« September 2012 | Main | November 2012 »

October 2012

My trip to a dairy farm in NY... plus a GIVEAWAY!!


This weekend my husband and I had the distinct pleasure of being guests of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council at the NY Dairy Farm to Table blogger event in Canandaigua, NY.  The purpose of the event was to get people more excited about the dairy industry and guess what?  It worked!  I'm excited!

I grew up in a mostly suburban area that had a few farms on the outskirts, but nothing like the farm we got to visit this weekend.  I'll admit it: when I was told we were going to be visiting a dairy farm, I thought the worst.  I figured it would smell like manure, the cows would be gross and I would never drink milk again.  On the contrary, I am very happy to report that none of that happened at Noblehurst Farms.  The farm was absolutely beautiful.  The cows are very well taken care of and now all I want to do is eat ice cream.  

I learned so much about the dairy process and what actually goes into getting that gallon of milk in my fridge.  I'll give you some of the facts as stated by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council:

  • Farmers employ professional nutritionists to develop a scientifically formulated, balanced and nutritious diet for their cows. Diets include hay, grains, protein sources, and vitamins and minerals.
  • Dairy cows receive regular veterinary care, including periodic check-ups, preventative vaccinations and prompt treatment of illness.
  • Dairy farms must meet standards for manure storage, handling and recycling per guidelines from state and federal agencies. Once dried, manure is reused as comfortable animal bedding, composted for local garden centers and nurseries, or spread on fields to grow healthy crops, thereby reducing the need for commercial fertilizers.
  • Dairy farms must follow strict state and local water quality regulations. Dairy farmers use water responsibly in their milking parlors, in water storage and in recycling.
  • Dairy is one of the most regulated and inspected industries in agriculture. Dairy farms must abide by federal, state and local clean water laws that regulate manure application on cropland, and government agencies regularly inspect the water on dairy farms. Further, state agencies have rigorous processes for granting permits to new and expanding dairy farms.
  • Dairy farmers live and work on their farms, so they understand the importance of protecting our natural resources, so that it will be there for future generations.
  • All milk is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and processing plant. Any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately and does not get into the food supply.
  • The U.S. dairy industry conducts more than 3.3 million tests each year on all milk entering dairy plants to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply.


Those things are important to me.  Also very important?  The nutritional value of it all.  Milk is a great source of calcium, Vitamin B and protein.  And it tastes great!  (OK, now I just sound like a commercial.)


At this awesome event, we also got to visit the New York Wine & Culinary Center for some dairy based treats.  If you've never heard of this place, it is the coolest restaurant/demonstration center I've ever been to.  They have several classes available to help people like you and me learn how to drink wine (I never thought I'd need a class for THAT, but boy was I doing it wrong before!), pair it with cheeses, and cook beautiful foods that could impress just about anybody.

We got to try 5 different wines and cheeses which were all fabulous.  We also got to learn from Chef Andrew Chambers how to make pancetta filled raviolis, a fantastic beef tenderloin and the most amazing chocolate amaretto breme brulee I've ever eaten.   


                                   IMG_0339 IMG_0344 IMG_0346 


The weekend was absolutely wonderful.  I can't say enough about it without sounding like a broken record.  They also sent us home with a great little gift bag filled with fun dairy inspired items including a Taste of New York cookbook!  


Because we all want you to get excited about dairy, the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council wants YOU to have the same gift bag, too!  All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below (and complete the tasks required) and you could win the same awesome gift bag I got.  Best of luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I could honestly go on and on for hours about how wonderful this weekend was, but you will just have to take my word for it.  Visiting the dairy farm was a highlight of my year that I won't forget.  Thank you everyone involved in making the weekend such a success!  To read more about it, check out another piece I wrote for NJ.com's Parental Guidance section.


Congratulations Crista E!


Congratulations Crista E!  You won the birthday party at Elite Martial Arts in Rockaway, NJ!  

Thank you all who entered.  I'm sorry everyone couldn't win, but you can still go have fun at Elite Martial Arts!  On Saturday Oct 27th, they are having a really fun community Halloween event.  Check it out and THANK YOU for reading!

Em0602_use this

 Check out Elite Martial Arts' website for more details!

Elite Martial Arts in Rockaway, NJ - Birthday Party Giveaway!

I have a little story for you about customer service...  

Over the summer, my family and I were visiting my parents who still live in my hometown.  We went to Canal Day, which has always been our town's claim to fame.  It's a little festival celebrating the Morris Canal which has taken off over the years and become a pretty big affair.  A lot of local businesses are now a part of it and have their tents throughout the fair.

This year, one business in particular was Elite Martial Arts from Rockaway, NJ.  They had a game at their tent where kids could spin a wheel for a prize.  Both my kids won plastic swords, which they still play with.  The nice lady behind the table told me about a giveaway they were doing for a birthday party, so I entered.  

Two days later when we were back home recooperating from our trip, I got a phone call from Lori at Elite Martial Arts.  I WON!  My daughter would be so excited!  I immediately booked it.  Going up there would be no problem.

