Sunday, January 4, 2009

Starting to Think About Summer Camp 2009

The Roxiticus Desperate Housewives are starting to think about summer camp 2009, and I'll do my best to cover the camps my kids have tried, and the ones my friends recommend. Some of my favorites haven't posted all the details on their 2009 camp programs, but I'll provide a summary of last year's program now and update the dates and details as soon as they become available.

Mendham Township Elementary School Pathways to Learning Summer Camp:
For starters, I can highly recommend the Mendham Township Elementary School Pathways to Learning Summer Camp that former Superintendent Christine Johnson launched in the summer of 2007. In their first experience with Pathways in 2007, my girls attended the camp's first two weeks in July and begged me to go back for the final week in August. The MTES Cub Camp was the perfect way for Maddie, at the time a rising kindergartner, to get to know some of the other kids she'd be in class with in September, and to get to know her way around the elementary school ahead of time. Camp is open to all children (from rising kindergartners through eighth grade) in Mendham Township and the surrounding communities.

Last summer, the Pathways to Learning Camp returned to MTES, running June 24 through August 1st, 2008, with expanded hours (8:30am - 2:00pm). We took advantage of the camp bus service that picked the girls up in the morning, but our nanny or Rex or I picked the girls up at the end of the camp day. While I had assumed that, without Christine Johnson at the helm, the camp would be less enriching than the prior summer, London and Maddie insisted they had even more fun during their two week Summer 2008 stint, possibly because Mr. Gallo (the MTES Technology teacher) was their camp counselor.

I expect that the Pathways to Learning Summer Camp at Mendham Township Elementary School will be back and better than ever under the guidance of our new Superintendent, Kristopher Harrison. If camp is organized as it has been in the past, campers will be grouped by grade levels in order to provide appropriate activities and meaningful experiences.

  • Cub Camp - For students entering Kindergarten in September 2009

  • Junior Tiger Camp - For students entering 1st and 2nd grades in September 2009

  • Tiger Camp - For students entering 3rd and 4th grades in September 2009

  • Bulldog Camp - For students entering 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades in September 2009

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that this year's Pathways to Learning Summer Camp will run six weeks starting June 22nd or 23rd, ending on July 31st, though it would be terrific if Pathways extended the program for eight weeks through August 14th. Campers will spend an action packed week or weeks (you can sign up for 1 week or all 6 weeks or any number in between) engaged in activities such as creative fitness & sports games, visual and performing arts, challenges & contests to build teamwork & personal leadership skills, technology, theme days, literacy and math enrichment & skills reinforcement, and hands-on science projects. Certified teachers, district administrators, and junior camp counselors will staff the camp. In addition, a certified nurse will be on-site at all times. The MTES camp sounds "educational" but my girls never felt like they were in school, they were having too much fun!

Transportation and food services are also available at an extra cost. My kids won't eat anything but mom's home-made peanut butter and honey sandwiches, but there's a round-trip (or one way) bus option that worked well for us last year.

Last year's camp tuition was $269 per 5-day week, $218 for 4-day (holiday) weeks, or you could pay $1,490 to register for all six weeks. The MTES Pathways to Learning Summer Camp is a great value if you don't need full-day day care. At some of the "country club" camps mentioned below, you could pay $1,000 for one week of camp.

Annie's Playhouse Summer Stars:
My girls have also attended the Annie's Playhouse Summer Stars Musical Theatre Camp for two summers, and we'll be back again this year. The camp runs 8 weeks, with a big show towards the end of camp where you'll see your kids (and other talented summer stars) strut their stuff on stage at the Bernardsville Presbyterian Church. Annie hasn't announced precise dates yet, but my best guess based on last year's dates would be June 15th through August 7th, although London and Maddie will still be in school if the first week starts June 15th, so depending on the last day of school in other districts it may be June 22nd to August 14th.

Annie's Playhouse Summer Stars. Phone: (908) 658- 3002. Please be sure to let Annie know that Roxy sent you.

