Spreading the Love Near and Far

Caps

When Richa Gupta and Sudha Pai decided to organize a small group to make caps for cancer patients, they had no idea of the impact it would have. What started in a basement of a Basking Ridge home has grown cross country and even across an ocean.

While growing up in India, Richa and Sudha played and practiced with balls of yarn and needles at a very young age while watching their grandmothers knit. It wasn’t until they had to learn it as part of the school curriculum, however, that they actually became proficient.

The two friends often talked about turning their hobby into something useful. Sudha lost her brother-in-law and sister-in-law to cancer, as well as her maternal aunt, and Richa lost a good friend to cancer. They located an organization called Knots of Love in California that distributes caps to patients going through chemotherapy. When they learned that a half-million caps are needed across the country every year, they knew they had found their cause.

Knit/Crochet with Love was formed in November 2016 with about 5 members. Today, they have over 50 members with three groups in the Basking Ridge area and just became a non-profit organization in September of this year. Ranging in age from 14 to 94, the groups include people from all different backgrounds and levels of skill.

When they started, “we were happy with first the 50 caps,” said Richa. In 2017, they made 1700 caps and their goal for 2018 is to make 2018 caps.

Earlier this year, they made a blanket for a local child battling cancer. Using her favorite colors of pink and purple, it came out so beautifully that they decided to add blankets to their repertoire.

One of the groups is made up of 10 – 12 residents, including a 92 and 94-year-old, who live at Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge. They meet on Wednesdays at 1:30 and make not only the caps and blankets, but also prayer shawls. “We are learning a lot from them too. They are an inspiration,” said Sudha, a computer programmer. It has made the residents feel useful, and has also helped physically. She said some of them suffer from tendonitis and moving and exercising their hands has alleviated their symptoms. Richa, a math tutor at Raritan Valley Community College, loves holding these sessions so much that she stopped working on Wednesdays just to be able to do this.

The yarn that they buy is recommended by the American Cancer Society and is 100% acrylic, dye-free, and contains no wool since it’s a high allergen. They also wash all the items and, if requested, individually wrap them in plastic bags. They even tailor caps for the hospitals’ needs. For example, one asked for airy caps for the summer, which the members call “holey caps.” Another hospital asked for caps for men.

These days, instead of sending all their caps to Knots, they ship out to hospitals directly. Some of these include Memorial Sloan (Basking Ridge), Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Memorial, Robert Wood Johnson, and Trinitas in New Jersey, and Swedish Hospital in Seattle (where Richa’s friend passed away), Mount Sinai in New York, and Dana Farber in Massachusetts.

One of the group members thought they should put labels on everything they make, so she sponsored the production of 4000 labels. Now they receive beautiful letters from patients who use the caps and blankets.

In addition to the groups here, friends and family in India have gotten involved and are now making caps for a local cancer hospital in Bombay. One member’s mother-in-law in London makes caps and brings them with her whenever she visits. Another friend in California has also started a similar group.

Now friends from East and South Brunswick and Princeton want to start groups, so Richa and Sudha will go and advise them how to do it. They are looking forward to setting up chapters all over the U.S. and internationally.

Besides the group at Fellowship Village, they also meet on Wednesdays at the Hills Club House from 9:30 to 10:45 and on alternate Sundays in the late afternoons/early evenings in different members’ homes.

They have a Facebook site and their own website, http://www.Knit/CrochetwithLove.com, where people can get more information about volunteering and donating. If you can help, they would love to hear from you.

Written for The Showcase Magazine
http://www.designhornet.com/ezine/ShowcaseMagazine_Nov2018/index.html

 

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Book review of Between You & Me

Book

Dr. Reese Powell is on her way to becoming a pediatric surgeon, a dream that does not belong to her but to her parents. Joining their practice once she’s finished with her training is what she has been prepped for since birth.

Caleb Stoltz is also stuck in a world that he didn’t choose. Growing up Amish under a devout but brutal father left him wanting to get away as soon as possible. And he did, for a while. But after his brother and sister-in-law are murdered, honoring his brother’s dying wish means raising his orphaned niece Hannah and nephew Jacob in their Amish community. It also means returning to the family homestead, where his father still rules with an iron fist.

