Woodchuck Stew for Groundhog’s Day?

anne_mikolay_120On a recent visit to Pennsylvania, a local farmer struck up a conversation with me.

“I hunt squirrels and groundhogs bigger than that!” The farmer said, pointing to my four pound chihuahua.


He had my attention, not because of his comment about my dog, but because I had never heard of anybody hunting squirrel other than Jed Clampett .

“You actually hunt squirrel?” I asked the farmer.

“Oh, yes, indeed!” He said, and happily described his hunting prowess.

Hunting squirrel and groundhog, I learned, is legal in parts of Pennsylvania, where schools close on hunting days, and each hunter is permitted to kill an assigned number of critters per day. The farmer explained how to skin and clean a squirrel in preparation for squirrel stew, and was rather amused by my claim that a city girl like me would never dream of eating the furry creatures that scamper through the backyard.

“Domestic squirrels,” my country friend pointed out, are different than the squirrels hunted in the wild, though both probably taste the same (like greasy chicken), he said.

I wouldn’t know about that, nor do I want to.

When I was a little girl, my father often urged me to press my ear against a tree trunk, and listen to the chattering of the squirrels within. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that my father revealed he had made the animal sounds to amuse me. His ruse worked; I’ve been intrigued by squirrels ever since. I enjoy their tail-twitching antics, and regularly feed them peanuts and corn – but not because I am fattening them up for hunting season.

While my husband might be pleased to know that Mr. Groundhog, his long-time backyard nemesis, can be legally exterminated in Pennsylvania, I can’t imagine tossing Punxsutawney Phil into my crock pot. Serving woodchuck stew to my kids who used to make groundhog stick puppets every February 2nd seems downright insensitive to me. With all due respect to the residents of the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, only “groundhog cupcakes” will appear on my dinner table this Groundhog Day.


Here, courtesy of www.family.fun.com, is a recipe for a Groundhog’s Day treat I doubt will taste like greasy chicken.



  • Baked cupcake
  • Almond Joy candy
  • White frosting
  • White jelly beans
  • Black decorators’ gel
  • Watermelon slice candy
  • Brown M&M’s Minis
  • Chocolate cookie
  1. Remove a piece of cake the width of an Almond Joy candy from the center of a baked cupcake. Set the candy upright in the hole, then spread a layer of white frosting on the cupcake.
  2. For the groundhog’s eyes, trim the ends from a white jelly bean, stick them in place with frosting, then dot them with black decorators’ gel. Add a tiny triangle cut from a watermelon slice candy for a nose, brown M&M’s Minis for ears and cheeks, and a tiny rectangular piece of white jelly bean for teeth. Sprinkle chocolate cookie crumbs around the partially emerged groundhog, and he’s ready to greet his fans.

I Feel Your Pain!

george_hancockstefanA couple of months ago I had one person in my office complaining about one of the things that needs to be changed here in the church.  I listened to the issue and even though I saw his point of view, I did not feel that it was as important as the person made it out to be.

Our meeting was interrupted by a person who needed immediate help.  Through a series of mistakes made by this person, his furniture was placed outside of the apartment.  He and his children had no place to go that night.  I could have rationalized as I listened to his story that the apartment owner was not heartless since he gave him one month to come with the money or move out.  Since he did not come with the money, the owner placed his furniture in the hall.  He did not have a place to sleep that night.  I happened to have the amount of money for one night at a nearby hotel and I helped him that night.

I was thinking about the two events on the way home.  Both people felt very passionate about the issues that they were living through.  I made a value judgment on the first and I concluded that it was not as important as the second.  The second was painful and I responded faster, but I had to conclude that I was glad that I had the money to help.  In all honesty, I do not think that I felt the pain of the person; rather I had the joy that we were able to help that night.

Recently, politicians are using the expression made popular by our former President, Bill Clinton – “I feel your pain.”  I know that it varies from person to person and from counselor to counselor, but I think that most of us understand pain and we can talk about it, but rarely experience it with the people whose pain we claim to feel.

I explained to some of my close friends what it meant for me to live in the refugee camp in Italy for 16 months when I was 15-16 years old.  We stayed that long because my father had tuberculosis a number of years before we came to the refugee camp. Even though he was cured, the first country that we applied to migrate to rejected us on the fact that they did not receive people who previously had TB.  I still can see the pain on my father’s face when he explained to us that we are stateless.  We could not go back to the country of our origin without him and my mother going to jail and the country where we wanted to go rejected us.  That night we thought that nobody wanted us.  The fact that we are in the USA meant that our conclusion was not right, but we had to wait for 8 more months.

When I was 24, I returned to Italy with a group of college friends.  They wanted to go and see a refugee camp and I was supposed to be their guide. When we got off the bus a short distance from the refugee camp, my feet would just not move in the direction of the camp.  I told my friends that they could go, but I just could not.  Seeing my pain, my empathetic friends decided not to go either. In silence, we took the next bus back to Napoli.

I talked with some other people about the refugee camp. Sometimes my friends try to visualize the camp and they imagine it to be a rustic camping place. However, a refugee camp is more than poor living conditions – there is a feeling of major crisis wafting through the air, affecting everything, creating hopelessness, anxiety and pain.

