Spotlight on Pelican Shops



By Susan Baldani

Now that the warm weather is here, head on over to Pelican Shops to find all that you’ll need for outdoor entertainment. Everything is in stock and available for immediate delivery.

Andrew Spilatro, who manages the Whitehouse Station, NJ location, said the family-owned business has always been about fun. Founded as a pool store 60 years ago by his father Angelo, it has expanded over the years to include merchandise for all seasons. His brother Stephen now owns the store.

Many of their salespeople are like part of the family, having worked beside them for years. They can guide you in finding exactly what’s right for you and your family.

“You can walk in the door any day, at any time, and get a knowledgeable salesperson to take care of your needs and answer all your questions,” said Andrew.

For example, hot tubs are big sellers, but many people don’t know much about them. Their salespeople can help figure out the size you need and explain how to care for them. Today, instead of using chemicals to sanitize, several of their hot tubs use salt or minerals, the latter being all the rage the last two years. Also, their Cal Spa brands lead the way as the most energy efficient hot tubs in the world.

There are many options when it comes to hot tubs, such as fiber optic lighting, waterfalls, and different types of massages. Some people come in with health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis and are looking not only to relax, but to also get the hydrotherapeutic benefit to ease their pain.

Another hot item these days are swim spas. Since in-ground swimming pools are costly, need a lot of maintenance, and can only be used about three months out of the year in New Jersey, these spas can be a great alternative. Swim spas are like giant hot tubs; they can be used for swimming, but also have jets and seats just like hot tubs. Another great advantage is that they can be used all year long.

Pelican works with contractors who can set up your hot tubs, swim spas and pools. Since they have everything in stock, turnaround time is fast. Also, if something needs to be fixed, it can be done quickly.

For additional fun in the sun, they carry a large assortment of outdoor furniture ranging from simple dining sets to extravagant seating groups, fire pits and tables, above-ground pools and a huge selection of Weber grills.

Kayaks, paddle boards, and loads of pool toys are on display as well. Customers will be greeted at the door with a smile and pointed in the right direction so they can easily find what they need.

“We don’t waste your time. We want to get you right back to your family since that’s what we’re all about – family fun,” said Andrew.

Besides the Whitehouse Station location, they have stores in East Brunswick, NJ and Morris Plains, NJ, as well as one in Quakertown, PA.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in New Jersey

Round up for animals


By Susan Baldani

Ted and Rosey Varna are huge animal lovers. After volunteering with the Cobb County Animal Services shelter for 3 ½ years, they had to give it up due to the emotional toll it was taking. They had seen too many animals euthanized.

Afterwards, they knew they needed to help these dogs and cats before it was too late. So, they started a RoundUp Program at their family-owned and run restaurant, Hook, Line & Schooner in Smyrna, GA in November of 2018. With this program, their customers can choose to have their bills rounded up, with the additional amount going toward rescuing these animals.

So far, they have raised $1100.00, which has enabled them to save 11 animals from euthanasia. By partnering with no-kill rescues, these animals go from death row to loving and permanent homes. They focus on rescuing the neediest animals that are older, sick or injured since they are usually the first to be euthanized.

When dining at their restaurant, patrons get not only a delicious seafood meal, but also the opportunity to help animals in need. Rosey is heartened to see how many of their customers love the idea and chip in whenever they can. They often donate extra money as well. Pictures and names of the animals they have rescued are tacked onto a board in the restaurant, so diners can see the results of their generosity.

People often want to help, but don’t know how to go about doing so. Ted and Rosey have developed a network of people who work in shelters who help steer the money in the right direction. Most of the funds are used to get the animals out of the shelter, with the remaining going to the rescue group that takes them in.

“If we could get other businesses to do it, we could save a lot more animals’ lives. We encourage others to do it,” said Rosey.

One of their goals is to help spread the RoundUp Program in order to rescue even more animals. Ted and Rosey would be happy to give other business owners advice about getting started with this worthwhile endeavor. With every additional $100.00 raised, another animal can be saved.

They are also planning to hold pet adoption days on their pet-friendly patio so people can see the wonderful dogs and cats that are available. One look into their soulful eyes will “hook” many people who are thinking of bringing a pet into their lives.

The couple, who have six cats and a German shepherd, also want to stress the importance of spaying and neutering. And, when looking for a dog or cat, local shelters have some great animals that are waiting for their forever homes. You don’t have to go to a breeder to find the right pet for you and your family.

To see some of the animals they have rescued and to read their stories, or to get involved, go to and their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Written for Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle magazine in Georgia.