When 11-year-old Jacob suffers a traumatic injury, Caleb and Reese’s worlds collide. Spending time with each other while Jacob is hospitalized at the Philadelphia hospital where Reese works makes them both question the paths that they’re on. As they both care for the little injured boy, feelings also begin to develop between the two of them. Even though they know if would be impossible to continue their relationship once Jacob is discharged, they can’t help wanting to follow their own dreams.

Susan Wiggs, the author of “Between You & Me” published in 2018, takes her readers deep into Amish country and makes us feel what it’s like to live without basic conveniences most of us take for granted. Electricity, television and cell phones are things the modern world couldn’t imagine living without. She also shows us that love can take hold even in the most challenging situations. Some of the most difficult choices are the ones that can bring us the most happiness, even if that means disappointing others who think that their way is the right way.

A Harvard graduate living on an island in Puget Sound, Washington, in the U.S.A., Susan Wiggs has been on the New York Times bestselling list and has millions of copies of her books in print in many countries and in a variety of languages. With stories focusing on the everyday dramas of regular people, readers can often relate to the struggles that her characters are facing.

To find out more about this author and her books, please visit http://www.susanwiggs.com/.

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine in the U.K.

Discover a World of Fun and Knowledge at Your Local Library

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There’s a place, probably right in your hometown, where you can find books, movies, classes and seminars all at no cost to you. What is this wonderful spot? Your free public library, of course.

The library is a quiet place where phones are kept hidden and people speak softly, a refuge from the loud and sometimes boisterous world. You can wander among the bookshelves to find new authors while rediscovering old ones. No one rushes you, so you can take your time looking for whatever it is you desire that day. Do you want a mystery to challenge your mind, a thriller to scare you, or a comedy to make you laugh? How about a self-help book to learn crocheting or sewing, or one on how to refinish your great-aunt’s cedar chest? Or do you have dreams of becoming a writer or painter? There are plenty of books to help you accomplish your goals. If for some reason you cannot get to your local library that often, many have eBooks and even eReaders on loan so you can download your choices right from home.

For children, libraries are a gold mine of information and fun. Many offer puppet shows, storytimes, book bingos and much more. Take your kids when they’re young, even before they can read, and let them pick out their own books. Give them an appreciation of the stories inside and let their imaginations add to them. Help them discover new worlds and ideas between the covers. Enroll them in classes so they can make new friends and learn new skills. If you have teens, there may be classes that offer tips for saving for college, homework help, and computer coding tutorials.

For adults, there are usually a variety of classes and activities that may focus on everything from using social media and tax return preparation to yoga and book clubs. Many libraries also offer museum passes, so you and your family and friends can visit for free or at drastic discounts. This opens up a whole new world for many who could not afford it otherwise.

Libraries have greatly expanded their services over the years, so take advantage of all they have to offer. Either stop in or go to your local website for more information.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

Phobias – what do you fear?

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While doing research on phobias, I expected to find the usual ones such as fear of spiders, clowns, water, and driving over bridges. However, I was amazed at the number of phobias out there, the odd names that they have and the specific fears mentioned.

For example, did you know that some people fear peanut butter sticking to the roofs of their mouths? It’s called arachibutyrophobia. Or that others are afraid of the color yellow? That would be xanthophobia. Ironically, the fear of long words is sesquipedalophobia, so the name of the phobia itself would be enough to bring on anxiety in people with it.

As defined by Healthline.com, “A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. If you have a phobia, you may experience a deep sense of dread or panic when you encounter the source of your fear.”

Do you fear having a phobia? If so, you have phobophobia, which sounds pretty redundant.

These fears are very real to the people who suffer from them and phobias can make everyday living a real challenge. But what causes phobias, and what can be done to help manage them?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Scientists believe that phobias can be traced to a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry and other biological, psychological, and environmental factors.” While being attacked by a dog as a child may lead to a fear of dogs (cynophobia), other fears often come out of the blue and are nonsensical, such as papyrophobia, a fear of paper.