This past week, I listened to two of my students who grew up in Haiti. The devastation created by the earthquake is indescribable. One of them said, “Even when you see pictures, you cannot begin to feel what it is like when a whole section of your country is in the dust.”

The pain of a person who is trying everyday to find a job and has not succeeded in a whole year is real and only a few others can understand it. The pain of the Haitian people is so deep that few will be able to feel it.

Perhaps we utilize the expression “I feel your pain,” because indeed we cannot understand unless we are in the same predicament.

Donald Brown Heads to the Super Bowl

jack_archibald_120For many people in New Jersey, the football season ended last Sunday.  If you are a Giant fan, the season ended many weeks ago.  If you are a Jet supporter, the season ended last weekend.  If you are an Atlantic Highlands resident, your football season is about to culminate in two weeks at the Super Bowl.

The casual sport fan knows that the Indianapolis Colts will be playing the New Orleans Saints in Miami.  The Atlantic Highlands sports fan knows that our hometown guy, Donald Brown, will be seeing significant action in the Colts backfield on Super Sunday. Just a rookie, Donald Brown has reached the pinnacle of his industry in less than twelve months.

Sure, Donald didn’t carry the Colts on his back to the Super Bowl.  But he has been an important part of the team as a change of pace back to Joseph Addai in the Colts backfield all season. As the first round draft choice of the Colts this past year, Brown has stepped in and contributed in every game except one that he missed due to injury.  In pro sports, the rookies must pay their dues, but Brown has seen considerable playing time as the Colts cruised to a 14-2 record this fall.

The Atlantic Highlands Pop Warner graduate has contributed off the field as well. Shortly after being drafted, he held the Donald Brown Leadership Conference in Monmouth County, and over 200 young boys and girls from our area participated.  Donald Brown hasn’t forgotten that hard work and dedication got him to the NFL, and that formula works in every industry.

But not everyone gets to work with the master in their chosen industry.  Brown has a co worker who demands perfection, and you can bet that Peyton Manning lets Donald know when he has blown an assignment.  His track record suggests that he isn’t likely to blow too many assignments on Super Bowl Sunday, and as a running back, he has a chance to be the Super Bowl MVP.  Maybe that’s asking a lot out of a young man, so let’s just appreciate the ride that Donald Brown is on as he continues to make Atlantic Highlands proud and brings notoriety to our small town on the Bayshore.

Outrageous Predictions – 2010

woody_zimmerman_118_2007As is our custom upon the turn of the year, we offer predictions of events that could or should (if the world were just) occur in the coming year.

Unpopularity Blues. Reaching new depths of unpopularity, President Barack Obama finds himself being blamed for natural events that only George W. Bush used to be blamed for. The first rumblings of this new tendency start soon after the disastrous earthquake that destroyed a large part of Haiti. Late-night comedians begin cracking wise about geologists’ claims that Obama’s many foot-stomping campaign rallies – which continued through much of 2009 – had damaged the earth’s crust and caused the Haiti earthquake. An NBC pundit is the first regular journalist to pick up the theme, followed by geological “scientists” working under grants from Big Oil to study the possibility that human activity might cause earthquakes. Obama-administration officials who scoff at the idea are branded “deniers” by the new movement, the goal of which is to “stop anthropogenic geologic change.”

Stormy Weather. A huge March snowstorm shuts down Washington and most of the eastern seaboard, completely disrupting a global warming rally designed to promote Mr. Obama’s revived Cap-and-Trade plan. Mr. Obama later fires the entire U. S. Weather staff for failing to predict the massive storm, which stranded Air Force One, with Mr. Obama and a large part of his staff inside, on the tarmac at New York’s La Guardia airport for two days. Two secret service agents are later fired for brandishing their weapons at hooligans who were pelting the president’s plane with snowballs, some of which contained stones.

Life Upon the Wicked Stage. Threatened with certain defeat in the November elections – not to mention probable loss of his party’s nomination for his seat in the U. S. Senate – Majority Leader Harry Reid quits the Senate for more remunerative work. He takes a $10,000-a-week gig with Saturday Night Live, where he depicts a caricature of himself. Mr. Reid merely acts his normal persona in the sketches, but he is fired after a month of being roundly booed for being “too unbelievable.” “Even a comedy act needs some verisimilitude,” said a critic. “Nobody could act that stupidly in real life. It’s not funny; just dumb…”

Just a Personnel Matter. Long-time Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett – Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement – finally gets booted by the Obama administration when Glen Beck discloses that one of Mr. Obama’s “czars,” Guenter von Holz-Wiener, was a guard at the Nazis’ Tremulka concentration camp. (Ms. Jarrett was caught on tape introducing Hauptman Holz-Wiener at a convention – praising him for his “long and varied community service.”) The Beck research team was alerted to Holz-Wiener’s identity by a former prison inmate, now 83 years old, who recognized the former guard from photos she had secreted and taken out of the camp in 1945. H-W was positively identified by forensic photograph-analysts who said the ears were a perfect match.

