- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: February 2009

Love at the Lighthouse

lighthouse-distanceIf you are planning an engagement or wedding ceremony at the Lighthouse, please contact the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts for further information. The watchroom/Gallery of the lighthouse is limited to 15 people and may not be rented during hours of operation. The rental fee is $300. Visit for contact information.

The Cape May Lighthouse has become a favored destination for many engagements and weddings. The weddings are held early in the morning before the Lighthouse officially opens to visitors. Only 15 guests are allowed because that’s all the room there is at the top. It’s wise to avoid wearing a long flowing gown when negotiating 199 steps. And, weather could be a big problem.

It was a spectacular day in July 2007 when Debbie Goulden and Craig Scardaville tied the knot.

The bride and groom are fascinated with lighthouses and intrigued with the lighthouse keeper lifestyle. Debbie, a nursing instructor in Baltimore, fashions her vacations around trips to lighthouses all around the U.S. and abroad. She tries to visit 10 a year, and has toured 65. She collects lighthouse miniatures, books, pictures and memorabilia. Her favorite lighthouse? Cape May, of course.

The couple met 12 years ago and fell in love, but life propelled them in different directions. Earlier this year their paths crossed again and said Craig, a teacher, “It was just the same as before – we were meant for each other.” He proposed to Debbie, down on his knee, at the top of the Cape May Lighthouse in April, presenting her with her favorite gem, an emerald.

lighthouse-beach“It was just by luck that we were able to arrange our wedding at the top of the Cape May Light on 7-07-07,” said Debbie. “I am really not superstitious about it being a lucky day, but as luck would have it – the weather was lovely, the ceremony performed by West Cape May Mayor Pam Kaithern was just beautiful and we are a very lucky couple.” (The only bad luck of the day: They had dinner at the 2 Mile Inn Crab House Restaurant – part of which fell into the water that night. Luckily, they were on the safe side.)

In autumn of that year the newlyweds were off to Michigan to visit the Great Lakes lighthouses. Next on the agenda was a trip to lighthouses in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

Why the fascination with lighthouses? “I love the sea,” said Debbie, “and all the metaphors that go with lighthouses. Guiding light, port in the storm, and from the top, looking out at the sea, the realization of eternity, infinity.

“Sitting in gridlock on I-95 outside Baltimore,” she said, “I fantasize I am a lighthouse keeper. How sweet the isolation.” She mused: Time to read by firelight, fish the empty beaches, listen to the weather, write poetry, words reflecting sounds of the waves, shorebirds, the winds.

Not everyone climbs the 199 steps to heaven. On August 3, 2007, Nikolay Zhelyazkov wanted to find the perfect place to ask Macy Andrews to marry him. Flashback to two weeks before when the couple were planning their usual Sunday beach date. “Niky,” recalls Macy, “said, ‘Why don’t have a picnlighthouse-nik-macyic at the Lighthouse?’” He organized everything from the champagne to the chocolate-covered cherries, plus the usual picnic goodies.

“He picked the perfect spot. It was just at sunset. We were facing the beach with the lighthouse behind us. No one was on the beach. He was acting very nervous and kept asking me if the seagulls would bother us. There were no seagulls. It was a perfect sunset and after we finished eating he pulled out a Tiffany’s ring box and handed it to me. I unwrapped it and saw a white gold ring with an aquamarine stone –later he told me he chose it because it matched my eyes.”

But he never really got around to the words. Instead he asked, “You know what I mean, don’t you?” And Macy said, “Yes.” But then, she thought about it and said, “Well, what do you mean?”

“Will you marry me?” And that, as they say, was that. The couple sealed their wedding vows May 18, 2008.


Cheers and good luck to the pharologists! That’s the word that describes people interested in lighthouses. The basis of the word is the famous Pharos of Alexandria, Eygpt, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is the first lighthouse recorded in history, built about 280 BC, and the tallest at 450 feet, equivalent to a 45- story skyscraper. An open fire on the top was used as the light source to guide ships.

lighthouse-coupleIn high season, the Cape May Lighthouse receives almost 1,000 visitors a day are drawn to the lighthouse to experience history, the daily steps of the keepers, the weather and the most spectacular views at the tip of New Jersey. Keeper David Yeager, whose granddaughter Jennifer Keeler recently became engaged to Keith Snyder (pictured right) at the top of the Lighthouse, has been telling visitors stories and answering questions since 1989. Here’s a sampling.

