Spotlight on Aladdin Cleaners

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By Susan Baldani

Located in the Village Shopping Center in New Providence, Aladdin Cleaners has been in business since 1982 and offers much more than just dry cleaning. Don Kim, who has been the owner for the last three years, ensures the best service for all his customers. That’s why their slogan is “Where Quality Makes the Difference.”

Don came to America from South Korea 28 years ago and has been in the dry cleaning business for over 20 years. His first store, Spring Cleaners in Millburn, is now managed by his wife Eunice.

All work at Aladdin is done on the premises and their services include laundering and dry cleaning items such as shirts, draperies, comforters and wedding gowns. They are also experts in tailoring and alterations. If the straps on your sundress need to be shortened or your pants mended, they can do it.

Aladdin Cleaners also provides quick service. Bring in something for cleaning by 11:00 in the morning and they can have it ready for you by 4:00 that same day, and for no extra charge.

They will even pick up and drop off your clothing as well for no additional charge. “We go to New Providence, Summit, Chatham and Berkeley Heights,” said Don.

People are often confused as to what should be dry cleaned and what should be laundered. Silk and wool are pretty easy, because those fabrics almost always need to be dry cleaned. The same goes for anything with lace or pearls and beads, like a fancy gown, and anything made from leather.

For other items, look at the label and especially heed the “Dry Clean Only,” instructions. However, what if it doesn’t say or the tag was ripped off or the print is illegible? Aladdin Cleaners will know how to handle your clothing so no damage is done.

Experimenting at home is never a good idea. Putting an item into a washer may change its shape and finishing it up in a dryer may lead to severe shrinkage.

One thing that makes Aladdin Cleaners stand out from other dry cleaners is that they use only natural dry cleaning ingredients, which Don stressed is rare.

“I don’t think anyone uses natural chemicals around here,” he said.

Don bought the store from the original owner, who had been there for 37 years, so Aladdin Cleaners is well known in the area. Due to the quality of their service, they have a lot of repeat customers, many of whom have been coming in for years.

“The Cleaner’s Association [of NJ] named us best cleaners every year since I have been here,” said Don.

Aladdin Cleaners is located at 1260 Springfield Avenue in New Providence and is open every day except Sundays. They are there from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays. For more information, give them a call at 908-665-1343 or visit their store.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.

The differences between men’s and women’s fashion

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By Susan Baldani

I’m often jealous when buying clothes for my husband, especially pants. All I have to know is his waist size and inseam, and voila, perfect fit!

I wish it were that easy for women. It’s not enough to know your size, since every designer seems to have his or her own idea of how big or small that size actually is. And length is another tricky situation. I’m 5’4”, which is considered “average” in the U.S., but when buying pants, sometimes average is too long and short fits just right. What on earth do truly short people do?

This is why when trying on clothes I have to bring at least three sizes into the fitting room. It’s a frustrating experience, and buying clothes online is almost impossible. It usually involves shipping items back because they don’t fit.

Shirts and blouses are sometimes a little easier, because if they’re a little too big or a little too small, they can still look okay. But again, when in the fitting room, I usually have at least two sizes of each to try on.

Speaking of shirts, have you ever noticed that men’s shirts have buttons on the right side, while women’s have buttons on the left? Why is this?

Well, it turns out that this fashion orientation dates back to over a century ago. According to the article, “Here’s why men’s and women’s shirts button on the opposite sides,” on, “The reason is historical,” says Melanie M. Moore, founder of women’s blouse brand Elizabeth & Clarke. “When buttons were invented in the 13th century they were, like most new technology, very expensive,” she says. “Wealthy women back then did not dress themselves — their lady’s maid did. Since most people were right-handed, this made it easier for someone standing across from you to button your dress.”

Most men, on the other hand, dressed themselves. However, the article goes on to state, “there are a few competing theories as to why buttons are on the right side.”

‘I think it’s important to question which time period we’re talking about, since shirt and jacket buttons are a relatively new phenomenon,” notes Chloe Chapin, fashion historian and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in American studies. “But as a general rule, many elements of men’s fashion can be traced back to the military.”

Once again, the right-handed assumption played a role since “access to a weapon … practically trumped everything,” she says, noting that a firearm tucked inside a shirt would be easier to reach from the dominant side.

Well, you learn something new every day. Now, if only clothes designers could learn how to make women’s fashion sizes consistent, we would have a better idea as to what size we actually wear.

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

Spotlight on Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream


By Susan Baldani

Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream, located in New Providence since 2000, is a family owned and run business. Started by Peter Elefante’s father Robert and his Uncle Al, the shop is named after his grandmother.

Peter, who grew up in New Providence, took over in 2004 and now owns the business. His sister, Kathleen Anderson, helps manage the shop and makes ice cream. “She has been working here since she was 13 years old. She knows pretty much everything I know,” said Peter.

