The Holiday Trifle: Not Trivial At All

BY  |  Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 2:30pm


As a teenager, I read too much Jane Austen and became a raging Anglophile. Anything British was all right by me, including British food. I wanted to go round to a pub and order Bangers and Nash, pop down to the high street for Bubble and Squeak, look in at the market for Shepherd’s Pie. Mostly, I had no idea what these foods consisted of or tasted like. But they were English: that was enough.

In my Italian-American house in the New Jersey suburbs, this resulted in nothing but rolled eyes, and I was able to venture no further than orange marmalade slathered on Thomas’ English Muffins. A decade later, on a two-week trip to England with my new husband, I indulged my fantasies.

“Oh my god, it’s an ugly fish with the head still on it!” I screeched when the B&B proprietor brought my morning kippers.

Frank was tucking in to scrambled eggs and bacon, snickering.

At a tearoom in a restored castle, I scraped clotted cream off a scone after nearly spitting out the first dollop. “Feels like glue,” I explained.

Frank chuckled, sipped his coffee, bit into a cheese pastry.

It went on like this as I gamely sampled Toad in the Hole, Spotted Dick (don’t ask; okay, it’s an alleged dessert made of dried fruit and drywall pastry), and steak and kidney pie – all brown, dry, and ugly. Frank ate broiled chops, grilled steak, and charred burgers and shook his head.

“Maybe I’m just ordering the wrong things,” I reasoned.

Then I slunk home to New Jersey and began cooking seriously – mostly Italian and French. But I was still hooked on British books and films, and held onto some vague idea that I just hadn’t tried hard enough to appreciate English food. Meanwhile, I became a mother and we began hosting the family holiday meals. I went searching for dishes I could claim as my own, much as my extended family already revered “Aunt Mary’s Meatballs,” “Noni’s Fried Dough,” and “Mom’s Potato Patties.”

Then came The Trifle – capital T – The, capital T – Trifle. We don’t say The Apple Pie or The Egg Nog, but Brits do say The Trifle. There’s a reason.

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The Gift I Keep on Giving

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 24, 2013 9:03am  |  COMMENTS (6)

wrapped gift - sizedDecember 1975, I was 15 and casually dating a cute guy (actually double dating, along with each of our best friends). My gift-mad family spewed Christmas presents liberally, so I wrapped up a small gift for this boy, carefully selecting something fun and non-committal – a boxed set of 10 rolls of Lifesavers – that showed I noticed what he liked (he often had a roll of the candies in his jacket pocket).

But I suppose to a teenage boy who didn’t feel about me the way I felt about him, it must have been terrifying; he reddened, tore open the paper, mumbled thanks and departed like dry leaves before a wild hurricane fly.

I did not see him for six years until we were awkwardly partnered in the bridal party of our BFF’s wedding, and then it was another four years until Frank and I spent our first Christmas as a serious couple. I thought it might be fun to give him the same gift I had offered that first Christmas. Continue Reading

The Crossword Puzzle, Created by a Cedar Grove Resident, Turns 100

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (5)

first-crossword-1913In 1913, Arthur Wynne was just doing what his boss requested. Taking a few hours away from his normal editing duties at the New York World, then a major newspaper, he took on the task of dreaming up some new tidbits for the Fun pages–word, picture, and number activities, simple pastimes to entertain the weekend readers. One week, he was stuck with some open space, and remembered Magic Square, a word game he’d played as a child in Wales (and which was in turn based on a Pompeian numbers game with Latin origins).

Wynne, a Cedar Grove resident, re-jiggered it to make it more interesting for adults. He drew some interlocking blank squares, arranged into a diamond shape, and prepared a list of clues to what words the letters that would go in the boxes should spell out. He called it a word-cross, and sent his creation to the typesetting department.

A careless (or perhaps opinionated) typesetter reversed the title, and the crossword puzzle was born.

And on December 21, it turns 100 years old. Continue Reading

Montclair Resident Brings Passion for Adult Piano Learning to the Web

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 05, 2013 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

_467 Version 2Indulging a passion — no, a grand passion — seems to be on many bucket lists. Sky-dive. See the Grand Canyon. Learn to speak Mandarin. Play the piano again. Ah, the piano. How many adults secretly long to return to the musical instrument they quit long ago?

Nancy M. Williams, an 18-year Montclair resident, was one of those adults. Once a budding teen piano performer, a combination of issues drove Williams from the piano bench.

Until 2005 when, at age 41, she was drawn back. She had been away almost 25 years. Continue Reading

Thankful for the Good China, and the Paper Plates

BY  |  Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (3)

Thanksgiving paper plates - 8Except for maybe twice, I have spent the last 27 Thanksgivings with my husband Frank’s family. Even if I’d wanted to jet off to Las Vegas where my parents retired, distance, logistics, pregnancy, babies or work intervened.

The first Thanksgiving, we had been (on and off) dating for just a few months and I hoped the invitation signaled that we were serious this time. My job wouldn’t allow me time enough to make the 2700 mile round trip, and I was missing my family.

And though I probably should have known better—I’d been at his parent’s home a few times before—perhaps I was expecting (wishing?) to find something akin to what I’d grown up with: a holiday table draped in a linen tablecloth, laid with the good china, relatives in fancy dress, the football game on but not blasting, everyone in a state of heightened busyness and atwitter with celebration, the cut glass bowls waiting on the sideboard.

