Thursday, January 31, 2008

Going to the Atlantic City Chapel -- or Boardwalk Hall

Ready to get hitched in, oh, two weeks? You can save yourself some cash by getting married in Atlantic City (and as someone who's involved in the planning of three weddings -- no, not mine -- that's a lot of money to save).

Oh February 14, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority is hosting a group wedding, vow renewal and civil union ceremony in Boardwalk Hall. Best part? It's free.

Interesting in joining (or watching?) There ceremony will take place at 2pm in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom of Boardwalk Hall. The ACCVA will include wedding cake and photo opportunities as well. Jean Muchanic, executive director of the Absecon Lighthouse and wedding officiate, is going to run the show.

If you want to make a trip of it, a few Atlantic City hotels are offering special packages to brides and grooms. Go to

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News from Around the South Jersey Shore

I'm not the only one who likes the shore in the winter -- check out this article, which shows you what Cape May has to offer in the off season.

I've been tracking this one for some time now: the Chelsea Hotel, which is a non-gaming luxury hotel in Atlantic City being put together but Curtis Bashaw, the guy behind Cape May's Congress Hall. Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer's write up of what's coming from the Chelsea, slated to open Memorial Day Weekend (expect a Jen A. Miller article about this one soon).

Speaking of Atlantic City, could Mohegan Sun be on the way?

This is a sad one: a college student died when she fell from the Tropicana parking garage.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (which runs all that Victorian stuff in Cape May) has a new leader.
Pacific Avenue in Wildwood will be getting four new restaurants, hopefully by summer.

Score one for PETA: Atlantic City will not be dressing the Boardwalk with an anti-seagull wire shield.

Here's a heartwarming dog-beats-the-odds article.

ANOTHER polar plunge? This time it's in Sea Isle City on February 16. I found out after the fact that none other than Eagles offensive tackle John Runyan (who lives in South Jersey, by the way) along with a scrum of other NFL players participated in the Wildwood polar plunge. Brrr! I might have to check out Sea Isle's to see what the fuss is all about.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To Shore House or Not to Shore House

It's about this time of year that people start asking an all important question:

Do I get a shore house or not?

I'm not talking about whether they should buy one (yeah right -- I just barely afforded my year-round house) but whether they should jump into a summer rental with 20 of their closest friends.

Last year was the first time I did a group shore house rental. My family had a place at the shore through my high school years, and then when in college, I had to work or was busy with internships and couldn't go to the shore except for one week in August with my family. I'd thought about jumping in on a few houses after that, but it was either never the right group, not worth the money, or both.

Last year, because I knew I needed a place to crash while researching for the book, I joined a very fun group of people in, if not luxury accomidations, adequate accomidations in Avalon. Ours was the bottom floor of an older Avalon house with uncomfortable beds but a comfortable couch (which is where I slept). We had central air, a pebble driveway (also known as Pebble Beach when people were too tired or hung over to make it to the actual beach) and a fridge large enough to hold a few cases of beer (and plenty of counter space for everything else, as you can see in the picture).

I had fun. Granted, most of my time spent at the shore house was working on my computer at the rickety dining room table, and not in the typical shore-weekend fashion, which for a lot of youngins means drinking, testing their luck in the meat market, sleeping, ordering food, lying on the beach, then doing it all over again.

But hitting the Jersey shore house every weekend isn't a perfect situation. It's expensive -- and I'm not just talking about the rental fee, but they money you put out for food and especially going out. The Princeton can be fun, but Miller Lites cost over $5 each. And in an environment where everyone, whether they're 21 or 41, seems to revert back to college mentality, that's a lot of beers and a lot of money. And, as my mom says, I'm 27 going on 40. I'm not a big drinker. A weekend or two of this kind of fun is fine, but by August, I was tired of it, especially after writing a book about the region and knowing all the other cool stuff there was to do. I'd rather sit on the beach and read, go out to dinner, have a drink or two and fall asleep to the sound of the seashore than stay out until 2am trying to talk to people over a loud cover band. Most of the time.

Yup, 27 going on 40.

I'm still on the fence. Unfortunately, I contacted the folks from last year's shore house a few days too late to get back into that group. And then there's the Emily factor: my life would be much easier if the place allowed pets. So, like a lot of other people, I'll start asking around and hitting craigslist to see what comes up.