Q: How long will it take me to climb to the top?
A: Maybe 7 minutes. There are six landings, five with windows which face a different compass point, along with historical information and pictures on what you are seeing.

lighthouse-stairsQ: How many steps?
A: There are 217 steps from the ground to the top.199 steps make up the tower’s cast iron spiral staircase joined to form a vertebral column. The steps are called leaves, because they are shaped like leaves.

Q: What is that concrete thing on the beach?
A: Oh, that was a gun bunker erected in 1942 as part of the Army’s coastal defense system needed during World War Two due to German submarine activity off shore.

Q: Does the lighthouse still work?
lighthouse-viewA: Yes, it is a working lighthouse. The Coast Guard maintains the light and it is still used by fishermen and recreational sailors though large vessels now have technical equipment that pinpoint their locations preventing them from crashing on shore.

Q: How far does the light shine at night?
A: It can be seen for 24 miles out to sea, and flashes every 15 seconds. Its flash pattern is called its characteristic. Every lighthouse has its own light characteristic and paint scheme (called a daymark) so that ship captains can tell them apart.

Q: How many bricks in the lighthouse?
A: Rough estimate, about 400,000. The bricks are actually curved to create the tapering cylinder. The walls were designed to survive winds several times greater than hurricane force.

lighthouse-view2Q: Is this all original?
A: Yes, everything, but the light. The lantern was once fueled by whale oil and had a 30- second interval, but has been electric since 1933. Once automated, the flash pattern, or characteristic, is every 15 seconds as it is today. The Coast Guard operates the light as an active aid to navigation. An aerobeam light has replaced the Fresnel lens that was housed in the lantern.

Q: What is a Watch Room?
A: At the top, just below the lantern, is the room where the keepers stood their watches, four hours each shift. Their job to make sure the light burned bright, and never missed its flash. Keepers busied themselves trimming the wick, maintaining the oil level in the lamp, rewinding the clock.

Q: If this is the lighthouse, asks a child, where is the darkhouse?
A: Well, during World War II, the lighthouse and everything else lighted on the coast was blacked out so the enemy could not see targets or the coastline. You could call that a darkhouse.

Your Favorite Pictures of the Day from 2008

Every year, we ask you to pick your favorites from our most popular feature, Picture of the Day. The votes came in, and here are the winning photographs from 2008:


Snowy Beach

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Beach Ave Houses from the Beach

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Sunset at the Point

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Storm Wave

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Sunset Over the Bay

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After the Storms Pass

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TIE Dawn and Orange Moon Rising

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Liquid Sun

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Walled In

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october - walled in


Dusky Cove

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From Our House to Yours

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For the Love of Chocolate

Food and holidays often become intertwined with the original connection lost through time. It is doubtful that the Pilgrims and Native Americans dined on turkey at the first Thanksgiving, but I challenge you to serve something else on the fourth Thursday inNovember. It is also doubtful that any of the three St. Valentines that inspired the modern winter romantic holiday had even heard, let alone tasted, chocolate. A man that does not buy chocolate for his significant other on February 14th is either foolish or has a girlfriend with a chocolate allergy. The other 51 weeks in the year women buy 75 percent of all chocolate, but in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day men make 75 percent of all chocolate purchases.

How did a holiday, around since the earliest days of the first millennium, get mixed with a substance not known outside Aztec culture until the 16th century?

In Aztec culture chocolate was prized for its libido enhancing properties and was only consumed by royalty. Montezuma drank over fifty cups a day. Modern science has shown that there may be some truth to the belief of chocolate as a drug. Chocolate has been linked to stimulating neurotransmitters, most notably serotonin, which can stimulate euphoria and sexuality. It acts as an antidepressant. Chocolate contains other chemicals that have an opiate-like effect on the brain without the addictive properties.