What does volunteering do for a teen?


By Susan Baldani

Teenagers can get so caught up in school, friendships, social media, and everyday responsibilities that they can sometimes forget about the broader world around them. The arrival of summer vacation brings more freedom to explore new interests and is therefore a good time to get them involved in some new and worthwhile opportunities.

One way for teens to do this is through volunteering, which has been shown to increase self-esteem, help them gain understanding of issues impacting their communities, and give them personal satisfaction. To make it more meaningful, encourage them to choose a cause they feel is important.

For example, if your teen loves animals, many animal shelters need people to walk and play with the dogs, clean the cat cages, and provide companionship and love to these homeless pets. Or, if your teen likes being around older people, nursing homes are often looking for volunteers to play games, read, or just spend time with their seniors. Churches and other religious organizations are also always looking for help with fundraisers, serving meals to the poor, and various other outreach activities.

Universities also expect students to have experience with volunteering. New York Time freelance contributor Julie Weed wrote recently that volunteering gives your child an advantage when it comes to college admissions. “Most students who apply to college these days list volunteer experience on their application,” said Paul Seegert, associate director in the admissions office at the University of Washington. “The students who stand out are ones who have taken on leadership roles, shown a long-term commitment to service, or brought innovation or creative solutions to their work.”

Of course, having an edge when it comes to getting into a university is a great additional benefit, but if a teen is only volunteering because it will look good on his or her college application, it won’t be as heartfelt or impactful in their lives. So, be sure your teen picks something he or she is genuinely interested in.

“Volunteering is especially beneficial to low-income teens,” Weed said. “According to a 2007 federal study, disadvantaged teens who volunteer feel empowered and are more likely to become politically engaged and to believe they will graduate from college and make a difference in their communities.”

Volunteering has many other rewards, as well. It can help teens learn about the world outside of their own environment by enabling them to come into contact with people they may not normally interact with, such as those from different backgrounds or cultures. It can even lead to a desire to travel and explore new places.

In addition, it can also help teens improve their social skills and form meaningful friendships based on shared goals and commitments. They can also acquire skills that will serve them well in the future, such as planning, organizing, and customer service.

Volunteering can allow teens to try out different careers and help them decide what they want to do in the future. For example, if they are interested in medicine, they can join a local ambulance squad or volunteer at a hospital to see if it’s something that may be right for them. Or, it may make them realize they need to pick another career, without wasting years and money on an academic path that isn’t right for them.

Volunteering is also something wonderful that families can do together. Working for a common goal is a great way to do something good for your community while strengthening family bonds and making memories. Your children may not remember that trip to an amusement park, but you can bet they’ll remember someone thanking them for providing some much-needed assistance.

Finding places to volunteer in your area is fairly easy since there are so many worthwhile causes out there. While some require a volunteer to be at least 18, many others do not. One site,, can help teens find a cause that’s right for them, like taking part in a fundraiser for Goodwill or tutoring a child at Presbyterian Community Center.

Open up a new world for your teens by encouraging them to volunteer their time to help others. It may turn out to be one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give them.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine in Virginia





How to choose the right assisted living facility for your parent


Helping a parent make the decision to move into an assisted living facility can be difficult. Knowing the questions to ask and what to look for can make the process easier.

Assisted living facilities vary greatly. Some are made up of actual apartments with small kitchens while others are private single rooms with a common dining area. There are also various levels of care offered. Seniors who can cook and clean for themselves need a much lower level of care than those who have mobility issues and/or memory impairment.

There are many benefits for senior citizens in an assistance living facility. Depending on the type of place chosen, most offer three healthy meals per day so you know your loved one is getting the proper nutrition they need. Laundry and cleaning services are available to ensure that the senior is living in a hygienic environment and has access to clean clothing. Help with prescriptions, such as reminders to take medications at the right time and at the correct dosage, can keep conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure under control. Activities such as crafts, games and dancing, and outings to museums and plays are also planned to avoid boredom and keep seniors’ minds and bodies actively engaged. Social interaction is greatly encouraged to ward off loneliness and deter isolation. For those with more limiting health issues such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, assisted living communities can offer a high level of care in order to keep your loved one safe and comfortable.

Before getting started, help your mother or father set a budget. Make a list of priorities from necessary to desirable and try to find a place that fits their needs and wants. The facility you and your parent choose will be determined by many variables, including location and cost. Seniors should be involved, if possible, in the entire decision-making process.

