Roxy’s Best Of… New Jersey

The Best of the State of New Jersey, from entertainment and events to kid stuff (including birthday party venues and summer camp) to restaurants to art galleries and shopping


This Bank Can’t Fail: Roxy Joins Community of New Jersey Bloggers United to Fight Hunger

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My friend Deb over on Jersey Bites invited me to join an upcoming blogging campaign she is coordinating on behalf of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey — the largest food bank in the state.  As you are probably well aware, the Food Bank is in desperate need of donations this holiday season.  With bare shelves and demand for food among state residents far outpacing supply, the FoodBank is in danger of being unable to meet the needs of New Jersey’s hungry.

Members of our community of New Jersey bloggers united to fight hunger are scheduled to launch the “This Bank Can’t Fail” blogging campaign on Monday, December 15th. Our goal is to get 100 New Jersey bloggers on board to help spread the word about the increased demand being put on the food pantries in New Jersey and how everyone can help.  As of today (Friday, December 5th), we have 49 of the 100 bloggers on board and ready to post about the Community FoodBank of New Jersey on December 15th.

Oh, and our team of NJ bloggers will be in good company. Legendary music icon Bruce Springsteen will be lending his voice to the fight against hunger in New Jersey by headlining “We Can’t Let This Bank Fail” – a major advertising campaign and call to action for people to contribute in any way they can to help the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.   Although Bruce Springsteen has been a supporter of the FoodBank for 23 years, often donating proceeds from his concerts to the organization, this ad marks the first time Springsteen has publicly lent his image to the campaign, due to the urgency of the situation.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey is facing a dire shortage of food.  Without the public’s support, it may, for the first time in its history, begin to ration food. This is a state-wide crisis, with the unstable economy resulting in a 30 percent increase in those needing food. In years past, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey has provided assistance to more than 500,000 New Jerseyans, but expects to see a major uptick in need this year, especially during the winter months when people often struggle between paying heating and food bills.

If you are a blogger in New Jersey, please join in our efforts. If you know of a blog in New Jersey that you think should be involved, please email them a link to this post.

To really understand the serious need for donations, just click on the link below and take a minute to view the video.

If you’d like to get involved in our drive to fight hunger in New Jersey this holiday season, e-mail Deb:  Jerseybites at gmail dot com and look for 100 blog posts on December 15th. We’re hoping our efforts will compel everyone to do something, anything, to help. Visit the Community FoodBank of New Jersey at or call 908-355-FOOD (3663) to learn more.


Think NJPAC for the Holidays… and Save with NJPAC Promotional Codes on Giselle, Cirque Eloize, and Golden Dragon Acrobats

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Over on my Roxiticus Desperate Housewives site, I’ve been running a weekly feature called Roxy Saves, where I’ve gathered promotional codes from online retailers and made suggestions for unique and inexpensive holiday gifts. Here at Roxy’s Best Of… I’ve been more focused on the “bricks and mortar” holiday savings available from our wealth of local New Jersey retailers, highlighted throughout the Roxy’s Best Of… community of local sites with a “Shop Local NJ!” tag.

While I don’t mind explaining to London and Maddie that even Santa needs to cut back on the excessive amount of Barbies and plastic toys this holiday season, I have been searching for one or two meaningful, magical gifts that would keep Christmas special for my girls. As my most loyal readers know, Rex and I believe in encouraging our daughters’ passions (music, dance, gymnastics and tennis) and exposing them to a wide range of child-friendly art and culture. Just in case we have the next Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers musical talent hiding in our basement, London and Maddie have asked Santa for an electronic drum set for their girl band, the Butter Bites. Add that to the keyboard Santa left under the tree last Christmas, a second-hand guitar that needs to be re-strung, two microphones and a karaoke machine, and the Butter Bites will be all set to explore their musical passions over the long cold winter.

I have also found an amazing local opportunity at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) for a special holiday gift that promises a child-friendly cultural experience at a great value. Over the past year, London and Maddie have enjoyed three different performances at NJPAC: Rex and the girls took me out to see Alvin Ailey on Mother’s Day and we were all so impressed that we’re headed back for this season’s Mother’s Day performance; we introduced the girls to a bit of Mom and Dad’s history through Twyla Tharp’s interpretation of the music of Billy Joel in “Movin’ Out”; and most recently experienced the magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Cats. I’ve just committed to celebrating London’s 8th birthday with three of her closest girlfriends and their moms at the Cirque Eloize performance at NJPAC in January. The girls and I will be posting all about it as our plans come together.

In the meantime, I’d like to share with all of you the chance to treat the young person in your life to the magic of live performance with a sweet holiday discount from NJPAC. Use coupon code TREAT to purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office by December 24th and you’ll get one free child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Giselle, Cirque Eloize or Golden Dragon Acrobats. Discount is valid for Sections A, B, C, and D (no G or P) and expires December 24, 2008. Subject to availability and not valid on prior purchase.

