The Garden State

This past weekend while I was driving a commentator on the radio was discussing the most beautiful states in the US and then noted the ugliest states.  One of the states listed as the ugliest (I think it was #7) was my home state of New Jersey.  I was incensed.  We have lived here in New Jersey all of our lives, and while I would never say we are the “most” beautiful state, I certainly would not say we are one of the ugliest.  In fact one can find beauty in all of the states if one looks.


But you don’t need to look far to see the beauty of New Jersey.  One just needs to leave the environs of the New York City-Newark airport area to find that New Jersey is truly “The Garden State”.  From rolling hills and farms, to the pine trees, to the beautiful coast line, New Jersey is a beautiful state and is worthy of its title.

I’m sharing some pictures here taken by my husband recently on a hike through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (oh yes we do have National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Recreation areas in New Jersey).  This is a lovely area where the Delaware River cuts through New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


You can hike many trails here, including the Appalachian Trail.


And some of the hikes are quite difficult.


I just wanted to share with all a little piece of where I live and the state I call home.


And finally the intrepid adventurer himself.



Food – Healthy and Not So Healthy

I have been struggling with healthy eating lately, but that’s a different topic and one I explore elsewhere.  I recently celebrated my birthday, both with family and friends.  Pictured above was Pasta alla Norma done my way.  And it ended up being pretty healthy.  I did not use whole wheat pasta here (could have and it would have been still great), but I did use a trick with the eggplant that I found in the cookbook by Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali entitled  Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food.  In their recipe they roast the egglplant instead of frying it (and you know that frying eggplant is just a game of adding oil that the eggplant sokes up like a sponge).  The tomato based sauce was one I had left over and was made with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, a little olive oil, crushed red pepper and capers.  Add the roasted eggplant and a little riccotta salata and there was my Pasta alla Norma.

Along side of this dish, which I served to my daughter and husband just prior to my birthday, was some jersey fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and beautiful speck I purchased a Artista Salumeria in Chester, NJ.  What a find – I understand they have been there for about a year and a half, but this was the first time (and not the last time) I visited.


Mozzarella, tomatoes and speck (with a little salt, olive oil and freshly ground pepper)

A few days later I baked up a treat for one of my co-workers, whose birthday is the day before mine, and myself a dense chocolate bundt cake.  This ended up to be more like a huge brownie.


Chocolate Bundt Cake

Recipe can be found at Food Scientist Bakery.  This was my not so healthy birthday cake – 1 1/2 cups of butter and 5 eggs just to start and a lot of chocolate.  As I said more of big brownie than a cake.  A couple of words of caution here, make sure your bundt pan is large enough – mine I believe is just a standard size pan and this cake overflowed it.  Thank goodness I had a baking sheet underneath it.  Second, due to the size I baked mine for almost 1 1/2 hours (versus the 60 – 65 minutes indicated in the recipe).  The cake was a hit at the office, very chocolatey, and I did not make the chocolate glaze called for in the recipe, but just sprinkled with powdered sugar.

All pictures taken with my IPhone 6 – not fancy cameras or shots this time – I leave most of those to my husband.

Railfest 2016 – Steamtown National Historic Site

It has been awhile since I have posted anything on this site.  I am sorry for the absence.  We are back and I am going to try to post at least once a week about our travels, our photos and out way of enjoying life.

Last weekend we traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania (not very far from where we live) to attend Steamtown’s Railfest 2016.  We stumbled upon Steamtown National Historic Site a little over a year ago on our return trip from the Finger Lakes.  We have been looking forward to revisiting for some time and finally got around to it this past Labor Day Weekend.


Steamtown as a National Historic Site was established on October 30, 1986 and is the only place in the National Park System where you can find out all about steam trains and railroading.  This year I believe was the 10th anniversary of the Railfest and it is also the 100 year celebration of the National Park System.  And it was a fun time.


This is a working railroad site – trains are actually being moved around all the time.  The site provides not only short steam train rides, but on select weekends provides longer excursions (mostly with diesel engines) to the surrounding Pocono mountains.  One of the best Ranger lead tours is the tour of the repair shop where they not only keep the steam trains running, but work on restoring ones in disrepair.  For railroad buffs this site is an absolute must.


Inside the Roundhouse is not only where they store the working trains, but a really nice museum that tells the history of the locomotive and has exhibits of different types of rail cars.


You can also walk the entire yards – just be careful and pay attention, because as I said this is an active railroad yard.  Okay – this engine is not going anywhere.  Check out the “cogs” on this one.


And it you want to check out what we were doing recently to improve our health, check out this blog – Eat Free or Die(t).