Except, as it turned out, we couldn't make it on the date I booked.  I called Lori to break the news, but also asked her if she wouldn't mind if I gave the party away to one of you lucky readers.  Guess what she said...

She told me, "No problem!  But don't give away your daughter's party.  We'll just reschedule it for a date you can make it.  And I'll give you an additional party to give away on your blog."

I was floored.  What a great gesture.  So here is the giveaway for you.  I didn't want to just post it without letting you know how it came to be.  I am very impressed with the customer service at Elite Martial Arts, and I haven't even set foot in their establishment yet.  I'm really looking forward to my daughter's party (which we have resceduled for after soccer season) and I hope you will check it out, too!  Best of luck in the giveaway.  I hope you win!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I asked Lori Kaye a few questions about Elite Martial Arts which she graciously answered.  Here is the interview:

How young can you start at Elite Martial Arts?

  •  You can start as young as 4 years old. Each individual, regardless of age, requires a personal interview to see if they qualify for one of our programs.


What are some of the physical and emotional benefits you can get from karate?

  •  Elite Martial Arts is not just another after-school activity. Elite Martial Arts teaches personal development through a physical curriculum. Our exciting yet disciplined classes capture a child’s attention thus empowering his or her ability to learn while exercising. Learning builds a sense of accomplishment, which builds a student’s self-confidence; creating the essential learning environment for students to flourish. We inspire our students with important values including courtesy, respect, patience, self-esteem, positive attitude, and indomitable spirit. These values and life skills will lead to remarkable improvements in academics, careers, and relationships.


What determines when you can move up in belts?

  •  There are a few determining factors: attendance, as we have a required number of classes to be considered for a belt testing, completion and understanding of technique, and exemplary character at school and home. Plus a positive attitude is a must.


What else does Elite Martial Arts offer?

  •  Where can I begin?! One of our most popular events is birthday parties; we have several birthday parties every weekend! We also provide a Parent Night Out where we take children (students AND non-students) for 3 hours while the parents get a night to themselves. We provide dinner, a full karate class, plus themed activities like fear factor night, “do it like Disney”, glow weapons, and more! We are also on the PTA for several Schools in Rockaway and sponsor many school events and activities as well as free seminars to each grade level. Plus, we do free seminars on Adult Self-Defense, Goal Setting for Grades, Bully Proof, and Kid Safe Abduction. In fact, we have helped countless Girl Scout troops to earn badges and demonstrated martial arts to Boy Scout troops all over. We’ve just launched our Bully Proof and Kid Safe Abduction Certification Courses where kids and their families get certified together in our 6 week program! And how can I forget – our coveted Character education and Life-Skill curriculum can come in many forms— classes, semi-private training, and one-on-one private lesson training.


Thank you Lori for such a great giveaway and interview!  

Check out Elite Martial Arts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rockawaykarate 

or at their webpage www.rockawaykarate.com

Or give them a call at 973-361-KICK


National Bullying Prevention month: A Letter for Lucia by Perry Vision Divirgilio

flickr.com/mondi cc 2.0
The other day, I came across this piece about bullying.  It flashed across the screen on a friend's Facebook timeline and I almost scrolled right by.  Something caused me to click on it, and I'm really glad I did.  As a person who has stood in both the writer's shoes and Lucia's shoes from time to time, it moved me.  I, too, am sorry for ever being a secret bully...talking behind anyone's back...shifting the insulting laserbeams onto someone else.  It's not fair.  It's not right.  


I contacted the writer and asked if I could share his beautifully written piece here for all of you.  Print it out.  Read it to your kids.  Let them know that being a secret bully is just as wrong as outwardly hurting someone.  It will haunt you. 

Maybe he will find his Lucia.  I told him after reading this that I would forgive him, if I were her.  I would.  Would you?


A Letter for Lucia

by Perry Vision Divirgilio

I'm almost positive she was in love with me in 8th grade.

Maybe it was just infatuation

Either way she had a crush on me

She'd always find a reason to touch my arm

She asked for hugs everyday

Smiled whenever I walked near her.

She considered me a friend.

I considered her a friend...

When no one was watching.

When we were alone we shared hugs



Witty acknowledgements of a phantom friendship.

When all eyes were on us

I treated her like an interloper trespassing in caliginous waters

I pretended she was nothing more than a circumstantial happenstance

An apparated acquaintance.

My secret friend was a little girl who wanted nothing more than an ear and a warm smile reciprocated


Her name was Lucia.

She was recognized as the poorest girl at John H. Taggart Elementary

Realistically, we were all poor offspring 

Some parents were just better at cloaking poverty than others

She was an easy target.

Her name was Lucia.

A perpetual patsy with average grades

I imagine it's hard to study when there's a gauntlet of browbeating bullies feasting on your insecurities

Her name was Lucia.

She smiled at me every morning.

I returned covert smirks and nods when the coast was clear

But more often than not I pretended not to see her.

Reconciled my savage neglect like it was for the best

Until the mob turned on me.