Giselle at NJPAC:

Using the choreography created by Marius Petipa in his definitive revivals, the State Ballet Theatre of Russia performs Adolphe Adam’s beloved ballet – the timeless tale of a lovely yet fragile maiden, whose death from a broken heart dooms her to eternally roam the earth as a restless spirit. This sumptuous, traditional staging will be performed with full corps de ballet. The State Ballet Theatre of Russia brings Giselle to the stage at NJPAC on Sunday, January 18th at 4:00pm. Purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office by December 24th using NJPAC coupon code TREAT and get one free child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Giselle.

Cirque Eloize at NJPAC:

Experience the sights and sounds of a European circus in a vibrant, fully-staged production that brings together a company of acrobats, clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists and musicians to create a rich, fast-paced tango of emotions. Last seen at NJPAC with their eye-popping spectacle Rain, this world-renowned company returns with Nebbia, a brand new acrobatic extravaganza. Cirque Eloize passionately pursues artistic perfection – and achieves absolute magic. Our gang will be celebrating London’s birthday at the Saturday matinee, but there are three magical Cirque Eloize performances of Nebbia scheduled: Saturday, January 31st at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, February 1st at 2:00pm. Use NJPAC discount code TREAT to purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office by December 24th through December 24th and get one free child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Cirque Eloize in Nebbia.

Golden Dragon Acrobats at NJPAC:

From bending into improbable shapes to forming human pyramids on moving bicycles, this internationally acclaimed troupe celebrates Chinese culture with time-honored traditions that date back 25 centuries. The Golden Dragon Acrobats come to NJPAC on Sunday, February 22nd at 3:00pm. Use NJPAC promo code TREAT to Purchase tickets onlne by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office through December 24th and get one free child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased for the Golden Dragon Acrobats at NJPAC.

Warm wishes to all of you as you head out for another weekend of holiday shopping. Don’t forget to Shop Local NJ!


Don’t Let the Critics Scare You Off… If Your Kids Love Disney’s High School Musical, Don’t Miss High School Musical On Stage At Paper Mill Playhouse Through December 7th

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I was too sleepy to post London and Maddie’s review of High School Musical On Stage at Paper Mill Playhouse on the night after the performance, but the girls, Rex and I, along with the rest of London’s Brownie troop, really enjoyed ourselves. I’ve already seen an extremely negative review from Peter Filichia at the Star-Ledger, but he clearly hated Disney’s High School Musical concept from the git-go.

Now I know I’ll never be a critic, since I avoid events that I know I won’t like, so my disappointments are few and far between.  My mother also taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I’m better off saying nothing at all, but the one thing I would never do is recommend something that I really didn’t like.  So if you’re thinking about taking your kids to see High School Musical On Stage at Paper Mill Playhouse, here’s what you should consider.  My daughters, London and Maddie, have seen all three of Disney’s High School Musical movies, they know all the words to the songs and perform them as part of their girl band routine.  If you haven’t seen any of the movies, the on stage performance probably isn’t right for you…but the concept, in a nutshell, is modern-day Grease with a G rating.

Directed by Mark S. Hoebee, starring Sydney Morton & Chase Peacock, and reuniting choreographer Denis Jones & Bailey Hanks, this production promises to be a great time for teens, tweens and anyone who remembers the triumphs and challenges of high school. While London and Maddie can’t wait to see one of their favorite Disney movies brought to life, I have to admit that I am always surprised at the wide age range of High School Musical and Disney Channel fans. Our teenage babysitters truly seem to look forward to joining our first and second graders to watch Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, and the Wildcats in the two DVDs, and fans of all ages have hit the theatres for Disney’s High School Musical 3. I’m always a fan of people-watching, and, other than a few cranky critics, the crowd at the Paper Mill Playhouse for High School Musical On Stage was made up of tween girls singing their hearts out along with Sharpay and Gabriella.

High School Musical On Stage! runs through Sunday, December 7th. Many of the weekend matinees are sold out, but you can still call the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at (973) 376-4343 or order tickets online for the remaining performances. And here’s something cool for serious HSM fans…purchase a ticket to any Sunday evening performance of High School Musical and you will have the opportunity to meet with the cast of the show. Before the performance, from 6:30 - 7:00 pm at the F.M. Kirby Carriage House, members of the cast will be on hand to sign autographs and take photos.


Cats Creates Memories at NJPAC in Newark, New Jersey

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Midnight, not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone.
In the lamplight the withered
leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan.

