Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Best Coloring Books for Adults

If you're looking for a relaxing, quiet hobby (you, yes you, not your kids, not your family, you!) then adult coloring books might be right up your alley.  Coloring in coloring books was always fun as a kid.  Now there are coloring books geared towards adults, with more complex patterns and more 'grown up' illustrations. You can choose whatever medium you like (it doesn't have to just be crayons!).  Colored pencils are my medium of choice at the moment.  Sharp ones!  They say coloring is a stress reliever and a great way to find some 'quiet time.'  It's also something you can do with your kids, in your own way.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite picks for adult coloring books.  I've included some affiliate links if you want to jump ahead and purchase them, too!

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

This coloring book (along with its companion mentioned below, Secret Garden), have become so popular that they are often hard to find.  The manufacturer actually ran out of copies and the book had to be reprinted to fill demand.  You can also visit Johanna Basford's website to see what she's got cooking up next (an ocean coloring book!  Woot!) or just view her amazing artwork.  She also has a coloring gallery so you can get some ideas on how to color her books.

The pros about Enchanted Forest:  adorable illustrations (think mushrooms, cottages, woodland friends, birds and more).  The pages are big and the sizes of the illustrations vary, so some are more detailed than others.  Enchanted Forest is also an 'inky quest,' which means there are little search and finds and games hidden within, too.  But you can ignore those if you'd rather just color!

The cons about Enchanted Forest:  the pages are not extremely thick, so some markers tend to bleed through the other side.

Enchanted Garden coloring book by Johanna Basford - a fabulous coloring book for adults!

If you're lucky you can find Enchanted Forest at your local bookstore, or if it's in stock, you can use my Amazon link below.


Secret Garden by Johanna Basford

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford has also been in demand for a while now and might be hard to find (I did include an affiliate link below, though, so give it a shot!).  It's very similar to Enchanted Forest but it has more flowers and fairies.  Equally beautiful and has pretty much the same pros and cons of  Enchanted Forest, mentioned above.

The Secret Garden adult coloring book by Johanna Basford is super popular!
Johanna's books are paperback but they're a heavy duty quality with a thick cover.  Johanna published some recommendations about pencils and mediums to use on her blog.

The Jersey Grammy was not finished with this page yet but I still thought it was beautiful!
The Jersey Grammy used colored pencils for these flowers from Secret Garden
Here's an affiliate link for Secret Garden.  If it's available, get it while you can!  They sell out quickly.


Doodle Invasion by Zifflin and Kirby Rosales 

Doodle Invasion is by FAR my favorite adult coloring book of all time.  I found it thanks to an article on one of the coolest sites, Bored Panda.  This paperback book is full of whimsical, silly illustrations of little characters all swirled together to create one image.  Sometimes it's a moon, sometimes it's a big whale. I love sitting and coloring all of their little faces and discovering funny things about each drawing as I color it.  There are 50 pages.  The pros are the wild illustrations and funny drawings.  The cons are that the ink is a little thin on the pages and it will sometimes smear or look like it's smearing. This didn't bother me much but it bothered The Jersey Grammy a little bit, who had just come from the thicker pages of the Johanna Basford books.

This was the first illustration I completed from the book and it was all done using Crayola colored pencils (along with a really good pencil sharpener!)

My first completed coloring page from Doodle Invasion

This one was done by The Jersey Grammy:

Colored by The Jersey Grammy - Doodle Invasion adult coloring book

Look for Doodle Invasion at your local bookstore or you can purchase it through my Amazon link below.


You can also visit Kirby's cool website and see all of his awesome artwork, as well as read more about his books.

Owls by Noelle Dahlen

Owls is more of a cartoony type coloring book.  If major details are too time-consuming for you, you might appreciate a book like Dahlen's instead.  These are bold, cute illustrations, and are good for kids, too.  The pros are the adorable pics, the thick pages and the price (you can't beat that!).  Cons are that it's more kid-like, and less pages than the other books.

Owls is a cute coloring book, and not overly challenging to color for adults
Inside an Owls coloring book!
You can't beat the price of this Owls book! Check out my link on Amazon:


There are a ton of owl coloring books out there, so if this one is too simple for you, you can check out some of the other owl ones available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.