All their ice cream is made on-site, and Zita’s has won a number of awards for their flavors. One of the biggest sellers is their signature flavor named 91716. Bursting with chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter cups, caramel, chocolate chips and vanilla ice cream, it’s easy to see why. Another popular flavor is Kong, made with banana ice cream, caramel, chocolate chips and pecans.

“We have all the traditional toppings like maraschino cherries, wet and dry walnuts, a black cherry topping we get from Italy, which is fantastic, fresh pineapple and strawberry toppings, fudge, caramel, M&Ms, gummy bears, sprinkles, peanut butter cups and more,” said Peter. “There is something for everyone when it comes to toppings and most of the old school stuff too like the pineapple,”

Cakes are also a big part of their business. They usually have the traditional chocolate and vanilla with chocolate crunch in the middle in stock, but they are so popular that there have been times that they’ve run out of them.

“We sometimes cannot make enough,” said Peter.

Custom-made cakes can now be ordered online and can be any combination of flavors. They also do custom edible images and everyday popular images. “So if you want Mickey on your cake or a picture of your grandparent, we can do it,” said Peter.

Besides traditional soft serve and hard ice cream, they also sell ice cream cupcakes; they look just like cupcakes with sprinkles, but are made entirely of ice cream. They have also brought back their chocolate chip sandwiches. They have been such a hit that they had to hire someone just to make these every day. “We sell hundreds of them and can barely keep them stocked,” he said.

“We also started selling freshly baked Belgian waffles in the shop and they are so good you can eat them plain,” said Peter. “But we make waffle sundaes with them.”

Peter also gives his employees a lot of credit for their success. Even when the shop is busy and the lines are out the door, they provide high-quality customer service.

“We want to make sure everyone leaves here with a smile on their face, and they do a really great job of doing that,” said Peter.

Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream is open all year round. In December, they also sell Christmas trees in the back lot and have been doing that before Zita’s was even there.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.

Preparing for the SAT


Helping your teen achieve academic success

By Susan Baldani

Getting a good education is often the precursor to a successful career. Parents want to ensure that their children have the best preparation for life after high school graduation. For many, this often means an advanced degree. However, getting into their top choice college can be difficult.

One important factor is the SAT score. Most universities use it as a guideline for how academically successful a potential student may be in their institution.

There are no quick and easy shortcuts that will lead to getting a high score on the SAT. But, there are things that parents and teens can do to make sure they are ready when test time arrives.

Since the SAT measures years of knowledge, it’s important to prepare for the test in not only the months leading up to it, but in the years beforehand as well.

Make sure your teen is living up to his or her potential by taking course that are at the right level and challenging. It’s better for your child to get a B in a course where he or she is really learning the material rather than getting an A and not getting much out of it. If your child has had a solid foundation of education, he or she will have a much easier time answering the questions correctly on the test.

“Encourage your child to take academically rigorous classes in high school. The SAT is designed to test students on the topics they’re expected to learn through regular instruction in school. The more your child masters her fundamental coursework, the better prepared she will be for college admissions tests,” says Sarah-Jane Lorenzo, an education policy researcher with expertise in college and career pathways.

Encourage your child to read. Whether it’s the latest best seller or a classic literary novel, reading can increase knowledge of a subject as well as vocabulary and speed. Since the SAT is timed, the faster students can grasp the meaning of what they are reading, the faster they can move through the test.

Have your child take the PSAT so they will know what to expect and how the questions are structured. Also, give them access to a good test prep book. Test taking is a skill on its own and while the child may know the subject, he or she may not know how to interpret the questions or directions.

If you feel your child needs more help, look into a test prep group course, or if finances permit, a one-on-one tutor, especially if help is needed in certain areas. For instance, your daughter may be a whiz at math, but struggles with reading comprehension.

“You can also check to see if there are any free test prep classes or proctored practice tests in your community. Many libraries, universities, community colleges, and high schools offer free or inexpensive test prep programs. You can learn about local opportunities from your student’s high school guidance counselor or at the local library,” says Lorenzo.

Schedule the test for a day when you know the child will be well rested and relaxed. For example, if you have a big family event the day before or if your teen is going to the prom, make sure the test date isn’t the next day. Being tired makes it hard to concentrate and organize thoughts.

On the day of the test, take some steps to ensure the best possible outcome.

– Make sure they are up early. You don’t want them rushing around to make it on time. This can lead to frustration and anxiety before the test even starts.

– Encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast to fortify their bodies and minds.

– Make sure they dress comfortably and in layers. Being too hot or too cold can be distracting and lead to less focused thinking.

– Give them confidence by reminding them of everything they have done to prepare for the test.

Give teens the right guidance to achieve success on the SAT. Being well prepared will start them off in the right direction towards their academic futures.

Written for Viva Tysons in Alexandria, VA

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