Bottom line, chocolate tastes good and makes us feel good. The first Valentine heart-shaped box of chocolates is traced to the Cadbury Company in England in the 1860s. Since then the connection between Valentine’s Day and chocolate has become inseparable.

Chocolate’s feel-good effects have made the chef’s life easier. Adding chocolate to any dessert makes it an instant crowd pleaser.

In recent years chefs have introduced chocolate in unsweetened forms into savory dishes as well. Good quality, unsweetened chocolate pairs well with the earthy flavors of game such as elk, venison and even game birds like quail and squab. It also works well in barbecue sauces and classic Mexican moles. Chile peppers and chocolate flavors work very well together.

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday. This gives you a perfect opportunity to have a chocolate-filled culinary weekend. Start the morning off with Chocolate Pancakes with Raspberries. Enjoy an afternoon sippingDecadent Hot Chocolate and Kahlúa®.

In the evening savor a Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chocolate Barbecue sauce. Watch movies such as Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate to experience chocolate’s sensual side in film.

Chocolate is a food with a sensual history and a reputation. Maybe that is the real reason why it has become so entwined with a holiday set aside to celebrate romance. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Chocolate Pancakes

  • 1 Cup all purpose flour
  • ½ Cup demerara granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened non-alkalinized cocoa powder (note, not Dutch process which contains alkalis that will give a bitter taste with the baking powder)
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ Cup dark chocolate chunks
  • ⅔ Cup milk plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 2 Large eggs

In bowl, sift dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chunks. Whisk in milk, melted butter and eggs until just combined. Don’t over mix. Cook on non-stick griddle or pan. Serve with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

Kahlúa® Hot Chocolate

  • 3 Ounces bittersweet chocolate shaved
  • 4 Ounces semi-sweet chocolate shaved
  • 3 Cups milk
  • Sugar to taste
  • Splash vanilla extract

In saucepan, heat milk to simmer. Whisk in chocolate until dissolved. Add vanilla. Bring back to simmer. Add one ounce of Kahlúa to coffee cups. Top with hot chocolate. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Chocolate Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Medium white onion diced
  • 2 Cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Jalapeño diced
  • 2 Peeled roasted and diced poblano peppers
  • 3 Cups tomato puree
  • ¼ Cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons molasses
  • ½ Cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 Teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon toasted crushed coriander
  • ¼ Cup fresh orange juice
  • 4 Ounces dark chocolate (80 percent cacao or higher)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

In saucepan, heat oil. Sauté garlic and onions over medium heat until golden brown. Add vinegar, molasses, peppers, orange juice and spices. Reduce by half. Add tomato puree. Simmer on low for 45 minutes. Slowly add chocolate until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro. Serve with grilled pork tenderloin.

The Fuss Over Tussie Mussies

February is a special month and the shortest on the calendar. The hours of daylight get a bit longer each day. Buds and other plants begin to quicken and suddenly send forth green or blooms. Romance is in the air as the birds’ chips become songs. Victorians always showed beautiful birds on their Valentine cards because legends said that this was the time birds sang and looked for a mate. If you listen carefully, one morning you will hear bird songs a sure signal that spring is near.  This is determined by the hours of light, so it happens the same time each year.

February can bring some very cold and stormy weather as well. As a longtime florist I have to admit that it is very, very scary when the roads are icy and the temps below freezing on Valentine’s Day. Deliveries of fresh flowers suddenly become a real problem.

On Valentine’s Day many folks give flowers. The custom of picking flowers for a loved one goes back to the early days when people gave a flower that conveyed a special meaning. Even today a red rose still speaks of love while a white rose symbolizes innocence. But many of the other meanings for herbs and flowers are lost to the old books in which we might find them. Lovers could send a message by their selections of posies that were arranged in a “tussie mussie.”

