Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Shore Weekend

Still hungover from Memorial Day Weekend? Tough. Lots going on down the shore (though I'll be in Berlin, NJ for a wedding):

Bodies: The Exhibition is now at Trump Taj Mahal. I saw a version of this in Philadelphia. Interesting but creepy.

Kathy Griffin is playing the Borgata Friday and Saturday.

Cheryl Crow will also be at the Borgata, but only on Friday night.

One more: Bill Mahar will be playing the Borgata on Sunday night.

Alicia Keys will be at Trump Taj Mahal on Saturday.

But best of all: WAYNE NEWTON! He's at Harrah's on Saturday and Sunday.

The Ocean City Flower Show
is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ocean City is also have a spring festival on the boardwalk on Saturday and Sunday.

There's a surf competition in Sea Isle City on Saturday.

There's a big motocross to do in Wildwood this weekend.

Also, stay tuned to this site for a very special announcement. It'll be grand.

Digg this

Thursday, May 29, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

We're coming up on turtle season. VERY IMPORTANT: Here's what to do if you find one.

Outdoor dining in
Sea Isle City?

Here's some fun pictures from a Stone Harbor trip.

Tri for our Veterans was in Sea Isle City last weekend. Here's a recap.

More on that wonderful AC government: document shredding!

Here's a few shots of Strathmere.

As expected, the shore did well over Memorial Day Weekend.

A former Atlantic City marina caught on fire.

There was also a fire on the Wildwood boardwalk.

Atlantic City gambling turns 30.

But things aren't looking so rosy.

Parking at the Atlantic City airport is going up.

Here's a very cool video about the upgraded Cape May Stage.

Here's an update on that Atlantic City to New York rail line. Target date is early 2009.

Write up of new Borgata tower. Now, I'm not usually one to say "I told you so," but I was scolded -- SCOLDED -- by a PR person when I said to an editor (after doing the research and making the calls, all backed up by having worked part time for a construction management company since I was 16 years old) that I didn't think the tower would open for June 1, let alone Memorial Day weekend. Ribbon cutting date? June 27 with first reservations being taken June 10. Unless Memorial Day suddenly jumped to June...

Digg this

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

R.I.P: Carolyn Pitts

Sad news today: Carolyn Pitts has died. Pitts was a major player in getting Cape May to be to named a National Historic landmark, something she did without the approval of the town's Mayor, congressman, senator or even the governor of New Jersey. Without here, Cape May most likely wouldn't have all those Victorian buildings that make it what it is today.

Read the full obituary here.

Digg this

Highlights From the Campground

I spent my Memorial Day Weekend (or six-day promo trip) at Avalon Campground which is where (as you'll see in my book) I spent my summers as a kid. It's a fun alternative to the crowded beach towns. It's not too far from the beach, but tucked away in the woods enough so that it's an escape. I spent a good deal of time on the islands this weekend, and as much as I wanted to participate in the 'hey, it's summer' festivities, I needed a break. I don't think I would have done well on a jam packed Memorial Day weekend.

That's not to say that the campground was empty -- quite the opposite. The weather was perfect for camping, whether to you camping means tents and bath houses or trailers with air conditining (I'm the latter). Here's some highlights:

1. I went trail running for the first time, and by that I don't mean on the campground streets (which are paved anyway). I ran back in an area that is marked private property. I wasn't a very adventurous kid, but I used to sneak back in that direction anyway. Probably the 'worst' thing I ever did as a teenager, and it was thrilling to do it again, though I think the thrill was more from running next to two deer than being where I shouldn't be.

2. Poolside. Avalon Campground has two pools, and on Sunday when I didn't have enough time to go to the beach, me and my sister spent a few hours by those pools (doused in suntan lotion of course). Some things never change. One pool is still the 'cold pool,' and kids jump in it as a dare. The girls and boys still flirt, but not obviously so, and parents still watch to make sure those kids don't get into any trouble. Someone tries to set up chairs on the shuffleboard only to be kicked off. And the lifeguard keeps telling people not to run. Doesn't usually work, though.

3. Strawberries. One thing about being down the shore is that I don't hit the Collingswood Farmer's Market. I was more than pleased, then, with the Clinton Conover farm on Route 9, which is the same place we got produce as a kid. Those strawberries were perfection.

4. Campfire. My hat still smells like campfire smoke. I didn't cook anything (I'm going pretty much vegetarian these days), but sitting by the campfire with a good glass of wine was a great tonic to a busy week. And to the person who stole my kindling: Do you know what it's like to spend a half hour picking out the perfect assortment of small to medium-sized wood, then go outside to start your fire and have nothing? I'm glad you got caught red handed swiping firewood. Bah.

5. Teddy. Teddy was a 12 year old Corgi vacationing across the street from me this weekend. For the first leg of the trip, she was accompanied by a rather jumpy (and puppyish) white dog, and even though Teddy's an older gal, she could keep up -- or run away, whichever she felt like. Teddy was so short that her legs got lost in the leaves. A little boy followed her around saying "Hey. Hey. Hey." Today, Teddy sprinted across the street to greet me, then played hide-and-go-seek with said young boy and his older brother while the rest of the family packed up. It made me miss my dog so very much (you can't have dogs in rented trailers/cabins). I was more excited to see her than anything else when I got home, and she seemed happy enough. She's spent the day following me around the house, which she doesn't usually do, hence why I was startled to get out of the shower and find a dog keeping watch on the bath mat.