Until the jokes were on me

Until my dirty Air Cortez Nikes were the spotlight of vicious a snapfest

My faded turtleneck under an off brand sweat shirt garnered the attention of the cruel cabal

I skated on thin eggshells every time I walked into school not wearing an outfit Tino passed to me.

But I was always able to quietly throw verbal rocks at Lucia and hide my hands

Shift the scrutiny to the little girl with the hand me down lace dresses

Her name was Lucia.

A sneak attack

Friendly fire.

From plate tectonic whispers so she'd never know I was the catalyst for a room full of pre-teen vulgar volcanoes erupting in laughter

"Eh y'all, look at Lucia's socks."


Everyone laughed every time.

Kids pretended to pass around a collection plate for the "Lucia Sock Fund"

I breathed sighs of relief

Avalanches on my self esteem averted

Lucia offered as lamb to the lions again and again

I stood as the signifying monkey happy to swing from her dignity.

It was premeditated.

Conspiracy in the First Degree

Aggravated Assault 

Corrupting the Mind of a Minor

Was like Irish & Italian immigrants who learned the word nigger for the first time 

The reminder that no matter how bad things got I was better than someone. 

It was my ace in the hole


My Fila straps were scuffed but look at Lucia.

People called my jacket a Triple Fat Pigeon but look at Lucia.

My Jordache Jumper was busted as hell but look at Lucia's!


That bus was always on time.


The get out of pre-teen hell free card.

The guilt I felt was never enough to make me stop pointing the finger at Lucia


A little micawber queen who wanted hugs and approval from a boy who was just as battered as she was.

She never tried to shift the attention

Just bore a cross of unwarranted opprobrium like it was tattooed on her back.

Her name was Lucia.


Two decades later I still feel like Judas.

Like I sold Lucia's self esteem for silver linings.

And all I wanna do is apologize.

Hug her.

Tell her how wrong I was 

How strong she was for surviving a classroom full of jackals.

Her name is Lucia.

Lucia I'm sorry.

Only a coward finds a bigger bullseye when his glabella is the target.

Sorry I wasn't strong enough to divvy the burden.

I wasn't the person I pretended to be

Your friend was nothing more than a sycophant for psychopaths

I was too self-preserving to be your anything.

I never deserved your smile

Your hug

Your touch

The corny jokes you'd tell that made us laugh with liberated lungs

Lucia, I'm sorry

I hope this guilt burden is never lifted from my prefrontal cortex

I dont deserve to be forgiven.

I never deserved your friendship.

Until I can find you to tell you in person,

I'm sorry.



The grown version of a boy who was too nervous to be your knight

Too hurt to be your hero


P.S. After graduation you told your friend how great he was going to be. He never forgot. I still try to live up to that prediction.


Perry Vision Divirgilio is the artistic director and mentor at the Philly Youth Poetry Movement.  He is a poet with no boundaries who tells it like he sees it.  Check him out at spokensoul215.com.

Thank you Perry.  Thank you.


National Bullying Prevention Month: Little Punk People prove it can't rain all the time

October is Bullying Prevention Month.  Coincidentally, my friends at Little Punk People recently made a promotional video for their awesome company, but the underlying theme is about bullying.  Check it out.


Little Punk People is made up of husband and wife Justin & Daniela Fullam.  They have this really great son Elliott who is featured in the video.  Daniela and Justin are both tremendous artists with a knack for making even the most macabre subjects seem less frightening - more "normal".  

I love this video for a lot of different reasons.  Not only does it have a good message, it utilizes Little Punk People's style and uses characters and visuals I can relate to.  I personally like things that are out of the ordinary.  Things that are just slightly off kilter from the every day.  This video could be a dream I once had.  It's so similar to my thoughts.  

I also have always been a firm believer that outside appearances mean close to nothing.  Nothing.  I know nothing of fashion.  I couldn't tell you if a pair of jeans were Lees or Lucky Brands.  I buy clothes stictly because I have to and only wear things that make ME happy.  Sometimes, I'm sure I get funny looks because I don't necessarily match...or my blue nail polish is cracked up...or my hair might not be styled just right.  But ya know what?  It doesn't bother me.  I come home to my family who loves me for who I am.

This video is a testament to loving families everywhere- no matter what type of family you have.  The real world can be frightening when people treat you unkindly.  But if there is a place to come home to with loving parents who know you, it can't be bad all the time.  Your family can give you power to overcome any bully out there.

The whole point is, love one another.  There will be people out there that will try to do your children harm for no reason at all.    It's heartbreaking.  While we can all work on trying to fix that, we need to have a respite for our kids in the meantime.  Support your children.  Give them solace when their worlds turn upside down.  

To remind you of this, Little Punk People has given me a couple of their fansatical shirts to give away.  The two shirts they sent over are of the Boo Crew - which is a depiction of Elliott and his friends.  Please enter to win, but also check out Little Punk People  online.  Their artwork is truly amazing and beautiful.  Some is for kids, some is for adults, but it's all for fun.  

Here are the shirts:

P1020478 P1020479 P1020477







a Rafflecopter giveaway Best of luck!  I hope you win.