I’ll be Beck. The dismissed “czar,” Holz-Wiener, files suit against Glen Beck for defaming him without proof, but the court dismisses the suit. Thereafter, the Federal Department of War Crimes deports the former guard. The deported H-W shouts, “Ve know your namess! Ve know vere you liff! Ve vill find you!” (plus various incomprehensible phrases in German) hysterically from the boarding stairs of the plane that will return him to Germany. There he is tried as a war criminal, convicted, and sentenced to 50 years of watching films of old Nazi rallies and speeches for 10 hours each day. He goes insane after serving two months of his sentence, and is committed to a mental hospital in Wiesbaden. He lives there until age 115 – lionized in the German press as Der letzte Kamerad. At the asylum he is allowed to celebrate Nazi holidays and hold court for other old Nazis, surrounded by swastika flags and other memorabilia of the Third Reich. Neo-Nazis are twice arrested for trying to kidnap Hauptman Holz-Wiener as part of plots to stage a Nazi-revival. Both attempts are foiled when the ageing Nazi cannot be made to stop shouting, “Sieg Heil” and singing “Deutschland über alles” during the abductions.

Fright Night. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi resigns her seat after Republicans take control of the House with a gain of 100 new seats in the November elections. She leaves her husband to marry actor Danny Glover, who has started a new foundation committed to proving that George W. Bush is the “antichrist.” The couple moves to Haiti, where Mrs. Glover (née Pelosi) begins a career as a voodoo entertainer. Authorities terminate her show when she scares 10 people to death at her first performance. A noticeably paler Mr. Glover leaves her after two months, saying only that “she scared me white…”

Revolving CEOs, Big Profits. The Obama White House appoints four new CEOs for the reformed General Motors Corporation during 2010. Each new appointee lasts only a few months before resigning. The resigned CEOs take increasingly large severance package with them – the last one exceeding $100 million. It is later revealed that the severance packages had to be offered in order to get anyone to take the high-profile job. The final appointed CEO for 2010 turns out to be Larry Gleason, former coffee-and-sandwich gofer for the Obama White House, who left school after the third grade. Gleason’s GM salary is reputed to be $80 million a year. (“It buys a lot of sandwiches, Starbucks coffee, and video games,” he told reporters.) GM top executives take bonuses totaling $319 million after reporting profits of $10,000 for FY2010. News of these financial excesses is shrouded by breaking war-news in mid-year.

Wagging the Dog. President Obama sends troops into Montenegro and Haiti to “normalize” their governments. Congressional Republicans object furiously, claiming that the wars are only meant to divert public and media attention from domestic political crises – e.g., the financial and leadership fiasco at General Motors (a.k.a. “Government Motors”). Although President Obama vows to take command of his troops in the field – the first president to do so since the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 – the far-left anti-war movement joins forces with a new conservative Republican anti-war movement to protest the invasions. A half-million protestors storm the U. S. Capitol. Congressional hearings are called when it is shown that Montenegro possesses only an “operetta army” with patent-leather shoes and Napoleonic-era muskets. The third and fourth GM-CEO appointments slip by unnoticed during the uproar.

Dazzling New Products. GM announces its new “green” product-line to much White House fanfare, but enthusiasm falls flat when the public realizes it is a line of expensive golf-carts, ranging in price from $8,000 to $20,000. The most expensive vehicle converts to a bed so stressed executives can take power naps on the golf course. (Late-night comedians crack that executives who pay $20,000 for a golf cart should be under stress.) Only 135 units are sold for the year – mostly to politically correct country clubs wishing to curry favor with the Obama administration. The GM plant in Illinois closes with an inventory on hand of 87,324 units. Mr. Obama orders the plant held open, but the GM CEO defies the order and resigns. Mr. Obama subsequently signs a presidential executive order requiring everyone who earns over $250,000 to buy one of the GM golf-carts, but the Supreme Court quickly strikes the order down. GM ultimately requests another $35 billion bailout from the federal government. The Democrat-controlled congress passes it in a lame-duck session after the November election puts Republicans in the majority.

GM Bonding. Holders of $27 billion in original GM bonds – elbowed aside by the Obama administration in early 2009, in GM’s “dead-man-walking” bankruptcy – file a class-action lawsuit charging President Obama with “unlawful intrusion into legal proceedings over which he lacked authority.” Mr. Obama had ordered a “settlement” which supplanted GM bondholders from their rightful place at the head of the line of debtors and claimants for GM’s assets in the event of bankruptcy. Union pension claims got first place instead. The new lawsuit charges that the arrangement was unlawful. After dramatic arguments, plus revelations that agents of unknown origin had attempted to influence the proceedings in Mr. Obama’s favor, the court rules for the plaintiffs – ordering all bonds repaid by the federal government at face value. The Supreme Court declines to hear the case, so the ruling stands. Political murmurings about impeachment come to nothing, but Mr. Obama attempts no new corporate interventions.

