April 20, 2011

My Russian Boy

Of the 60,000 Russian orphans who have found families through adoption by Americans, my son is one.

He is seven. He is from Moscow. He lived in an orphanage, and waited for a family.

He may not be unlike the adopted little Russian boy who was sent back to Moscow on a plane by himself with nothing more than a note from his adoptive mother stating he was being returned like some unwanted sweater. “I no longer wish to parent this child,” she wrote in the note according to The New York Times.

But he is not an article of clothing you can discard or a pet you can dump on the street when you deem it to be too much work. He is a person, a little boy without family to love him. A boy traumatized by an overfilled, underfunded orphanage in a poor country. And he was her little boy. He may have had “violent tendencies” and “severe psychopathic issues” as Torry Hansen, the mother, wrote in her note (possibly due to beatings by a broom handle in the orphanage, which is what the boy told his mother after the adoption), but whether you birth a child or adopt one, they are yours; they are a part of you, and that’s forever.

April 20, 2011

I Hate Playdates

I even hate the word playdate. I don’t think any dates should be involved in playing. Kids should just play. Preferably outside or at somebody else’s house.

What ever happened to being locked out of your house by your mother and forced to play with your only sibling on the rusty swing set out back?

Growing up, every Saturday of my life until I left home for college was exactly the same. My sister and I would get up around dawn, watch the “Smurfs” and “The Flintstones” and trash the basement. At a reasonable hour my mom would call us up for breakfast, which signaled the end of our weekend. Breakfast was immediately followed by chores.

We’d be sent downstairs (protesting was not an option) to deconstruct the sprawling Barbie village we had lovingly and painstakingly erected that morning. Then we’d dust and Windex every item of furniture in our rooms, mop and vacuum before we were rewarded by being locked out of the house to play.

Those are memories my children will not share.

July 19, 2012

Revamped Verona Inn Maintains Traditions

The reinvented Verona Inn celebrates its 65 year in business this month with a completely new look in a brand new space.

Opened in 1947 next to the Annin Flag Company, the restaurant’s new home in the center of town at 642 Bloomfield Ave. may be just down the street from its original location but it’s worlds away in terms of design.

The reimagined restaurant has a contemporary yet comfortable feel with an upscale bar that manages to maintain a warm, pub feel, striking the perfect balance between old and new, family-friendly and free agent. The huge, newly constructed space exudes an air of tradition with red brick façade complimented by a tastefully designed interior full of rich oak paneling, dark wood floors and walls partially lined in subway tile.

June 28, 2012

New Business Sprouts Up in Verona

“The business is multi-faceted,” said Dave Chalek, the man behind Sprout Food and Farm’s mission to bring fresh, local, sustainable produce to the area not just in the summertime but all the time.

This soon-to-be Verona resident plans to operate a produce market in the retail space up front while maintaining a greenhouse in back of the 82 Pine Street property. He’ll also run his current landscape design and organic garden care business out of the location, and he’ll do it all seven days a week 365 days a year.

For local residents and restaurants this means access to fresh, flavorful natural produce all year long. And Chalek’s garden is anything but garden variety.

June 25, 2012

Verona Chef Sliced and Diced, Never “Chopped”

Verona just might be the next hot dining destination thanks to a local chef hitting it big in a nationwide cooking competition.

The town’s claim to culinary fame follows Avenue Bistro and Pub‘s chef Michael Dilonno’s win on the Food Network’s “Chopped” last fall.

As the last chef standing, Dilonno was anointed “Chopped” Champion, proving he’s got the chops to compete against the best in the business. But the title and the $10,000 that came with it might just as easily never have come to pass.

If Dilonno had it his way, that is.

June 21, 2012

School, BOE: Chaperones Allegedly Partied on Fifth-Grade Trip

The Verona School Board said it will tighten its rules about chaperoning class trips after a group of fathers supposedly held a party in a cabin during a fifth grade camping trip.

H.B. Whitehorne Middle School Principal Yvette McNeal emailed details of the incident in a letter to parents of all fifth graders earlier in the week. Additional details were learned at Tuesday night’s meeting, including information the fathers, who were supposed to be chaperoning the 10 boys, left them without a chaperone while they lit fires and drank alcohol at another cabin during a five-hour party.