After weeks of anticipation, listening to the Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording of Cats and learning the songs, the big day had finally arrived. On Saturday afternoon, Rex, London, Maddie and I headed out to see Cats at NJPAC.  London was already bouncing up and down in her seat as we drove into Newark in our Red Jewel…the new GMC Acadia we bought at the end of September. “Mommy, is NJPAC the place where we saw those dancers on Mother’s Day? If it is, I love that place. There’s that giant disco ball that hangs from the ceiling all the way up at the top of the theatre…and it feels like we’re so close to the dancers!” I told the girls that I had read in the Star-Ledger that the Cats actually come out into the audience during the show.    

As the lights went down in the theatre, the girls’ eyes widened as it turned out to be true and bright yellow glowing cats’ eyes appeared in the aisle next to our seats. When I saw Cats on Broadway over 20 years ago, I remember the sets, costumes and the special effects being impressive, even to a jaded college student. Today at NJPAC, I experienced it all over again, this time through my daughters’ eyes, filled with delight. The traveling set was even more amazing as I realized it had been put together for a four-day run at NJPAC, rather than “Now and Forever” on Broadway, and would be dismantled to move on to the next town after Sunday’s performance in Newark, New Jersey. Next week, Cats moves on to St. Louis, Missouri, followed by Costa Mesa, California, then San Antonio, Texas…and so on, giving families like ours around the United States the chance to get a taste of the Broadway classic without leaving their own hometown. I’ve certainly grown spoiled by the easy drive into Newark instead of the challenge of Times Square. 
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile like the old days
I was beautiful then, I remember
The time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
Maddie, as always, was a bit skeptical about a Broadway musical. “Will they talk? Like in Peter Pan?” Even though Maddie loves to dance at Garden State Ballet, she has serious hesitations about shows in which the performers express themselves entirely through body language and movement. Singing would be a step up from dance alone, but Maddie was still seeking dialogue. I told her that the show was based on poems from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possums Book of Practical Cats” but warned that the poems had been set to music and she could expect the cats to break into song rather than conversation. 
Maddie ended up having a terrific time, although the show was a bit longer than her 6-year-old attention span. Like most of the parents (and grandparents) who had brought their younger children to NJPAC this afternoon, I was glad to expose Maddie to live theatre instead of limiting her concept of entertainment to “watching something” on the Disney Channel.
I must wait for the sun rise
I must think for the new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And the new day will begin
Favorites? Roxy’s was the naughty Rum Tum Tugger, thrusting his pelvis like Elvis and bounding into the audience to pluck a young lady out of the crowd to dance in the aisle. Maddie was mesmerized by Grizabella the Glamour Cat and London favored Mr. Mistoffelees and his magic.
Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
A street lamp dies
Another night is over
Another day is dawning
Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with my memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun


– “Memory”: lyrics written by Trevor Nunn, based on poems by T.S. Eliot

In the end, for me, it is all about the memories….reminiscing about my first Broadway show (A Chorus Line), seeing Cats on Broadway, and creating new memories for London and Maddie. Since Cats left Broadway in September 2000, before London was born, NJPAC offered our family the unique opportunity to share a memory.

Looking ahead to December and the New Year 2009, there will be many more opportunities for my family (and yours) to create new memories at NJPAC…it looks like there’s something for everyone, whatever your age or musical tastes, or holiday of choice:

  • Just up ahead after the Thanksgiving holidays, get into the holiday spirit with the Christmas Music of Mannheim Steamroller by Chip Davis on Friday, December 5th at 8:00pm;
  • Soweto Gospel Choir on Saturday, December 6th at 8:00pm;
  • Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra (Keith Lockhart, conductor) on Sunday, December 7th at 3:00pm;
  • In one of my recent posts about non-traditional holiday and birthday party ideas, I recommended NJPAC as a terrific holiday party venue, and A Rockapella Holiday on Saturday, December 13th at your choice of 2:00pm or 7:00pm would really get the party started;
  • On Thursday, December 18th at 7:00pm, Byron Cage shares a Joyous Gospel Holiday;
  • Dianne Reeves & McCoy Tyner on Friday, December 19th at 8:00pm;
  • Ko-Thi Dance Company celebrates the Spirit of Kwanzaa on Saturday, December 20th at 2:00pm and 5:00pm;
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock comes to NJPAC on Saturday, December 20th at 8:00pm;
  • Discover Handel’s Messiah on Sunday, December 21st at 3:00pm; and
  • An unusual combination of Video Games Live with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, December 27th at 2:00pm and 8:00pm.