Even if I don't get in on a house, I'm hoping I've made enough contacts around the shore to occasionally crash with friends. But if you don't have the option of having written a book about the Jersey shore, you better start looking soon. Those rentals are going fast.

(And if you have a spot to fill, lemme know!)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PSA: Jack Russell Terriers are Not Purse Dogs

I'm going to stray from the South Jersey Shore for a moment to post about something that's been bothering me.

If you frequent gossip blogs or read tabloid magazines, you've probably seen pictures of Mariah Carey walking around with her Jack Russell Terrier (also known as know at Parson Russell Terriers), Jack. Jack is adorable. He wears cute outfits. He's been seen about town in the same way that a lot of celebs use little dogs: as accessories.

I'm not making any kind of assumptions about how Carey treats her dog. But I want to say that if you're thinking of getting a JRT based on the cute factor, that you consider one thing:

Jack Russell Terriers are crazy.

Now, hold on just a second before calling PETA. As I've written about before, I have a Jack Russell Terrier, a six year old gal named Emily. I love her dearly. She is -- obviously -- the prettiest girl in the whole wide world. Even so, she can be a difficult dog.

Jack Russell Terriers are very hyper. They like to bark. They like to chase. They like to jump. They don't always get along with other dogs (which is why Emily was in the shelter where I found her), and they require a lot of exercise and play. I don't know if I could have a Jack Russell Terrier if I didn't work at home and was able to walk her often, and even then, I sometimes think about hiring a part time dog walker so that someone else can help Emily expend her energy while I work.

Anyone who has a Jack knows this. But since Jacks are cute, they're frequently used in commercials and on TV. Eddie from Fraiser is the most obvious example. During one walk this summer, a batch of people screamed "Eddie!" to me and Emily as we walked by their house.

Even though she does sort of look like him, she doesn't act like him. He was an impeccably trained acting dog. Not all of us can train a dog, especially a strong willed dog, like that, and a lot of people who buy one thinking they're getting an Eddie are sorely disappointed, which is one of the reasons Jacks end up in shelters.

So if you're looking at a Jack Russell and thinking of getting one because he or she is cute -- heck, ANY dog that you see on TV and think might be a good dog for you -- I implore you to read up on the breed at the American Kennel Club. Here's the direct link for JRTs.

I would never discourage someone from getting a JRT. But, like picking any breed of animal, please do a lot of research and talk to a vet to figure out if that breed is going to fit into your lifestyle. While I could fit Emily into a purse, she's much happier walking by my side and has much more energy than my brother's 100 pound dog.

Don't believe me? Here's a video of Emily trying to get to a cat that was on the other side of that glass door (and, yes, I realize that it's facing the wrong way, but this was taken just when youtube started to be used by my grandparents).

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What is this group and how do I join them?

The headline says "Jersey Shore Running Club-Twilight Run." Know them? Drop me a line at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Also, contact me if you're planning to do the Ocean Drive Marathon on March 30.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Down the Shore with...Mary Beth Temple

Mary Beth Temple is a woman of many talents. This freelance writer has written about everything from Lighthouses to knitting -- literally. She's author of Touring New Jersey's Lighthouses and The Secret Language of Knitters.

Mary Beth also spent a lot of time at the South Jersey Shore and *hopefully* will be signing copies of her book along with me at Cape May's Harbor Fest!

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
Definitely Cape May. Childhood vacations were spent in Atlantic City (pre-casinos), Long Beach Island, or Sea Isle City, but Cape May was the town I gravitated to as an adult planning my own summer stays. I love the architecture and the history, and the air of relaxation. When I go down the shore I want to relax and enjoy the ocean, not run around to rides and clubs - or listen to other people run around to rides and clubs. Cape May is quiet, which is just what I want.

2. A lot of people go to the shore just to eat -- what's your favorite foodie memory?
My very oldest memory of beach food was a restaurant in Atlantic City that sadly is no more. I can't even remember what it was called, but it was on one of the smaller piers, and served breakfast in a hot frying pan brought right to the table. When I was small I thought this was the coolest thing in the whole world, and the fact that you could get pork roll for breakfast made it even cooler. Now I spend my time on the search for the perfect crab cake. Even if I don't find it, I have a hell of a good time looking!