Is it good to be home? Yes. Did I have a good time? Absolutely. Am I ready for more? Of course! I'll be writing about the shore all week (and not just on the blog -- for stuff that actually, um, pays the mortgage!)

Digg this

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And we're back...

I'm back from the shore. I had a great weekend, and there was tons to see and do -- too much, if you ask me. But it's just the start of the season.

Like anyone who's spent six days away from home and work,I've got a lot to do, so until I can get back to regular blogging, check out Kristen A. Graham's story from today's Philadelphia Inquirer. It's shore, and it's moving.

Digg this

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day, folks! I'm still down the shore (though I will be 'returning' to work today by reporting for a shore-related story I have due next week), and I'll be here until tomorrow. I've been staying in a campground, which has been lovely. Folks are packing up their trailers and tents and will be headed home soon. I'll sort of miss the company of all the kids and dogs and music and campfires, but it'll be nice to have to the woods back to myself tonight. And I sure as heck won't miss the jam ups that'll be filling the AC Expressway on the way home.

So I hope you have a lovely day and I'll be blogging back at ya tomorrow!

Digg this

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Down the Shore with Preston & Steve

On Friday, I got up early and headed over to Keenan's in North Wildwood for the Preston & Steve official kick off to summer (though I thought I kicked it off last weekend when I hit the pool at Congress Hall, but I digress...)

I knew it was a big booze bash, but even so, I was surprised by how big a booze bash it was.

This was the scene at around 7:30am:

Runners in the 'beer mile,' in which they had to drink a beer, run a lap, drink a beer, and so on:

This is how things looked at about 9:30am:

I had one beer with a group of bikers who protected me from drunk chicks, but I didn't imbibe like a lot of people did -- I have no idea how anyone could stomach Jager let alone Jager mixed with Red Bull so early in the AM. And I had to get down to Wildwood for the preview of the Kite Festival.

Speaking of Wildwood, here's some hot 2008 boardwalk fashion:

I've had a lot of talks about the Wildwood boardwalk...some people love it, some people hate it. I think it's different, and people embrace it or shun it for that reason. You'd be hard pressed to find t-shirts like this in, say, Ocean City, and I felt at times that I was in a haze of cigarette smoke. But it certainly was a scene, and pizza from Mack's was fantastic.

Anyway, I'm having a good yet busy weekend. If you want to follow along, you can check out my Twitter stream here.

Digg this

What is Jersey Shore Decor?

I ventured to find out in this Philadelphia Inquirer article. Enjoy.

Digg this

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Today I went to the Wildwoods International Kite Festival, an amazing display of what you can do with nylon, string and wind. Here's some pictures:

If you go (and it'll be there on Sunday and Monday), get one of those free green wrist bands so you can go on the exhibit 'sand.' Well worth it!

Digg this

Quick Tip

Quick tip, bargain hunters: Cape May Stage is having a 'pay what you can' night. Check it out here!

Digg this

Friday, May 23, 2008

Your Shore Weekend

It’s finally here: the kick off to summer 2008. We’ve had nice weather for the last two days, and it’s only going to get better. So here’s what’s in store down the shore.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s….kites? That’s right! This weekend is the 28th Annual Wildwood Kite Festival, the largest kite festival in the United States. Things kick off on Friday with a Nite Kite Fly at 9pm between Rio Grande Ave. and Andrews Ave. The rest of the weekend will feature kite vendors, shows and lessons. Don’t think kite flying’s fun? I didn’t either – until I tried it.

Resorts is 30! Resorts was the first Atlantic City casino, so they’re celebrating in style, starting with firewords on Friday night at 9:30pm. On Monday at noon, the 30 skydivers from Freefall Adventures will skydive in the area in front of Resorts, doing tricks and stunts on the way down. Also on Monday, from 11am to 6pm, Resorts is holding a Memorial Day block party (and it’s free!)

Justin Catanuso, author of My Cousin the Saint, will be signing copies of his book at Woodland Village on Sunday at 1pm.

Woodland Village is also having a sidewalk sale this weekend.

Today at noon, you can check out the “Unlocking of the Ocean” ceremony in Wildwood at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

There’s also a Boardwalk Craft Show in Wildwood on Saturday and Sunday.

If you're bringing your dog with you this weekend, check out Barks on the Boards in Ocean City on Sunday.

Jane Seymour a.k.a. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman a.k.a. “Call me Cat…Kitty Cat” is having an art show at Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor. It starts today and runs through June 1. They’ll have gallery receptions on today, tomorrow and Sunday.

Check out the parking lot of Star of the Sea Parish in Cape May for crafts and antiques on Saturday.

Lots of concerts this weekend. The big one is Eric Clapton at the Borgata on Sunday. Paul Anka’s playing the Borgata tonight; Kenny Rogers is at Trump Plaza tonight and tomorrow; Eddie Money is at the House of Blues at the Showboat on Sunday; Patti LaBelle is also at the House of Blues but on Saturday; Andre Rieu and His Johann Strauss Orchestra area at Boardwalk Hall on Sunday; Sister Hazel and Edwin McCain are at the Tropicana on Saturday; Split Decision is at the Gypsy Bar in the Borgata on Friday, and at La Costa in Sea Isle City on Saturday and Sunday; and Natalie Cole will be at Resorts on Saturday and Sunday. (One to put on your calendar: reggae nights start at Club Worship at Showboat on June 5 and will run on Thursdays throughout the summer – oh, and the Killers are coming to the Borgata on August 1. I’ve seen them live before. Definitely worth it.)