Mandalas Collection by Alberta Hutchinson

Mandalas are really fun because of their circular patterns.  There are SO many Mandala coloring books out there with all kinds of themes. I bought this one for The Jersey Grandpa because I really liked the illustrations in it.  It's called Mandalas Collection by Creative Havens (Alberta Hutchinson is the illustrator). The Jersey Grandpa is the master colorer, and I learned all of my blending skills from him.  You should see the art he can create with crayons alone!

One of my favorite Mandala adult coloring books
A mandala coloring page completed by The Jersey Grandpa
Another mandala created by The Jersey Grandpa

Here's a link to the exact Mandala book where these came from.  Did I mention these make great gifts?  I purchased this one as part of a Father's Day gift and it was a big hit with my dad.


Pixelations by Arkady Roytman

I chose Pixelations as one of my favorites because it's so unique.  There are only 32 pages but it's a great price.  Again, this one is meant for older kids, but if the details of the adult coloring books are too stressful for you, this one is a different choice.  Everything is drawn in square pixels, much like a video game.  My Minecraft loving boy also took a liking to this book, and was delighted to find that he could transfer some of the ideas of the drawings to his favorite video game!  Pros:  price, thick pages, unique drawings.  Cons:  really made for kids, not very long so you will finish it quicker than the others.

Pixelations is for kids, but it's still fun to color as an adult!

The Pixelations book features sea creatures, robots, animals and more

Just like the Owls coloring book, if you're not sure about the whole coloring thing, you can't beat the price, just to try it out.


Mediums (What to Use)

This is really a matter of preference, and sometimes the best mediums vary based on what kind of books you are coloring.  Each book seems to have different pages, so depending on the thickness and smoothness of the pages, you might want to experiment with different mediums.  So far I actually love Crayola colored pencils.  But my parents prefer markers at times, and they like a variety of different kinds.  Check out my affiliate links below for some suggestions.

Whatever books you choose, I can attest that coloring for adults really is a stress relieving, fun activity.  I love taking the books outside with me to color on the deck.  I keep my pencils in a little tray so I can see them better, and I take such pride in each picture I finish.  I love sharing them on Facebook, so check out my page for the latest updates on my creations!  Or just go make your own!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Hotel Hershey vs. The Hershey Lodge - Which to Choose? (Part 1)

If you're thinking of planning a trip to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania but you're not sure where to stay, The Jersey Momma is here to help!  Here's my honest review of the Hershey Hotels.  You can also read Part 2 - The Hotel Hershey vs. The Hershey Lodge, which highlights the Hershey Hotel.  *FYI:  I was NOT compensated in any way by Hershey or these hotels.  I am just sharing my honest opinions with you 'cause that's how I roll.  

Now maybe I'm a snob, but I highly recommend staying at one of the Hershey hotels- either the Hotel Hershey or the Hershey Lodge.  I know it is more expensive, but I truly feel like you get the full "park experience" if you stay at one of the park's hotels as opposed to its competitors.

We just returned from a super fun night at Hershey.  And NO I was not compensated for my stay or asked to review the hotel in exchange for anything (although I would be happy to oblige if you want me to give you an honest review of your establishment!  Hint, hint!).  Also keep in mind that my review is of the Hershey Lodge during the month of June, so experiences may differ for you during different seasons.

The Hershey Lodge

I stayed at The Hershey Lodge when I was a kid in the 1970's, but things are very different there now.  I remember the Lodge out in an open field with a large lake and sprawling land.  The lake, Swan Lake, is still there, but there is a lot built up around it, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and office buildings.  If you're thinking it's going to look like a log cabin or a ski lodge, think again.  It's more along the lines of motor lodge, with some of the rooms actually at parking lot level.

The lobby has a bit of a lodge feel to it with a stone fireplace and leather chairs, but that's about all I can say as far as "lodginess."  Check-in was super fast and friendly.  They presented us each with a milk chocolate Hershey bar.  I was disappointed that the advertised Kids' Check-in Desk was not going to be open till 5pm.

The Rooms at The Lodge

The rooms are situated in buildings named after Hershey candies:  Reeses, Peppermint Patty, Kisses, etc.  Each building has a letter.  We stayed in the I- Reeses building adjacent to the mini golf course and small outdoor pool.

Here is what I noted about our room and stay in general:

-If you want to get from place to place, it feels like you have to do a lot of walking from building to building.  If you're walking outside, you are walking through parking lots.

-Not exceptionally pretty, but well kept grounds.