3. Where did the lighthouse book idea come from?
My sister Patricia Wylupek is both a talented photographer and a lighthouse junkie, so we decided to do Touring New Jersey's Lighthouses together with her photos and my words. The New Jersey Lighthouse Society hosts an annual weekend event in which all eleven standing lighthouses are open to the public at the same time, and visitors are encouraged to try to see all eleven over the course of the two days. We thought it would be great fun to have a book that not only had great photos, but included a bit of the history of each of the lights on the tour.

4. Which one is your favorite?
Is it cheesy to say that I love them all? Not only how they look but the fact that each one offers a glimpse into the social history of the times they were in service. Architecturally I love the Twin Lights of Navesink, located in Highlands, NJ. My first memory of climbing up the spiral lighthouse steps was "Old Barney" - Barnegat Lighthouse. And of course I love the the beauty of the Cape May lighthouse and visit it every summer.

5. What's one thing about NJ's lighthouses that people might not realize?
I think it is easy to forget what a formidable adversary Mother Nature can be - the lighthouses remind us that we enjoy the sea at her discretion.

My biggest surprise was the story of Tucker's Island, which I learned about while visiting the Tuckerton Seaport to see their lighthouse replica. The fact that there was a whole island that went from a small homestead in the 18th century to a popular resort in the 19th century, only to be swept completely away in the 1920s - well, I had never heard the story before and I found it fascinating. There are even photographs on display at the Seaport of the original lighthouse crumbling into the sea.

6. How did you get from lighthouses to knitting?
My sister may be addicted to lighthouses - I am addicted to knitting and crocheting. I am never without a project or ten going on, so what better topic to write about than the one I love? The Secret Language of Knitters is a humorous knitting dictionary about the terms and acronyms we knitters use in groups and online.

7. Any good knitting shops we should know about?
When going on vacation, I tend to spend more time packing my needlework projects than my clothes, but I can't resist dropping by Fiber Arts Studio in Cape May to see what's new.

8. What's next?
The next two books are The Log Homeowner's Handbook (spring '09, Storey Publishing) in which I tackle one of the other subjects that interests me - contemporary log home construction. Then back to needlework with Hooked for Life: Adventures of a Crochet Zealot, due out from Andrews McMeel, also in the spring of 2009. I will have a very busy rest of this year - can't wait until August to go down the shore!

Read more at and

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter Wonderland

While I was trudging through the cold streets of Philadelphia yesterday, cursing that I forgot something to cover my ears, Atlantic City had it a bit worse: it snowed.

It's rare that the South Jersey Shore will get more snow than those of us more inland and north. That's because the ocean acts as a big ol' temperature moderator (the same reason why it can be a few degrees cooler down the shore in the summer). What wacky weather we're having.

Read this article from the Press of Atlantic City for more.

What I'm Listening to: Unfamiliar Facesby Matt Costa
What I'm Reading: Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfictionby James B. Stewart

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Down the Shore with...Daphne Oz

Show of hands: How many people gained the dreaded freshman 15? I did, and I didn't lose them until after I'd gotten my master's degree.

Daphne Oz, a student at Princeton, came up with a plan to ward off that beer-and-pizza weight gain, and wrote all about it in The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works. Aside from writing about the South Jersey shore, I also contribute articles to Men's Health,Oxygen and a slew of other fitness magazines, so I see a lot of these kinds of books. My conclusion: this one is sound, whether you live in a dorm or not.

Oz, like me, spent a lot of time on the Seven Mile Island as a kid, and shares my love of Green Cuisine restaurant in Stone Harbor which of cousre makes her perfect for a "Down the Shore with..." interview.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
My shore town would definitely be Stone Harbor, since I grew up going down there during the summers to my grandparent's home on the beach. Although they sold that house when I was about 10, I've never forgotten how much I loved the place.

2. I grew up spending my summers in Avalon and Stone Harbor, too -- what do
you think has changed the most?

I think what's best is that, even though I only go down a few weekends a year, Stone Harbor always brings me back to my childhood precisely because so little has changed. It's still the perfect North East beach community.