Once you know the financial situation, the next step is to find some facilities to visit. You can look online, speak with family and friends who have experience with those nearby, and check with your state or area agency on aging. In Fairfax County, Virginia, you can use the following link for information on senior living facilities in the area: After you locate a few possible choices, you can then call and find out information about what they offer and price ranges, and to request brochures.

Once you have this information, decide which ones you would like to visit and make appointments to see them. Before you go, put together a list of questions that you and your parent would like answered. For example, can residents have a pet, bring their own furniture, and can they come and go as they please?

For the tour, bring your parent with you if at all possible, since it is a priority for your mother or father to feel comfortable with the facility and also give him or her a sense of control. Besides meeting with the sales person, also meet with staff and residents. Ask the residents what they like and don’t like about the center, and get their personal feelings about the place.

As recommended in the article, “Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility,” on, “After a successful tour, drop by the facility at least once during the day and once at night. During the day, observe the social atmosphere, including activities and meals. A night visit gives you a feel for the atmosphere during quiet hours, and it allows you to evaluate the night staff.”

When you find a facility you both like, be sure to review the material received and have all the answers to your questions. Before signing a contract, take it home and look it over carefully. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you’re still not sure, you can have a lawyer review it. The contract should specify all fees, services, level of care, discharge policies, and anything else you may have requested.

With the right information, you can be secure in the fact that you’re making the right decision. And your parent can be happy and well cared for in their new home.

Written for Viva Tysons magazine in Tysons, VA

Enjoy the beauty and peace of the outdoors with your own private patio garden

By Susan Baldani
Homes with outdoor living areas are in high demand, especially in cities where space is at a premium. This is where patios can make a big difference by adding useful, livable space for entertaining or just relaxing.
Many new builds take this into account, such as the J5 condo development in Midtown. “J5’s entire building design is centered around outdoor living for the homeowners,” said Pauline Miller, founder of Brightstar | Compass, which is handling the sales of J5. These condos have oversized terraces ranging in size from 100 square feet to 400 square feet, which provide plenty of space for furniture and gardens.
“We are finding our home buyers are coming from other condos where terraces and green space is not available or limited. These terraces and green spaces also appeal to homebuyers that are leaving single family homes who want the ability to spend time in the garden, and have the opportunity to ‘play in the dirt’ during the many beautiful seasons in Atlanta,” said Pauline.
Incorporating natural, living elements can create an oasis away from the fast pace of city life and bring color and style to this private outdoor space. However, knowing the right elements to use is key.
Matthew Klyn, a landscape designer and owner of Garden, a boutique landscape & garden design firm. He is well known for his designs in and beyond Atlanta and designs beautiful and interesting garden patios of all shapes and sizes.
When planning a patio garden, he stresses that many variables have to be taken into account. The right amounts of sun and water are paramount for maintaining a healthy and vibrant garden, and choosing the right plantings is essential. Since you want the garden to look good year-round, he recommends staying away from annuals and most blooming flowers. These take a lot of work and need to be replaced continually. It’s fine to have some, but he prefers to add colors with textures and containers.
“Lighting is also critical since you don’t just want to enjoy your garden during the day,” said Matt. Evenings are a great time to spend on your patio, especially once the weather gets hot. To enjoy the cooler temperatures and great city views, make sure you have the right illumination.
Gardening is in Matt’s blood. His grandfather owned 600 acres of nursery land in Ohio and had over 1600 varieties of plants. As a kid growing up in a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired house (an understudy of Wright’s actually built the house), his mom gave him the opportunity to create an appealing landscape for the front of the house. Matt took up the challenge, went to the nursery and filled the garden for her. When he was done, he decided that that was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
To find out more from Matt Klyn and Garden, go to or for information about the J5 condos, go to
Matt’s tips:

Tip 1: Know the weight allowance of the patio. Use lighter containers like fiber clay or fiber stone instead of ceramic, terra cotta or concrete. The latter may last longer, but they also add a lot of weight. Cover the base of the planters with gravel for drainage, use packing peanuts for fill and then add soil.
Tip 2: The sun dictates everything. When thinking about a patio garden, first figure out if it has an Eastern or Western exposure in order to calculate how much sun it gets. Evergreens and perennials, such as butterhead black pine and Japanese black pine, work great, as well as boxwoods since these can handle even the strongest sun.
Tip 3: The right amount of watering is crucial. Adding moist polymer to the soil helps hold water and prevents overwatering. To keep things simple, have watering systems with automated timers. Built in planters with irrigation are already integrated into the design of the patios in the J5 building to ensure the sustainability of gardens.

Written for Midtown Lifestyle in Atlanta, GA