The ADAA lists a variety of treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, anxiety management, relaxation techniques, and medications. One or a combination of these may be recommended.

So the next time someone tells you that they’re afraid of the sun (heliophobia) or the rain (ombrophobia), don’t just tell them to get over it. Many people know their phobias are irrational, but they can’t just wish them away.

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is a volunteer organization of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. With over 90 volunteers, we answer emergency calls not only in Scotch Plains but in surrounding towns as well when needed. Besides answering calls, you will see our ambulances at many special events held in town, such as Scotch Plains Day, the Memorial Day Parade, high school football games, and the summer concerts on the Village Green. We are also available to provide demonstrations for Boys and Girls Scout troops, clubs, and any other group that may be interested in what we do. In addition, we lend out wheelchairs, crutches, canes and other assorted medical equipment free of charge. Our Auxiliary Group holds fund raisers and provides other much needed support for our members. Please reach out to us if there is something we can do for you, or if you would like to become a part of our organization. (908) 322-2103 for non-emergencies or scotchplainsrescuesquad@gmail.com

Contributing Author: Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/scotch-plains-slash-fanwood/categories/guest-column/articles/phobias-what-do-you-fear

Book review of After Anna

After Anna

When Dr. Noah Alderman lost his wife and the mother of his son to cancer at a young age, he had a hard time believing he would ever feel joy again. But years later, after meeting and marrying Maggie, he rediscovers what it’s like to have the perfect family. He and Maggie are happy and in love, and she in turn truly loves his son Caleb.

Maggie, after suffering from postpartum psychosis, going through a painful divorce, and losing her baby daughter Anna after her ex-husband takes her to France, is grateful to have found happiness again and to have a child to love and care for after so many years of loneliness. She loves her husband and adores her stepson.

Everything is right in their world until an out-of-the-blue phone call turns their lives upside down. When the caller introduces herself to Maggie as her daughter Anna and says she wants to meet, Maggie is thrilled. Now 17 and having lost her father, stepmother and stepbrothers in a plane crash, Anna claims to want to reestablish a relationship with the mother she hasn’t seen since she was 6 months old.

At first, Noah and Caleb are just as thrilled to have Anna in their home and a part of their family as Maggie. But as time goes on, things are not what they seem, and their peaceful world is shattered when Anna accuses Noah of unspeakable crimes.

Who should Maggie believe and where does her loyalty lie? With her husband who has been completely devoted to her during their marriage, or her own daughter, whom she has missed deeply for so many years?

“After Anna” explores the complex dynamics of families and how the power of love can bring a family full circle and survive even the most devastating events. Lisa Scottoline, a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author of 30 novels, weaves a tale so emotional and involving that it is hard to put down. Plus, an unexpected turn of events towards the end leads to a stunning conclusion.

To find out more about Lisa Scottoline and her books, visit https://scottoline.com/.

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine published in the UK.

Homemade Birthday Parties

Birthday cake

While I was growing up, most parties were held in people’s homes, especially birthday parties. These days, many parents feel an obligation to have them in bowling alleys, movie theaters, and indoor sports centers since this is what most of the other parents are doing.

In my family, we have managed to keep birthday parties in our homes or backyards. The guests are mostly other family members with a few friends thrown in the mix. This tradition is still meaningful to us, and a way to celebrate our milestones with the people who mean the most.

We often bake our own cakes and make the food for the celebration, but we may also have a store-bought piñata or a Pin the Tail on the Donkey and other games to add to the fun. Of course, we have the birthday themed plates and party hats to add to the festivity. Balloons and streamers are always great additions and make the occasion that much more special. If the weather is warm, outdoor toys such as water balloons, sprinklers and water guns can allow kids to have fun while staying cool. If you have a pool, even better. There are no times limits or restrictions to the number of people you can have and the party can start and end at any time. The children in the family never seem disappointed with these parties and enjoy being the center of attention for the day.