June 13, 2012

‘Best’ Bridal Boutique in Our Own Backyard

For three years running, one bridal salon in New Jersey has been named Best Bridal Boutique in the state, and more recently in the county, by the magazine that should know.

Park Avenue Bridals in Verona has held the title, awarded by New Jersey Monthly, since 2010. Last year the bridal salon also won Best of Essex County in Suburban Essex magazine’s readers’ choice awards.

“We were thrilled,” owner Andrea Burggraf recently said of the honors. “It’s nice to be recognized,” she acknowledged, “that you’ve done your job right.”

Burggraf, who runs the third-generation family business with her husband Gary, said she and her staff recognize the significance of the event in a woman’s life.

“It’s our mission to make the girls feel special,” said Burggraf. “It the most important time of their lives.”

June 12, 2012

Verona Township and BOE Perfect Together

The Verona Township Council and Verona Board of Education commended each other for their unique working relationship at last night’s joint meeting at the Verona Community Center.

“Most towns do not have the kind of relationship we have in Verona,” stressed board of education President John Quattrocchi, who presented a review of the relationship and the benefits the community receives as a result.

In most towns the council and the board of education operate in complete isolation, he asserted, whereas in Verona the two overlap.

May 23, 2012

The Scoop on Twist

Set off of Pompton Avenue is a little shop you may have missed.

The store, filled with sweet treats, is perched at the end of a long walkway far from the busy street, which while affecting visibility is actually the perfect little spot for this shop.

Twist though, the newly reopened frozen yogurt and Italian ice shop at 492 Pompton Ave., certainly will not go overlooked for long.

Owner Jim Polidoro recently reopened the store after first launching his business last October. Fall he quickly realized was the wrong time of year to open a frozen desert shop. So he closed down and geared up for the high season. He relaunched the store a few weeks ago with a whimsical purple sign and cheery matching trim, bringing a bit of summertime at the shore to Cedar Grove. And, soon Polidoro hopes to fill his front walk-turned-patio with patrons.

May 22, 2012

Community Comes Out To Support a Good Cause

Docent Bernie Farley showed a blue-tongue skink to a delighted audience at the Team Zoey Carnival.

This Saturday the entire town turned out to raise funds for one of their own: A Verona child fighting a rare, fatal disease. Hosted by Calvary Lutheran Church, attended by community members and helped by area businesses, the Team Zoey Carnival had the community’s full support.

Not yet three-years-old Zoey Penny has been battling Progeria, a little-known disease that causes rapid aging in young children at about 7 to 10 times the normal rate, nearly her whole life. She received the diagnosis at just five months of age, and ever since her family has been working to find a cure. They formed Team Zoey and so far have held 30 events to provide funding for the Progeria Research Foundation, an organization seeking to develop treatments and find a cure for the devastating disease.

May 22, 2012

County Unveils New Senior Bus Fleet

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo cuts ribbon with Senior Services Director Jaklyn DeVore.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. announced the addition of 19 new buses to the county’s Special Transportation System while unveiling the new arrivals at the Essex County Division of Senior Services in Verona Wednesday.

The delivery of more than half the buses, run under the county’s Division of Senior Services, which provides free transportation to the county’s senior citizens and disabled residents, coincided with May’s designation as Older Americans Month. The balance will arrive in June.

According to Jaklyn DeVore, Director of Essex County Division of Senior Services, some of the fleet’s 30 buses were in disrepair when DiVincenzo took office, and DiVincenzo took action.

“His priority is to get the fleet up to date,” DeVore stressed. With the new buses, four of which were awarded to the county through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, the county’s fleet will now number 46.

May 17, 2012

Custom Designs and Fantastic Finds for Decorating Shows and Locals Alike

In the 200-year-old farmhouse nestled on the border of Cedar Grove and Verona, Patty Cain is engulfed by the old Amish country.

The space, crammed full of one-of-a-kind pieces handmade from 1800’s reclaimed barn wood from Lancaster County farms, displays Cain’s original designs and handsome, custom-made farm tables.

The business of transforming antique wood into handcrafted, custom furniture Cain started more than a decade ago has established her as the local expert on architectural salvage, Amish antiques and custom vintage creations.