Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Tip of the Month – Avoiding Fall Driving Hazards

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Everyone knows that winter can bring driving challenges, with snow and ice sometimes covering the roadways. But did you know that fall can be just as hazardous?

Those beautiful colorful leaves that we all admire can cause slippery roads, especially after a rainfall. Wheels can easily lose traction when driving over them, especially if you’re going at a high rate of speed. Those leaves can also cover up traffic lines and mask potholes and other hazards. Children also like to play in leaf piles, so don’t ever drive over one.

In addition, fall means that kids are back in school and playing sports, so there are more cars and buses on the roads. Keep in mind that it’s not only illegal, but dangerous to pass a school bus when its lights are flashing. Being later for work or an appointment isn’t worth risking a child’s safety. Open schools bring more pedestrian traffic as well, especially in the mornings and early afternoons.

Fall is also deer mating season, and those gentle creatures can cause major accidents when running out into the roads. Keep your eyes open, especially around dawn and dusk. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cautions that you’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal — especially a deer — in November than at any other time of the year.

Another important thing to do is to check your tire pressure. According to, “Since fall weather rapidly changes from warm to cold, your tires will often expand and contract. This can lead to a loss of pressure.” Improperly inflated tires can lead to loss of control if you need to make a sudden stop and even cause blowouts. Also make sure the treads on your tires are sufficient to maintain traction on the road.

So, what can you do to keep yourself and others on the road safe this season? Drive a little slower, keep your distance from the car in front of you, maintain your vehicle properly, including keeping the windshields clean, and as always, pay attention to your driving and environment, whether it be road conditions, other drivers, pedestrians or wildlife.

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

Published in local news outlets.


Fall Festivals are Full of Fun for the Entire Family


Festivals can soon be found in abundance this time of year. Who doesn’t like eating kettle corn, drinking hot apple cider and enjoying live music while walking around in the cool, crisp air?

If you’re not sure where to find these events, The County Register can help. Since each issue is tailored to your area of the country, look through the paper to find the fairs that are closest to your home town. You’ll soon find yourself and your family bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, and possibly taking a tractor ride. Or how about trying to find your way out of a corn maze? Some festivals also include children’s rides, classic car shows, games of chance, and many other fun activities that one doesn’t get to experience all year round. Others even have petting zoos, pony rides and raffles. Many of these events are a perfect way to spend an autumn day that won’t break the bank.

These old-fashioned activities never get old, especially for children. They will also learn that electronics are not necessary to have fun, and time away from computers and televisions can be time well spent. Plus it’s a great way to make family memories and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time.

Some of these events are held on farms, which is an ideal location to show children where our milk, fruits and vegetables come from. City children especially don’t always understand how food gets into their supermarkets and on to their tables. This can be a wonderful learning experience for both children and adults alike.

So next time you’re planning a day out, check the latest issue of The Country Register to see what’s happening in your area. I’m sure you’ll find a festival or two that you and your whole family will enjoy.

Written for The Country Register

Showcase Salutes Hacienda Mexican Restaurant and Grill


Walk into Hacienda in Berkeley Heights and you will know right away you’re in a Mexican restaurant. The burnt oranges, rustic yellows, and avocado greens that cover the walls, combined with the Mexican tapestries, paintings and colorful pottery, will transport you to a place south of the border.

Pass through the semi-private dining room and continue farther into the restaurant, and you’ll see that this theme continues. The main dining room with its fanciful tiles, fancy sombreros and fireplace make for a cozy setting, and a side room has comfortable booths with plentiful seating. The staff adds to the welcoming atmosphere, and many of the patrons come back again and again not just for the delicious food, but also for the servers who attend to their needs.

Gilma Kieffer Acosta has owned Hacienda for 20 years and prides herself on the unique dishes she has personally developed for the restaurant. Along with the traditional tacos, enchiladas, and burritos one would expect, there are also many surprising and delightful combinations on the menu that she finds are often the most popular. Dishes such as Camarones Diablo, which consists of baby shrimp sprinkled with lemon and marinated in garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and peppers, and Steak and Portabella Strips, which are sautéed with soy sauce, tomato sauce and Dijon mustard, are a couple of favorites. And of course, many of these dishes are served with a variety of sides, from refried beans and Mexican rice, to guacamole and even French fries! There are many types of Mexican food from many different regions, and Hacienda doesn’t confine itself to the standard, everyday dishes.

Gilma believes the food she serves should be high-quality and healthy. Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch (there are no cans to be found in the kitchen), the meats are lean and the vegetables fresh. The homemade chips with Pico de Gallo sauce and tortillas are all natural and very tasty. Also try out some of the soups (two of which are vegetarian) and the salads. There is even a children’s menu for the little ones to enjoy.

In addition to the usual soft drinks and iced teas, they have Jarritos Mexican Carbonated Fruit Flavored sodas in varieties such as strawberry, lemon, sangria and mango. These are definitely fun and worth a try. Otherwise, the restaurant is BYOB, so feel free to bring along your favorite choice of alcohol to accompany your meal.

While at the restaurant, one of the customers told me she has lived all over the United States, and loves this restaurant because it has some of the best Mexican American food in the area. She dines here regularly and she and her husband just brought their two young boys in to introduce them to the wonderful mix of flavors as well as to celebrate her birthday.