3. A lot of people go down the shore just to eat -- what's your favorite

That's an easy question: I've driven the 3 hours from my home to Stone Harbor just to have a California Sandwhich--avocado, mushrooms, sprouts, sweet peppers, and dressing on a whole wheat pita--at the Green Cuisine. Oh, and vanilla fudge from the Fudge Shoppe on special occasions.

4. What gave you the idea for the The Dorm Room Diet?
When I got to college, I realized what a unique environment it was. I wanted to get the full college experience without packing on weight, so I developed the tips and tricks that became the Dorm Room Diet largely so that I could live the best, healthiest college life possible. They worked so well for me that I had to write a book and share my advice with the students and young adults around me who were struggling with trying to find this balance.

5. Have you gotten a lot of your friends at Princeton to try it?
The beauty of the Dorm Room Diet is that there are no strict rule or regimes. To "go on" the DRD is simply to appreciate the DRD motto of "substitution where you can, moderation where you can't," which means you can eat anything you want, so long as you make conscious decisions to eat healthily where possible (trade that store-bought brownie in for an apple) and eat in moderation when you feel like indulging (definitely have a slice of your friend's wedding cake, or your favorite homemade goodie, but don't go back for seconds). There's nothing wrong with enjoying small portions of all the foods you love, just make sure that you don't overindulge yourself too often. This is definitely a guiding principle many people at Princeton have found useful.

6. You're already a published author -- what do you plan to do after you graduate?
After I graduate I would love to enter news broadcasting. And continue writing, hopefully!

7. I found it very difficult to eat healthy while down the shore. Any tips that I can take with me for summer 2008?
My tips for summer 2008 are first and foremost to enjoy yourself! Have fun making incredible memories with family and friends, and don't let "off limits" foods bog you down with anxiety and paranoia. Instead, follow the DRD principle outlined above and make sure that every time you can make a healthy substitution, you're doing your health a huge favor. But don't miss out on those special treats that may actually help you by fueling your resolve to eat healthily the rest of the time.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Check out these pics and these pics from a birder's visit to Cape May via Mark Thomas and his Bucketon Birder blog.

Here's an excellent article from The Philadelphia Inquirer about how the Tropicana is trying to regain ground in Atlantic City after all those reports about dirty rooms and bed bugs.

Why people think running into the ocean in January is a good idea, I don't know. But you can read all about it.

Chilly? Then you might want to check out the Sea Isle Chili festival, which takes place on Sunday.

I knew I made the right call with this one in my book: I wrote that there were plans for a rail line between NYC and AC, but that they weren't final. Lo and behold, construction is now slated to start in the summer (I was being told it would be done in time for the holidays -- the 2007 holidays).

Wonder what it's like to design a casino? Check out this Q&A with Kirk Harmon of the Harman Group.

Exciting! Cape May's got a Scrabble night!!!

Ever heard of eWomenNetwork? It's a fab networking group for women in South Jersey that's run by Marilyn Kleinberg, who lives in Egg Harbor Township. Check out an article about the first meeting here (yes, I'm a member and, yes, we had a lot of ladies from Atlantic City join us, so if you're interested, drop me a line at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com).

Pics of the Diving Horses that used to be a big draw in Atlantic City over at Blame it on the Voices. This isn't shore related, but you've also got to check out their post about a Duck Hunt painting.

Think the housing slump's going to make that South Jersey shore home affordable? Think again -- the numbers here say it all. Here's a Courier Post article to back it up.

If you're one of those people who carries her (or his) bag o' knitting stuff, you might want to read this article, which pegs Avalon and Stone Harbor as a knitting hot spot.

"Adults only" night at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor...and the headline for this one reads "Sex and the Sea." Um, weird.

What I'm Listening to: Soundtrack to Once. If you have not seen this movie, you must must must.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

My First Review

From Zoey Castelino: "Yes kids, there is much more to New Jersey than just Sopranos, strip-malls and oil refineries - and Jen is about to take your ass to school if you still think that the Garden State is the arm-pit of New York." Check out the rest at Zoey's blog.

My book (and this blog, for that matter) also got a metion on Philadelphia Will Do on Sunday. And the hits just keep on comin'...