Pavan's Tennis Academy at Fox Chase Tennis Club in Chester, NJ

London had a make-up lesson this morning over at Pavan's Tennis Academy at Fox Chase Tennis Club, and Pavan assured me that he'll be running his awesome tennis camp for kids of all ages (kindergarten through high school) again this summer. London and Maddie spent three hours a day with Pavan for one week in August last summer and both girls dramatically improved their strokes and presence on the tennis court.

Based on last year's dates, I'm going to guess that Pavan's Summer Tennis Camp will run 9 weeks from June 22nd through August 21st. Last year's pricing for the one hour Munchkins (age 4-7) and Advanced Munchkins (age 7-8) program was $140 per week. The three hour Beginner and Low Intermediate (age 9 and up) program was $345 per week. The four hour USTA Players' Development, Intermediate and Advanced Intermediate (USTA and high school age) program was $500 per week.

Phone 908-879-5231. Please be sure to let Pavan know that Roxy sent you.

Randolph Gymnastics

Randolph Gymnastics in Randolph, NJ, where London and Maddie are training for the Olympics, will offer a 10-week Summer Day Camp program from June 29th through August 28th. Both a full and half day camp schedule is available. The full day runs from 9:00am through 4:00pm and half day runs 9:00am through -1:00pm. Before and after care is available if needed. The minimum age for Randolph Gymnastics Summer Day Camp is five years old. Some of the camp's activities will include: recreational gymnastics & open work-out, arts & crafts, games and races, swimming, non-contact team sports, and a climbing wall. The schedule is flexible, and you'll find rates on the Randolph Gymnastics web site for one to five days per week and one to ten weeks of camp. Phone (973) 584-4111. Please be sure to let Shannon know that Roxy sent you.

Garden State Ballet:

Garden State Ballet, where London and Maddie attend weekly ballet classes, will offer a summer program at each of its three locations in Randolph, Rutherford, and Newark, NJ.

The West Morris YMCA Backyard Pool Program:

No, it's not a day camp, but it's what my girls like to do on summer afternoons. For the first three summers after we moved out from New York City to the Roxiticus Valley, my kids had private swimming lessons in our backyard pool. The West Morris YMCA sent out a high school or college kid who's passed their lifeguarding tests and the kids learn at their own level on their own turf (or surf, as it were). Unfortunately, due to the crazy price of gasoline last year, the West Morris YMCA canceled their Backyard Pool Program for the Summer of 2008. This summer, the price of gasoline shouldn't be an issue -- today I watched our local Exxon station post the price at $1.49 per gallon vs. last summer's four bucks. As soon as I learn more (they usually mail out applications in April), I'll let you know if the West Morris YMCA Backyard Pool Program will resume in 2009.

Word of Mouth Summer Camps, Untested by this Roxiticus Desperate Housewife:

We have friends who swear by Harbor Hills Day Camp in Randolph, NJ. Since I have an nanny (remember, I'm an investment banker, not really a housewife), I'm not really interested in putting my kids on a bus at 8 in the morning and not seeing them again until 4 or 4:30pm. However, if you're looking for a full day camp with round-trip bus service and all the "country club" extras your kids can imagine (swimming, bungee jumping, go carts, etc.), Harbor Hills may be the place for you.

Hi-Hills Day Camp at Gill St. Bernards is right down the street from us in Gladstone, NJ. Cheaper than Harbor Hills but not quite as luxurious, Hi-Hills does offer horseback riding.

Meadowbrook Country Day Camp in Long Valley, NJ is another option if you're looking for full day care, want to spend a bit less than you would at Harbor Hills, and want your kids to have a more outdoorsy camp experience (e.g., fishing instead of bungee jumping). My good friend and fellow Roxiticus Desperate Housewife, Lynette, has twins who have enjoyed the camp for the past two summers, and one of my loyal readers left the following comment: "My 2 children have attended Meadowbrook for the past 2 summers (and attended Valley Brook, the adjoining preschool and kindergarten school). They have had a wonderful time, had tremendous supervision (pools have always scared me at camps!) and have made long time friends. Wonderful summers at Meadowbrook."