Gilma stated that Hacienda is a true family restaurant, where they welcome input to ensure they are satisfying all of their patrons. She and her staff enjoy serving the community and look forward to doing so for many more years to come.

Hacienda is located at 579 Springfield Avenue, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922, and is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm for lunch, and then 4:30 pm to 10:00 pm for dinner, on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 10:30 pm, and on Sunday from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm. For more information and menus, please visit and for reservations, please call 908-665-8565.

Written for The Showcase Magazine

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Medical Mystery of the Month

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What is all that noise I hear?

The world can be a noisy place. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all, find a quiet place and relax.

However, what if the noise was coming from inside your own head? What if you could not get away from it, ever? For people who suffer from Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SCDS), it can make everyday living a nightmare.

As reported on, “Researchers at Johns Hopkins identified superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS) in 1995. This condition involves an abnormal opening in the uppermost canal of the vestibule of the inner ear. SCDS may be caused by the bony surface of the canal not growing to its normal thickness during development.” Common bodily functions, such as chewing or swallowing appear very loud. Those afflicted can even sometimes hear their own heartbeats or the blood coursing through their veins. And any external noises, such as coughing, speaking or a telephone ringing can cause vertigo, blurred vision, headaches, anxiety and nausea since every sound is amplified. Flying, head trauma, or any straining, such as giving birth or heavy lifting, can cause symptoms to appear. Some people also notice it as they grow older.

According to, others with SCDS may experience an echo when speaking or chewing, and/or think that items that are stationary are actually moving. Until recently, these complaints were considered psychosomatic and patients were often referred to psychiatrists.

Once diagnosed, the only way to fix the condition is through surgery. Additional physical therapy may be needed to overcome any lingering dizziness. For more information, go to the SCDS Society at

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

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

Then She Was Gone – book review

The She Was Gone

One of the biggest fears of any parent is child abduction. In Lisa Jewell’s newest book. “Then She Was Gone,” we get to experience the heartbreak and devastation this crime can bring upon a family.

Ellie Mack was a golden child: pretty, smart, loving and happy. One day, at the age of 15, she disappears on her way to the library. Her parents, Laurel and Paul, are frantic, convinced that she was taken, but the police are thinking that maybe she is just another runaway.

No leads are found and no one reported seeing anything unusual that day, and pretty soon the case goes cold. As the years start to pass slowly with no sign of Ellie, sadness and frustration take their toll. Family relationships are frayed and eventually broken. Her parents and siblings drift apart, at times trying to forget and go on with their lives, but also hoping that one day Ellie will be found.

Laurel may be the one who finds it the hardest to move forward; she does not want to let go of the fantasy that her daughter will return to her safe and sound. One day, a little girl comes into her life who so reminds her of her daughter. The more time she spends with her, the more convinced she is that young Poppy is almost a clone of her daughter. Other people start to notice it as well. But how could Poppy and Ellie be connected? After all, there has been no sign of her daughter for 10 years.

Told from the viewpoint of each main character, the book explores the psychological turmoil that the victims and their perpetrator experience. The pain is heartfelt, but then so is the reasoning of the kidnapper. You will get to know each character’s story and get a feel for who they are and what motivates them.

Born and raised in north London, Lisa Jewell is the author of 12 bestselling novels. She lives in Swiss Cottage, a district in the London borough of Camden in England, with her husband and two daughters. To find out more about her and her other books, go to

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine (UK)

Playtime for Children and Families – Why Having Fun Matters

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Kids today are busy. Besides school and homework, there’s sports, clubs, music lessons, ballet and other activities that keep them on a structured schedule. It’s easy to see why kids can feel overwhelmed and anxious.

One way to combat this stress is through play. For children, time to play is a time to explore and have fun. As reported in The Journal of Pediatrics, “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.”

Of course, extracurricular activities are also important for children’s overall good health and brain development, and free playtime should not be seen as something competing with that. Instead, it should be a natural part of a child’s schedule.

Parents can help children incorporate playtime into their everyday lives, and not only will it have positive results for the child, but for the whole family as well. Children and parents should have alone time, so parents can get their chores done while children have time to play on their own and learn how to entertain themselves. However, parents should also play with their children, and there are some simple ways to incorporate fun activities into busy lives.

For example, now that the warm weather is here, keeping some simple items in your car can lead to spontaneous play. Frisbees, chalk, balls, balloons and jump ropes don’t take up much room, and can be available at a moments notice. When you’re driving with your kids, look for spots that are free of traffic, get everyone out of the car, and use the chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern. Find a rock or other marker and use it to throw on the squares. Hop around with your kids and you will all get some exercise. While driving past a park or big open field, park the car and have a quick game of frisbee or a jump rope contest. Throw some balls back and forth, or if you don’t have anything with you, play a game of tag. Make a list of natural elements, such as acorns and pine cones, and have a scavenger hunt to see who can find all the things on the list the fastest. Blow up the balloons and have a volleyball game – who needs a net?

There are many ways to play whether by oneself or with family members. Both forms of play are beneficial and serve a purpose. According to the article “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development,” written for Montana State University, family activities “help develop strong family bonds, which can last a lifetime. Families who play together are more cooperative and supportive and have better communication.”

So, schedule some play time into everyday routines, and make happy memories that will last a lifetime. It will also give mom and dad some much need downtime just to have fun.

Written for About Families Magazine