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Princeton Reunions Weekend to Bombard Town

May 25, 2015
Photo Credit Peter Dutton

Photo Credit: Peter Dutton

Fasten your seat belts! The Princeton Reunions Weekend is about to hit us like busloads of tourists unloading at Times Square. About 25,000 alumni and their guests will clog up major road arteries just like a Hoagie Haven Phat Lady coursing through your veins. If the rowers hit the shores of Lake Carnegie it will be reminiscent of the Allied Forces invading Normandy. That would mean vehicles will slow down on the Washington Road Bridge to see this spectacle. In other words, don’t even bother driving through town until Sunday evening.

Princeton University is at the top-tier of the ivy league elitist food chain, and carry on the ancient traditions of bad taste. You’ll see old and young painting the town orange and black with the most horrendous clothing imaginable. They would not be caught dead walking the streets of New York or Philly in these outfits, but they will strut their stuff proudly in front of townies.

Alums call it school pride, so grown men and women can justify wearing orange and black tiger-striped, plaid, or other patterned blazers and straw boaters in public. Extra points for those sporting the hats cocked to the side. Often, the entire family is decked out in some sort of crazy spirit wear. A few even dress their dogs in tiger costumes. Can you imagine seeing a brood exiting their suburban Ohio home wearing what seems to be Tigger costumes in May? Princeton University is one of the preppiest schools on the planet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Ralph Lauren added a Tiger print to his Spring ’16 Collection.

The P-rade is a must see if you want a really good laugh. The ghost from Princeton past will head the parade, and very enthusiastic disciples in a hypnotic state will follow their fearless leader. Have your cameras or camcorders ready, because words cannot begin to explain this event. Seeing is believing.

Princetonians really get the royal treatment once back at their alma mater for the Reunions Weekend. Local merchants roll out the orange carpet to cater to this influx of money bags. Hamilton Jewelers even holds an annual watch fair to coincide with the alum invasion. This lures the beasts out of the confines of the campus and onto the streets. Should we thank merchants for this added entertainment or curse them for causing longer lines?

Princeton Fireworks

Photo Credit: Robin Birkel

The joke’s on them. Townies strike back by being moochers. Somehow, locals score wristbands to enter their exclusive boozefests. And we also know when they will shoot off fireworks and watch at their expense (shhh! it’s on Saturday, May 30th at Campbell Field, but you didn’t hear it from me).

So if you can handle the crowds, head into town and you can see them roaming around like the big cats at Great Adventure’s safari park. Unfortunately, they will not be behind cages.

On a serious note, Princeton University demonstrates strong school spirit thanks to century’s old traditions. The big weekend runs from Thursday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31. For those residents who treasure the Town and Gown synergy, you can purchase tickets to encore performances of the Triangle Show’s An Inconvenient Sleuth on Friday or Saturday evening at McCarter Theatre. Fireworks will follow the Saturday performance.

Five Mile Lake at McCarter Theatre Center

May 16, 2015
Five Mile Lake at mcCarter Theatre Center

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

McCarter Theatre Center presents Five Mile Lake by playwright Rachel Bonds and directed by Emily Mann, which concludes the 2014-2015 Theater Series. The play takes place in a small, economically hard hit, fictitious town near Scranton, PA in winter. It revolves around a small group of 20 somethings, including two sets of siblings, who find themselves at the crossroads of life.

Jamie (Tobias Segal) and Mary (Kristin Bush) are bakery employees. Jamie is content, and is taking pride in renovating the lake house bequeathed to both him and his brother from his grandfather. He is also tending to his mother who lives in her own home. Mary remains in town primarily to support her unemployed brother Danny (Jason Babinsky), who has toured twice in Afghanistan, and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

Rufus (Nathan Darrow) is Jamie’s brother, who is in the process of writing his Ph.D. dissertation, and unexpectedly returns from New York City for a surprise visit. He does not return often, and his visits are always brief. Rufus brings his girlfriend Peta (Mahira Kakkar), who is an associate editor of a New York magazine.

The arrival of Rufus is the catalyst of a series of conversations. Characters begin to reveal layers of their dreams, regrets, and fears as they examine their paths not chosen.

Darrow’s and Segal’s performances were wonderful. Each, in keeping to the refrains of their characters, was able to convey a multitude of underlying emotions that resonate with audience members so well, that you can’t help but feel you have known the characters your entire life. Bush’s portrayal of Mary takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride between comedic arguments with Jamie to a soul cracking meltdown.

Pivotal moments of the play rests on the shoulders of the two supporting characters, Peta and Danny. Actors Kakkar and Babinsky have relatively short stage time to make the audience connect with their characters. Their dilemmas are a primary source of upheaval. Kakkar successfully captures the essences of a woman silently imploding, while Babinsky brilliantly portrays a man struggling to contain emotional explosions. I will go further to say Babinsky performance stole the show and I challenge anyone to catch him “acting”.