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Housekeeping Part 2

This is a great way to start your Sunday: My post about going down the shore in the dead of winter was named "Blog of the Day" over at Jersey Blogs by Kathy Heyboer. The direct link is here.

Jersey Blogs is one of the many excellent blogs run by, which is part of the Star-Ledger. When people ask me which news outlets do blogs right, I point them to The majority of the blogs are interesting, up to date, and fun to read. I especially like John Shabe's The Jersey Side, and Jersey Blogs is a great way to stay updated with us in-state bloggers.

I've been blogging since July, and even though it's a lot of work, it's been an amazing way to reach readers from all over the world. I check my Statcounter daily to see who's visiting from where, and how they get here (I found the link to the post on Jersey Blogs via Statcaounter, for example). I get a lot of visitors from Google searches, but a lot of readers -- maybe you -- come here comments I leave on other blogs, too.

Being involved in the blogging world has helped me tap into those people who love the Jersey shore but might not read an article about the book in a local newspaper because they don't get that newspaper, or they might not read a magazine article about the book because they don't get that magazine. But they can log on and read, and I hope I've made it fun to come back.

Then there's the direct results: I was interviewed for the North/South Jersey movie because of the blog. Reporters and editors can see that I'm an 'expert' based on the blog posts -- even though the book's not out yet. I think that had something to do with the placement in Cool Cape May. And even though I don't technically get paid to write this blog, I think it'll work out in the long run. And it's fun to do. As much as I enjoy my magazine work, it's freeing to be able to write whatever I want without worry about word count, tone, or rounds of edits coming back from three different people.

Do you blog? If you do, what kind of results have you seen? Or, how did you get here, and why do you come back? Hit up the comments box. Until then, it's back to Sunday with Sinatra...

What I'm Reading: Design Flaws of the Human Conditionby Paul Schmidtberger
What I'm Listening to: Sunday with Sinatra

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Do You Scrabulous?

A reporter with the Press of Atlantic City is looking to talk to people from Atlantic/Cumberland/Ocean/Cape May county who play Scrabulous, the Facebook version of the classic Scrabble game.

Are you that person? If so, drop me a line at jenmiller27 [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

Even if you're not from one of those counties but am as addicted to Scrabulous as I am, start a game with me! My facebook link is on the left...

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First, thanks to Philebrity for linking to the "hot monster poop" picture yesterday. You can check out that original post here, and Philebrity's take on it here. Check out the comment, too. It's very funny.

Second: I've got signings! Signings galore! Here's what's coming up:

May 3: Sun Rose Words and Music in Ocean City, as part of their Spring Block Party. No time as of yet, but when I know, you'll know.
June 5: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, as part of Rutgers University Camden's Cappuccino Academy. I'll be talking about how to write about your own back yard. Starts at 7:30pm.
June 14: Robert Jay's Unforgettables in Collingswood, as part of Collingswood's Second Saturday event. I think we'll kick things off around 7:30pm, but that's not quite final yet.
June 21: Harbor Fest in Cape May. Not sure of location or time, but I've been asked to be part of the festival and of course I said yes.

Better get my pens ready!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

January at the Jersey Shore

I started working on my book in April 2007. Sure, I'd been doing research at home since January, but my on-the-ground work started when the temperatures started to heat up, and spring brought tourists back to the South Jersey shore.

But, as far as I can remember, I'd never been down the shore in the absolute dead of winter. I had no idea what to expect except cold.

My first stop was in Ocean City for a meeting with Michele Gillian, Communications Manager for Ocean City. I've made this drive so many times that I actually missed the Ocean City exit and wound up in Sea Isle and had to turn around and head back north via Ocean Drive. Most of the summer hot spots were closed -- the OD in Sea Isle looked downright sad (though they will be open for St. Patrick's Day it seems). But once I got to around 13th street along Asbury Avenue in Ocean City, I found life -- both people and businesses. It's easy to forget that people live in Ocean City, and they still need to go out for breakfast, go shopping, and go about their daily lives as if they were living near downtown Collingswood, which is active all year long (I know -- I live two blocks away from that one).

