Roxy’s Best Of…Chester, NJ

The Best of Chester, NJ, from kid stuff (including summer camp) to restaurants to shopping


Birthday Parties… Off to Toys with Love in Chester, NJ

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This morning, as I searched for the phone number for Toys with Love in Chester, NJ, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t posted about the wonderful local toy store here on Roxy’s Best Of… we’ve been going to Toys with Love to find the perfect birthday and Christmas presents since we moved out to the Roxiticus Valley in October 2003, and they have never disappointed us.  One year, Stacy of Toys with Love even built and delivered a huge dollhouse for Maddie’s birthday.  Today, London and Maddie are off with their nanny to pick up three Quiddler card games… two for upcoming birthday parties, and one for our family to enjoy.

Toys with Love is located at 95 West Main Street, Chester, New Jersey 07930
Telephone: 908-879-1380


Pavan’s Tennis Academy Brings QuickStart Team Tennis to Fox Chase Tennis Club in Chester, New Jersey

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We were over at Fox Chase Tennis Club in Chester, NJ, on Saturday morning for London’s make-up lesson in Pavan’s Tennis Academy. Pavan handed me his brand new brochure for QuickStart Team Tennis, starting in January.

The goal of the QuickStart tennis format is to get kids playing as soon as possible – including friendly matches, team play and tournaments. The QuickStart Tennis format works by getting kids into the game immediately. Within the first hour of stepping onto the court, they are actually playing the game, rallying with one another, moving around and having fun. Scaling the game down to their size helps make the learning process easier and a lot more fun.

The majority of youth sports have followed this formula for years. Baseball begins with smaller bats and smaller fields, and progresses from tee ball to coach pitch to player pitch. Basketball and soccer employ similar methods, including shortened playing surfaces and appropriate sized equipment. The shorter and narrower courts used in QuickStart Tennis give kids the confidence and ability to cover the entire court. Kids have trouble controlling full-sized racquets because they are too long, too heavy and the grips are too large. Junior racquets are proportionate in length and weight and have grips that fit smaller hands, making them easier to control. The QuickStart Tennis approach uses balls that bounce at a height equal to kids’ playing abilities, allowing for better and longer rallies and building up to all-court games.

Team Tennis is about turning an individual sport into a team sport. All you have to do is look around at other youth sports to see that kids love playing sports with their friends. Not only is it fun and social, it’s also practical. Team practices keep kids learning, and team matches give them a place to apply the things they’ve learned. So while they’re learning, they’re also having a great time with their friends. Which means they’ll keep coming back.

The cost for Pavan’s QuickStart Team Tennis program is $250 for 8 weeks, with teams for 8 to 10 year olds playing on the following days/times:

  • Monday from 4 to 5pm
  • Wednesday from 5 to 6pm
  • Thursday from 4 to 5pm
  • Friday from 4 to 5pm
  • Saturday from 12 noon to 1pm

QuickStart Tennis… the new way to play tennis for kids 10 and under… Sign up now and join the team!

Pavan’s Tennis Academy at Fox Chase Tennis Club, Chester, NJ. Phone: (908) 879-5231.


Roxy’s Recipes: Grandmom’s Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta… with a Little Help from Louie at the Chester Meat Market in Chester, New Jersey

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Although Rex does almost all of the cooking in our family, and my older sisters like to joke that I’m helpless in the kitchen, the truth is that I just don’t enjoy cooking on a regular basis.  I do have a few favorite recipes that I make from time to time.  One of them is passed along by my mom, who makes the best Italian meat sauce for pasta, but I’ve made enough adjustments to her recipe over the years to call it my own.  I should add that my hairdresser and good friend Madeline confused me for years by referring to Italian meat sauce for pasta as “gravy.”

After a perfect New Year’s Eve at home, including four live Maine lobsters and two bottles of bubbly, Rex and I decided to spend New Year’s Day together in the kitchen. He made two of my favorites for dinner tonight: Rosemary Meat Loaf and Macaroni and Cheese. I’ll be posting those recipes over the next day or so.  With a little help from Rex and Maddie, I made a big pot of…

Grandmom’s Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound hot sausage
  • 1 pound sweet sausage
  • 7 - 8 cloves garlic
  • 3 - 5 onions (3 large or 5 medium)
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your skillet)
  • Three (3) 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Organic Crushed Tomatoes as well as Red Pack)
  • One 28-ounce can of tomato sauce, plus two 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • One 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • One packet Lawry’s Extra Rich & Thick Spaghetti Sauce Spices & Seasonings (This is my mother’s secret ingredient; she always made her sauce with Spatini, but they don’t make it any more and Lawry’s is the next best thing.  If you can’t find it in your local store, it’s basically a mix of salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder)
  • One packet Lawry’s Original Style Spaghetti Sauce Spices & Seasonings
  • Oregano to taste (I use several teaspoons)
  • Basil to taste (I use several teaspoons)
  • Black pepper to taste (I use about one teaspoon)