War on the Court. After the Supreme Court strikes down a presidential executive order which would have suspended the congressional elections of 2010, House Democrats attempt to impeach Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, as well as Chief Justice Roberts. However, the attempt fails for lack of support in the House of Representatives. The abortive attempt adds to the Democrats’ debacle in the fall elections. In the midst of the impeachment controversy, 90-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens dies. President Obama nominates Attorney General Eric Holder to fill the vacancy, but Republicans block the nomination with a filibuster, forcing the president to wait until a new congress takes office in 2011.

Getting Urban Kids Into Nature

joe_reynoldsAs a boy growing up in the Barnegat Bay watershed region, I knew my local environment. I could tell you the best trees to climb, the best creeks to swim, seine, or catch a fish, the best trails to hike or ride a bike, and the best forests and fields to explore, wander, or just back lay back and dream. I knew my woods, water, and local fields.

I enjoyed a style of wild, free, and natural play as a child that seems, in the era of large screen TVs, large houses, DVDs, surfing the Internet, texting,  and playing X-Box or Nintendo, like it belongs in a quaint Robert Frost poem or a charming Norman Rockwell print, even though I was born in the late 60s. Children today certainly have more opportunities to spend more time indoors and plugged in.

Within a relatively short span of time the way a child becomes familiar with and experiences her or his local environment has changed radically. In general, every generation seems to be getting farther and farther away from daily appreciating and encountering the natural world. Although kids today are more aware of the global threats to the environment, such as global warming and the loss of the tropical rainforests, a child’s physical contact and  intimacy with nature is vanishing fast.


(Father and daughter spending some quality time together at the annual Fishing – Environmental Expo in Keansburg last Saturday)

In spite of that, last Saturday in Keansburg an effort was made by local parents to try to get their kids plugged into nature, instead of plugged into a computer. It was time to celebrate the annual Father Time Fishing – Environmental Expo inside the Bolger Middle School.

From 9:30am to noon, many people from Keansburg and other nearby towns enjoyed exhibits from dozens of environmental organizations, casting contests, paper airplane contests, games, food, t-shirt crafts, nature crafts, and student science and recycling club exhibits. It was a great way for children to have a free and fun time with their parents while experiencing a deepening relationship getting to know their local environment.


(People taking time out to learn about the local shellfish that can be found on our shores)


One of the main people behind this annual event is Jeff Johnson, a social worker at Bolger Middle School and the founder and director of Father Time. Mr. Johnson came up with the idea for Father Time after listening to people complain that they wanted to spend more time with their kids and children whining that they wanted to spend more time with their parents. Thus, the fishing – environmental expo was born as an easy way for families to spend quality time. Even though the expo is only a few hours long, it offers a setting for parents and kids to talk, enhance family interactions, and keep busy people in touch with their natural world. Over the years the expo has provided families with opportunities to get away from their day-to-day problems and share a little time together.


(Jeff Johnson has been one of the main people behind this fun family event)

The hope of the expo is always to get people to better understand and appreciate their local environment. There is a need for families to explore their local environment together. Nearby nature is just as important as any exotic, distant wilderness; and there is no better time to explore the outdoors than right away. It could be done in any neighborhood. Institute family walks or time to fish.

If your child knows more about the latest cell phone or movie, than what local birds, fish or shellfish can be found along the shores of Sandy Hook Bay, she or he is exactly the audience that should attend the Fishing – Environmental Expo next year in Keansburg.


Please help the growing crisis in this country where we’ve got more kids magnetized to a computer or cell phone screen than being outside to play and explore nature with family and friends. Everyone needs to spend more time outdoors. Why not spend some quality time today with a family member or friend?

Gary T. Steele Talks Media Bias

dennis_mikolay_09In American politics, it is extremely rare for any respect to be given to third party candidates. Those whose campaigns can’t afford to purchase airtime on television and radio must instead find alternate means of reaching the public, utilizing the internet or local events for much-needed publicity.

Gary T. Steele of Kinnelon, New Jersey, experienced the hardships of minor party candidates firsthand. As an independent candidate for governor, Steele was shocked by the media’s outright scorn for his candidacy.

“They treated us like the plague,” said Steele. “I used to joke that they wouldn’t let me ‘join in any reindeer games.’ The odds were stacked against us.”

Steele, who is a tax attorney, entered the race to try and fix New Jersey’s broken taxation system, and mend the ailing economy. Few would argue that New Jersey is a bad place to do business, and Steele knew that, if elected, he could help put the derailed economic train back on track.

“My experience and educational background makes me the best for the position,” said Steele.

Early in his campaign, Steele garnered a small amount of publicity by appearing on NJ 101.5FM, as a call-in guest on programs hosted by the likes of Jim Gearhart, Dennis Malloy and Michelle Polenza. But as election day grew closer and the race tightened, Steele suffered the wrath of a narrow-minded media. While fellow independent Chris Daggett was openly ridiculed by the media, Steele was almost completely ignored.

“In the beginning Jim Gearhart was great,” said  Steele. “But later, they wouldn’t let me on the air, even though they were all for getting rid of the incumbent!”

Realizing the media would not be his ally, Steele took to the road, traveling across the Garden State to personally spread his message to potential voters. It was on one of these campaign trips that Steele received an unexpected compliment from his opponent, Governor Jon Corzine.