If you have a favorite summer camp that you'd like to share with Roxy's Best Of... readers, please leave a comment on this post or contact Roxy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mendham Township Elementary School Principal Michael Craver Resigns

It started with rumors whispered at the Mendham Township Elementary School Halloween Parade this afternoon, and I confirmed it with Principal Craver himself after the parade. Mendham Township Elementary School Principal Michael Craver has resigned. He intends to pursue a doctoral program that will lead to greater opportunities within education in the future.

I'm disappointed to report that I did not receive the official letter from the Mendham Township Board of Education in today's mail, and there is nothing on the MTES web site, but as soon as I get a copy of it I will post it here. I'd also like to use my Roxy's Best Of... Mendham, NJ site to create a forum for discussion. When the Mendham Township School District hired our new superintendent Kristopher Harrison away from Maplewood, I was impressed with Maplewood's active online forum where parents lamented their loss and our gain with raves about their experiences with Harrison in their schools.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time to Update Roxy's Best of the Roxiticus Valley (Mendham, Bernardsville, Chester, and Far Hills, NJ)

Since we moved out to the Roxiticus Valley from Manhattan's West Village in October 2003, I've been looking for all sorts of local things -- restaurants, activities for kids, home improvements, etc. Five years later, I've found the answers to my questions and developed quite a bit of expertise on all things Mendham, Bernardsville, Chester, Far Hills, Morris County and Somerset County, NJ. I've written more and more about my favorite kid stuff (tennis lessons, ballet lessons, gymnastics, acting and singing classes), restaurants, food & wine (local butchers, caterers, cake ladies and wine merchants), shopping, personal services (hairdressers, tailors) and professional services (doctors, handymen, realtors). The Best of the Roxiticus Valley has blossomed into a complete web directory known as Roxy's Best Of...

Tell them all that Roxy sent you, and you just might get a special deal....

Best Places to Eat:

The Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, NJ.

Sammy's (Ye Olde Cider Mills) in Mendham, NJ.

Limestone Cafe in Peapack, NJ.

Grill 73 in Bernardsville, NJ.

Pierre's ( -- Morristown address, feels like Bernardsville to me. About twice a year, Rex & I get a bunch of friends together and take a table of ten at one of the Pierre's wine dinners....the summer seafood dinner is a favorite, as well as several dinners focused on a vineyard (Justin) or region (New Zealand, Argentinian Malbecs). The Roxiticus Desperate Housewives tend to get a bit rowdy and offend the more civilized clientele.

Pluckemin Inn ( in Pluckemin. Note that Plucky's Tavern, their casual side, used to be a total dive bar with sawdust on the floor and real men.

Vine ( in Basking Ridge.


56 Degrees ( in Bernardsville, NJ.

Gary's Wine & Marketplace in Bernardsville, NJ.

Stirling Fine Wine in Stirling, NJ. Stirling Fine Wines has a Red Tag Sale about four times a year. We went to Stirling's Red Tag Sale in November 2007 and on Groundhog's Day in February 2008 and stocked up.

Wine Library ( in Springfield, NJ.

Wine List ( in Summit, NJ.

Cake Lady:
People are always asking us about our "cake lady" -- Carol Falcone, who does all of our fancy (and delicious) birthday cakes. So here's a link to her web site, As You Like It Cakes, in Far Hills, NJ:
Her phone number is 908-626-0693. I have now given you one of my best-kept secrets. Just remember to tell her the Roxiticus Desperate Housewives sent you.....

Cakes, cookies, crumb cake, croissants, lots of baked treats at CocoLuxe Fine Pastries 161 Main Street in Peapack, NJ. You can reach them by phone: (908) 781-5554.

Carl Posey of Grillmasters in Bedminster, NJ does all of our Roxiticus Sunset parties. Here's a link to his web site, which always seems to be under construction: In case that doesn't work, Carl Posey and Grillmasters can be reached by phone: (908) 719-3334.