I have great memories of childhood birthday parties at my relatives’ homes, and I’m glad the younger people in my family are continuing this tradition. I love being able to visit with relatives and friends I may not get to see very often in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating outside the home. Many parents may not have the space or the time to prepare food and decorate. As long as the birthday boy or girl is happy, that’s all that really matters.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

The Cast – book review

The Cast

Women are strong. They can raise families, succeed in business, and have fulfilling lives, as long as they’re willing to work hard. This is the focus of Danielle Steel’s book “The Cast,” published in May of 2018.

Kait Whittier comes from tough stock. Her grandmother was left a single mother of four after her husband committed suicide during the Depression. Not only did she find a way to support her own children, but also to build an empire to pass down to future generations.

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kait manages to raise three independent children by herself while writing for a well-known magazine in New York City. Now that they are grown and live far away, she misses them dearly but tells herself she is perfectly happy with her life as it is.

One night at a party, Kait meets Zack, a television producer from Los Angeles, and tells him about her grandmother and the legacy she left behind. He finds himself captivated by her story and tells her she should write about her, or someone like her, for a new show. She dismisses the idea and tells herself that he was only being polite.

Stuck indoors during a terrible blizzard, Kait sits down at her computer and starts to write. Before she knows it, 15 hours have passed and she finds herself immersed in the lives of three fictional women who are determined to succeed against all odds.

Sending her manuscript off to Zack on a whim, she doesn’t expect much to come from it, but a short time later Kait is in Hollywood living a life she had never dreamed about. All is not perfect though as she wrestles with celebrity egos and deals with the tragedies that befall both her and her new-found friends.

“The Cast” really gets to the heart of family relationships and the new connections that are made as we make our way through life. It explores the unexpected events that occur without warning, both the happy and the sad, and how people can adapt to almost anything. But most of all, it celebrates the strength of women now and in the past, and how their decisions have changed the paths of those who have followed in their wakes.

To find out more about this book and New York Times bestselling author Danielle Steel, please visit http://daniellesteel.com/.

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine published in the U.K.

Take a Hike and Exercise Your Mind and Body

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Many of us spend too much time indoors, whether due to work or other responsibilities. Now is the time to get out, get active and breathe in some fresh air.

Explore your town or state to find the best places to hike. Many trails can be traversed easily with just a good pair of sneakers. Others are more arduous and may require a pair of hiking boots. Hiking is something you can do anytime, either by yourself or with a partner or group, and trails can be matched to your level of ability. It’s a great way to enjoy nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of our sometimes fast-paced world. Stroll under a canopy of trees while birds and other wildlife serenade you. Let yourself relax and forget your troubles. Or if you prefer, push yourself up a steep incline and revel in the satisfaction of making it to the top.

There are some important items to bring with you, whether you’re taking a short walk around a park or a long trek through the mountains. Water, of course, is number one on the list. It’s important to stay hydrated while doing any form of exercise. Bug spray or some kind of tick repellent is also critical, and make sure you wear high quality socks. It’s also a good idea to bring along some healthy snacks, and yes, bring your phone, but only use it to take pictures. Also pack an extra pair of shoelaces, just in case.

If you want to take your hike a step further, try geocaching. What is this, you ask? As defined by Wikipedia, “Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called ‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.” Doesn’t that sound interesting? When you find a cache, remember to sign and date the log book and return the item exactly how and where you found it. A cache can be any number of things: a toy, trinket, a book, or something else that has some kind of meaning to the person who left it behind. For more information, go to https://www.geocaching.com/play.

If geocaching is not your thing, you can make up your own games as you walk along. How many pine cones can you fit into your pockets? Who can spot the first squirrel in a tree, or the first bird’s nest? What is the first animal track you see? These are just a few examples, but use your imagination to make it an adventure.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

Back to School Memories Don’t Have to End in Childhood

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Even though I’ve been out of school for many years, September still brings a sense of excitement to me. It’s time to put away the carefree summer attitude, shed the shorts and bathing suits, and get back to serious business.