For yucks, Jerry Seinfeld is at Caesars on Saturday; Larry the Cable Guy is at Trump Taj Mahal on Saturday and Sunday; and Dave Attell will be at the Borgata on Sunday.

Carmen Electra will be appearing at The Pool at Harrah’s on Saturday with DJing by DJ Gabor. Doors open at 10. I’ve gotten a few emails about this one. I don’t quite get the appeal, but, hey, they sold out Telia Tequilla night.

The Windrift in Avalon is debuting its new sushi/oyster bar (and of COURSE will have live music all weekend).

Flounder season starts on Saturday.

As for me, I’m starting off the weekend at 93.3 WMMR’s Memorial Day Weekend kickoff party at Keenan’s in North Wildwood. Them I’m off to the media preview of the Kite Festival in Wildwood, then up to The Princeton in Avalon for a 2pm interview (hopefully my hair will still look nice since they’re taking my picture). So if you’re headed into town early, stop by and say hi. After that? I’m going to enjoy the shore like a vacationer. Imagine that 

Digg this

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Best NJ Beaches

The list of best NJ beaches is out. Click here to see the final results.

I'm going to be Switzerland on this one. Like I said in my "downashore" interview, things like that are so incredibly personal that I don't think it's easy to say definitively which one is best.

But people are going to talk about it, and if you'd like to give you opinion in the comments section, go right ahead. Me? I'll keep that one to myself!

Digg this

Picture of the Day

From Clinton & Conover on Route 9 in Clermont. And, yes, they taste as good as they look.

Digg this

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

The worst kind of reminder: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.

Hey, the Courier Post agrees -- people will still go down the shore, no matter how high the gas prices.

Another Chowhound discussion of shore restaurants. Care to chime in?

Speaking of money savers, here's free things to do down the shore.

Ocean City's becoming more bike friendly.

Keep it up, Matt! The tri is here soon!

Another new restaurant in Stone Harbor.

A nice round up of shore eateries (and, yes, that's me as an 'expert'!)

Digg this

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lights, Camera, Seagulls

I was on the NBC10 show this evening, which was a whole lot of fun. You can see the entire segment here. For some extra fun, here's a picture of the setup:

And what you couldn't see:

Yes, I'm wearing my big, ugly yellow Crocs. In my defense, I hurt my ankle a few weeks ago and am still recovering, and I had heels in my bag. But you can't seem them on camera, right?

After filming, I booked it over the The Inlet in Somers Point for a book event, which was a blast. The swordfish entree is amazing -- perfect for after a long day of running around.

Digg this

Programming Notes

I'm packed and ready to go. Before I hit the AC Expressway, a few notes:

1. I'm scheduled to be on NBC 10 between 5 and 6pm today! They filmed at my house yesterday and I should be doing a live spot from the Ocean City boardwalk. So tune in!

2. I'll be at The Inlet in Somers Point tonight from 6-8pm. I'll be signing (and selling books) and praying that the weather will hold so I can hang out on their beautiful deck.

3. On Thursday, I'll be at the Brown Room in Congress Hall in Cape May. That's another 6-8pm one.

4. I'll also be at the 93.3 WMMR party at Keenan's in Wildwood on Friday. Not sure how early I'll get there (do people really start lining up at dawn?) but I'll make my way to the party.

5. And finally, I'm scheduled to be interviewed at the Princeton in Avalon at 2pm on Friday. If you're headed down early for Memoridal Day weekend, stop by!

Digg this

Prediction: Top 5 Songs of the Summer

Every summer has it's 'song.' Down the shore, it's the one they'll play at the height of the night at those party hardy bars, like The Princeton, The OD and Keenans. Last year, it was Timbiland's "Way I Are" (the song with that "I ain't got a motorboat but I can float your boat" line). Here's my prediction for the top five soon-to-be-annoying songs of the Jersey Shore.

5. "Take You There" by Sean Kingston. I know, I know -- it's a little bit older, but it wasn't around last summer, and the theme of taking you away and sipping drinks that require little umbrellas will hit home with the Miller light pounding crowd. Nevermind that the Jersey Shore isn't tropic -- it won't matter for the same reason people have no problem using palm trees in their shore homes.

4."Beat It" by Fall Out Boy. Gotta give one to the gentlemen -- not that ladies will hate the song, but I have a feeling it'll be more popular with guys, especially as a break to over-produced songs that will dominate. It's a catchy cover and Michael Jackson songs are always popular down the shore.

3. "4 Minutes" by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. It's a good song, a really good song, and it's catchy with a good beat. It won't be as overblown as SexyBack (which you'll still hear throughout the summer), but a nice loud one to put on to get people moving.

