbus, we visited with our friend Heidi Harendza, a New Jersey transplant living in the German Village section of the city. She took us to Jeni’s, a new ice cream parlor that is rapidly spreading beyond its Columbus origins. We also visited Cousin David Smith at his new job at Tim Horton’s, where we had a fruit smoothie.

Continuing west, our next stop was Beaver Creek, OH for lunch with Joe
Langer, a friend of Don’s from high school. We met at Mimi’s Café for lunch and shared a dessert trio.

The next leg of the trip (the drive to Chicago) was not so sweet. We sat for 2¼ hours in a traffic jam, or should I say we stood in a traffic jam since we were able to get out of our car and walk around meeting people. If only Indiana had a site I could have sent them some great pictures.

After the Tour de Fat festival in Chicago, we continued to Washington, IL to visit our friend Rebecca Weltmann. We have known her since she was a teen. Now she is the solo pastor of Washington Presbyterian Church. The timing allowed us to hear her preach and go out to lunch with her. Lunch was followed by Key Lime Pie over ice cream.

A benefit of going to the Tour de Fat festival in Chicago was visiting my 85-year-old great aunt, Lee Thomas. Three years ago she moved from New Jersey to an assisted living residence in Illinois. It was great seeing her looking so well.

Barbara, Scott, Blaire and Haleigh Theurerkoff (Aunt Lee’s daughter and her family) joined us for Gino’s Chicago deep dish pizza, followed by ice cream at Oberweis Dairy.

The trip home we took a different route. We spent two days in East Lansing, MI with Jennie, Chris, Emma, Bella and Luke Waters. Emma and Ashley are best friends from kindergarten, but had not seen each other in three years. They picked up as if only three days had passed. It was hard to separate them at the end of our stay. The Waters family took us to the Michigan State University Dairy Store. Ice cream is produced there as part of their Food Science program.

While Ashley stayed with Emma and her family, Don and I drove to Grand Rapids to visit Steve Paulsen. Steve, Don and I worked together many years ago. Steve navigated us to Holland, MI where we toured Steve’s alma mater, Hope College, and watched the sun set over Lake Michigan. Though we did not have dessert with Mr. Paulsen, Don did have a tasty beer called Dragon’s Milk.

We continued east with a stop in Bethel Park, PA to visit Bruce and Debbie Thomas, Aunt Lee’s son and daughter-in-law. Debbie cooked a wonderful meal, including homemade peanut butter ice cream for dessert. Yum!

After the last five hours on the road, we celebrated coming home with Chinese food from Tiger Noodle. Based on the rest of this trip, we should have had Purple Cow Ice Cream instead.