-Some of the hallways of the other buildings smelled a little musty, like an old basement (but ours in Reeses smelled ok).  When we passed staff in the hallway, most of them did not acknowledge us or even smile, though a few did.  We stopped and asked one attendant where the ice machine was and he apologetically said that he did not know, since it was his first day on the job.

-Our room was updated and clean.  We only stayed one night, but I was disappointed and surprised that there was no turn down service.  It was a little deflating to come back from the park and have our room still be in disarray with no new amenities added (and no Hershey Kisses on our pillows- boo!).  Was this an oversight or do they really not offer turn-down service?  I don't know.

-For whatever reason, it was very noisy at night, at least until 11:00pm.  There was a lot of banging in the walls which I can't place (staff closets nearby?  Clunking of doors within rooms?  Not sure) and my husband snored ALL NIGHT LONG (but this is no fault of the Lodge.  Ha!)

Dining at the Hershey Lodge

Friends have told me that the food at The Hershey Lodge is more "kid friendly" as opposed to the Hotel Hershey.  This is sort of true.  There are several dining options at the Lodge.  There is a coffee shop called The Cocoa Beanery that offers coffee (duh) and some quick breakfasts and sandwiches.  There is the Hershey Grill and The Forebay, both of which we skipped because we came upon the other restaurants first.  There is Lebbie Lebkicher's named after Milton Hershey's childhood friend, which served a breakfast buffet.  There is The Bear's Den, which we ate dinner at.  It's kind of like a sports bar named after the Hershey Bears hockey team. The food was pretty good here, with kid-friendly choices like hot dogs, chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

Lebbie Lebkicher's breakfast was good, but not terribly inexpensive.  The dining room had no character whatsoever.  It was just a big room akin to a dining area in a Holiday Inn.  I think Lebbie himself might have been a little disappointed.  I was also a little sad that they did not offer the Hershey Kiss shaped waffles that the Hotel Hershey does.  That was a bummer.  For a few bucks more, I think the Hotel Hershey's breakfast buffet at the Circular has them beat.  Sorry, Lebbie.

We did not eat at the other restaurants at The Lodge so I can't attest to them.  If you have any input about them, please feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

Activities at The Hershey Lodge

Much like The Hotel Hershey, there's plenty to do here if you have kids.  They go out of their way to entertain the young ones, with s'mores roasting, chocolate bingo, and the kids' check-in (which we did visit after 5pm).  They gave our son a lanyard with his name on it, let him sign the guest book, grab a piece of free chocolate, and take a guess at the candy jar giveaway.

There's a Wii room (which we did not use, just peeked in), a game room and mini golf, all free with your room stay.  We did play mini golf, and it was a well-kept, cute little course.

But something made me feel that the buildings needed renovation.  The Wii building was small and looked a little old to me inside, as did the game room.  I suppose this is not something that would bother kids at all, so you have to decide what matters to you as a family.  There are basketball courts, shuffleboard courts and tennis available, too.  You can also check out their fitness center.

There are plenty of excursions and activities for purchase (just like the Hershey Hotel).  From Segway tours to Falconry experiences.  You can find a link to all of their recreation options here.

NOTE ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES AT HERSHEY LODGE:  It is worth mentioning that many of the activities at the Lodge are FREE as opposed to the Hotel Hershey.  The Hotel Hershey charges a small fee for use of their putting green and the Lodge does not.  There is a free playground at the Lodge while you can only use the playground at the Hershey Hotel as part of the paid Cocoa Kids Club care center.

Oh, another neat tidbit is that you can see the Hershey Kiss factory from the mini golf course.  We spotted the Hershey Kiss Mobile parked outside.  So cool!

Pools at The Hershey Lodge

-There are two outdoor pools and one indoor pool.

-The outdoor pool next to the mini golf course was small but looked clean.  However, it also appeared to be closed.  When we inquired about it at the mini golf stand the girl working there said, "No, it's open.  Is it closed?  It's not supposed to be closed.  Is there a lifeguard there?  We can call someone if you want to use it and they can come down."  That all seems well and good, but it just seemed odd to me that the pool was locked and closed when it was supposed to be open?

-The larger outdoor pool nearby is connected to the indoor pool, which is kind of neat.  The indoor pool has doors that open to the outdoor patio (sort of like a giant garage door) so you can actually go back and forth between the two.  The kids seemed to love this, going back and forth between the pools.

