Summer’s Here – Get Your Grill On


By Sue Baldani

How do you BBQ? Are you a charcoal fan or a gas griller? Apparently, there are two very different schools of thought on the way to cook meat and other foods in the great outdoors. Of course, there’s always the campfire option as well, but I’m talking about what most of us do on nice days in our own backyards.

For convenience, a gas grill is easier and faster, and just about anyone can use one. Charcoal, on the other hand, needs a somewhat skilled hand to get it going, and it does take a while for those black briquettes to turn gray and hot enough to actually cook food. And then, you have to carefully dispose of those used coals after waiting for hours for them to cool down. Otherwise, if you dump them in a pile of grass or leaves, you’ll have one of those previously mentioned campfires. That may be fine for toasting marshmallows, but neither your neighbors nor your local fire department are going to be happy about your unintentional bonfire.

Also, if you only grill once in a while and want to make a quick meal on the grill after work, then gas is faster. However, if you like having outdoors parties and don’t mind prepping ahead of time, then charcoal may be for you.

For taste, most diehard BBQ masters insist you need charcoal for that authentic smoky flavor that only comes from wood. Since charcoal is made from wood, they say it’s essential to use. Although, you can always add wood chips to a gas grill to get some of this flavor as well.

Preference also seems to depend on the food being grilled. Most people agree that hamburgers and hot dogs taste fine on both grills, but many others insist that steaks grilled over charcoal cannot be beat. Also, if you are grilling larger pieces of meat like a whole chicken that benefit from slow roasting, charcoal will give that stronger smoky flavor every time.

Gas grills are more expensive up front than many charcoal grills, and propane isn’t cheap either. Hooking it up to a natural gas line is usually the best bet, since it’s economical and you don’t have to worry about running out of propane in the middle of a party. But, you can’t pack them up and take them to the park or beach. Charcoal grills can hit the road with you.

When deciding on the type of grill, you also have to consider where you live.  If you have a small patio in an apartment building, the smoke billowing from a charcoal fire and into other units may not be the best way to make friends with your neighbors, and it may be against the rules as well. It’s also not safe, but then neither is a gas grill, which can flare up. All grills should be a safe distance from any structure, and if that can’t be done, an electric grill can be used as a last resort. But let’s face it, that’s not really grilling.

Written for The Country Register – published across the United States and Canada.

Let’s Stay Vigilant Against COVID-19

Two ambulances

People are starting to let their guards down. You can see it on social media with photos of family members gathered in backyards for barbeques, and in snapshots of teenagers hugging and high- fiving at graduation parties. However, COVID-19 is still here, and we are still officially in a pandemic. Yes, our numbers are way down, but other states are seeing a resurgence, and that can easily happen here as well.

In New Jersey, in addition to wearing masks and staying six feet apart indoors, wearing a mask is  also now mandated while outdoors when not able to maintain social distancing. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to wear masks correctly by following these steps:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is still actively answering calls for suspected COVID-19 cases. Most people on the front lines continue to see it every day, and many of us now know someone who has been infected and/or who has possibly died from COVID-19 complications.  There’s no doubt that our state has been able to flatten the curve to an amazing degree, but even one death is one too many for the family and friends of that loved one.

People are missing their family members and friends as well as the normalcy of everyday life. This pandemic has turned our lives upside down, and it’s understandable that people want to regain some sense of control. But, it’s important to continue to follow the guidelines to keep others safe. Our EMTs, doctors, paramedics and nurses are out there striving to meet the demands. Let’s continue to bring that demand way down, so they too can safely go home to their families.

Written for the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad and published in local outlets.

Life’s an Adventure


Glamping and camping in style

By Susan Baldani

Camping outdoors can be a lot of fun, but some people don’t like the idea of spending the night in leaky tents while sleeping on the hard ground. Morgan and Ashley Gliko, owners of The Flying Ham, came up with a way to incorporate camping with a little bit of luxury and a lot of comfort.  The Mount Juliet couple rent out 2015 Shasta Airflyte campers that look exactly like the original 1961 Airflytes, as well as glamping tents.

“These campers are called canned ham campers; they resemble a can of ham on its side,” said Ashley. “The Shastas are specifically known for their iconic wings on the back. We like fun names, and when we came up with The Flying Ham, we didn’t even consider anything else.”

Morgan and Ashley met when they were both in the U.S. Air Force. Now married for 15 years, they have two sons, 8-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Ben. In 2015, they were working long hours and decided to make a change in order to spend more time as a family. So, Morgan stopped working to stay home with their second child. Starting Flying Ham was a great supplement for their income and a way to share their love of these campers with others.

“I’m originally from Montana and we travel back and forth to Montana a couple times a year,” said Morgan. “This was one of the reasons we initially got the little red 16-foot camper.”

“People had such a great response to it,” said Ashley. “It brought so much joy to everyone and put a smile on their faces.”

They now own two 16-foot campers and a 19-foot camper. The smaller two feature a full-size bed in the front and a short twin in the back, which is perfect for a child. The larger one has a full bed in the front and another full in the back.

They all have the same amenities, which include stainless steel appliances, kitchen utensils, coffee makers, televisions, blue ray players, record players with records, and hammocks. Everything is included, even the pillows and bed linens. The campers also have air conditioning, heat, running water, and bathrooms with showers. All the comforts of home, in the great outdoors.

Last year, for the Bonnaroo Music Festival, they added tents to their rental business. All of them come with glamping gear décor and have rugs, vintage lanterns, radios, and whimsical twinkle light chandeliers. Cots, pillows, bed linens and sleeping bags are all provided, and yes, all have air conditioning.

“The nice thing about the tents is we can bring them right to your backyard and set them up,” said Morgan. “If campgrounds aren’t your thing, or if you just want something at home, the tent is perfect. The tents originally started with the Bonnaroo Music Festival and evolved to include other events and parties.”

They’ve even been used indoors, including at the Country Music Awards After Party at the Municipal Auditorium. Morgan said there are lots of different things you can do with them besides just camping; they’re very versatile.

The campers and tents have also been rented out for birthday parties, weddings and other events. Customers have also had campers delivered right to their driveways and used them as extra bedrooms for guests, especially around the holidays. In addition, because of their retro look, the Airflytes have been featured in quite a few photo shoots and music videos.

“What’s nice about the Flying Ham is that it’s a family business,” said Morgan. “We can do it together. Sometimes the kids come with me on deliveries, and sometimes we all go.”

If interested in renting one of these campers or tents, try to reserve at least one to two months in advance, especially during their busy months, which run from April through November. The campers are delivered to the destination, while tents can be picked up or delivered.

For those who would like to camp, there is a list of campgrounds on The Flying Ham website. Ashley said they often advise people on where to stay and the types of things available at local campgrounds, such as playgrounds and lakes.

Contact info:

The Flying Ham

P.O. Box 1361

Mount Juliet, TN 37121


Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.