“He said he had to hand it to me because it is really hard to put yourself out there in the public.”

But, Steele was willing to undertake the momentous task of running for public office as an unaffiliated candidate, and after months of rigorous campaigning with minimal media coverage, Steele earned  3,545 votes.

“My wife said ‘we don’t know that many people!’ We really earned those votes!’”

Steele feels that poor voter turnout adversely affected his campaign.

“There was forty percent voter turnout—if a larger percentage had voted, I think independents would have done much better!”

Today,  wiser from experience and still dis-enchanted with the state’s political environment, Steele is mulling over seeking public office a second time. While he hasn’t decided whether he will run for a local, state, or even national office, the former gubernatorial candidate is discussing the matter with his family and friends. So don’t be surprised if, in the coming years, “Gary T. Steele” appears on the ballot once again. While you probably wont hear about it in the media, the  3,545 supporters who cast their ballot for him last November may provide enough leverage to propel Gary T. Steele to public office.

Coping with Bipolar Disorder

danvance_120On the outside, Hope Noble, a sophomore at Cedarville University in Ohio, seems like any other 18-year-old woman. Inside, and unseen, she has cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder.

A National Institutes of Health website defines bipolar disorder as a brain disorder causing unusual, severe shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels affecting the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It’s a lifelong disorder with no known cure. Bipolar disorder is often referred to as manic-depressive illness.

“In eighth grade, I became really depressed and started cutting myself and self-injuring,” said Noble in a telephone interview. “There was no reason for it. I started blaming God, and myself, for feeling bad about nothing. It was really confusing. I felt like I’d done something wrong, but couldn’t figure out what it could be.”

She began having “awful” mood swings, fights with her parents about “anything,” and had no one to really talk to about it. She had suicidal thoughts, and, unknown to her parents, actually tried committing suicide. Her outlet to relieve her depression was self-injury, i.e., she would cut her arms and legs with a razor blade to calm herself. In junior year, her boyfriend pushed hard for her to talk to her parents, which she did. But they weren’t able to grasp the severity of her problem.

“A year went by after I told my parents,” she said. “Then I was at a place where I couldn’t take it anymore. I talked to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with cyclothymia and put me on medication.”

The medication definitely helped, she said. Her mood swings from hypomania to depression have become much more manageable. Just knowing what she has helps, she said, because she can “do research on my own and understand what triggers my emotions and what others are going through. Knowing helps a lot.”

Given she has a hidden disability, not many people ask. Sometimes she tells people. So far, no one at her Christian college has rejected her because of her disability. She said, “They know it’s a problem for me that affects my life a lot. They are there for me and don’t think I’m a bad person.”

Her advice: “Educate yourself about it to understand what’s going on. Try to figure out what triggers your emotions and learn how to express those emotions without hurting yourself or others.”

Contact danieljvance.com [All American Foods and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.]

Tiffany Brooks Designs: Customized Couture for You and Your Pup!

anne_mikolay_120Ladies, we’ve all been there…shopping for just the right outfit, and coming home frustratingly empty-handed. What’s a gal to do when she knows exactly what she wants…the style, the color, the fabric…and she can’t find it anywhere? For most shoppers, the cost of a custom-made garment is out of the question…that is, unless they are familiar with Tiffany Brooks Designs.

Founded in 2003, Tiffany Brooks Designs, an on-line company located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is committed to “providing quality clothing, home decor, and accessories at very reasonable prices” for domestic and international customers, and specializes in “custom made clothing and accessories for the whole family, including your pets.” Tiffany Brooks omits the middle man; all orders are placed and filled directly with the company, and all garments are created and shipped by Ms. Brooks, the company’s founder.

Tiffany Brooks has been sewing for over twenty years.

“Since 1989, when I was in the sixth grade,” Ms. Brooks explained. “I hand sewed a baby doll dress, and I still have that same dress today!”


Though she received formal training, Ms. Brooks’ fashion abilities developed naturally. In high school, her talent was well known; she sewed things for the principals! In 2003, she began selling her custom made clothing on Ebay, and launched her own website to accommodate her growing customer base, which includes pet owners.

Surprisingly, the sluggish economy’s hold on our purse strings does not extend to our pets. A recent Associated Press Petside.com poll revealed that 52 percent of pet owners planned to purchase a holiday gift for their furry one in 2009, up from 43 percent in 2008. According to the poll, six in ten dog owners put their pups on their Christmas shopping list, and searched for plush toys, rawhide chews, little doggy Santa suits, and Mrs. Claus dresses. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they simply browsed the one of a kind clothing, accessories, and doggy beds available at www.tiffanybrooksdesigns.com.

“I love making anything and everything,” Ms. Brooks said. “But if I had to choose (a specialty), I’d say doggy clothes. They are so fun to make…many different styles and colors make it so fun! I made my first doggy outfit in 2004. I didn’t even have a dog small enough to fit at the time, but I knew one day, I would!”