As a child, I always looked forward to end-of-summer shopping trips with my mom to pick out new clothes, notebooks, and pens and pencils. It was a time to start again after the lazy days of summer and get back into a routine with my teachers and friends. Because no matter how great summer might have been, I was always bored by the middle of August. The schedule of getting up early and catching the school bus, which I couldn’t wait to be done with in June, was something I actually looked forward to once again. I also loved learning new things, so getting my new text books and class assignments was invigorating.

Maybe this is why I continued my education long after high school. Even as an adult, going back to school still brought a thrill, and yes, I bought myself new clothes and notebooks and everything else I remembered from my youth. I found that it was never too late to learn a new skill or perfect an old one.

For example, have you always wanted to crochet, sew or knit but didn’t know how? How about quilting? Then look through this issue and find out who is giving lessons and once you learn, there are plenty of places to go for yarn, fabrics, and anything else you may need for your new hobby. Or, have you always wanted to bake scrumptious desserts, or practice making Asian cuisine? Then sign up for cooking classes in your community.

September is a time to begin again, and not just for children or young adults. Skills can be learned at any age. Think about something you would like to do, then go about finding a class or tutor who can help you do just that. It’s never too late to expand your horizons and try something new.

Written for The Country Register across the U.S. and Canada

Showcase Salutes Goodman’s Restaurant and Deli

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This year, Goodman’s Deli and Family Restaurant in Berkeley Heights is celebrating their 75th anniversary. In recognition of this milestone, they will be offering some great specials during Berkeley Heights Restaurant Week, which will take place from September 9th through the 16th.

Originally located in Elizabeth, Goodman’s moved to Berkeley Heights back in 2000. Don Parkin, the current owner, purchased it in 2010. His main goals were to play a role in the preservation of Jewish Deli cuisine and to introduce Chicago specialty products to the surrounding communities, such as the Chicago Style Hot Dog and the Italian Beef Sandwich. His other goal, which has now come to fruition, was to introduce Eastern European specialties like Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Paprikash and Hungarian Goulash. These are dishes that can be difficult to find on other restaurant menus in the area. Many traditional items such as Matzo Ball Soup, Chopped Liver, Hot Corned Beef, Hot Pastrami, Brisket, Stuffed Derma (Kishke) and Potato Latkes figure predominantly on the menu. You can also find Stuffed Cabbage, Borscht, Poutine, and Kreplach Soup (a traditional meat filled dumpling served in their famous Chicken Orzo Soup.) Most of the main dishes are family recipes that have been passed down from the Goodman and Parkin families for many years.

As you can see, the Jewish deli is the main emphasis of this establishment, but there is something for everyone. “We have a diner style menu, with breakfast all day, and burgers and wraps to round out what we bring to the table,” said Don. You can also find a good variety of salads and numerous specialty sandwiches including Sloppy Joes. Many homemade desserts, such as Rice Pudding, Bread Pudding and Death by Chocolate are also on the menu. They offer dine in, carry out, catering and delivery (Goodman’s utilizes some well-known services to handle this aspect of the business.)

What makes this restaurant different is not only the dishes they offer, but the high quality of the ingredients they use. In order to maintain these standards, Don procures his produce and meats from specialized sources in Newark, Elizabeth, Chicago, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. “Because of the specificity of our menu, we have very select providers,” explained Don. The dishes are made with fresh ingredients in-house and 85% of the menu offerings are cooked from scratch every day.

The types of patrons who come in are wide and varied – young to old – or as Don said, “from bris to shiva” – and everyone wants a good breakfast, everyone wants good ethnic food. He reported that many of his customers come in regularly, with about 75% being repeat customers. “We know many of our customers by name, what they like to order and how they like to have it served,” he stated. Price points are different throughout the menu, so there’s something for every budget.

Don mentioned that regionally there aren’t many Jewish delis around anymore. Fortunately for the community and surrounding areas, he plans on staying in Berkeley Heights for many years to come.

Goodman’s Deli and Restaurant is located at 400 Springfield Avenue (in the Stop & Shop shopping center) in Berkeley Heights. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday and Monday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. For more information, please call 908-898-0900 or go to their website at http://www.goodmansdeli.net.

Written for The Showcase Magazine