2. "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis. A slow song? Not quite -- you'll hear a techno-ized version of this "I have a broken heart" song. It's a downer, right? That's exactly why it'll be so popular, especially with the ladies. When it comes on, every recently dumped woman, or that friend you have who keeps going back to the same dirtbag, is going to stop and get sad. Maybe she'll cry. There's always crying drunk girls in the bathrooms, and this is the song that'll them over the edge. They'll also take it as a 'sign' to text said dirtbag. I'm not making fun of these women -- I was there myself -- but this song is what'll send them to the bar or the bathroom, or both.

1. "Damaged" by Danity Kane. Song for the same crowd, but for those at the "I got my heart broken but I'm over it and I want to stick my tongue down your throat" stage, even if they're NOT over it and could revert back to song #2 status at the drop of a hat (or a text message). It's going to spur new hook ups all over the Jersey Shore. Boys, take note: this would be the time to make your move.

Digg this

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saving on Your Shore Vacation

No doubt about it, driving down the shore is going to be more expensive this year. $4 gas? Haven't seen it yet in New Jersey, but I won't be shocked when I do.

Here's a few ways to save.

Coupon Clipper. Find the town’s chamber of commerce or tourism office. Not only do they give out free maps, but most shore towns create coupon books that offer discounts on everything from food to amusement parks.

Go Off Peak. This doesn’t mean you have to walk the beach in December. Most hotels and B&Bs charge more in July and August. Try a June vacation, or September if the kids aren’t in school. It’s a lot cheaper, and less crowded.

Or Book Late. If you must go in August, and haven’t thought about where you’ll stay until then, ask hotels and B&Bs if they offer any “procrastinator’s specials.” That late in the season, many places are trying to fill rooms any way they can, so they’ll drop the price to get you in rather than leave a room empty.

Special Events = Special Savings. If the town is running any special events, check with restaurants, retailers, hotels and B&Bs to see if they’re offering any promotional tie ins. For example, the weekend of the Ocean Drive 10miler and Marathon, shore hotels and even restaurants ran special deals for us runners.

Souvenir Savings. You don’t have to pay through the nose for souvenirs. Check local grocery stores, which usually carry town-branded items, like t-shirts and mugs, at lower prices.

BYOB. Why pay the mark up? Bring your own at the shore's BYOBs. I marked which spots allowed you to do this in my book (plug plug plug!) I'm headed down the shore today and will be picking up a few bottles of vino on my way in to take to dinner.

Digg this

Camera man!

I am typing to you as being filmed by NBC10 for a spot to be aired tomorrow night. Everyone say hello to the camera!

Digg this

On the radio

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to 93.3 WMMR this morning to hear me bather on about the shore. It was good fun...though I admit I was quite nervous, which would explain my slouched posture in this picture (which was taken by the folks from Dixie Picnic, by the way -- and, yes, there is a dozen Upcakes on my dining room table at the moment).

I also had a chance to meet one of the Harrah's girls.

They'll be giving away free rooms keys at 15th and Market today in Philadelphia. I was going to try to head to Center City to get one, but she was kind hand over one of the keys to me while we were in studio :-)

Digg this

From South to North and Back Again

I'm going to admit it in public: I cheated. On the South Jersey shore, that is. And had a blast doing it.

On Sunday, I drove from Cape May up to Union Beach, NJ, which is near the top of New Jersey's coast (most people would call that area Central Jersey, though these guys are the experts on that). From there, I proceeded to Sandy Hook, which is the most northern shore spot in New Jersey. I'd never been there before, and was amazed by everything there was to do.

Sandy Hook is undeveloped -- well, at least recently. It was an army base and still home to some military, but most of the area is dedicated to birding, surfing, swiming, and what I did, albeit it in the rain: kite flying.

I also checked out the History House, which is a restored 1898 lieutenant's residence along "Officers Row" re-done to reflect the World War II era. Here's a few shots:

After that, it was off to dinner at Moonstruck in Asbury Park. I couldn't tell you much about the moon that night, but there was a beautiful complete rainbow we could see from the restaurant's deck.

I had fun. That area of the shore is very new to me, so I'm still exploring, but I think I'll go back again.

Thanks to everyone who came out to Pop Shop quizzo last night. I had a blast! Hope the questions weren't too hard ;-)

Digg this

Monday, May 19, 2008

Preston and Steve

I'll be on the Preston and Steve show -- 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia -- on Tuesday at 9am. So tune in! And if you don't have a Philadelphia area radio (or can't listen at work), you can click in here to listen online.

Digg this

Book Launch Party Pictures

I had my official book launch party on Wednesday night. Special thanks to Paige Wolf Media and Public Relations and ONE at Rittenhouse for making the whole thing happen.

Here's some party pictures, starting with the cake my sister made:

All photos (except the last one) by Marc Steiner of Agency New Jersey.

Good times! And, hey, I'm having two more -- and these are open to the public. The first is on Wednesday at The Inlet in Somers Point from 6-8pm. The second is on Thursday at Congress Hall in Cape May from 6-8pm in the Brown Room. What a great way to kick off Memorial Day weekend!

Digg this

Down the Shore with...Justin Catanoso

If you've read my book, you know that I'm a big fan of Avalon Campground. I've spent many summers there (and will be there this weekend). Justin Catanoso, author of My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles, is part of the family that has run the campground for 40 something years now. Even though he now lives in North Caroline, he'll be doing a signing down the shore on Saturday.