There was a small playground right next to the pool in a shaded area.  But if your kid gets cranky like mine, you might get this instead of a kid who wants to play:

You can order food at these outdoor/indoor pools at Ripples which, again, is in need of renovation.  It was cute but reminded me of something at a gym or YMCA, with painted cinder block walls, and expensive, mediocre food.  I had pretzels with cheese which was just 'meh' for the price.  There was no outdoor waitress to take my order but the server inside did bring my pretzels out to me when they were ready.

Transportation Shuttles from The Hershey Lodge

-Guests of the Lodge can take a complimentary shuttle to and from Hershey Park and Chocolate World.  If you want to go to Hershey Gardens or the Hershey Hotel, you have to pick up another shuttle once you get to the park.

-The shuttles arrived and departed quickly, and the drivers were super friendly.  They even offered up some Hershey trivia during the drive.  Buses were clean, comfy and air conditioned.

-The drive from The Lodge to the park (and vice versa) is significantly longer than it is from the Hotel Hershey.  It took us a little over ten minutes to get to the park in the morning from The Hershey Lodge, but the return ride took about 15 minutes or a little more.  The Hotel Hershey is a lot closer to the parks so you can get in/out a little quicker.  The Hotel Hershey is also right across from Hershey Gardens, so you don't have to change any shuttles, and you can even walk to the Gardens if you desired.

- The shuttle drops you off right at the entrance to Hershey Park.  You can't beat that!  The park and Chocolate World are right across from each other, so you can walk to either quite easily and quickly.  The shuttles run consistently throughout the day, as well as at night so you never have to worry about being left behind.  That is one of the biggest perks about staying at the Hershey Hotels.  Off-season, the shuttle service varies, so be sure to ask ahead if you'll be staying off-season.

Be sure to check out part 2 of my blog review, where I compare the Lodge to the Hotel Hershey.  Which one is better?  Which one is worth the price?  Read Part 2 to find out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What is The Hershey Story Museum? A Jersey Momma Review

I am a huge fan of Hershey.  It's no secret that I love Hershey Park and the Hershey Lodge.  I am a frequent guest of The Hotel Hershey, and Hershey Gardens is one of my favorite places.  In fact, out of all of our trips to Hershey (and there have been many) one of the only places I hadn't visited was The Hershey Story Museum.  Until now!  Come visit with me!  Oh, and just a disclaimer here - this is not a sponsored post.  I was not compensated in any way by the museum or any of the other Hershey properties.  I just really, really like chocolate.

What is The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story is a museum that details exactly that- the life and times of Milton S. Hershey, and the history of Hershey, Pennsylvania.  There are interactive exhibits, antiques and artifacts to see, as well as chocolate tastings, a chocolate lab, kid friendly activities and more!

The Hershey Story Museum - Hershey, PA

Where is The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story Museum is located right on Chocolate Avenue (yes, there is such a place!) in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  There is free parking in the garage right behind the museum.  Yay for free parking!  Chocolate Avenue is a neat place to see, as the streets really are lined with Hershey Kiss shaped lights.

How Much are Tickets for the Hershey Story Museum?

If you are staying at the Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge, they usually give you complimentary passes to the museum (which is how we visited).  Otherwise, the fees vary based on what you decide to do there.  Basic admission to the museum (as of the publication date of this entry) is $10.00 per adult and $7.50 for kids ages 3 and up.  There are discounts for military personnel and seniors (ages 62 and up).  There are also all kinds of combo packages you can buy, and different fees for different activities in the museum, so be sure to check their admission page for exact information.

What Will I See at The Hershey Story Museum?

The Hershey Story Museum is a small museum and we were able to visit on our way home after a two day trip to Hershey.  There is a small cafe on the lower level called Cafe Zooka, and the coffee in there smelled delicious!  But we did not stay to eat.  However, you can find details about the cafe here.

The lobby of The Hershey Story Museum (by the Xploroscope)

Also at the entry level was a computerized machine where we designed our own Xploroscope Passports.  It prints out a cute little ticket with your picture on it that you can keep as a souvenir.  Don't miss the beautiful painted mural of Milton Hershey on the wall.  If you pose just the right way, it looks like he's talking to you.

Your basic admission to the museum allows you to explore all of their interactive exhibits about Milton Hershey's life.  They give the kids a little I-Spy card (which my son loved) to help them spot things around the museum.  When they've found everything, they can bring it back to an attendant for a special sticker.  You basically wind yourself through different rooms that tell about Milton Hershey's life.  His story is really fascinating, and we loved seeing all of the things from his life and business.