To Make the Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta:

  1. Get the sausage out of its casing and separate sausage and ground beef into small pieces.  Maddie likes to roll it into balls, as shown in the photo above.
  2. Mince garlic (Rex did this for me, since he’s much more patient than I am with prep work)
  3. Chop onions (I did this myself, trying to imitate the way my father taught me to chop rapidly, without losing a finger along the way)
  4. Heat olive oil in skillet; add onions and garlic, saute until soft and golden brown.  Many recipes call for browning the meat at the same time as the garlic and onions, but then you’ll lose all the olive oil when you drain off the excess fat from the meat, so I do it in two steps.  Pour the olive oil, onions and garlic into a large stock pot.
  5. Brown ground beef, hot sausage and sweet sausage in skillet.  Pour off excess fat.  Do not pour excess fat down your kitchen sink… see Reissmann Plumbing to the Rescue.  Pour the meat into the large stock pot with the onions and garlic.  Move stock pot onto low heat.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, Lawry’s seasoning packets, oregano, basil, and pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened to sauce consistency.  I keep the lid on the pot most of the time, then take it off for a while to let some of the liquid evaporate if the sauce is too thin.
  7. Enjoy!  Eat some now and save some for a rainy day… or, in my case, a night when Rex is out of town on business.  Pour over hot pasta, use in lasagna.

Yield:  A lot.  Enough to freeze and serve for months.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Chester, New Jersey, or the greater Roxiticus Valley (Mendham, Bernardsville, Far Hills, Randolph, Chester, Somerset or Morris County, NJ), you can count on Louie at the Chester Meat Market for your sausage and ground beef. It’s true that you can get the meat at your local Shop Rite, but Louie’s is a lot more fun. Chester Meat Market is located at 27 West Main Street, Chester, NJ. Phone: (908) 879-7523. Please don’t forget to tell Louie and the gang that Roxy sent you!

Who's talking: Rebecca, Joe, and Mariuca. Leave your comment

Rex’s Recipes: Roasted Fresh Ham for a Crowd… with a Little Help from Louie at the Chester Meat Market in Chester, New Jersey

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As my loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives and Roxy’s Best Of… readers know, our family always celebrates the holidays twice… one Christmas at my mom’s house, and one Christmas Saturday with Rex’s family gathered here with us in the Roxiticus Valley. Yesterday Rex’s family joined us to celebrate Christmas with a “roasted fresh ham for a crowd” of fifteen guests. Rex found the recipe by Matt Lee and Ted Lee in the New York Times back in April 2006.  If you’re looking for a great holiday meal for New Year’s Eve/Day, I’ve posted the recipe, along with before and after photos, and recommend that you call Louie at the Chester Meat Market right away to order your fresh ham for your upcoming feast.

Roasted Fresh Ham for a Crowd:


  • 1 16-to-18-pound fresh ham from Chester Meat Market
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (from 14 to 16 stems)
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half

To Make the Fresh Ham (Pork Roast):

  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.  Trim skin and excess fat from ham, leaving a layer of fat.  Score ham all over in a diamond pattern of 1/2-inch-deep cuts about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  2. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and thyme, pinching and sifting mixture until thyme becomes fragrant.  Pat mixture all over ham and into crevices.
  3. Place ham fat-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan and roast uncovered for half an hour.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees, pour 2 cups wine and 1/2 cup water into pan and loosely tent with aluminum foil.  Continue to roast, basting every hour.  Add water to pan, if necessary, to keep pan juices from scorching; bake until a meat thermometer pressed into thickest part of ham reads 155 degrees, about 3 1/2 hours.
  4. Let ham stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving.  Pour pan juices and remaining 2 tablespoons wine into a small saucepan and simmer about 2 minutes.  Turn off flame, add half-and-half, and serve with ham.

Yield:  12 to 14 servings.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Chester, New Jersey, or the greater Roxiticus Valley (Mendham, Bernardsville, Far Hills, Randolph, Chester, Somerset or Morris County), you can count on Louie at the Chester Meat Market for your fresh ham. Chester Meat Market is located at 27 West Main Street, Chester, NJ. Phone: (908) 879-7523. Please don’t forget to tell Louie and the gang that Roxy sent you!