1. I feel odd asking a shore native what his 'favorite' shore town is. So why don't you tell us instead what it was like growing up down the shore?
I surely didn't realize it at the time, but I loved the smallness of it. Growing up on an island, just three blocks from the ocean, is something people dream about. But that's what we all did in the Catanoso family. Whatever wasn't within walking distance I could ride my bike to, including my cousins' house, my dad's business, my elementary and high school, my sports practices and games, even some dates (the boardwalk in winter if a great place to take a teen-age date!). I took growing up in North Wildwood for granted until I got to Penn State for my freshman year. When I would tell people where I was from, they would almost always respond: "You're from Wildwod?! I didn't think anybody actually lived there!" Of course, half the campus seemed to own a kelly green Shamrock Cafe tee-shirt, which was owned by the Ward family in Wildwood Crest. Eileen Ward was a good friend in high school.

2. What do you think has changed the most?
Everything, at least in Wildwood. Growth and development over time does that. Some of it's good, like ripping out the ill-conceived pedestrian mall on Pacific Avenue. Some of it not-so-good, like the quickly built condos crowding every available lot and corner. But the Morey family is to be commended for taking what is unique about Wildwood -- it's amusement piers and small, unique, non-chain motels -- and building a brand around it.

3. How did this book come about?
On Oct 20, 2005, I had a commentary on National Public Radio titled Our Cousin the Saint. It aired three days before the canonization of Padre Gaetano Catanoso at the Vatican. My commentary raised questions of what it meant to have a saint in the family when you're in need of a miracle. A wonderful literary agent, Randi Murray, was listening in California. She called and asked if I would be interested in writing a book based on the commentary. I was skeptical , at first, that there was a book there. But with Randi's help, I began to think otherwise. We had a book contract with HarperCollins within five months.

4. How did you end up in North Carolina?
I am a journalist and have been writing for newspapers since high school, when I used to cover local sports for The Wildwood Leader. I studied journalism at Penn State and dreamed of one day writing for the New York Times or Philadelphia Inquirer. In the 1980s, North Carolina was known for having great daily newspapers in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, places where you could make a mark in a few years and move on to bigger things. I was hired by the News & Record in Greensboro in April 1987, after having worked at papers in State College, Pa., and Knoxville, Tenn. I thought I would stay a few years, make my mark and head back to the northeast. It didn't happen, for many reasons. The Triad region of central North Carolina is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. My three daughters were born here. As a journalist, I have always found the work here challenging and rewarding. My wife, who is a singer and songwriter, has found wonderful opportunities here as well. After a while, place starts to feel like home. That's what North Carolina has been for us.

5. Tell us the details of your signing.
My brother Lenny owns the Woodland Village on Route 9 in Clermont, adjacent to the Garden Greenhouse & Nursery, just a short drive from the island resorts. My entire family has been enormously supportive of me during this entire book-writing project. When we talked about how to get the word out in Cape May County, where much of Part I of the book is set, Lenny suggested a book discussion and signing at his retail village. I loved the idea. We'll get started around 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 25. I plan to talk about my experiences these past few years, perhaps share the videos I made with the help of a friend while visiting Italy two months ago, maybe even read a passage or two from the book. Lenny will have books for sale, of course, and I would be honored to sign one for whomever would like to share in this story.

6. What are on your 'must do list' while you're here?
It's a quick visit, just two days. Much of that time will be spent visiting with my parents, my brother and sister, and if I can catch up with him, my best pal since birth, my cousin Anthony, who runs Steel Pier in Atlantic with his brothers City. Since I don't live near the beach now (the NC coast is four hours from my home in Greensboro), I always try to make time for a walk along the shoreline. And if I can tear Lenny away from his work, we love to go kayaking in the sound behind Avalon. It is one of nature's most amazing wildlife preserves. Simply beautiful.


Digg this

Quizzo, tonight!

Tonight I'll be co-hosting Quizzo at the Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ at 7:30pm. It's great fun -- family friend (though BYOB if you'd like). I'm doing one round of shore trivia. So if you're around, come on out!

Digg this

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Must Read: Lovehampton

Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer featured my picks for summer beach reads. If you're a 20 or 30-something in a house with 12 of your closest friends this summer, you MUST read Sherri Rifkin's LoveHampton. Here's what I wrote in the Inquirer:

"Replace "Hampton" with "Avalon," and you've got your typical thirtysomething's Jersey Shore house, complete with roommate spats, romances and that one too-young person eager to prove she's mature enough to hang with the crowd. The plot's a little silly and very predictable, but Love Hampton is still a fun, funny ride."

I wrote a longer review on my Book a Week with Jen blog, which you can read here.

Obviously, the book doesn't take place down the shore, but so much of what happens is typical, especially that rule about not hooking up with your roommates -- a rule that's always broken. I laughed at a lot of spots in the book, and you might, too.

Digg this

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Going to the Chapel...

...or Peter Shields Inn. Whatever works for you.

I'm typing at you from Cape May, which was the site of not one, not two, not three, but NINE weddings today (that according to the president of the Chamber of Commerce). I'm here for my dad's wedding...which didn't even happen today. He took his trip down the aisle last night.