Inside The Hershey Story Museum
Relics from The Hershey Story Museum
Inside the Hershey Story Museum

There are also all kinds of neat facts about the history of the town of Hershey.  I especially loved seeing all of the old outfits and uniform of Hershey team members, engineers, park workers and more.  We also enjoyed playing with the headline machine, which superimposed our photos onto an old fashioned newspaper.  We were able to email the images to ourselves and then save the image as a JPEG when we got home.

The Jersey Momma made the paper! Well, I pretended to, anyway!

Special Exhibits

The Hershey Story Museum has changing special exhibits.  While we were there during the summer, they had a fun exhibit all about being a worker at the Hershey Factory in the early 1900's.  An attendant hands you a card that you must stamp at each working location, and then return to him to 'punch out,' and see what job he will 'hire' you for.  I was hired for the Wrapping Department.  My pay at the time would have been 10 cents per 5 pound box of wrapped Kisses!  Don't I look like I'm ready to work on the line?

Ready for my day on the job!
Weighing Hershey Kisses for packaging!
An old Hershey Kiss machine!  Wow!
My New Worker Training Card and Xploroscope Ticket from The Hershey Story Museum.

Chocolate Lab and Chocolate Tastings

For a small added fee you can participate in the museum's Chocolate Lab, where kids can experiment with hands-on chocolate creations.  This is a 45 minute family activity that is led by museum personnel.  We chose to skip this because we only had a short time at the museum and we didn't think The Jersey Momma's Boy could sit through a 45 minute session (he is 6).  If you plan on doing the lab, be sure to read all of their regulations.  Children under 4 are not permitted, and children under 13 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Also for an additional fee is their Chocolate Tasting session.  There are different options for purchase and different items the kids (and adults!) can taste, so check their page or call the museum for more details.  We chose to skip this, too, only because we had just come from Chocolate World, where we had all consumed more than our share of chocolate for the day!

Souvenir Shop

As always, I loved the little souvenir shop.  They had plenty of cute items and many chocolate treats for sale.  I somehow found a Reeses product that I did not see at Chocolate World, so I was excited to purchase that.  They also had scented pens, shirts, jewelry, books and more.

Jersey Momma Tips

-sometimes it's hard to get the little ones to really appreciate artifacts and antiques at museums.  The I-Spy booklet really helped to keep them involved, so I encourage you to use it with your kids while you're there!  There are also plenty of buttons for them to push and things for them to watch and listen to along the way.

-food and drinks are not permitted in the museum, but the cafe was clean and cute and had lunch offerings, too.

-you usually receive complimentary museum passes when staying at one of the Hershey hotels, so be sure to take advantage of it!

-the museum is not far from other areas of town, so you could potentially make a day of it and go shopping at the outlets or go to other areas of Hershey if you desired.

-you can purchase a ticket package for both the museum and Hershey Gardens to save some money!

-the  museum holds events, holiday specials, and fun activities throughout the year.  Check back often with them to see what's new!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jersey Momma Reviews: The New Jersey Festival of Ballooning!

The New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (referred to by some as the "Readington Balloon Festival" or the "Quick Chek Festival of Ballooning") is held every summer in Readington, usually at the end of July.

We are fortunate to live very close to the festival fairgrounds (Solberg Airport) so we sometimes see the balloons fly over after they launch.  Well, that's an understatement.  One year during my son's 2nd birthday party, this happened:

Can you imagine his face?  He thought we planned it!  And all of our guests were in awe!  Can you see the one on the far right?  It was shaped like a Pepsi can.  We had just moved into our house that very week.  It seemed like magic.

Balloons filled the sky above our house, and our guests later reported that they were able to stop and help fold up one of the balloons that had landed on their way home.  So the next summer, we decided to visit the festival for ourselves and see what it was like.

Where Do I Buy Tickets?

I managed to snag free tickets from Bridgewater Commons mall.  No catch, they just announced on their Facebook page that they had free tickets if you signed up for their email list!  (Seriously?  Seriously!)  So we were able to attend the whole event for free.  Otherwise, the tickets will set you back about $17, depending upon when and where you buy them (as of the publication of this entry, so be sure to check online prices for exact amount).  You can purchase tickets in advance at any Quick Chek store, too, or purchase online at the balloon festival site.