True to her word, Ms. Brooks now owns three dogs: two yorkie mixes and a cocker spaniel mix that make perfect models for her unique designs.

Ms. Brooks’ designs are not limited to puppy couture; she creates fashion for men, women, children, and the home, and works closely with the client to meet the client’s needs in designing a customized, unique garment. There is no assembly line manufacturing at Tiffany Brooks Designs. By omitting the middle man, Tiffany Brooks offers old-fashioned, personalized service and quality craftsmanship. She personally receives and fills all orders.

“I do make everything I sell,” Ms. Brooks said. “I have no staff at all. The customer deals with me on everything. I search through all available patterns and all the out of print patterns I have (when an order is placed). Then I send the client pictures of all the close matches and then I explain how many of the patterns can be used to make something very similar to what they are looking for. ”

Her family (and her pups) definitely benefit from her design expertise.

“My website features a flower girl dress my daughter wore last year,” Ms. Brooks said. “My sister in- law sent me a picture of her wedding dress, and she wanted the flower girl dress to match it. Many things about it I just did as I went along. And in the end, it turned out way better than I could have imagined!”

When placing an order with Tiffany Brooks Designs, accurate measurements are important, Ms. Brooks says, and turn-around time is “usually up to two weeks.” All orders are shipped priority mail, and discounts are offered to repeat customers.

Whatever your heart’s desire…a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s or Mardi Gras dress…a doggy tuxedo or sweater…a unique doggy bed…a prom dress no other girl will have…Tiffany Brooks can make your wish come true. For more information, and to view Tiffany’s designs, log onto www.tiffanybrooksdesigns.com.

Happy shopping!


Gov. Christie Needs to Keep Promise to Kill LNG

joe_reynoldsAs Chris Christie takes the oath of office to become New Jersey’s 55th Governor, he now becomes front and center in the spotlight on all issues regarding the Garden State. One feature of New Jersey that I hope he will take very seriously is the Jersey Shore environment.

From Raritan Bay down to Delaware Bay, the Jersey Shore generates billions of dollars every year in tax revenue for the state. Yet, many government officials continue to forsake a sense of control and good planning over our coastline.

While taxpayers in New Jersey subsidize sprawl and poor planning by paying for new roads, road maintenance, new schools, police and fire protection, the extensions of utilities (water, sewer, electric) and everything else that goes to support new development, many communities struggle to purchase even an acre or two of critical open space, such as wetlands, meadows, dunes, and wildlife habitat along streams, rivers, and estuaries. Every day we lose land as well as protection for endangered species and storm-water management. This is foolish, because from family clamming and crabbing, to saltwater fishing, boating, and birding, to scenic beaches and swimming, a rich economy for the Jersey Shore depends on a healthy environment.

The sprawling, residential, industrial and commercial landscape we see in parts around the Jersey Shore clearly shows the negative effects of decade after decade of poor human decisions about what to do with the land. For far too long, residents of New Jersey have often approached land use decisions with a lack of awareness, or even laziness.


(We need to always fight to keep the Jersey Shore an exceptional place)

Now in the first half of the 21st century, we find the precious natural resources of the Jersey Shore under attack again. Not on land this time, but in the water by the building of industrial facilities and pipelines in the Atlantic Ocean and Raritan Bay.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group has proposed building a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) receiving station for huge tankers on a 63-acre man-made island (about the size of 12 football fields) located about 19 miles off the coast of Sea Bright, NJ and about 15 miles off the Rockaway peninsula in New York State. The proposed island would be made of fill from the Ambrose Channel.


(Large LNG tankers like this one from Russia could soon invade the Jersey Shore and industrialize our coastline with fossil fuel pollution)

The artificial island is only one of three liquid natural gas terminals in the planning stages off the Jersey Shore. Another proposed LNG industrial facility is by Liberty Natural Gas and it would be located near Asbury Park, N.J. The third proposed LNG industrial facility is from ExxonMobil, the largest multinational corporation in the world, and it would be located approximately 20 miles off the Manasquan Inlet.

If just one of these industrial projects are completed, it will threaten the unique natural and social character of the Jersey Shore, degrade local economies in many coastal communities, and further decay the great natural beauty and diverse fish and wildlife habitat found along the Jersey Shore, which  is shared by all of residents of New Jersey. What’s more, LNG will lock the state into an undesirable energy path that will rely upon fossil fuels. This could make future energy decisions costlier than ever and increase the environmental burden on our energy infrastructure, just as the load of sprawl has created financial burdens for many municipalities in New Jersey.

LNG is a foreign fossil fuel. LNG does not come from the United States. Private corporations transport LNG to the United States via large tanker ships from different foreign countries, quite a few from governments that have violent pasts, or a history of not respecting basic human rights or safeguarding the environment.  In 2006, LNG imports to different areas of the United States were from a mix of mainly suspect countries including Trinidad, Tobago, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, and Russia. Moreover, tankers could import gas from other Atlantic Basin regions and countries, such as western Africa and Venezuela. Iran too has some of the world’s largest natural gas reserves.

