Art After Hours

Take an evening stroll through an unforgettable multi-sensory experience 

By Sue Baldani

Grounds for Sculpture, with its lovely gardens, whimsical and classic pieces of art, unique exhibitions, and renowned restaurant and modern café, is a much-loved destination for people of all ages. Of course, its most bustling times are when the sun is shining and the weather is warm, but that may be changing.

There’s now an opportunity to put on that winter gear and head out after hours for an incredible display of artistic pageantry. Due to its popularity, Night Forms: Infinite Wave, is back for its second year. “This year, we’ve created a breadcrumb trail of light that kind of moves you through the space,” says Executive Director, Gary Garrido Schneider. “It’s designed to be immersive, and like the rest of Grounds for Sculpture, a little playful.”

By partnering with Klip Collective, which pioneered the process of creating evening landscapes through lighting, sound, and video-projection mapping, the exhibition provides a multi-sensory light and sound experience. Lights and images become one with the sculptures, trees, and other flora, lighting up the objects while accompanied by music that strobes and flashes along with the lightshow at just the right intervals. Other installations are quieter and calming, encouraging guests to stop and relax for a while.

“There’s definitely a start and end for each work, and you can follow that flow  of the artist where there is a kind of story from each piece, so as you move from one piece to the other, emotions build over time,” says Gary. This year, there’s also a digital guide which provides more information about the works that guests can access on their phones. 

Some of the installations even offer viewers the opportunity to become part of the show, causing a ripple effect that manifests across the display. Once the person leaves, it reverts back to its original lights and music programming. Other fun installations allow you to manipulate the lights and sounds yourself. Unlike at many artistic venues, here guests are encouraged to touch and interact with the incredible works on display.

“A big part of Grounds for Sculpture is making art approachable to all and  breaking down barriers,” he says. “You can approach it on your own terms, whether you’re a child or an adult.”

While strolling through the gardens, guests can stop at the Gazebo to warm up with a hot cocoa or warm apple cider (spiked or unspiked), and indulge in a delicious cookie or S’mores Tart. There are two other food options in the park – the indoor Van Gogh Café where guests can get sandwiches and other light fare, and its incredible Rats restaurant serving the best in fine dining. 

Tickets for Night Forms: Infinite Wave will be available from Thursday to Sunday, sunset to 11:00 pm through April 2. For more information, go to

Some of the sculptures highlighted in Night Forms: Infinite Wave:

Carlos Dorrien’s The Nine Muses 

Bruce Beasley’s Dorion

Isaac Witkin’s Eolith

Masayuki Koorida’s Memory

Klip Collective’s RGB featuring artist Michelle Post’s sculpture, The Oligarchs 

Written for Morris City Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Showcase Salutes PetMinders NJ

By Sue Baldani

Growing up, Chelsea Chan always had pets, so when it came time to choose a career, she knew she wanted one that involved animals. For almost 10 years, she worked for PetMinders, Inc. in every capacity from office work to tending to their furry clients. When the owner decided to sell last August, it was only natural for Chelsea to take over the business, which she rebranded PetMinders NJ.

“I’ve always loved animals,” she says. “When I first found this job opportunity, it was right up my alley.”

There are many advantages to having pets taken care of in their own homes, she explains. “They’re in their own environment, and they’re familiar with the smells and everything around them. Especially once they get older, it becomes more challenging to board them. It’s definitely safer and less stressful to be home.”

Chelsea and her team also follow pets’ natural routines. “If they’re used to going in the backyard or if they’re used to going for walks, we do everything they normally do with their owners,” she says. Visits normally take place three times a day (but can be more or less) and a standard visit usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes. In addition to walking, feeding and playing with pets, or just sitting with them to keep them company, she and her team can give medications and transport them for grooming or a veterinarian visit, if necessary.

Most of the animals they care for are dogs and cats, but they also often handle guinea pigs, rabbits and birds. They get requests to care for reptiles and fish, and even chickens and goats, depending on the location, as well. Based in Warren, PetMinders NJ covers towns within a 10 mile radius including Watchung, Green Brook, Middlesex, Bedminster, Basking Ridge, Berkeley Heights and more.