In the New Year 2009, NJPAC has two more Broadway musical spectaculars:

  • Fiddler on the Roof runs from Tuesday, March 10th through Sunday, March 15th, with a choice of matinee or evening performances.  Chaim Topol returns to the role he immortalized in the Oscar-winning, big-screen version of Fiddler on the Roof.  This revival of the Tony-winning musical, based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, is driven by one of the most heartwarming scores in the history of musical theater, including favorites like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”  Tickets are priced from $23 to $79.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar runs from Thursday, April 9th through Easter Sunday, April 12th, with a choice of matinee or evening performances. Rex and I will likely take the girls to see their second Andrew Lloyd Webber musical as a Saturday matinee.  Jesus Christ Superstar, the first masterpiece from the legendary writing team of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, exploded onto the scene in 1971, changing the worl of musical theatre forever.  With a score of amazing songs — “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Hosanna,” “Everything’s Alright,” “What’s the Buzz,” “Superstar,” and “Heaven on Their Mind,” this original groundbreaking production starring Ted Neeley in the title role is as timeless as ever.  Tickets are priced from $25 to $79, so we don’t have to break the bank to expose London and Maddie to classic musical theatre.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) , One Center Street, Newark, NJ.  Phone:  (888) GO-NJPAC.


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Roxy’s Mail Call: Where to Celebrate When Your Kids Have Already Done It All

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Dear Roxy,

I was wondering if you could help me with some suggestions. I am in charge of planning the holiday party for the competitive gymnastics team at Randolph Gymnastics every year. So far we did bowling, ice skating, roller skating and swimming. I am running out of ideas! Do you have any suggestions? I know you work with places in the area. We have about 25 girls on the team, and their ages range from 5 to 13. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your help,
Shannon, Randolph Gymnastics & Climbing Center
Dear Shannon,
I will give it some more thought, but it sounds like you’ve really done it all! A couple of ideas would be “crafty” rather than the more physical activities you’ve done in previous years — Studio U in Chester has crafts for all ages, including “Mom’s Night Out” parties; Cooks and Crafts in Flanders does both crafts and cooking. New York Pizza in Chester lets groups in to make (and eat) pizzas together.

My other notion would be to attend an event together — Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn has the Nutcracker in late November/December, NJPAC also has special holiday shows, or the Mayo Center (Community Theatre) in Morristown is closer and has some performances geared towards kids/teens. For example, we’re considering taking a few of London’s friends to see Cirque Eloize at NJPAC in January as part of London’s 8th birthday celebration.

Libby Lu in the Rockaway Mall does hair,nails, and make-up, Hannah Montana style. You could rent out a local movie theatre like Clearview Cinemas in Chester, particularly if there’s a new (or old) gymnastics oriented movie all the girls would enjoy.

Hope that helps!









London’s Nanny Diaries

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As part of the Columbia University Writer’s Workshop being implemented by our daughters’ teachers at Mendham Township Elementary School, Maddie’s first grade class has been gearing up for a Publishing Party in December by beginning to write their autobiographies. Maddie did an amazing job of gathering interesting facts about our family life, listing and illustrating ideas for her book:

  • I was born at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
  • I like to play tennis.
  • I wont to be a football player.
  • My favorite thing in scool is writing.
  • I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters.
  • I have a beach house in Bay Head, New Jersey.
  • I love dogs.
  • I have a lote of best friends.
  • I have 12 dolls.
  • I have 1 niece and 2 nephews.
  • I have 14 Webkinz.
  • I like to climb trees.

Maddie started with a bit of phonetic spelling, but then went back and asked Rex or me to help her get the spelling right in most cases. The preparation for Maddie’s autobiography took me back to this time last year, when Rex and I proudly attended London’s first grade publishing party. I don’t have the exact text of London’s autobiography, as her impressive first grade portfolio remains on loan to her teacher, but here are the basics:

  • I was born at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
  • I had a babysitter named Nana who made fried chicken drumsticks for Alex and me.
  • We moved to Mendham when I was two and a half.
  • I had a nanny named Katie. She had a baby she brought to work with her. We loved Katie and her baby. Then she had twins and moved to Alabama.
  • Then we got a new nanny who is very nice. I am almost as tall as our nanny…

You get the picture. Maybe it was because London hadn’t brought home a parental prep sheet ahead of time like Maddie did this year, but Rex and I turned a bit red as London gave the impression she had been raised by wolves… I mean, nannies. Anyway, our family has had the benefit of four wonderful live-out nannies, and each one has turned out to be just right for the girls’ stage of development.