Take for example what has recently been going on in Boston, Massachusetts, which has a LNG facility. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is trying  to block Yemeni tankers from delivering liquefied natural gas into Boston Harbor, in light of the failed Christmas Day attempt by a Nigerian man, who trained in Yemen to blow up a US airliner over Detroit. Mayor Menino stated, ” Everyone should be concerned about [LNG] because the Coast Guard, Boston fire department and other agencies do not have the equipment if something did happen with an LNG tanker. Everyone says there is no problems, but what happens when something does happen?” If we can certainly learn from the mayhem up in Boston it is that New Jersey needs to be energy independent and not have our money help pay for potential terrorist attacks.

Yet, the dangers of LNG do not stop there. Construction of gas pipelines in the water could cause harmful spills of drilling fluids and even contaminated sediments into the near shore marine environment. Vessel traffic from at an LNG facility also increases the likelihood of hazardous diesel, oil, or sewage spills.LNG facilities or tankers would also intake millions of gallons of seawater to cool generators, and discharge water more than 28.3 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than ambient ocean temperatures. These billions of gallons per year of intake and thermal waste would cause serious harm to the surrounding ecosystem, killing zooplankton and small fish critical to the survival of marine mammals and fisheries.

New Jersey ranks second only to Florida in the nation for saltwater recreational fishing activity, with many commercial fishing boats in Monmouth County offering estuarine and deep sea recreational fishing. In addition, the Belford Seafood Co-op is one of five major commercial fishing ports on New Jersey’s coastline that requires vast deep sea areas of the Atlantic Ocean to offer high quality local seafood to community markets. The other four major commercial fishing ports in New Jersey include Point Pleasant, Barnegat Light, Atlantic City, and Cape May. An LNG facility would threaten extremely rich fishing grounds, and turn an LNG area into an industrial park, increasing ship traffic, oil spills from tankers, and other threats to the northern Jersey Shore.

Thus far, behind all the greenwashing, the majority of voices being heard in favor of LNG facilities along the Jersey Shore are only the multi-national energy corporations and their special interests groups driving the proposals. Yet, we don’t even need LNG. Unlike oil, the U.S. is energy independent for natural gas and the Obama Administration estimates at least 70 years worth of reserves are left.  Industry groups estimate over 100 years worth of natural gas.

Thankfully, Governor Christie has seen the wisdom on this issue and is being hailed by local environmentalists, like Clean Ocean Action, who oppose the LNG projects. Not only has Christie come out against LNG, but he has the power to veto the projects outright and send them away. This represents a clear change from the Corzine administration. Indeed, Corzine lost some votes from those people who choose a candidate based on the environment, because of the liquid natural gas terminals.

On December 16 a spokesperson for Christie told the media that he remained opposed to the three LNG port proposals off the coasts of both New Jersey and New York due to concerns regarding the project’s impacts on the state’s coastal economy. This is great news!

Yet, as we know, politicians sometimes do not always keep their promises. So we need to make sure that he keeps this one. Please send an email or text message today to Governor Christie and tell him to keep his promise to kill LNG! We need his help to keep the Jersey Shore free of LNG!

You can contact the governor at this state web site address: http://www.state.nj.us/governor/index.shtml

Let the State of New Jersey officially oppose LNG, just like many other states around the nation. Within New Jersey, the opposition against LNG is growing too with many coastal communities, such as Borough of Union Beach, the Borough of Keyport, the City of Long Branch, the Borough of Sea Bright, the Township of Neptune, and the Borough of Point Pleasant Beach all declaring loudly their opposition to the building of industrial fossil fuel facilities off the Jersey Shore. You should urge your Mayor and local government officials to do the same quickly.

Privatizing open waters with fossil fuel projects would be fundamentally wrong and serve as a dangerous precedent for industrializing a source of joy and income in Monmouth County and along the Jersey Shore that people have spent years and millions of dollars trying to clean up. The State of New Jersey needs to move forward with a clean and sustainable energy plan that includes clean jobs, which do not negatively impact the Jersey Shore.

For more information on the LNG issue along the Jersey Shore and how to get involved, please check out Clean Ocean Action’s website at: http://www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=37

When You Need a Miracle


woody_zimmerman_118_2007Late on Tuesday evening of this week I reflected on the amazing developments of the past few weeks. Since Christmas Eve, when the United States Senate pushed through its version of health-care/reform – replete with Christmas goodies for various states whose senators held out on supporting the reform – a strong majority of the country’s voters have been sunk in a deep gloom. The biggest economic transformation in our national history was poised to slide downhill toward final passage, but no one seemed able to do a thing to stop it. We needed a “miracle” – a sentiment I heard uttered by more than one friend and acquaintance – but no miracle seemed likely to appear.

Amazingly, though, one did begin to materialize – reminiscent of that small cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, in the time of the Prophet Elijah. Unnoticed at first, that cloud began to grow and grow, until it dominated the entire horizon. Soon its presence was undeniable. And on Tuesday of this week it began to rain. In political terms, that cloud was the candidacy of Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and the metaphorical “rainstorm” was his smashing victory over Democratic machine-candidate Martha Coakley, who was contending with him for the Senate seat vacated by the late Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy last summer.