I worked with Michele throughout the summer -- she sent me pictures to be used in the book, and information about Ocean City events (there's about 150 in all). Plus, she's a real shore gal. She grew up in Margate, her mom was a Miss America chaperon, and she married into the Gillian family e.g. the folks behind Wonderland Pier and then some.

We talked about what I do, what she does, and how we might be able to promote the book together. She's the one who suggested that I do my first signing on May 3 at the Ocean City block party, and when I walked over to Sun Rose Words and Music with that suggestion, they were game. One email to my publisher, and that was set (I'm also going to be a judge at Ocean City's Miss Crustian beauty padgent -- BIG HONOR!) Then I stopped at Java Jake's to get something warm to drink (and asked if the guy behind the counter was Jake, figuring the owner would work the drinks in the winter -- and, yes, it was Jake), checked my email, and then stopped in Colette Boutique to ooo and ahhh at the sparkly dresses before heading south down Ocean Drive.

Most of the street traffic and people traffic were those involved in construction -- either renovating buildings or building new ones. The Avalon Wawa parking lot was packed with pick up trucks, and the shop filled with a lot of guys in overalls.

I stopped and had lunch at the Princeton in Avalon and was shocked to see both Circle Pizza and the Real Enchilada -- two spots that are known as post-bar stops -- open and doing business. Even Brian's Waffle House was open. I don't think of Avalon as a year round town, but someone's got to feed all the folks working for a living. I had to stop and take the picture to the left before I drove south -- check out the last line.

I didn't get down to Cape May until about 2pm, and my 'call time' was at 3pm. I had just enough time to check into Congress Hall and flop on the big, comfy white bed. My only regret of my entire trip was that I could only stay one night. I could have bunkered down in that big, beautiful room for a week. Instead of napping, though, I hooked up my laptop, sat in a squishy red chair and answered some emails with the ocean right outside my window before putting on 'photo shoot makeup' which, for me translates into 'regular makeup' since I don't usually wear any.

And after my freezing trip to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse, which you can read about here, and a walk on the beach, I did the same (e.g. worked) before drinks at the Brown Room and dinner at the Blue Pig Tavern -- both within Congress Hall, no coat required.

I'm going to write a longer piece about Congress Hall in the future, but if you can't wait for that, check out Tommy's Folly: Through Fires, Hurricanes and War, the Story of Congress Hall, Cape May, America's Oldest Seaside Hotel, the book about the building that was written by Jack Wright, the guy who took my picture yesterday. Fascinating stuff.

Then yesterday, after sleeping in, I had to hunt down breakfast -- not an easy task in the middle of the week. Dock Mike's was open, and after a big, fat breakfast, I soaked in the tub in my Congress Hall room, cleaned up and did a bit of shopping in Cape May. Washington Street Mall is torn up right now, and they couldn't pick a better time. The town was pretty sleepy, and not many shoppers are out on the street. I headed up to Antique Emporium to check out the vendor that sells vintage t-shirts and picked up one for Sea Isle and Atlantic City (my goal is to have one vintage tee for every shore town in my book -- if you have any suggestions, let me know!). Then it was back up the Garden State Parkway and to the 'real world.'

I understand now why people choose to live at the shore year round. I could have stayed longer, that's for sure, and I bet I'd get a lot more writing done when surrounded by that tranquility. Maybe I'd feel different if I actually tried it, though.

Even though the towns were quiet in the middle of this week, expect more people for the the Martin Luthur King Jr. weekend. Most closed shops posted signs saying they'd be open this weekend. I'll be at home, writing, so enjoy!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

At the Top of Cape May

So what's it like at the top of a lighthouse in the middle of January?


Yesterday, the folks at the Mid Atlantic Center for the Arts were kind enough to open the Cape May Lighthouse so Jack Wright, publisher of Exit Zero and of Cool Cape May, could take my picture to go with an essay that will appear in the 2008 edition of Cool Cape May. Notice how bundled up Jack is. Notice how much I am not. Oh, the things we do to sell a book or two.

It was fun being inside the lighthouse out of season -- like sneaking into school when no one's there in the summer. But it was a bit dirty and dusty. And what I'm standing in is exactly what you think it is. I think it's time to retire the Chucks.