Christmas Crisis in Roxy’s Kitchen Sink: Reissmann Plumbing to the Rescue

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What is it about the holidays that always seems to bring plumbing problems to our home?  Over the past five years since we’ve lived here in Mendham Township, New Jersey, we’ve had the following holiday plumbing incidents:

  • Thanksgiving 2003:  Backed up toilet in the half bath off the kitchen
  • Thanksgiving 2004:  Broken washing machine
  • Christmas 2005:  Broken hot water heater spewing water all over the basement floor
  • Christmas 2008:  Kitchen sink clog spewing water all over the kitchen floor

It’s not every year that we have a plumbing problem, but whenever we do, it’s Reissmann to the rescue!  This morning, I found Rex standing at the kitchen sink with a plunger, and knew we were in trouble.  I suspect that he dumped the excess fat from our Christmas prime rib down the drain, but whatever it was, we have one serious clog.  After trying a “blast” of Liquid Plumber and one of us on each side of the double sink with a plunger, we ended up with water spewing out from the pipes down below.  “Call Reissmann!” Rex cried, and I reached for the phone.  Five hours later, Scott was here to repair the damage… which turned out to be a huge plug of solidified fat the size of a giant champagne cork.

Thanks, Reissmann Plumbing, for saving our holidays!

Reissmann Plumbing. Phone: (908) 879-5530 and don’t forget to tell ‘em Roxy sent you!  Click here to get a money saving coupon… Reissmann Plumbing will MAIL you the coupon, so get one now before your holiday plumbing crisis.  They also have a Frequent Plumber Card for people like me… after five validated visits, I’ll have an hour of free labor on my next call.


Holiday Traditions: London and Maddie Choose and Decorate Our Christmas Tree from Alstede Farms in Chester, New Jersey

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While Erik and his band of merry Santas, Mrs. Clauses and Elves were on the Santa Rampage in Austin, Texas yesterday, our family continued a quieter holiday tradition here in the Roxiticus Valley, New Jersey.

London, Maddie, Rex and I headed over to Alstede Farms in Chester, New Jersey to pick out a fresh cut eight to nine foot Christmas tree.  We chose a Concolor Fir, a soft green tree with medium needles and good retention.  Alstede Farms describes the frangrance as that of citrus, and after a day in our home, it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas… a great aroma of pine needles and citrus.  All we’re missing are the Christmas cookies, and the girls and I may get to baking tonight.

It always feels like our family is among the last to decorate our Christmas tree, but if you don’t have one yet, Roxy highly recommends the Alstede Farms Christmas tree experience.

Alstede Farms, 84 County Route 513 South (Old Route 24), Chester, NJ.  Phone:  (908) 879-7189.


Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot at MinuteClinic, CVS in Chester, New Jersey

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Whether I’m surfing the blogosphere or catching up with friends and family in New Jersey, I’ve been hearing a lot about bad colds and the flu.  Just in the past couple of years, Rex and I have become diligent about taking London and Maddie for flu shots, and being good role models by protecting ourselves from the flu as well.  Since London suffers from asthma, primarily triggered by the cold virus, her pediatrician has advised us to be sure she gets a flu shot every year.

Last year, Rex and I got our flu shots from Dr. Glenn Davis at Chester Medical Associates, and we made two special trips to Dr. Eric Yorke at Somerset Pediatric Group in Bedminster wih London and Maddie (kids’ first ever flu shot needs to be followed up with a booster).  This year, however, Rex and I happened to be waiting to pick up a prescription at CVS in Chester, NJ, when we noticed the MinuteClinic.  We used the computer to fill out a short form, the nurse called us in, and within minutes, Rex and I were inoculated.  It was so simple that we brought London and Maddie back with us to the MinuteClinic at Chester CVS a few weeks later.  The nurse processed the insurance paperwork for us, and it was all included under our Oxford health care policy.  I’ll feel better knowing our whole family is protected from the flu this season.

You probaby don’t need to live in Chester, New Jersey, to get a flu shot at the CVS MinuteClinic.  Go to or call 1-866-389-2727 to find one near you.  Open 7 days a week.  No appointment necessary.  Most insurance accepted.


Roxy’s Got Ten Bucks to Spend on Holiday Shopping in Chester, New Jersey

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It’s not even time for Thanksgiving yet, but I feel like Santa Claus just stopped by and stuffed my stocking… in today’s mail, I received a $10 gift from the Historic Chester Business Association to use for local holiday shopping.  I just bring the postcard in to one of the select Chester, NJ stores between now and December 24th and I’ll save ten bucks on a purchase of $30 or more.