I’m frequently asked where we found our wonderful nannies, so I’ll pass along some free advice and contact information for the Best of Morris County NJ and the Best of Somerset County NJ:

When we were leaving New York’s West Village to move to Mendham NJ in October 2003, we employed two New Jersey nanny agencies to help us in our Search for Mary Poppins for two-and-a-half-year-old London and eighteen-month-old Maddie. Choice Care Nannies of Westfield NJ (now with an office in Morristown NJ as well) offered up six or more great candidates for us to interview, but none of them turned out to be the perfect fit. A Choice Nanny of Montvale NJ found us only one qualified candidate, but Katie turned out to be The One. She quickly settled in with the girls, finding them toddler activities like Little Musicmakers in Bernardsville NJ, as well as swimming and gymnastics classes at the West Morris YMCA in Randolph NJ. Katie connected with other local Morris County NJ nannies, and took the girls on outings to pet the animals at Alstede Farms in Chester NJ or storytime at the one of the local libraries in Mendham or Chester. When the girls started pre-school at Westmont Montessori in Mendham NJ the next year, Katie would let the girls sleep late, take them out for morning activities, then drop them at school and do our grocery shopping at Shop-Rite of Chester until it was time for their afternoon naps. In January 2004, Katie told me that she was pregnant and hoped that she could continue to work through her pregnancy and bring her baby to work starting in the Fall. Although Rex and I were skeptical at first, the girls loved having a baby around the house (and I was not about to provide another one), and Katie was able to juggle the three of them for about a year after her daughter was born.

In a Pinch, a temporary childcare referral service in Randolph NJ, proved to be a lifesaver for our farmily during Katie’s maternity leave and whenever any of our nannies has called in sick. As their name suggests, In A Pinch provides short-term and emergency babysitting services on short notice.

Katie, our first NJ nanny, ended her two year stint with us when her daughter turned one and became too hard to manage in our not-so-toddler-proof home. She quickly became pregnant with twins and moved to Alabama with her husband and the three girls, living happily ever after as far as I know. We found her replacement through Choice Care Nannies, and our girls spent almost three years under Melissa’s excellent care.

This past September, London started second grade and Maddie started first grade, so our family’s need for childcare was reduced to part-time/after school care, most importantly driving the girls to and from their activities — Garden State Ballet, Randolph Gymnastics, Pavan’s Tennis Academy at Fox Chase Tennis, play dates, Brownies, and kids’ birthday parties. As you might imagine, I hoped to avoid the nanny agency fees associated with full-time care, but didn’t want the hassle of placing an ad, screening applicants, and doing my own background and driving record checks. I had discovered when our family traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for Rex’s high school reunion and we needed someone with solid childcare references to take care of the girls for one night while Rex and I connected with his high school classmates. This time, delivered our new part-time nanny and house manager, a nursing student at a nearby community college.

Here’s the contact information for all of the nanny agencies and services our family has used with great success. Don’t forget to tell ‘em Roxy sent you!

  • Choice Care Nannies places legal, experienced live-in nannies, live-out nannies, full time nannies, part time nannies and baby nurses.
    Choice Care Nannies Westfield location: 149 South Euclid Avenue, Westfield, NJ 07090. Phone: (908) 317-9777.
    Choice Care Nannies Morristown location: 914 Mt. Kemble Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07960. Phone: (973) 425-1002.
  • A Choice Nanny, Montvale, NJ: the right choice in private childcare since 1983. Experienced nannies, local nannies, full-time or part-time, live-in or live-out, summer, after school care. Phone: (201) 391-2616. Fax: (201) 746-6217.
  • In A Pinch in Randolph NJ: Temporary childcare, sick childcare, occasional sitting service, overnight situations, pet sitting, party assisting, non-medical eldercare. Covers 11 Counties in New Jersey: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Sussex, Union, Northern Middlesex, Essex, Morris, Somerset, Northeastern Hunterdon, and Eastern Warren, NJ. An on-call coordinator is available 24/7 for last minute jobs. Phone: (973) 989-0327.
  • At, their mission is to connect parents with caregivers in a local area to give each side what they want - some time off for adults-only activities and access to a multitude of child and pet care jobs. I pay $9.95 per month to access SitterCity’s database. With over 150,000 caregivers across the country, Sittercity is the nation’s largest and most easily accessible database for babysitters, nannies and pet sitters. Find great sitters in your area on Try Sittercity for free today! Click Roxy’s referral link and use coupon code SCSAVE10 to save 10% off your membership.
  • One last resource for parents and nannies, not just in New Jersey but across the United States… my friend Deb runs a web site, 4EverythingNanny where you’ll find all your nanny needs in one place:  find an agency, a new nanny, or a job as a caregiver, as well as helpful tools and advice.

I hope you’ll find these resources helpful. Please leave a comment to let us know your success stories in searching for Mary Poppins, and please post any additional recommendations that didn’t make the Roxy’s Best Of… list. Thanks!