Though I wouldn't have minded a wedding today. The weather was gorgeous. I spent most of the day by the pool at Congress Hall (in a bikini I got for $10 at the Cape May sidewalk sale -- SWEET). Yesterday, though, it poured. And I'm not talking cats and dogs poured, I'm talking about the ocean falling down on your head poured.

My dad and his new wife had wanted to get married on the beach. Thank goodness they had a backup plan of getting married in the dining room at Peter Shields. My poor dad got soaked just from going from the car to the inn. We had to use a blow dryer to make him presentable

I managed to stay dry, though:

It was a lovely ceremony. Here's a few wedding pictures:

Me and my siblings:

We hit the Brown Room at Congress Hall after. By the time they started buying tequilla shots, I hit the hay. Here's my little brother getting into a picture:

Today I did exactly what I set out to do: exactly nothing. Hoping to catch some zzzz's before my drive to Asbury Park tomorrow morning. There's a wedding going full swing downstairs, though. Might have to try to pop in ;-)

Digg this

Weekend Wash Up: On the Way to Cape May

I'm in Cape May this's a nice short video about the beach!

Digg this

Friday, May 16, 2008

Your Shore Weekend

Reminder: I'll be on SoJo 104.9 from either 8:20 to 8:30am or 9:20 to 9:30am today. Tune in!

If Memorial Day weekend is the official start of the summer season, then this weekend is the soft opening. Why? Because a lot of people who rent out shore houses for the summer can get into their places tomorrow, so expect crowds at the usual 20 and 30 something hang outs like The Princeton in Avalon, The OD in Sea Isle and Keenan's in North Wildwood. I'll be in Cape May for my father's wedding but might be taking a trip up Ocean Drive to hang out with friends.

Here's what else is cooking:

Chris Rock does Atlantic City on Friday and Saturday nights at the Borgata.

Jim Breuer is doing the Boragata, too, but only on Saturday.

The American Heart Association HeartWalk is on Saturday in Ocean City.

The Wheaton Arts Cultural Center his holding their Paperweight Fest on Saturday from noon to 5pm.

For bargain shoppers: there's a community yard sale in Stone Harbor on Saturday.

Boy and Girl Scouts will be swarming Wildwood at the Spring Beach Jam.

The Nature Center of Cape May is holding a spring open house on Friday and Saturday.

You'll also want to check out today's Philadelphia Inquirer for a shore guide, which is tucked into the weekend section. I wrote three articles: "Kid-friendly activities for rainy or dull days," "Fun books to beguile lazy, sun-soaked days" and "Music, kids event at book fete." The last one isn't shore related, but still about a neat event.

Digg this

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Quick non-newsy note: I'm going to be on SoJo 104.5 on Friday morning, either between 8:20 and 8:30am or 9:20 an 9:30am.

Onto the news...

Early word is that the Wildwoods are named among New Jersey's Top Ten Beaches in a public survey completed this spring by the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium (NJMSC). I'm guessing that they were all counted together as "The Wildwoods" instead of each one individually. I'm trying to get the rest of the list (which is officially supposed to go out on May 22, but if I'm getting press releases, someone has to have it...) **UPDATE** Ocean City has confirmed that they are going to be named a top beach as well.

Here's a write up of the World Series of Birding.

People really want to work at the Cheslea. But will it open on time? I'd put money on them hitting their deadline over the new Borgata tower.

Trump's still looking for someone to buy his casinos.

Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer write up of Monday's storm. Here's mine. has the stats.

Stone Harbor's having doggie-OK beach times. Emily, my dog, will be so pleased.

Get your quarters ready.

Cape May's Convention hall is closed for good.

But at least they have an architect for the new one.

Digg this

For Pop Pop

A year ago today, my grandfather Tony Verzella passed away. The book is dedicated to him, and he had an unbelievable impact on the person I am today.

Below is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. It is the most important and most difficult thing I've ever written. I'm going to try not to be sad today, and celebrate the life he lived.


There’s a lot of words I could use to describe Anthony Verzella. As I prepared this eulogy, I asked for suggestions, and one of the most common words suggested was “gigantic.” When I was a kid, I just thought he was a giant. At 6 foot two, he was tall and solid, built like an oak tree. People have always told me that he had the biggest hands of anyone they’d ever met. They looked like roots – strong, well grounded and with a long history.

Tony, as most people called him, was the son of Italian immigrants. His father worked in the steel mills in western Pennsylvania, and Tony did, too. But after taking shop classes in high school, knew that he wasn’t going to follow in his father’s footsteps. He lied about his age to enlist in the military, and served for the Navy in the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign. While aboard the USS St. Louis, his ship was attacked twice, once by kamakazi. He was awarded a purple heart and still has shrapnel lodged in his body. When he left for Japan, he also left a girlfriend back home. They went to the same high school, and he sat in front of her in class. While he was overseas, he wrote Elizabeth Vohar a letter, asking her if she would be his wife. She said yes – for 62 years.

After Tony returned to the United States and worked for the Navy in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the young family moved to New Jersey, first to Collingswood and then Bellmawr, where he would live for the rest of his life. His first job was as a cabinet maker, and he built television sets. After his son Tony was born, he looked for better paying work, and he found it as a carpenter with L.F. Driscoll Co., where he worked for over 30 years. In his time as carpenter, foreman and, as most of you know, superintendent, he helped shape the Philadelphia we know today – Rittenhouse Hotel, Doubletree Hotel, PennWalt and Liberty One are just a few Tony Verzella jobs. He also built his share of churches and schools, and once threw a priest off the jobsite because he was getting in the way. Years later, that priest, who was by that time Bishop George Guilfoyle, confirmed my brother. Of course he remembered Tony – fondly – as the carpenter with big hands.