Downtown Chester is gearing up for the holiday shopping season with a full slate of upcoming events:

  • Chester’s Holiday Lighting Celebration on Saturday, November 29th.  Holiday lights come to downtown Chester compliments of the Historic Chester Business Association.  Shop in a winter wonderland of illuminated snowflakes and colorful banners.  Enjoy strolling carolers, free horse and carriage rides, clowns and great shopping and dining in the classic Chester Holiday tradition. Elvis The Elf will be in town from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • Holiday Shopping with Strolling Carolers.  Sunday, November 30th; Saturday, December 6th; Sunday, December 7th; Saturday, December 20th.
  • Holiday Shopping with Strolling Carolers and Free Horse and Buggy Rides.  Saturday, December 13th.
  • Holiday Shopping with Strolling Carolers and Elvis the Elf.  Sunday, December 14th.
  • Holiday Shopping with Strolling Carolers, Free Horse and Buggy Rides, and Elvis the Elf.  Sunday, December 21st.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a horse and buggy ride, and London and Maddie love horses (despite London’s allergies), so we’ll try to do our holiday shopping in downtown Chester on December 13th or 21st.  I’ll be the blonde with the Canon Digital Rebel and the two dancing girls.  We’ll hope to see you there!


Stuff-A-Roo & Teddy Too in Chester, New Jersey

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My little girls are growing up…gone are the days when Maddie would cling to my leg and refuse to take part in birthday party activities at local Morris County, NJ venues, unless Mommy would go down the giant slide, hold onto the parachute, or cut up her pizza into little bite-sized pieces. Now that Maddie and London have reached the first and second grades at Mendham Township Elementary School, the birthday parties are fewer and farther between than the good old days at Westmont Montessori, when it felt like someone turned another year older every weekend. These days, the parties tend to be smaller, frequently same-sex or just best buddies, and don’t feel like such grand productions. Oh…and like the dad in Finding Nemo, I have to accept that my little girls have reached the age of the Drop Off.

This past weekend was more hectic and social than usual, as two of Maddie’s first grade classmates had birthday parties, and the girls all had such a good time that I wanted to share two perfect “hometown” venues with my loyal Roxy’s Best Of… readers. You can read about Saturday’s party at Florham Park Roller Rink over on Roxy’s Best Of… Morris County, New Jersey. Friday’s party took place at Stuff A Roo & Teddy Too in Chester, New Jersey.

Our Friday afternoon started with a Girls’ Day Out at the Clearview Chester Cinema. The girls had the day off from school for the NJEA teachers’ convention, so London, Maddie and I met up with their adopted third sister, Abby, and her mom, my good friend Susan, to see Disney’s High School Musical 3: Senior Year on the big screen. I remain surprised at London and Maddie’s broad (age) range of interests… while the teen angst of the third film in the G-rated Disney HSM trilogy was completely lost on them, the music and dancing made the movie a must-see for our crew. The three girls have already incorporated several of the new songs into their girl band’s song and dance routine. At the other end of the age spectrum, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that 6-year-old Maddie was filled with incredible anticipation of her friend’s birthday party at Stuff A Roo.

After the movie, the girls practiced their dance movies outside the theatre while Susan and I caught up on our girl talk. Then it was time for the Drop Off… no longer a time to weep but a time to dance. London and I brought Maddie in to Stuff-A-Roo and she quickly blended in with her girlfriends, who were all deciding what type of animal to stuff and take home with them. Turns out that penguins were the popular choice among the eleven girls, but Maddie’s never been one to give in to peer pressure. Maddie and her friends had an awesome afternoon outing and probably weren’t aware of the difference between the sweet local feel of Stuff A Roo and Teddy Too as compared with the dreaded chain store sensation of a Build-A-Bear party. As a local mom, however, I found Stuff-A-Roo so much more civilized, cozy and safe and was thrilled to avoid a trip to the mall. I left my contact phone numbers with the birthday mom in case of emergency or meltdown, and London and I headed home for an extended play date with Abby and Susan. When we picked her up at the end of the party, Maddie had a little cradle with a white poodle in her arms and she just couldn’t wait to tell our whole family all about her new friend, Maggie. Maddie and Maggie had quite the weekend together, including a visit to Grandmom’s house.

Stuff-A-Roo Party Information:

Children choose from a wide variety of animals for either $16 or $18. The kids play in the play area until everyone arrives, then the real fun begins. Each child chooses his or her animal and makes a wish upon a star, which is placed inside. The Stuff-A-Roo fluffs up the stuffing in the stuffing machine, and stuffs the party animals to each child’s liking. The party guests go over to the art tables and name their animals on their birth certificates, which they color and decorate. All animals go home in cradles, and the birthday child gets a special surprise in his or her cradle. To add a little more creativity to the birthday stuffing, Stuff A Roo offers two additional craft ideas: name collars with letter beads for the animals for $2, or create a t-shirt for the animals with fabric marker and stencils for $5.