Finding a group of such exceptional talent will come as no surprise to McCarter Theater regulars. Audiences might recognize Tobias Segal who recently played Octavius in McCarter’s Antony and Cleopatra. Kristen Bush performed in Proof as Catherine, and Mahira Kakkar as Maryamma in Miss Witherspoon.

McCarter Theatre’s Artistic Director Emily Mann consistently finds the perfect plays that appeal to Princeton audiences. Five Mile Lake is beautifully directed so audiences can pick up on the nuances of people in small towns.

It would be out of negligence not to mention the amazing scenic design of Edward Pierce. The rotating set displaying the interior and exterior of the bakery, as well as the facade of the lake house, will instantly transform you to their world. Additional sliding props complete the polished feel.

Five Mile Lake is a conversation starter that is worth seeing. It runs 90 minutes with no intermission in the more intimate Berlind Theatre until May 31st. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 609-258-2787.

Witherspoon Grill’s New Cocktail Hour Menu

May 2, 2015
Executive Chef Christian Graciano with JM Group President and Owner Jack Morrison

Executive Chef Christian Graciano with President and Owner Jack Morrison

JM Group President and Owner Jack Morrison, and Executive Chef Christian Graciano recently previewed Witherspoon Grill‘s new Cocktail Hour Menu. It runs Monday – Friday, 3:00 – 6:00 PM, and the special menu is only available at the bar.

The bar snacks and drinks that were offered to a select few to sample before the official launch during Communiversity. Two of the menu items are vegetarian (but not vegan), and four out of six are gluten-free, so they are conscientious about their customer’s dietary restrictions.

Witherspoon Grill Bar Menu 

Bar Snacks – All items are priced between $3 – $6

  • Duck Fat Potatoes – Sliced cooked potatoes pan-fried in duck fat, served with black garlic sour cream. These are totally decadent.
  • Warm Pub Pretzel – A warm soft pretzel log, baked with butter, served with whole grain mustard with Irish whisky. The pretzels are deliciously comforting.
  • Shrimp Ceviche Taco – Shrimp ceviche served with sliced grape tomatoes and micro greens on a mini corn tortilla. These remind me of Mexico. Simple, yet so flavorful.
  • Nueske Bacon – ¼ inch thick strip soft-cooked bacon served in a maple chipotle syrup. Call me odd since I don’t eat bacon, but I heard they had a nice sweet and spicy flavor.
  • Cheese Dip Duo – Toasted baguette slices served with a sun-dried cream cheese and a pesto goat cheese. Both were flavorful.
  • Lamb Lollipops – Two New Zealand rib chop lamb chops served with blackberry mint jam, and yogurt with feta. I also don’t eat lamb, but was told the meat was succulent. I did like the yogurt and feta dip.

Witherspoon Grill Bar Menu Drinks

Drinks

  • $3 draft beers, featuring Yuengling, Amstel Light and Stella Artois
  • $5 wine by the glass/$10 carafes, offering Soave, Tavernello, Italy 2013 and Red Blend, Esteva, Portugal 2013
  • $5 Sangria by the glass, Mojitas and Dark & Stormy cocktails

If you are looking for a place to meet with friends or colleagues late afternoon or early evening, Witherspoon Grill offers a nice ambiance and more upscale, substantial hors d’oeuvres. This spot is appropriate for a date or business, and there is a jazz band playing on Tuesdays. The pricing is amazing, and will allow you to buy a round of drinks.

Notice that they call this a Cocktail Hour and not a Happy Hour. The former has positive connotations of premium drinks and quality hors d’oeuvres. I applaud them for their choice of words and menu.

The Cocktail Hour menu is not extensive, but still offers a good selection of food and beverages. Witherspoon Grill provides all of the ingredients for a fun, public cocktail party… just add friends.

Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids

April 21, 2015
tags:
Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.

Courtesy of Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.

The demands of being a kid these days have changed a bit since adults were young. If you are a parent, caregiver, or interact with children on a regular basis, it is helpful to have some tools at your disposal to help them deal with the slings and arrows of life.

Local psychologist and mother of four Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., has written and hosts a video available through The Great Courses titled Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. Dr. Kennedy-Moore conveys powerful, effective strategies to guide children through many difficult issues in a warm, down to earth style. Topics discussed include, handling anxiety, popularity and rejection, bullying, self-esteem, plus many more.

She educates by skillfully intertwining common knowledge, complex psychological study results, and everyday situations. For example, we all know the meaning of the word gossip, but can we accurately define and apply it to psychological research, and is gossip always bad? Dr. Kennedy-Moore’s recommendations are easily followed. After viewing Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids, you will hopefully feel more enlighten and empowered to guide your child.

Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore has a private practice in Princeton, NJ, where she works with adults, children, and families. In addition to Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids, she is co-author of two books for parents: Smart Parenting for Smart Kids and The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, and is the author of an award-winning children’s book, What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents’ Attention Without Hitting Your Sister. You can find Dr. Kennedy-Moore’s blog Growing Friendships on PsychologyToday.com. In addition, she serves on the advisory board for Parents magazine, and has appeared on the Today Show, as well as other national television and top rated radio talk shows.