I arrived at Frank’s parent’s house in heels, wearing a new outfit, my hair and make-up just so, bearing a bouquet of flowers and a plate of home-made brownies (a last minute adjustment, figuring a bakery bought cake might send the signal that I wasn’t domestic). My future father-in-law greeted me in the jeans he wore that summer to tend the garden, my mother-in-law wore a sweat suit. Someone was setting out paper plates, the television was pulled up near the dining room table. There was a general air of relaxed comfort, as if this was just an ordinary Sunday afternoon, which I mistook for a lack of interest in the occasion. Continue Reading

ESSAY: Superstorm Sandy Anniversary, “Not A Shore Thing”

BY  |  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013 8:05am  |  COMMENTS (1)


hurricane sandy eye of stormToday marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly, destructive, and costly “Superstorm Sandy.” Baristanet’s own Lisa Romeo wrote this beautiful essay, “Not a Shore Thing”, which was recently published in bioStories:

I have been to the Jersey Shore about 25 times, and since I am 53 years old, was born in New Jersey, and have lived here for all but five years, that’s not a lot.

I’m not, strictly speaking, a shore girl.

So why, on October 29, 2012, when coastal New Jersey buckled beneath the brutal winds and steep sea surge of Hurricane Sandy, did I weep and turn away from the television screen? continue reading…


Four Glen Ridge Friends Create Private Salon Space for Women Battling Illness, Life-Altering Issues

BY  |  Thursday, Sep 26, 2013 12:15pm

The Roller Girls (left to right): Jodi Badagliacca, Cris McMahon, Venera Gashi, Karen Goldberg

The Roller Girls (left to right): Jodi Badagliacca, Cris McMahon, Venera Gashi, Karen Goldberg

Four friends from Glen Ridge have pooled their talents to transform a room in a local salon into a private space for cancer patients and other women in stressful situations to relax, revive and beautify.

When Jodi Badagliacca, a cancer survivor, and three friends, all empty nesters, were enjoying a Thai food dinner one night over the summer, and began brainstorming. They wanted to do something on a local level to help women battling illnesses access the restoring effects of attending to their appearance, but who felt self-conscious or vulnerable because of bald heads, scars, a sickly appearance or were just too weak and ill-at-ease, to handle the semi-public atmosphere of a regular salon.

“We wanted a place where patients going through chemo or other life altering treatments, could get their hair done or wigs styled and cared for, get their make up done, or have any kind of beauty service that will make their difficult days less difficult,” Badagliacca explained.

Badagliacca, Karen Goldberg, Venera Gashi, and Cris McMahon quickly found a willing partner in Donna Vaicels, owner of Salon Gossip, on Broad Street in Bloomfield, who had an unused room in her salon, and for a long time had been interested in providing just such a space. Continue Reading

NJ Health Insurance Marketplace Readies for October 1 Open Enrollment Start

BY  |  Thursday, Sep 12, 2013 9:16am

Health Insurance - words

In a few weeks, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), New Jersey residents not covered by employer-sponsored health insurance can begin choosing from an array of (possibly? probably?) more affordable health insurance options, when the state’s Health Exchange Marketplace officially begins operating.

Concerns about a bumpy road and obstacles leading up to and after the roll-out on October 1 (when residents can begin signing up for new coverage), the state legislature has created a 12-member task force to oversee how the NJ marketplace operates in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, officials like U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and advocacy groups are calling for more state cooperation in disseminating easy-to-understand information so residents know about the new plans, and the increased Medicaid coverage that is also part of the ACA.

“We were never going to make this program work from Washington,” she has said. “This has to be an on-the-ground effort.” Rite-Aid, for example, will have informed representatives in several thousand stores on October 1 to help educate citizens, and local representatives from Enroll America have been ringing doorbells around the state to spread the word. Continue Reading

New Site Helps Boomers Sort Through Streaming Film Choices

BY  |  Monday, Sep 09, 2013 2:30pm

film reelsSo many movies, so many choices, so little time. What’s a viewer to do?

Well at least when it comes to Netflix, you could ask Norma Casabona. Her site is a new place for reviews, commentary and tips on what streaming movies and TV series to watch.

Norma’s Streaming Picks primarily speaks to Boomer-aged movie buffs and focuses on what’s currently available in the Netflix stream. In the future, the site will expand to offer links and coverage to films and shows on other services, like Hulu and Voodoo.

For each film or series profiled on the site — which carries the tagline, “A Baby Boomer’s Recommendations for the Best Instant Queue EVER!” — she offers a Snapshot Plot (main storyline) and a Parting Shot (recommendations, tidbits), as well as embedded film trailers.

Norma started the website — which offers a free weekly e-newsletter — earlier in 2013, after thinking about it for months. A former actress, public relations specialist, movie reviewer for radio, and radio network manager, she was looking for a new venture and realized she wanted it to revolve around movies — a love that stretches back to her childhood. Continue Reading

Essex County Schedules Social Media Workshop for Non-Profits

BY ,  |  Monday, Sep 09, 2013 12:30pm

social mediaMastering the nuances, benefits and pitfalls of social media is a challenge not only for individuals and businesses, but for nonprofit organizations as well. Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Instagram? Pinterest? More?

A little help is on the way from Essex County. County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. invites non-profit organizations to attend a free workshop titled “How Non-Profits can Use Social Media to Grow Their Business.”

The event takes places on Saturday, September 14 at 10 a.m. in the West Orange Public Library.

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Featured Comment

Sad. Let's hope that this is not its "Last Tango." One of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in town. Valentino, Garbo, Keaton must have played there.

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