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Feels Like Kids’ Birthday Party Season Is In Full Swing in Morris and Somerset Counties, New Jersey

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When London and Maddie were in pre-school at Westmont Montessori in Mendham, NJ, and the birthday tradition was to invite the entire class, it felt like we were out at Toys With Love in Chester, NJ buying presents every week, and attending one or two kiddie birthday parties every weekend, particularly in the late fall and winter seasons.  It was actually a great way to get to know our children’s friends, as well as a great bunch of parents….many of our “Westmont friendships” have lasted through the years.  Thankfully, as my girls have gotten older, Mendham Township Elementary School birthday parties have been fewer and farther between, frequently same-sex, and smaller “productions.” This weekend, however, was remarkably hectic with kids’ birthday parties for the girls in Maddie’s class.

After our Girls’ Afternoon Out with my friend Susan and her daughter, Abby, to see High School Musical 3 at the Clearview six-plex in Chester yesterday, Maddie attended a birthday party at Stuff-a-Roo and Teddy Too on Main Street in Chester, NJ. Today, we were off to the Florham Park Roller Rink for a rollerskating, rollerblading birthday party.  Both turned out to be good fun in a hometown setting, instead of driving to a chain store in the mall.

All of this birthday activity has reminded me to make a list (and check it twice) of all the best kids’ birthday venues in Morris and Somerset Counties, and to encourage our loyal Roxy’s Best Of… readers to leave a comment to add your own raves and recommendations to the list.

Garden State Ballet in Randolph, Rutherford, and Newark, NJ.  For Maddie’s sixth birthday party last March, Miss Katie from Garden State Ballet actually came to our home and gave a ballet lesson for twenty girls in our basement ballet studio.  For those who don’t have our sweet setup at home, Garden State Ballet would be happy to host your ballerina’s birthday party at one of their three studios.

Randolph Gymnastics and Randolph Rock Climbing in Randolph, NJ. Our family first discovered Randolph Gymnastics at a pre-school birthday party there back in the Fall of 2004. Since then, our girls have enjoyed the giant slide, tarzan rope and jumping castle with their friends at countless Randolph Gymnastics birthday parties. More importantly, we were inspired by the amazing “Olympic size” facilities to start gymnastics classes, and this year marks London and Maddie’s fourth year of lessons at Randolph Gymnastics.  If you’re interested in hosting your child’s birthday party at Randolph Gymnastics, call (973) 584-4111 and tell ‘em Roxy sent you… you’ll save $50 off the price of a Sunday birthday party. Speaking from experience, I can also say that Sunday, particularly late morning into early afternoon, is the best time for a gymnastics birthday party. It just feels a lot less hectic than weekday evenings or Saturdays, and I’ve enjoyed catching up with the other parents while our kids get their ya-yas out with the exceptional staff of Randolph Gymnastics.

The Little Gym in Randolph, NJ.  Not nearly as amazing as Randolph Gymnastics, but perhaps more comfortable for toddlers and pre-schoolers who are reluctant to let mom or dad out of their sight.

Time In, Randolph, NJ. We spent a lot of time in Time In during London and Maddie’s toddler and pre-school years, when climbing for an hour in a safe, padded environment followed by pizza, hot dogs, and birthday cake, was just their speed, and the Roxiticus Desperate Housewives could catch up on the latest gossip while our kids played together. When we went back to Time In last June for a 7-year-old girl’s “late-over” birthday party on a Saturday night, however, it was clear that our girls, as well as everyone at the party, had outgrown Time In. Free Willy on the enormous HDTV couldn’t save the day, and our family couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Pump It Up, Randolph, NJ.  Giant pumped up inflatables where kids from about age 4 through maybe the first or second grade bounce, run through obstacle courses and let off some steam.

Aspen Ice, Randolph, NJ

Mennen Arena (ice skating), Morristown, NJ. We had London’s seventh birthday at Mennen Arena last January, and give it a huge rave. We had attended one of my friend Hope’s daughter’s birthday party at Aspen Ice in July, but I learned that we couldn’t get a party room there without paying for pizza and hot dogs. What you may or may not know about Roxy is that I cannot, absolutely cannot, stand to see children eat, with all of their disgusting habits….I’ve successfully scheduled all of London and Maddie’s parties from 2:00pm - 4:00pm and celebrate with a spectacular birthday cake from Carol Falcone (our Cake Lady) in Far Hills, NJ.

Pastime Lanes, Mendham, NJ.  You can rent out this four-lane bowling alley for your child’s birthday party.  It would be great for adults, too, but no kegs are allowed.

Chester Riding Club, Chester, NJ.

Studio U, Chester, NJ.

Stuff-A-Roo and Teddy Too, 54 Main Street in Chester, NJ  07930. Phone: (908) 879-7978

Annie’s Playhouse, Far Hills, NJ

Great for fair weather birthday parties in the spring, summer, or even the early fall…think apple picking, pumpkin picking, pony rides, farms in the area, including Alstede Farms, Riamede Farms, and Stony Hill Farm, all in Chester, NJ, or Valley Shepherd Creamery or Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJPony Share will bring their ponies and horses to your house (the kids had a great time riding around our paddocks at Rex’s big birthday bash a few years back), or you can arrange a party at one of their locations – Catch-A-Breeze Farm in Califon or Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown, NJ.