Meat Market:
Go see Louie for an awesome steak or rack of lamb at the Chester Meat Market: 27 W Main Street, Chester, NJ. Phone: (908) 879-7523

Local Reading:
Bernardsville News:

Observer-Tribune (Mendham-Chester):

Doctors and Dentists:
Somerset Pediatric Group in Bedminster: (908) 470-1124
Dr. David Matthews at Far Hills Dental Care:

Other Local Services:

Custom Mirrors and Glass:

Yesterday (1/28/08) I needed someone to install a custom mirror wall in our basement fitness room and I found Basking Ridge Glass & Mirror. They came the same day to do the measurements, and promise to complete the job within a week. They don't have a web site, but their phone number is (908) 766-9199. I'll report back after they finish the job.
Reporting back after they finished the job (2/4/08): The mirrors are here, the mirrors are here! Thanks to Basking Ridge Glass & Mirror, I now have an amazing mirrored fitness/ballet room in my basement. So well done I wish I could take a picture for you....but I'm afraid I'm not smart enough to take a picture of a mirror that would come out half as nice as it looks in my basement.


Joseph D'Apolito & Son (includes a random little shop with ties and other men's clothes): 16 Peapack Road, Far Hills. Phone: (908) 234-0399

Monetti's Tailoring: 104 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, NJ. Phone: (908) 766-4847

Jane's Tailoring & Dressmaking: 20 Olcott Square, Bernardsville, NJ. Phone: (908) 766-5363

Somerset Hills Handyman:


Reissman Plumbing: (908) 879-5530. They don't have a web site, but give them a call!

Our Realtor:

Ann Tannen, a great realtor with the patience of a saint, spent 2 years searching Bernardsville, NJ and Mendham, NJ and helped us to find our dream home in the Roxiticus Valley. Here's a link to Ann Tannen's Realty Executives web site: Before Roxiticus Desperate Housewives and our Best of Mendham, Chester, Bernardsville, NJ directories existed, Ann was our only resource for a handyman, tailor, pre-school, etc. Give Ann Tannen a call at (908) 221-9900 and tell her the Roxiticus Desperate Housewives sent you.


So you've decided to join us here in the Roxiticus Valley (Mendham, Bernardsville, Chester, Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills, NJ). Give Padded Wagon a call at (973) 335-5055 or visit their web site ( and have them move you here from wherever you are. Leave a comment on the Roxiticus Desperate Housewives blog and we'll try to line you up with some friends.

I hope the next few sections don't get me labelled as a "mommy blogger." Eew.

Early Childhood Education (Age 2 - 5):
In the "better late than never" category: For anyone in the Mendham, NJ/Chester, NJ area looking for a terrific pre-school ("early childhood education"), we're done here but we had a great bunch of years (age 2 through 5) at Westmont Montessori. An amazing experience not just for our kids but for the adult friendships that started there and continue on.

Kid Birthday Parties:

Last Sunday, we had a birthday party at Mennen Sports Arena ( in Morristown. A perfect ice skating venue for a party of 30 kids and about 10 skating adults.

Other good times we've had include Randolph Rock Climbing ( and Randolph Gymnastics (

Mr. Ray ( sings great kid music (roughly age 2 through 5) that adults can listen to without pain. He does a lot of live shows in the area, is available for private parties, and you can buy his CDs online.

Kid Stuff:
There's not a lot of kid stuff right in town in Mendham, NJ, but my older daughter just had a great time with her Brownie troop at Pastime Bowling Lanes in Mendham, NJ. It is a cute little place, with only four lanes. One of our friends has planned her daughter's birthday party there in April, so I will report back on Pastime Lanes as a kid party venue.

Fun Stuff for Kids to Do:
Little Musicmakers (, from babies to about age 4.

West Morris YMCA ( -- all ages. We've used it for toddler
gymnastics, toddler swim lessons, and several summers with the Backyard Pool Program (private lessons in your own pool)

Annie's Playhouse ( -- acting, singing, musical theatre stuff, including summer camp. Starts around age 5, on up to teenagers. Summer camp for all ages.