When owners are away from home for longer periods of time, Chelsea and her staff will also bring in packages, water plants, and turn lights on and off so it appears someone is home. “Sometimes people call us just for house visits; they might not even need animal care,” she says.

Everyone on her staff, she says, loves animals. “They are fully vetted upon being hired, but the other main things we’re looking at are how they treat animals and if they have experience with animals. They’re also trained before they go out on their own.”

If one team member is not available, another member will take his or her place. “We have a full staff, and work 365 days a year, including all holidays,” says Chelsea. “Everyone is an actual employee, and has been with us for many years.”

Today, Chelsea continues to have a menagerie of pets at home. She and her husband, Larry, live in Warren and have two dachshunds, one cat, two guinea pigs, and two aquariums. And, the family is about to expand. “We’re actually expecting our first baby girl in March!” she says.

To learn more about how she and her team can care for your pets, go to

Written for The Showcase magazine in Warren, NJ.

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary Pancake Breakfast

Donations Needed For Gift Baskets

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary is gearing up to host another amazing Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, April 23, 2023. To help make this annual get-together even more fun and exciting, donations are being collected for gift baskets that will be auctioned off during the event.

Only new items will be accepted, and no shoes, clothing or stuffed animals are needed. Please consider donating items for inclusion in the following themed basket prizes: Baking – Gardening – Sports – Pets – Health – Children – Scrapbooking – Coffee/Tea – Comic Book – Arts and Crafts – Italian Dinner – Games – Vacation – and Crazy Socks. Baskets and ribbon would also be very much appreciated.

The Auxiliary will be collecting donations on the following dates and times at the Rescue Squad building at 1916 Bartle Avenue:

 Every Tuesday in March (7th;14th; 21st and 28th) from 7pm – 9pm

 Every Friday in March (3rd; 10th; 17th; 24th and 31st) from 7pm – 9pm

 Every Saturday in March (4th; 11th; 18th and 25th) from 10am – 2pm

Thank you for your support!

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary meets once a month, and its grass roots function is to assist the Squad in many capacities – from holding fundraisers and providing meals during crises to performing outreach to squad and fellow auxiliary members. Members also attend town functions, such as fairs, concerts and holiday events, in order to connect with the community and promote Squad interests.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Auxiliary, come by the Squad building one evening to pick up an application, or go to

Written by Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Fostering Success for Today and Tomorrow

This school gets an A+ in every area of student development

By Sue Baldani

At the prestigious Morristown Beard School (MBS) in Morristown, academic excellence is a huge focus for its 6th through 12th grade students, but that’s only part of its mission. A place of possibilities, MBS strives to give students a sense of community and belonging with an emphasis on balance between academic goals and personal achievement.

Tahj Valentine, a 2018 graduate of MBS who grew up in Morristown, is now the Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at the school. He has had the unique opportunity of experiencing all that MBS has to offer from both sides of the desk.

As an elementary school student, Tahj would often accompany his brother to campus for football and basketball practice. From the very beginning, he was always made to feel a part of the school community. “I didn’t know it, but I was already being brought into the family.” (His father also attended MBS). As a faculty member since this past fall, he now has a chance to foster this feeling of belonging in others.

Senior Skylar Reale appreciates this welcoming culture. “Coming into the school [as a freshman], I was shy, but all the kids here, no matter what grade, were very welcoming,” she says.

An athlete, Skylar also enjoys the sports opportunities offered by the private school, which also facilitates friendships. “When I started field hockey, all the new kids came together, and the upperclassmen made sure they introduced themselves to us no matter if we were on varsity or junior varsity,” she says. 

Skylar also plays basketball and lacrosse, and was already an elite gymnast prior to enrollment. Being able to participate in different sports at MBS helped her discover that she loved playing team sports as well.

“MBS encourages students to try new things and not be afraid to fail. The school believes this is true learning, builds character, and helps them develop skills for life,” says Head of School, Liz Morrison. “Students succeed because they are supported – there is always someone beside them on their journey who will give them the guidance and encouragement they need to succeed.”

Something else Skylar loves is the availability of interesting and unique elective classes. “I don’t know if Glass Design is offered anywhere else,” she says. “I’ve taken it for two years in our Center for Innovation & Design and this is going to be my third year. When the projects are done, they’re just so pretty to have at home.”