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Thanksgiving 2008 Appeal from the Community Foodbank of New Jersey

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Rex and I just received a note from Kathleen DiChiara, President and CEO of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, about their 2008 Thanksgiving Appeal, one of their most important fundraising campaigns of the year.
Many people in New Jersey don’t realize the number of their neighbors who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The hungry are innocent children who go to bed with empty stomachs because their parents, even though they’re working, can’t always afford to put food on the table. They are elderly and disabled who are barely surviving on fixed incomes, unable to afford both their medicine and meals. They are Americans who simply cannot make ends meet with the increased cost of food and fuel today.

Community Foodbank of New Jersey provides food to more than 1,600 hunger-relief programs throughout 18 counties and distributes over 23 million pounds of food annually. A successful Thanksgiving Appeal will go a long way toward fighting the problem of hunger here in New Jersey. A gift of $25 or $35 will make it possible for the Community Foodbank of New Jersey to provide even more meals for the hungry.

If you’d like to contribute, please print out this post, fill out the information below, and mail it in along with your donation to:

Community Foodbank of New Jersey

31 Evans Terminal Road

Hillside, New Jersey 07205-2406

(__) $25 (__) $35 (__) $50 (__) $ Other _____
You can pay by check (made out to Community Food Bank of New Jersey) or credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or AMEX) by providing additional information:
Card #____________________________________________ Exp. Date _________

Signature _________________________________________ Phone (____) _______________

Print name as it appears on card: ____________________________________________________




Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jellicle Cats Are Coming to NJPAC in Newark, New Jersey: Tuesday, November 18th - Sunday, November 23rd

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Are you blind when you’re born? Can you see in the dark?
Dare you look look at a king? Would you sit on his throne?
Can you say of your bite that it’s worse than your bark?
Are you cock of the walk when you’re walking alone?

Because jellicles are and jellicles do
Jellicles do and jellicles would
Jellicles would and jellicles can
Jellicles can and jellicles do

When you fall on your head, do you land on your feet?
Are you tense when you sense there’s a storm in the air?
Can you find your way blind when you’re lost in the street?
Do you know how to go to the heaviside layer?

Because jellicles can and jellicles do
Jellicles do and jellicles can
Jellicles can and jellicles do
Jellicles do and jellicles can
Jellicles can and jellicles do

If I can still remember my own excitement about seeing Cats on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre over 20 years ago, when I was in my late teens or early twenties, imagine the jumping up and down that is going on with my own little jellicle cats, London and Maddie, as we approach the magical day when Rex and I are taking them to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats performed at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey.
Can you ride on a broomstick to places far distant?
Familiar with candle, with book, and with bell?
Were you Whittington’s friend? The Pied Piper’s assistant?
Have you been an alumnus of heaven and hell?

Are you mean like a minx? Are you lean like a lynx?
Are you keen to be seen when you’re smelling a rat?
Were you there when the pharoahs commissioned the Sphinx?
If you were, and you are, you’re a jellicle cat

Jellicle songs for jelllicle cats

We can dive through the air like a flying trapeze
We can turn double somersaults, bounce on a tire
We can run up a wall, we can swing through the trees
We can balance on bars, we can walk on a wire

Not that London and Maddie really need any prompting to launch into gymnastic and acrobatic acts around the house, but Rex and I are already anticipating the basement performances that will be inspired by Cats. I’ve downloaded the soundtrack to my iPod, and the girls have been busy practicing the words to favorites such as the opening “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” that I’ve shared with you here, “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser,” and the most-well-known-but-hard-to-sing-along-with “Memory.” Maddie, who remains hesitant about ballet and modern dance performances expressed without words, was particularly pleased to hear so many enchanting lyrics.

Jellicles can and jellicles do
Jellicle songs for jellicle cats

Can you sing at the same time in more than one key?
Duets by Rossini and waltzes by Strauss?
And can you (as cats do) begin with a ‘C’?
That always triumphantly brings down the house?

Jellicle cats are queen of the nights
Singing at astronomical heights
Handling pieces from the ‘Messiah’
Hallelujah, angelical Choir

The mystical divinity of unashamed felinity
Round the cathedral rang ‘Vivat’
Life to the everlasting cat!
Feline, fearless, faithful and true
To others who do-what

Jellicles do and jellicles can
Jellicles can and jellicles do
Jellicle cats sing jellicle chants
Jellicles old and jellicles new
Jellicle song and jellicle dance
Jellicle songs for jellicle cats

Cats is an award-winning musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, and jellicle cats come in all shapes and sizes, with magical names like Grizabella (the Glamour Cat), Mr. Mistoffelees, Old Deuteronomy, Skimbleshanks (the Railway Cat), Jennyanydots, Bustopher Jones, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser.