Tony was also a father, grandfather and great grandfather. Eight children, twenty-five grandchildren and one great grandchild have all been blessed to be a part of his family. He was already retired by the time I was able to start remembering him, and I’ve keep him in my mind as a strong and playful pop pop. He loved to polka and jitterbug, and kept whimsical, mechanical toys in his basement, supposedly bought for the grandkids, but I think he enjoyed them while we weren’t around. He taught me how to play pool, catch lightening bugs, crack walnuts, and clean a crab. He taught us all about honor, respect, the importance of family, why you should always do the job right the first time, and how to kill ’em with kindness. He was tough, but always fair, and I think that’s the right way to be.

After he retired, he kept working, building in his workshop that always smelled of sawdust and cigars, even after grandmom made him quit. As he grew older, he invented or altered the mechanisms around him so that he could keep working. When his knees made it difficult for him to rake the yard, he made his lawn tractor into a leaf blower so that he could corral the leaves into one pile for easy collection. When he wasn’t able to move heavy items to and from the second floor of his garage, he created a leverage system from a boat winch, electric motor and cables. He set the speed to slow so that he could hook up something upstairs, turn on the motor, and he’d be able to walk downstairs and be waiting for the item before it hit the ground. At 81, he put an addition on that garage. Solo. When his kids said they worried he’d fall off the ladder, he showed them that he’d already chained himself to it.

And in the last years of his life, after a series of medical set backs, and as he worked through physical therapy in order to walk again and dance at his granddaughter’s wedding, he orchestrated the creation and construction of a set of stairs that he could use for his rehabilitation exercises. He wasn’t able to build them himself, but he was, until the end, still a superintendent.

On Easter Sunday, Tony held his great grandchild, Breanna, for the first and last time. They were both delighted, and, soon after that lovely afternoon, Tony started his journey to back to God, and to his parents, his siblings, and his son. If you are looking down on us right now, pop pop, I want you to know that you’ve lead a good life. It wasn’t always an easy life, but it was a good one. Now you and Timmy go build something, and, as always, I know it will be beautiful.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shore Fashion a la Jen

I love It's a fun fashion blog for people who might not have a lot of cash to spend on looking fab.

The fine ladies who run the site were kind enough to do a post about my book. In their honor (and in Daily Candy's honor since they featured me in their Philadelphia email blast today), here's my take on what you'll need fashion wise this summer down the shore.

The most important thing to remember is that it's the Jersey shore. It's casual (which is probably why I like it so much). Even 99 percent of the nicest restaurants are casual, so your clothes should be, too.

You'll need, of course, shades. I'm a big fan of aviators, but this year have opted for rock star sunglasses:

These are the Oakley Breathless glasses in polished gold. A better view:

Not usually my type, but I think they're fun, and they double as a headband. They're a bit dressy but not silly flashy like some other styles I've seen. I'll be going back and forth between these, my Under Armor running sunglasses, and my aviators all summer.

Next (for the ladies at least), you'll need some going out wear. I'm an Avalon girl, which means that weekend nights a usually spent at dinner then The Princeton. Some gals go all out (last year, me and my housemates had a fun time making fun of girls in booty shorts and heels), but the fashion tends to be a bit more casual and light.

For shirts, light, breezy and sleeveless are perfect. I like this Freepeople top (though I'd ditch the necklace):

This Ann Taylor Loft top's cute, too:

I'm also a fan of the plain ol' white tank, as you can see in this picture, which was taken Labor Day weekend 2007:

You'll also need some sort of long sleeve shirt to throw on at night because it can get cool down the shore. I have this American Apparel cardigan in gray and blue:

I fell in love with their line of 50/25/25 blend clothes while researching the book -- I wore the gray tank constantly (after washing it, of course). It was perfect for hot hot weather.

For pants, I rely heavily on my one pair of Joe's Jeans. I bought them three years ago and will wear them to their very end (expensive pants, but I wear them all the time). I'm not sure exactly what kind I have, though they look something like this:

I got mine at Six Clothing in Haddonfield. It's a good place to shop if you're going to make the investment -- Sumer (the owner) realizes that they're not cheap, so she won't sell you something that does not look good. If she doesn't have something that works for you, she'll tell you where to get it.

The denim's not too light or dark, and mine are very comfy and worn in.

I also rotate in a pair of dark denim capri jeans that I bought at Ann Taylor a few years ago. They look something like this (albeit a bit different on me as opposed to a Victoria's Secret model):

I also don't sport three inches of exposed mid drift. I mean, I run a lot, but not that much.

Of course, sometimes it'll get too hot for jeans, especially if you're heading out to dinner around 6pm (or doing a mid-day book signing). I stocked up on casual cotton dresses this winter by scouring the deep discount racks at Loehmans (e.g. it's February and we still have summer stuff from last year, so get it the heck out of here).