Garden State Ballet ( -- with a branch in Randolph, NJ, GSB starts ballet classes around age 4 and continues through high school.

Randolph Gymnastics ( -- in addition to birthday parties, Randolphy Gymnastics is the best place for weekly gymnastics classes from about age 4 up through high school.

I just signed up both of my girls for another 8-week session at Pavan's Munchkin Tennis Academy at the Fox Chase Tennis Club. Phone: (908) 879-5231. Pavan Patel is great with the kids and just introduced a new, European approach for developing high level junior tennis players (aged 10 and under) involving red, orange, and green balls that are different sizes and "speeds." Neither Pavan nor Fox Chase Tennis has a web site yet. Pavan is also running a tennis camp this summer at Fox Chase Tennis for 9 weeks starting June 23rd. It looks like kids can sign up for as many weeks as they want...we may try it in August.

Awesome family fun at the Somerset County, NJ 4-H Fair: I believe the Somerset County 4-H Fair is touted as the biggest free family fair this side of the Mississippi. It started in 1948, and I've been going since about 1971. There are still no admission or parking fees, no midway or carnival rides. Instead you'll find kids aged 6 to 18 and their horses, dogs, sheep, cows, other pets, projects and activities. The Somerset County 4-H Fair recognizes the accomplishments of 1,000 Somerset County 4-H members and is a showcase for visitors to see a wide variety of 4-H projects in action. Dates for 2008 are Wednesday, August 13th through Friday, August 15th.

Pumpkin picking at Alstede Farm in Chester, NJ:

Best toy store: Toys With Love, in Chester, NJ:

Chester Schools Science Fair: Chester hosts one of the largest annual Science Fairs in the statewith over 500 students presenting more than 400 projects. It is open to students in grades K-8 living in Chester Boro or Chester Township, NJ. This year's science fair was held on Saturday, March 1st. Can't wait to hear about all the fun from our friends in Chester.

Charity Begins at Home:
Visiting Nurses ( take cash donations as well as all sorts of new and used goods (clothing, computers, toys) for their rummage sale, twice a year (May/October) in Far Hills.

Morristown Memorial Hospital ( While we'd rather not end up in the hospital, we've always felt like we've been in good hands when we've come here. We've been involved with donations to the Goryeb Children's Hospital, the new Gagnon Heart Hospital, and the opportunity to honor nurses.

Bridge of Books ( a great way to share used children's books with kids who need them the most yet have the least access to books.

Salvation Army (, 95 Spring Street in Morristown. Phone is (973) 539-2700. I had some lightly used kids clothing and spent a lot of time trying to find a local charity that didn't want only brand new. The Salvation Army is happy to accept clothing in good condition to help out local families.

Somerset Medical Center: Charity begins at home (and a good time is had by all) at the Far Hills Race Meeting to benefit Somerset Medical Center: I've only been once (October 2007), the sun was shining, the horses were running, the beer was flowing, the kids were playing in the mud, and I'll hope the weather repeats in October 2008.

Hey, Where Did You Get That Great Nanny?

We've had two great nannies, and used two different agencies:
Choice Care (
A Choice Nanny (

For temporary child care (I used them on our nanny's maternity leave) or one-offs (evenings, weekends, a day off from school), you'll find In A Pinch at

I also used a national online service ( to find a local babysitter when we traveled to Baltimore. It worked out well in Baltimore, and I've remained a member (at $9.95/month) in case I can't get one of my usual teenage babysitters on a weekend.

Things We Love That Aren't Soooo Local:

Suzie Hot Sauce (in New Hope, PA and online):

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Station Pub & Grub in Bernardsville, New Jersey

Rex and I "diverge" when it comes to the Station Pub & Grub in Bernardsville, New Jersey. After a disappointing experience there about a year ago, Rex will not likely go back. That afternoon started with the opening of Charlotte's Web at the Clearview Bernardsville Cinema, where the seats smelled rank and moldy and the film came to an abrupt end after reversing course and playing upside down and backwards, and the evening ended with a refreshing glass of cranberry & seltzer in Rex's lap (accidental, but nonetheless chilling).