After the stuffing and crafts, it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and celebrate with a pizza and cupcake picnic. Parents bring in all needed supplies (e.g., pizza, birthday cake, plastic tablecloth, forks/spoons and paper products).

Stuff A Roo & Teddy Too, 54 Main Street, Chester, NJ 07930. Call Rebecca or Maureen to schedule your party at (908) 879-7978…and don’t forget to tell ‘em Roxy sent you!


London and Maddie Review Disney’s High School Musical 3 at the Chester Clearview Cinema in Chester, NJ

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It has been a while since our family has taken in a new movie at the theatre. The sunny summer weather happily kept us on the beach in Bay Head, NJ and away from the tenplex, though we went out when we were back up north in Chester, NJ one evening in July to see American Girl Kit Kittredge (and her famous treehouse) in action.  Disney’s High School Musical 3 came out two weeks ago, but we’ve been busy with Halloween and school activities until this afternoon.  The girls had the day off from school for the statewide New Jersey teachers’ convention, and you can bet London and Maddie couldn’t wait to see Troy, Gabriella, and all of their favorite Wildcats in action on the big screen.

Believe it or not, I haven’t read a single review…not in the newspapers, not in the blogosphere. I did see a story in the Star-Ledger about local teen Max Ehrich who is the youngest dancer in the movie, and the girls were on the lookout for him (if you’d like to play along, look for the #4 Wildcats basketball team jersey with “Patrick” on the back) in the Wildcat dance routines, but he was hard to spot.

I’ll let you know ahead of time that you’re in for a rave (five of them!)…from London, Maddie, their adopted third sister Abby, my good friend Susan, and Roxy here.  All three girls said they liked High School Musical 3 better than the first two HSM movies…maybe it was seeing it on the big screen, or the new slick dance productions?  They’re already begging me to download the soundtrack to my iPod so they can add the new songs to their band’s routine.  “Which part did you like best, girls?”  “We loved….ALL of it.

As Susan whispered to me as we sat behind our daughters in the darkened theatre, Troy was looking very buff… allegedly Disney had to cut a Troy shower scene to keep their “G” rating… and his dance moves have improved over the past three years.  Naughty Sharpay was at her most fabulous, with an interesting new sidekick named Tiara Gold.  The storyline hasn’t changed much…there’s a new “Spring Musicale,” this time featuring the entire senior class, as well as a couple of new underclassmen who may be keeping the hope of a High School Musical 4 alive, but from both the moms’ and girls’ perspective were not strong enough to pull it off.  Troy, Gabriella and the rest of the Wildcats face the end of their senior year and the teenage angst that goes along with prom, college choices, and saying goodbye.  And yes, there was quite a bit of corny Disney-style launching into song at every turn.  I still can’t help wondering who Disney’s target audience for the High School Musical trilogy really is… while I know our teenage babysitters saw HSM 3 on the day it came out (more raves), when I was in high school I would have been insulted by the Disney take on an emotional and challenging stage of life.  Teen idols — Andy Gibb, Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett for me – started around the 3rd or 4th grade and ended well before high school, replaced by scruffy rockers like Bruce Springsteen.  Maybe things haven’t really changed…I know a lot more 6-7-8-9-year-olds than high school letter jackets were in the theatre with us.  For two moms and their dare-I-say tweens, High School Musical 3 was a fitting end to the high energy, eminently danceable trilogy. I just hope London and Maddie and their peers aren’t disappointed when they reach West Morris Mendham High and find out that our drama department doesn’t spend millions on sets and costumes.

Rex stayed back at the home office to finish up some work on a small yet attractive transaction for a buy-side client, and missed out on all the movie fun.  London and Maddie reported back that he would have to catch up when it comes out on DVD.  High School Musical 3 is showing for at least the next week at Clearview Chester Cinema 6 and at a theatre near you.

Clearview Chester Cinema 6, 169 Route 206, Chester Springs Mall, Chester, NJ  07930.  Phone:  (908) 879-4444.

Do call ahead for showtimes.  Rex, London, Maddie and I happened to stop by the theatre on Tuesday when the girls had a half-day off from school, and it turns out there is no such thing as a weekday matinee anymore… maybe only in the summer when the kids are out of school?  I did check online and was relieved to find the 2pm Friday High School Musical 3 matinee.