I found one made by a line called Four Stars that looks like this GAP dress (though mine's a bit more fitted):

It's one of those dress up/dress down pieces that layers well. I wore it to Asbury Park not too long ago on a warm day and paired it with a navy blue cardigan when it got chilly out. It works with sneakers and sandals -- I expect to wear this one to a book signing in June.

I see a lot of dresses like this GAP one down the shore, too, either during the day or even out at night:

I shy away from that kind of waist line because I think it makes me look like I'm with child. I did pick up a blue and white version from Loehmans, and I'm coming around. I've been marathon training since January, and it shows when I wear this dress. Plus, the one I got was $7. I think it's worth the fashion risk. And if not, it becomes a bathing suit cover up.

I'm also digging this dress from Title Nine (which I just ordered):

I like the color, plus it has a built in bra, solving so many issues in one shot. This print one, also from Title Nine (also, which I just ordered), is cute, too:

And what about those shorts? I'm still not a big fan of short shorts paired with heels as a 'going out' look. It takes a certain kind of leg to wear that, usually of the model type. But I'm not opposed to bermuda shorts paired with heels for a night out. In fact, I wore something like these pants with nude heels, v-neck shirt and casual jacket to my book reading on Thursday night:

I'm a sucker for plaid shorts, too. They're great for wearing around during the day and can even work at night. I've tried these kinds of patterns in shirts and dresses, but it never works quite as well. These are from Roxy...and on sale for $19.99:

I think it would look cute in skirts, but something like this JCrew skirt doesn't work for me:

I don't want to get too much into the "what bathing suit is for you" thing (every woman's magazine on the planet will push that one at you), but I'm shocked sometimes by how expensive they are. I have this Victoria's Secret bikini in two colors, and the whole thing -- top and bottom -- is $19.

It's simple, classic and holds up to body surfing, which is very important, at least for me.

A few days ago, The North/South Jersey Blog posted about the difference between what North Jersey girls and South Jersey girls wear out to beach bars. He said stilettos were for North and flip flops for South. Almost...but not quite. I've seen my share of stilettos at the shore, sometimes out of place and sometimes not (out of place would be at the OD's "no shower happy hour" where most people are sporting sandy feat. Stilettos look silly there). But the heels that most girls will wear are even casual looking, usually along the wedge or espadrille lines. This Nine West shoe, for example, would be perfect:

Or these from Target:

Or even these, also from Target:

Pretty flats are great, too, especially if you're wearing capri jeans like the ones I showed above. Something like these would work with jeans, shorts, dresses -- whatever:

Of course there are flip flips -- all kinds of flip flops in every shape, size and color. I have three pairs of reef flops (black, brown, black with blue) different colors. They look something like this:

But my problem with reefs -- and all flops as of late -- is that they hurt my feet because they offer no support. I'm being told that I should go to an outdoor store and check out their flip flops, which offer support, but it's one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" kind of things.

Now, I have a pair of Crocs. I do. I wear them after I'm done running and rarely out in public. Why? Because they are ugly as anything. I mean, come on. How could anyone thing this is attractive:

It's like the Uggs-with-miniskirt trend: why why why? But you'll see it all over the Jersey Shore. I don't advocate it, at all. Sometimes they look cute on kids -- I'll agree to that -- but not so much on adults.

If you're over the age of 12 and must "Croc" down the shore, may I suggest these?

I picked up a pair in Cape May last year and have worn them all over the shore (and for a two day trip in New York). Casual, comfortable and not hideous. Works for me.

I know a lot of women wear open toed shoes out down the shore, and I can't exactly blame them. It is, after all, the summer. But if you're going to a popular shore bar and wear open toed shoes, you're going to get bar junk all over your feet. Gross. That's why, more often than not, you'll find me wearing these:

I know. They're not girly. They're slightly "angsty teenager." But I get a lot of comments on my chucks -- I've had guys come up to me at the P and talk to me JUST because I'm wearing sneakers. And I don't get blisters, which I can't say for all of my shoes.

I'm surprised at how much I wear the chucks. I got them out of a clearance bin at the Converse outlet in Atlantic City and figured for $20 they'd be worth a shot. Now they've ended up being the shoes I've worn in quite a few photo shoots:

You can throw them in the washer to clean, which isn't just wallet friendly but eco friendly (and key after that first photo...yes, I'm standing in bird poo).

Guys, I don't have much to say to you fashion wise except this: no mandles, no man-pris, and no t-shirts that say you're a bikini inspector (though this shirt is allowed if you're under 35 and at the Windrift). And please, for the sake of humanity, don't wear anything like this:

Photo taken on the Ocean City boardwalk yesterday. Yes, Ocean City. Odd.

If you're down the shore and need that extra something, you have a few options.

If money is no object: Belissima Boutique in Avalon; Mimi's in Stone Habor; Free Shop in Stone Harbor and Cape May. If you're budgeting: The Walk outlets in Atlantic City; The Attic in Stone Harbor (next to Mimi's); Whatever in Ocean City (accessories only) and, believe it or not, Hoy's 5 & 10 (especially flip flops). She Be Surfin' in Avalon, Caroline Boutique in Cape May, and The Pier Shops at Caesars in Atlantic City fall somewhere in between. Yes, the pier has beyond pricey items in chi chi stores, but I've scored deals at the Charles David store there, and the prices on the LeSportsac bags are reasonable. Depends on where you hunt.

Digg this