This year, she’s also taking a class in criminology. “I just love this topic and learning all the details about it,” says Skylar. “Having these types of classes, just like sports, is going to help me in my future.”

Having a good balance is very important at MBS. “It has been at the heart of our philosophy for decades,” says Liz. “Alumni still credit the school for allowing them the time and support to find and pursue their individual passions — to try new things in addition to focusing on academics.”

When Tahj started at Morristown Beard School as a freshman, he had a free period and the ability to go outside and walk around the School’s 22-acre campus. “It teaches you how to manage your free time,” he says. “You have that freedom of being able to either socialize with your friends or the ability to go see teachers for extra help or collaborate with classmates on a group project—just like college.

“When I first got to MBS, I probably didn’t manage my free time so well, but come sophomore year, that’s when I started to understand the importance of time management and how you have to balance things in life.”

This free time also allows students who need help with study skills to take advantage of the Center for Teacher & Learning.  “It’s a quiet place to go with knowledgeable teachers where you can have a one-on-one conversation,” says Skylar. “The support is great and I like that we get to really know each other.”

She adds, “I love MBS because it helped me break out of my shell, become social, and try new things.

To learn more about Morristown Beard School and how it can help your children succeed, go to

Written for Morris City Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Finding the Perfect Match

Enhance the delectable flavors of chocolate and wine

By Sue Baldani

If you want to delight your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, give them a gift of premium chocolates. To really make an impression, pair those with the right bottle of wine.

As with savory foods, certain wines can bring out the flavors of chocolate in a most extraordinary way. Since there are many different varieties of chocolate – milk, dark, and white – and many types of wines, there are certain important criteria to follow to ensure that you enhance both flavors, and not overwhelm or dilute them. To save you the time of taste testing and matching on your own (although that would be enjoyable), wine and chocolate experts have already done the work for you.

For instance, they have found that for a delicately flavored milk chocolate, a heavy full-bodied red will eradicate its subtle flavors. Or, for an intensely flavored chocolate, such as a bitter dark chocolate, the delicate flavors of a light white wine will be overshadowed.

It’s also important to match the sweetness of the wine with the sugar content of the chocolate. Dark chocolate is best paired with drier wines, while white and milk chocolate should be served with sweeter wines. These will enhance the flavors of both instead of competing against each other. And it’s always better to go a step up in sweetness than a level down.

While Valentine’s Day often calls for Champagne, it’s best to abstain while consuming chocolate. Although delicious, its dry and astringent nature doesn’t pair well with the confection.

Dark chocolate

There are many varieties of dark chocolate from slightly bitter to very bitter. That has to be taken into account when selecting the best pairing since both dark chocolate and wine contain tannins, and the intense concentration of these on the palate would not be favorable. So, be sure to pair a high-percentage cocoa chocolate with a more full-bodied wine such as a Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Grenache or Malbec. A nice vintage port would also work well.

Milk chocolate

Made from less cacao but with a high amount of sugar, milk chocolate is a favorite among many chocolate aficionados and much easier to pair with a wide variety of wines since the milk content makes it milder.

Lighter, fruitier wines and reds with a lower alcohol content pair well, as do fortified wines like Muscat or Tokay. A Lambrusco, Riesling, Moscato Noir, and other aged reds also work. A ruby port would be a nice complement too.

White chocolate

While not technically a “true chocolate,” it’s still a favorite of many. Made from cocoa butter, a high concentration of sugar and cream, white chocolate is delectably sweet and due to the cream, high in fat. It’s this fat that brings out the flavors and notes of a sweet wine.

Wines such as a Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and a Moscato d’Asti pair nicely. A rosé port is also a nice accompaniment to this type of chocolate.

Flavored chocolate

When choosing the best pairings, it’s important to factor in what other ingredients are in the chocolate, such as nuts, fruit and caramels. Most aged sparkling reds pair very well with flavored chocolates.

For a dark raspberry, a good choice would be a Cabernet, while a dark orange would be nice with a Botrytis Semillon. Pair a citrus-infused white chocolate with a Sauvignon Blanc and a hazelnut chocolate with a Brachetto d’Acqui for a flavorful and delicious combination.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.