More tomorrow about my other adventures down the shore...

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First Signing!

Mark your calendars, people: my first book signing is going to be on May 3 at Sun Rose Words and Music in Ocean City!

Sun Rose is a super cool independent book store that is featured in my book, and May 3 happens to be the date of Ocean City's street fair. How conveneint ;-)

I'm still in Cape May, looking out at the ocean from my room at beautiful Congress Hall. I'll post later about my adventures at the top of the lighthouse (Trish, to answer your question: with a blue t-shirt and a lot of willpower), and of driving through the South Jersey shore towns in the dead of winter. It's more interesting than you might think. And there are pictures. Lots of them. So stay tuned!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quick Hello from Ocean City!

Blogger is a beautiful thing. I can plop down wherever I can get an internet connection and type away for the world to read. In today's case, I'm at Java Jake's in Ocean City. I needed a pick me up after a few meetings I had in town, and before I head down to Cape May for my photo shoot. It just so happens that if you buy something at Java Jake's or the very funky cool Denovum next door, you can hop on the internet for free. Fun!

Asbury Avenue's not doing too bad for a weekday in January -- enough stores are open that I'm going to do a little browsing before I head down Ocean Drive. And since my earl gray tea is now done, off I go!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On the way to Cape May...and Ocean City...and Atlantic City

Tomorrow I'm having my picture taken for Cool Cape May. This is the first photo shoot being done in relation to promotion for my book. And, yes, I have spent far too much time thinking about what I'm going to wear only to come up with what I will probably wear in a lot of pictures: dark wash jeans, light blue fitted t-shirt (and probably my Chuck Taylors since I'm going to be at the Cape May Lighthouse (and possibly having my picture taken at the top -- 199 stairs is not meant to be climbed in heels). But, hey, if it works, it works.

On the way down, I'm stopping in Ocean City for a meeting, and on the way home on Thursday, I have a meeting in Atlantic City. Now that the book is less than four months away, I hope to be doing more of these promo trips.

Speaking of -- if you have any ideas of how YOU would promote this book, let me know!

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Speaker's Bureau

On Friday, I spoke on a panel about getting your business into print for the Jersey Shore Public Relations & Advertising Association.

I was glad the group reached out because I like speaking about the things you should (personalize your pitch) and should not (attach the release as a file instead of putting the message in the body of the email) do when pitching a writer, but I was surprised by the people in the audience: not one was from the South Jersey shore.

Granted, the meeting was in West Long Branch, which is far from my normal stomping grounds. But I thought maybe I'd get an Atlantic City person or two. No matter. I always enjoy meeting with other writers and editors, and talking to a group of people who care about what I have to say (as opposed to me sending pitches to editors that get lost in the internet oblivion).

It also gave me the chance to sharpen up my speaking skills as I'll be presenting to a few of the South Jersey shore chambers of commerce closer to the date of the book release. So here's my question to you: where else do you think I should look for speaking engagements related to the book and/or travel writing?

What I'm listening to: Z by My Morning Jacket
What I'm reading: Rules of the Game by Neil Strauss. Wondering why? Click here.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Down the Shore with...Philip E. Orbanes

If you know your Monopoloy, you know that the properties on the board are all named after streets in Atlantic City. Paul E. Orbanes, a former Parker Brothers executive, lets us know why and a whole lot more in Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game--And How It Got That Way.

Orbanes is also a South Jersey Shore product -- born in Somers Point and grew up in Goshen, which is in Cape May County. What better subject for a "Down the Shore with..." could you get?

1. Where did the idea for this book come from?
I've been interested in Monopoly since I was a kid in South Jersey. While I was working for Parker Brothers several years ago, I was asked to serve as chief judge at US and World Monopoly tournaments. I found I had a knack for this and have been judging these tournaments ever since. Along the way, the history of Monopoly became a serious interest for me. I decided to write the book to provide my readers with everything I've learned about the game's history and, amazingly, how much it has helped shape American history.

2. Why do you think Monopoly is so popular?
Monopoly's popularity is due to more than its board, pieces, cards, and money. It's what happens off the board -- the interaction between its players -- that drives is appeal. This makes every game fresh and interesting; it's timeless.