Netflix’s Expanding Original Programming

April 17, 2015
Grace and Frankie

Photo Credit: Netflix

Netflix’s latest refinement is its increased original programming the beginning of the year. It has been a harsh winter for some, and new series were just what the doctor ordered for homebound consumers. Netflix gained 4.9 million new subscribers from January – March 2015, almost a million more than anticipated.

They certainly got the jump on the recently released HBO Now, which seems to be competing with the Netfix formula. Netflix’s $7.99 monthly fee is cheaper than HBO Now’s monthly fee of $14.99, so it will be interesting to see if Netflix will continue at this price point. Regardless, Netflix is increasing the quantity of their library without sacrificing quality.

Powerful series like Emmy nominated Orange is the New Black, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated House of Cards (Robin Wright won a Golden Globe for Best Actress), and Marco Polo produced by the Weinstein Company, are being joined by the new series Marvel’s DaredevilUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock , and Bloodline created by Todd & Glen Kessler and Daniel Zelman to name a few enhance the lineup. Coming soon is Grace and Frankie starring Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie). There are also kid-friendly original shows such as Dreamworks’ Turbo FAST and All Hail King Julien from the Madagascar franchise.

A big bonus is that all episodes from series are being released at once. This gives subscribers the option of binge watching (viewing 2-6 episodes in one sitting), which 61% do. So far, another 14 new original series are slotted for 2015, and 14 for 2016, with 2 still to be determined. Among the listed are three more Marvel titles and another Dreamworks production. Stay tuned.

Click here for a comprehensive list of Netflix original programming, including mini series, documentaries, stand-up comedy, children’s programming, and new series.

Recipe Corner: ANZAC Biscuits

April 14, 2015

Australian New Zealand

My nine-year-old daughter, gazing at her brother as he devoured a mound of juicy dill pickles, asked “Mom, who made the first pickle?” This is another question of no immediate importance to which I could not nor cared to answer at the time. But it did get me thinking about the history of many of the foods we eat.

I admit, I am a history nerd and casual baker with a passion for odd facts. I’ve spent many snowy afternoons engrossed in television documentaries detailing the history of the Twinkie, Coke, or any number of food items. (Now, I can relate to Colonel Sanders playing around with spices in his mother’s kitchen, aka secret recipe, but no ordinary human concocts the factory method to make chocolate like Milton Hershey by experimenting with a few cocoa beans.) In honor of all those long hours toiled in the kitchen by cooks of lore, I’ve decided to add a bit of history to this edition of Princeton Found recipe corner.

I lived as an ex-patriot in Australia for almost seven years. On April 25th they celebrate Australian New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day. It commemorates the soldiers who fought and died in World War I at Gallipoli, the European part of Turkey It also serves as a day of national remembrance and reflection of the repercussions of war, much like the American Memorial Day.

Out of concern for the nutritional well-being of the soldiers, their mothers, wife’s and sisters created the Anzac Biscuit (cookie). This recipe is packed with oats and flour which do not spoil easily, making the biscuits easy to ship overseas and store. This was an attractive feature back in 1917 considering the lack of proper refrigeration. Please note, Anzac biscuits are traditionally hard and crunchy.

Anzac Biscuits
Prep Time: 10 min.
Bake Time: 20 min.

Ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

1) Mix flour, oats, sugar and coconut in a bowl
2) In a saucepan, melt the butter then add the water and syrup
3) Add the baking soda to the liquid mixture
4) Combine the liquid mixture with the dry ingredients
5) Make small balls with the biscuit dough and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Biscuits will become hard when cool.

Don’t be a Scrooge – Go See A Christmas Carol at McCarter

December 18, 2014
Michele Tauber, Graeme Malcolm, and Ali Ewoldt. A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre with Ebeneezer Scrooge

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre is a Princeton tradition. David Thompson’s adaptation directed by Michael Unger is full of emotions. Ebeneezer Scrooge’s life is shown from a young boy to an older man, but not in chronological order. The audience discovers how he developed into a bitter man, and after seeing his past, present, and future, sees how he changes back to a kind person.

A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre The Fezziwig Party

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

The stage transforms into several sets right before your eyes, including the town square, Marly & Scrooge, Ebennezer’s home, Fezziwig’s, young Ebeneezer’s school, and the Cratchit’s home. It is definitely the most elaborate production at McCarter. The details  in the sets and costumes add to its authenticity.

There are also some magical elements. A character will disappear into a wall or through a floor, fly, or sprinkle “fairy dust”. Objects fall off a case and pop out of a trunk, plus there are a few other enchanting moments. Kids will be bewildered and adults will be fascinated by the special effects.

The ensemble is wonderful, and Graeme Malcolm is outstanding as the lead. The local children add innocence and are very professional. At least six of the adult cast members are returning to the production, with Malcolm in his role for over a decade.

This Broadway quality production entertains all and is appropriate for the entire family. I encourage you to see this production of A Christmas Carol, whether it be for the first time or the 10th. The runtime is about two hours with one intermission, and you can see it until December 28th. A must-see!

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