A tussie mussie is a little nosegay or bouquet of flowers and herbs. They have been made since ancient times but were especially popular during the medieval era. That was a period when there was little or no public sanitation and people thought carrying and sniffing the little nosegays would protect them from sickness and plague. Made of scented medicinal herbs, like rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint and rue, it was rather antiseptic and protected one from germs and bad odors. They also threw or strew these same strongly scented herbs and flowers on the floor of homes to freshen the air and protect against the plague.

Some blooms had meaning during the Middle Ages and Shakespeare often used herbs and flowers to convey an association in his prose and poetry. If he said, “Her tongue was like rue,” he implied that she spoke with bitterness. Later it was the Victorians who produced so many lists of flowers and meanings. Most young ladies knew the symbolism of flowers so they could send and receive bouquets with a message. Lavender, roses and sweet smelling violets were favorites as were Forget-me-nots for true love, and purple lilacs to say, “Falling in love with you.” Even today some people who grow and use herbs are familiar with the following meanings and make tussie mussies with a message.

Rosemary– for remembrance (pictured below)
Sage– immortality and good virtue
Lavender– love
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) – a symbol of love and fertility
Ivy– faithfulness and friendship
Globe amaranth– everlasting feeling and love
Mint– virtue and truth
Rose– love forever

Many times these plants and blooms are used in wedding bouquets and as wedding favors. Even the color of the rose has meaning: White roses signify simplicity or purity. White and Red roses together signify unity. Red alone means true love and passion.

If you want to make a romantic nose gay, you may use fresh or dried materials. Gather blooms in spring and summer to use fresh or dry them so you can always make a nosegay with a message. If you want to make one in winter, use what you can get fresh and the rest from what has been dried.

In summer, pick blooms when it is cool in evening or morning. If you buy blooms cut the stems on a slant with a sharp clipper. Remove leaves and thorns. Plunge the stems in clean, tepid water for at least two hours, or ideally, overnight. This conditions the flowers so they will not wilt. Sometimes it’s worth buying a few stems of baby’s breath and small roses in the off-season as they make the nosegay so pretty and romantic. Fill in with herbs or other flowers with meanings or fragrances that you like.

Soon winter pansies (featured above) and other blooms from bulbs will be found in the garden. They can be made into tiny tussie mussies. If you have sweet olive (pictured below) blooming all winter on the window sill, it will add delightful fragrance to the bouquet.

Tussie mussies are round, easy to design and very attractive. I like to use an oasis (this material holds water) round bouquet holder. Soak this for an hour or so and then place a rose bud in the middle and surround it with rosemary, salvia, lemon herbs, scented geranium leaves, lavender, mint, myrtle, thyme, roses, mint, myrtle, baby’s breath and a circle of fragrant leaves such as bay or scented geraniums. Small silver holders are also available and can be filled with oasis to keep flowers fresh longer.

Add streamers and a bow to enhance the romantic look. If the bouquet is used for a prom, shower or wedding you may want to root some of the ivy, myrtle, mint or rosemary used in it. It is fun to create your own special tussie mussie. You can personalize this by making it with flowers that convey your message to someone special.

In February, make one for Valentine’s Day. The bouquet might have a red tulip as a declaration of love, a piece of honeysuckle vine for bonds of love, red carnation for passion or pure love, rosemary for remembrance forever, larkspur for ardent attachment and the red rose being, of course, for love eternal. The rose and larkspur will have to be purchased, but the vine and herbs can often be found in the garden.

An engagement bouquet might include a bleeding heart for fidelity, a red and white rose for unity, a white azalea for romance, a Forget-me-not for true love and hosta bloom or leaf for devotion.

A Victorian desiring a secret meeting may have sent a bouquet with a tuberose to signify dangerous love, a red rose for passion, a leaf of nutmeg geranium for an expected meeting, and rosemary for remembrance. But if you only remember that a rose means love you can send one or a dozen to delight a special person this valentine’s day.

Triple Oaks Nursery, Herb Garden and Florist will be offering many spring garden courses. Check out calendar on web site a unique rose class will be held on Sunday Feb. 15. Learn all about growing herbs as well as their romantic history. Each participant will make real rose potpourri and a beautiful dried rose wreath to take home. Sign up now by calling 856-694-4272.