Practical cats, dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, Delphicoracle cats
Skeptical cats, Dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, Pedantical cats
Critical cats, parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and mystical cats
Political cats, hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, hysterical cats
Cynical cats, rabbinical cats

Jellicle songs for jellicle cats

There’s a man over there with a look of surprise
As much as to say well now how about that?
Do I actually see with my own very eyes
A man who’s not heard of a jellicle cat?
What’s a jellicle cat?

What’s a jellicle cat??!! For those of you still wondering, the best way to answer the question is to check out the show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey. I scooped up amazingly close aisle seats in the front orchestra for Rex, London, Maddie and me as soon as they went on sale in May. Luckily for those of you who waited until the last minute, there are still some Cats tickets available to each of the following performances:

  • Tuesday, November 18th at 7:30pm;
  • Wednesday, November 19th at 7:30pm;
  • Thursday, November 20th at 1:30pm and 7:30pm;
  • Friday, November 21st at 8:00pm;
  • Saturday, November 22nd at 2:00pm and 8:00pm;
  • Sunday, November 23rd at 3:00pm.

Our family is going to the Saturday matinee, so if one or more of Roxy’s loyal readers make it to an earlier performance of Cats at NJPAC, we’d sure appreciate it if you’d share your comments here at Roxy’s Best Of… and check back after the show on Saturday, November 22nd for a full report from London and Maddie, Rex and Roxy.


Roxy’s Mailbag Responds to Desperately Seeking Activities in Bernardsville, New Jersey

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Dear Roxy,
I have a toddler son and am trying to find local (Bernardsville, Bedminster) things for him to do in the afternoons. I’m sick of Gymboree..any toddler cooking classes, or other different types of things?
Thanks in advance.
Desperately Seeking Activites

Dear Desperately Seeking Activities,

Thanks for visiting Roxy’s Best Of… here are a few tips for you and your toddler in and around the Bernardsville and Bedminster areas:

  • Little Music Makers in Basking Ridge, NJ: a more local, personal version of Gymboree for “mommy and me”… or as their web site describes it, “a fresh, fun, and innovative approach to making music with your child.” Our very first nanny out here in the Roxiticus Valley found Little Music Makers for us when we moved here from New York City in October 2003, and my girls really had a lot of fun there when they were toddlers. Little Music Makers playfully blends weekly themes, as well as singing, live music (12 string guitar/piano), dancing, musical instruments (from near & far), marching, chanting, fingerplays, lap songs, puppets, scarves, parachute, free movement, props (hoops, balls, beanbags), musical flannelboard stories, unusual tonalities & rhythms, musical make-believe, weekly themed stickers and activity sheets in a rich, diverse musical environment….and, if I recall correctly, a dog puppet named Petey.
  • Annie’s Playhouse in Far Hills, NJ — acting, singing, dancing, movement for boys and girls of all ages, starting quite young and continuing through high school. London and Maddie have attended the Annie’s Playhouse Summer Stars camp for the past two summers and particularly enjoy the end of summer performance. During the school year, Annie’s offers a Broadway Babies program for ages 17 months to 5 years.
  • There’s a place called Cooks & Crafts in Flanders, NJ, that my girls have been to for birthday parties, probably not inclined towards toddlers as there aren’t many people brave enough to teach toddler cooking classes, but worth a phone call.
  • For afternoon outings but not formal “classes” with your toddler, check out some of the local farms (Alstede, Riamede, Stony Hill) for pumpkin or apple picking, petting zoos and other activities on the Roxy’s Best Of… Community Site Kid Stuff Category.
  • Although it may be a bit out of your way, Randolph, NJ has a lot of London and Maddie’s favorite kids stuff: Time In, Aspen Ice (ice skating), Tai Kwon Do, Pump It Up, the Little Gym, and Garden State Ballet. Randolph Gymnastics (and Randolph Rock Climbing) is a great venue for both lessons and birthday parties. When my girls were toddlers, we also spent a fair amount of time at the West Morris YMCA for swimming lessons and other toddler-oriented classes and activities. The Somerset County YMCA, with a similar selection of family programs, is located in Basking Ridge, NJ.
  • For more of a commitment than just the occasional activity, Roxy highly recommends Westmont Montessori in Mendham, NJ, which starts with small classes for 2-year-olds and was an enriching pre-school experience for my two girls. They’re having an open house for new families on Saturday, November 15th.

Good luck, and if you find something great for your toddler son, I hope you’ll share it by leaving a comment here on Roxy’s Best Of… so that I can pass it along to my local readers. Oh, and don’t forget — please let everyone know that Roxy sent you!

All the best,