Mr. Kennedy had occupied that seat since 1962, but it was originally occupied by his brother, Senator John Kennedy, from 1953 to 1961. When JFK assumed the presidency, Benjamin A. Smith II, a Kennedy loyalist, was asked to keep the seat warm until 1962, when Edward Kennedy would become eligible to serve in the Senate by reaching age 30. Mr. Smith resigned on schedule so Mr. Kennedy could run for the seat in a special election, which he won in November 1962. He was sworn in immediately after the election, as the seat had already been vacated by Mr. Smith’s resignation. He served, with few serious challenges, until his death from a brain tumor in August 2009, at age 77.

Because of this long tradition of the seat being occupied by a strong Democrat, there was no indication of any change on the horizon on December 8, 2009, when Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic nomination in the primary preceding January’s special election to fill the seat. A little-known state senator named Scott Brown won the Republican primary, but he attracted almost no notice. The Democratic primary in Massachusetts is generally regarded as the “real” election for most offices, as overwhelming numbers of Massachusetts public office-holders are Democrats. Massachusetts is, in today’s parlance, the bluest of blue states. At the time of her primary win, Martha Coakley held a 30-point lead in the polls over her virtually unknown opponent.

But the little cloud of Mr. Brown’s candidacy began to grow. Soon after the primary election, the U. S. Senate passed a wildly unpopular health-care/insurance reform bill filled with pork-deals for various states and constituent groups. The public was furious, but Democrats had the votes, and they pushed it through. After Congress adjourned for Christmas and New Year, the storm signals went up.

While no one was paying much attention, Mr. Brown launched his campaign against unresponsive government, big spending, high taxes, high unemployment, bank-bailouts, incompetent national security, and the massive reordering of our lives that the new health-care bill will represent. Handsome, articulate, and bold as a lion, Mr. Scott took the Bay State by storm – stumping across it in his pickup truck and shaking hands with thousands of voters who were looking for a miracle and hoping that he might be it.

Democrats asleep at the switch finally saw the danger, but it was too late. Mr. Brown had seized the political high ground and staked out his position as the populist reformer who would do his best to stop the Democrats’ seemingly unstoppable agenda. Pitifully inadequate attempts to prop up Ms. Coakley’s flagging campaign looked like umbrellas blown inside out in the gathering storm. They did nothing to arrest Scott Brown’s total domination of the campaign and its issues.

When President Obama flew to Massachusetts on the Sunday before the election, he said nothing about health reform or any of his administration’s other signature issues. Instead, he was reduced to cracking wise about Mr. Brown’s pickup truck and spinning a yarn about how Martha Coakley would represent the “little people” in the U. S. Senate. Even Democrat-friendly media gave this the horselaugh, since Ms. Coakley had spent much time cultivating and raising money from various special interests, while Scott Brown was taking his campaign to the people. Everyone knew Martha Coakley was poised to carry on the great Democrat Party tradition of talking populist and governing special interest.


There is a famous photograph of Calvin Coolidge wearing an Indian war-bonnet while meeting with a group of Native Americans. I thought of that photo when I saw clips of Mr. Obama trying to rap with Massachusetts Democrats at a Coakley rally on January 17th. It was truly pathetic – perhaps emblematic of what has become of the wonderful hope and change promised by Mr. Obama. He has fallen so far, so fast. Like the crash of the Hindenburg, it is tragic, but a marvel to behold.

In a much-televised debate between Ms. Coakley and Mr. Brown, hosted by Commentator David Gergen, Mr. Gergen pompously sniffed at Mr. Brown presuming to sit “in Teddy Kennedy’s seat,” trying to do something about health care reform. Mr. Brown’s rejoinder was memorable: “With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedy seat, it’s not the Democrats’ seat – it’s the people’s seat…”

It was a perfect précis of the campaign and perhaps of the current political era. David Gergen, Martha Coakley, Barack Obama, and perhaps many Democrats had forgotten that all of those Congressional seats are the people’s seats. They are the birthright of no particular party or family, and the people can award them to whomever they believe will represent their interests best. On January 19, 2010, the people of Massachusetts re-taught us this lesson – perhaps on the way to helping Americans reclaim both their government and their country.

I have no idea if Mr. Brown will be an effective senator and be able to accomplish even part of what he wants to do. The Senate is a tough place, and they don’t play beanbag there. I have seen high-minded politicians come and go, so I could easily be cynical. But I have to say I had tears in my eyes last night when I saw Scott Brown on the platform with his pretty wife – a woman of his own age! How radical is that? – and his two lovely daughters, speaking of the people’s interests, of integrity, and of doing the job he was being sent to do. I couldn’t help contrasting him with implacable liberal politicians who arrogantly believe they have a right to transform the greatest country on earth without the agreement of the people.

Americans are a great people, possessed of vast strength and resources. No problem is beyond us when we put our minds and energies to solving it. Just knowing that there are Scott Browns out there, waiting for the call to duty, is a source of great cheer and encouragement to me. I hope it is to Americans everywhere. The real miracle is the American character. We needed to be reminded of it.