When Can You See Balloons?

The balloons launch two times on Saturday and Sunday of the event, starting around 6:30am and 6:30pm (on Friday they launch only around 6:30pm).  We were there for the evening launch on a Sunday, so I can't tell you much about the morning ones.  Although I've had friends who attended the morning launches with no problems and loved their experience.

Someone told me they were tossing Kisses out of this balloon but I don't know if that's true.

Parking and Getting There

Keep in mind that this event takes place in a giant field.  That means you park in a giant field and you walk to the action.  It was a bit of a hike for us, but all in all, manageable.  You can also park off-site at Raritan Valley College and take a bus shuttle to the event for free.  I don't remember having to pay for parking, but the website indicates there is a fee if you park on-site.  I couldn't seem to find a fee listed, though.

What Can You Do There?

Before you attend, check out the "map of event" on their website.  If they do not have this year's map posted, check out last year's map so you have a general idea of what to expect. The event consists of vendors (mostly advertisers), some craft tents, small rides (extra fee), pony rides (extra fee), bounce houses (extra fee- of course!), an open concert venue and more.

A giant cow!  Giant ice cream!
There's a lot to see and do, so check out their website for all of the entertainment available, too.  You can sit on the lawn and hear the concert for free, or purchase tickets (for an extra fee) to have an actual seat near the stage for the show.  If you sit on the lawn you really can't see the performers, but you can hear them just fine.

Friday evening they usually offer fireworks, and on Saturday nights they have a "balloon glow."  Check their website for all details, because everything is subject to change based on weather.  You can also purchase tethered balloon rides and an actual experience in a hot air balloon, so if you're interested (and brave enough!) check their site for details.

This was a shot of the shark balloon from years past.  See how the sky got really gray?  Keep in mind that the balloons will NOT launch if there is a threat of bad weather, rain, or even wind.  So when you go, there is NO guarantee that you will see the balloons launch.  We were able to see them launch, but the shark, he stayed grounded.  Whether it was the approaching gray skies or the sheer size of him, I don't know what kept sharky grounded.  But it made for a good picture.  Check out the special balloon shapes to be featured at this year's festival.

This unusual shaped balloon took off but didn't make it far, landing in a yard near the exit!

Anyway, I have friends who loooove the sponsor/vendor section of this event.  As you walk through, you are bombarded with freebies- all companies, businesses, organizations, sponsors, etc. who really, really want you to try their products.  The year we went we sampled new ice pops, M&M's, new flavors of Pepsi, potato chips and more.  They even give you free bags to put all of your goodies in.  So that was kind of fun.  My son skipped the rides and bounce houses because it was ridiculously hot, but he did go on a little pony ride, took his picture next to a monster truck, (free) and toured an RV (which was actually pretty cool, and free, too!).  Later on we paid $1 to have him run around inside a giant hot air balloon that was on its side so the kids could see what it looked like.  He enjoyed that, but it was really hot in there!

A Note About Food

We found the Quick Chek food tent to be really crowded and they had actually run out of a lot of things by the time we got there (we went on the final day of the festival, Sunday evening).  There were other barbeque type stands to get food at the festival but we couldn't seem to find an open one.  There were other small food stands selling lemonade and funnel cakes but they were closing or closed when we attended late on that Sunday afternoon.  Again, this is just my experience.  I have had friends attend on the other days with no problems getting food (although they did admit food was expensive).  In my tip section below, you'll also see that some people suggest tailgating in the parking lot before the event.

Another option is a cute little cafe on Rt. 202 in Branchburg called Jenni's Cafe.  They will be opening at 4am on all three Balloon Festival dates.  They offer eat-in or take-out options, and they serve breakfast and sandwiches.  You can check them out online or on Facebook.  I also listed some other restaurant options in my tips section below.

The Balloon Launch

Eventually we made our way over to the field to watch where the balloons would launch.  It was pretty empty there but filled up quickly.  People seemed to know to bring blankets and chairs or things to sit on.  We just stood.  The balloons are beyond a fence and there is a DJ playing music and announcing their progress.  We were so hot and it seemed like it took forever, but eventually, the balloons started to fill and some of them started to float into the sky.

I have to be honest, it was an amazing sight to see.

Each year they have new shaped balloons.  These were some of ours that year.  But all of them are beautiful.

Eventually we decided to head towards the parking area, along with everyone else.  The sky was filled with balloons!