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Pavan's Tennis at Fox Chase Tennis Club Has A New Web Site!

Pavan's Tennis Academy at Fox Chase Tennis Club in Chester, NJ, just launched the Pavan's Tennis Academy Web Site to keep parents informed about their children's tennis program through out the year. Parents can also visit Pavan's site to see the latest information in the tennis world.

I just signed up both of my girls for another 8-week session at Pavan's Munchkin Tennis Academy at the Fox Chase Tennis Club. Phone: (908) 879-5231.

Pavan Patel is great with the kids and just introduced a new, European approach for developing high level junior tennis players (aged 10 and under) involving red, orange, and green balls that are different sizes and "speeds." Serve, rally, score is the slogan the ITF uses to explain how tennis can best be introduced to starter players. Pavan believes it is important that coaches make the first experience of the starter player positive. The ITF believes that getting starter players to play the game (serving, rallying and scoring) from the first lesson is vital in ensuring an enjoyable experience that they’ll want to continue.

Pavan is also running a tennis camp this summer at Fox Chase Tennis for 9 weeks starting June 23rd. It looks like kids can sign up for as many weeks as they want...we have signed up for one week of half-day Munchkins Tennis Camp in August. If you're interested in three or more weeks of tennis camp, click here to take advantage of a special offer to save up to 15% on Pavan's Tennis Academy Summer Camp if you sign up by May 30th, 2008.

The Somerset County 4-H Fair is Coming! August 13, 14, and 15, 2008

My older daughter had a 4-H Prep Club meeting tonight, where ads were due for the 4-H Fair Directory. I actually placed an ad for my family-friendly spinoff of Roxiticus Desperate Housewives, Roxy's Best Of. More on that another time...this post is dedicated to the Somerset County, NJ 4-H Fair.

What began as a dairy show in a farm field has become one of the marquee events on the Somerset County cultural calendar and the premier free fair in New Jersey...

I have been going to the Somerset County 4-H Fair for over 35 years, since before I was even old enough to be a 4-H Prep Club member. Despite the fact that we live in Morris County, as soon as my older daughter was old enough to join last September, I started taking her over to the Prep Club meetings at the Ted Blum 4-H Center in Bridgewater, NJ (Somerset County, about five minutes from the house I grew up in). Somerset County 4-H is the best 4-H experience in the surrounding area. The Somerset County 4-H Fair, rather than going commercial with rides and games, focuses on the kids and their achievements. Our whole family loves to see the dogs, cows, sheep, rabbits, goats, horses and alpaca. In the chicken tent, there's always an incubator full of eggs with chicks being hatched before your eyes.

This year's Somerset County 4-H Fair promises to be bigger and better than ever, attracting tens of thousands of visitors with its wholesome mix of arts, entertainment, agriculture, animals, science, food, fellowship and just plain fun.

The 2008 Somerset County, NJ 4-H Fair runs Wednesday, August 13th through Friday, August 15th. 10am-10pm all days. Don't worry, we'll be reminding you here at Roxiticus Desperate Housewives many times in the upcoming weeks. And you can look for me in the 4-H Prep Club Cotton Candy Tent!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mendham Township Elementary School Students Participate in St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital Math-A-Thon

The children of Mendham Township Elementary School are participating in a Math-A-Thon to raise money to help St. Jude Children's Research Hospital find new treatments for cancer, sickle cell and other diseases. At St. Jude, no family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. Thanks to millions of kids who help to raise money, St. Jude's is also able to pay for transportation for patients and their families and give them a place to live while they are at St Jude. Since opening in 1962, St. Jude has treated patients from all 50 states and more than 70 foreign countries. Your participation in Math-A-Thon makes you a part of a mission to find cures and save children.

By making an online donation, you too can help St. Jude continue its life-saving work against pediatric diseases with your donation. Thanks for helping the kids at Mendham Township Elementary School reach their goal for the kids of St. Jude!