3. Why do you think there are so many myths surrounding how the game was created?
Unlike most games. Monopoly incubated for a very long time. Thirty years in all. Many people, from humble to famous, influenced the game that Parker Brothers acquired and published in 1935. This long gestation period provided lots of fodder for theories, rumors and "conspiracies." In reality, the truth is pretty clear and the story is fascinating.

4. Is there really any value to getting Baltic and Mediterranean? I've killed my brother on rental fees that way.
Baltic and Mediterranean are too cheap to provide "killer" rents. However, they provide a decent cash flow if you have hotels on them. Side note: the new Monopoly: Mega Edition includes skyscrapers and, for the first time, these two properties can win the game for you if you manage to build skyscrapers on them.

5. There'd been rumors a few years ago about changing the names of the properties on the 'classic' Monopoly format. Now why would anyone go and do that?
Fortunately, the classic game is the same today as it was in 1935. No property names have been changed. However, there are over 200 versions of the game where the properties are named after those found in states, cities, TV shows, movies, etc. For fans of these, Monopoly seems infinitely adaptable.

6. And what's one thing about Monopoly that not even die hard fans might not know?
It was used to smuggle escape tools and money to POWs in German prison camps during W.W.II. The British Secret Service was involved. Security was so tight, even the Secret Service didn't know this same factory, making Monopoly, was also working on secret projects for the British army. The truth about these was not revealed until 40 years after the war ended.

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Nitro Girl on the Colbert Report

If you've ever taken the Black Horse Pike from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore, you've seen Nitro Girl. Now she's gotten her due spotlight on the Colbert Report. See that video here.

I would like to point out that Nitro Girl was not always painted as Nitro Girl (not that I remember, anyway -- as I recall, her previous outfit involved a green and yellow outfit). But, hey, whatever gets you on national TV, right?

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Ooooo! Buried treasure!

Curtis Bashaw, the guy behind Congress Hall and the under-construction Chelsea, to buy the Tropicana? More about that here.

Speaking of Congress Hall, yoga buffs might be interested in one of their specials.

It's not driving to the shore without tolls. They're about to get a lot more expensive.

Here's a round up of what's coming for Atlantic City, construction wise.

And here's a big, fat write up of what exactly will be in that new MGM complex.

Ocean City's getting a new bike trail.

If you rent out your shore house, you'll be interested in this blog post.

Want to get married in Atlantic City on Valentine's Day? They'll be doing a group ceremony.

Wildwood might not be living up to NJ's affordable housing agreement (what about the other shore towns, I ask?)

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Article: Self-employed, and going it alone

My apologies for two non-shore posts in a row, but it's 8am, and I've already received four emails about an op/ed I wrote for today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

It's about the struggle self-insured folks have in trying to find affordable health insurance and how, at least in New Jersey, it's almost non-existent (depending on how you define "affordable.") I also know a lot of writers read this site, so it'll probably interest them as well.

You can read that commentary here.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Article: Helping us to help ourselves

Not a shore-related article, I know, but wrote a piece for Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer about the self help book industry. It's not my first time writing for Image, but it is the first time I've been assigned a piece for image (the other time was a book review that was moved over from A&E). You can read that here. Enjoy the piece, whether you like self help or not. Like any good journalist, I fall somewhere in between.

And if you really like books, you can check out my other blog project, "Book a Week with Jen."

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Tired of this bitter cold? The Wetlands Institute (1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., Stone Harbor, 609-368-1211) is holding an indoor beach bash on January 19.

Or you can check out Stone Harbor pictures from the 10-22-05 blog, which looks forward to summer 2008 by looking back at summer 2007.

People are crazy, I tell you. Some jump into the ocean on New Year's day. Here's an article about the nuts...I mean brave ones in Ocean City.

A lot of people go to Cape May for the B&Bs, but it's also a national if not international birding site. But that's in danger (as is this entire great big world).

Well, that didn't last long: the direct flight between Las Vegas and Atlantic City is no more.

Hate seagulls? Then you'll love this. Animal lover? Then you'll hate it.

And, finally, Zoey Castelino of Zoey's World, who I've linked to before, put up a lovely post about my book. Check that out here.

What I'm Listening to: Z by My Morning Jacket

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