And pretty soon the parking lot was filled with people.  Because we were there on the very last day of the festival, and now it was basically over (there wasn't even a concert scheduled that night), everyone was leaving at exactly the same time.  We live about ten minutes from the festival grounds.  I kid you not that it took us over TWO HOURS to get home that night.  It was awful!  My son was hot and tired, crying in the back seat, and I'll never forget that one police officer directing traffic who just would not let us turn down the street we needed to get home.  "Please, officer, I have a little boy in the car, we just need to go down this road and we'll be home..."  Nope, no dice for him.  "You must turn that way," he ordered in a not-so-nice voice, sending us in the opposite direction with the rest of the traffic and dooming us to be stuck in a long line of cars for two hours.  Oh well.  We made it home eventually.  But sadly, because of that traffic, (and that police officer!  Hmph!), we have yet to return to the festival.  It was enough to make us not want to try again another year!  Especially since last year, during one of the festival days, we were treated to this on our street:

There were so many balloons over our house that year, my son even got to help fold one of them up (in his pajamas, no less!).  So I guess we're a little spoiled in the balloon department!

Jersey Momma Tips for Attending the Festival of Ballooning

*I honestly don't recommend attending the festival on its final day for an evening launch if you have little ones in tow.  The traffic was just too much.  I have heard that the morning launches are very peaceful and then you have the rest of the day to wander around to the tents, but I have never gotten up that early for one myself!  Or perhaps try an evening launch, but not on the final day.  Even better, look into the shuttle bus service.  That's how I would do it if I went again, for sure.

*scope out your map and food sources.  Like I said, we had trouble finding open food venues, but I think this was due to the day/time we attended.  But know ahead of time what food to look for and that should help.

*there are some great local restaurants in Branchburg if you don't want to eat at the festival or tailgate.  Check out Sol Cantina, Genie's Weenies or Jenni's Cafe.  Stonybrook Grille is also yummy.

*purchase your tickets in advance at any local Quick Chek and save on postage fees (instead of ordering online)

*some people have told me they were able to tailgate in the parking lot and have their meals/snacks before they even went into the festival.  Some people claimed they tailgated in the parking lot and watched the balloons from there without even entering the festival!  So you do have some options!  I couldn't find any rules against doing this on their website.  You do have to pay for parking, though.

*check out the FAQ section of their website for info on the balloon launches and purchasing balloon rides yourself.

*bring your camera!  It really is a sight to behold.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Make Red, White and Blue Patriotic Cupcakes DIY

If you're in charge of bringing the dessert to a Memorial Day picnic or a 4th of July bash, then check out these patriotic cupcakes, which are actually super easy to make!

And if you happen to be near Hershey, PA, be sure to pick up some of these specialized Hershey's Kisses to round out your theme.  So cute, right?  I found these at Hershey's Chocolate World!

The little white papers inside the Kisses actually say "thank you" in honor of our service men and women.  So sweet.

Okay, so in celebration of the holidays, here's a quick and fun dessert you can make to bring to the barbecue.  Patriotic cupcakes!

Red, white and blue cupcakes are so easy to make, you won't believe it.  Here's what you need:


-a box of white cake mix (yellow won't work- you'll wind up with red, yellow and blue instead)
-cupcake liners
-food coloring

That's it!  Follow the box instructions to mix up the batter for your cupcakes.

Then divide the batter into three equal bowls.

 Keep one bowl white, but dye one bowl red (use 18 drops to make the perfect shade, trust me on this one).  Dye the other batter bowl blue (use exactly 12 drops, I assure you!!).  Now you'll have three different colors of batter.

Put your cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.  Start by putting blue batter at the bottom of each cupcake liner (I used a cookie scoop to make it go faster), then add white on top of each blue.

VERY IMPORTANT:  try to spread each area of white out with a spoon so it covers the blue entirely (or as best you can).  If you leave too much blue showing, it will eventually leak up the sides of the cupcake when baking.  It will still look cool, but the end effect looks much better if it's just layered red, white and blue.  Then add your red on top of the white (make sure the red covers the white the same way you did with the blue).

Now bake according to the box instructions.  Frost with whatever vanilla frosting you have.  Ta da!

Have a great holiday, everyone!  Eat, swim and be merry, and remember that our country is an awesome place to live, and we should be thankful every day for those who fought (and are still fighting) to keep us free.