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Month: December 2011

Where to be on New Year’s Eve

Restaurants & hotels, send your information to events@capemay.com to be added!

2011 New Year’s Eve Celebrations

The Glitter Ball – Congress Hall’s New Year’s Eve tradition. Celebrate with live entertainment, dancing, full service plated dinner, open bar and a champagne toast. 7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. $165 per person – includes admission to the Boiler Room New Year’s Eve Party. Call 609-884-8421 to reserve.

Boiler Room New Year’s Eve Party – Usher in the New Year at the hottest party of the winter. Dance away to the vintage guitar sounds of The Billy D. Light Trio. Tasty snacks. Cash bar. 9:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. $20 per person. Call 609-884-8421 to reserve.

The Ultimate New Year’s Eve Party at The Ocean Club Hotel. Five-course prix fixe dinner, open bar from 8-12:30. Champagne toast, party favors, dancing with live entertainment by marquee, one of New Jersey’s and Philadelphia’s premiere dance bands. Call 609-884-7000 to reserve.

New Year’s Eve Gala at the Grand Hotel – In the Penthouse Ballroom. Includes top shelf open bar with hors d’oeuvres, four-course surf and turf dinner, entertainment by Groove Place, champagne toast at midnight, 1 a.m. continental breakfast and mimosas. $130 per person. Call 609-884-5611 to reserve.

The Ebbitt Room – Seating from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at $75 per person; 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at $90 per person. Call 609-884-5700 to reserve.

The Mad Batter – Serving up a 4-course dinner for $75, with music from 8-midnight by Blondage. Call 609-884-5970 to reserve.

The Merion Inn – 4:30/5 a la carte seating (kid friendly). 7:00 and 9:30 seatings prix fixe menu. George Mesterhazy on piano all night! Call 609-884-8363 to reserve.

Peter Shields Inn – 5-course prix fixe dinner with music and dancing. Call 609-884-9090 to reserve. SOLD OUT

Union Park Dining Room – Five course prix fix: $55, $80 or $100. Call 609-884-8811 to reserve.

Tishas’s – Serving a special a la carte menu. Call 609-884-9119 to reserve.

The Washington Inn – New Year’s Eve Reservations are available. Call 609-884-5697 to reserve.

Axelsson’s Blue Claw Restaurant – Serving New Year’s Eve. Call 609-884-5878 to reserve (leave a message).

2012 New Year’s Day Celebrations

New Year’s Day Gala Brunch at Peter Shields Inn – Elegant buffet served from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call 609-884-9090 to reserve.

 


Come inside Cherry House

A Christmas tea was held at Cherry House, 637 Hughes Street, December 19 and CapeMay.com was invited inside for peak at the lovely interior. For those of you who don’t know, Cherry House was built in 1849 by Lemuel Leaming, member of the pioneer Leaming family, noted for its development of Cape May County. In the later 1850s it was the home of James Mcray, first burgess of Cape Island which, in 1875 officially became the City of Cape May.

Cherry House was named for the Cherry Family of Philadelphia, who owned and lived in the house from 1925 to 1947.

This year Cherry House was one of the selected homes offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities’ Lamplighter Tours. Take a virtual tour.


CCA holds 17th Annual Great Cookie Exchange

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The Center for Community Arts held its 17th annual Great Cookie Exchange, Monday evening December 5 at the Cape May Elementary School, 921 Lafayette Street, Cape May. Kids young and old arrived to make and decorate cookies, baskets and hats, make holiday cards and ornaments.
Every year, the cafeteria turns into Santa’s bakeshop where children and the young at heart decorate and eat holiday cookies to their heart’s content. This Cape May holiday ritual also brings together artists, bakers, crafts people and volunteers.


Top 10 Cape May Holiday Events

Tree lighting ceremony at Congress Hall

Nothing beats Christmas in Cape May. It’s like living in a Victorian dream. Walk down any street and you will see decorated Victorian homes, people taking candlelight tours and the smell of burning hearths throughout the island. We’ve picked out 10 Must Dos for the month of December, but hurry up, at least three of them are this weekend. No worries though, there are plenty of other activities throughout the month to keep you engaged.

1) West Cape May Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 3 beginning at 5 p.m.

Always the first Saturday in December, The West Cape May Community Christmas Parade sets the stage for the areas holiday season. Now in her 46th year, the parade steps off at 5 p.m. sharp from the WCM Volunteer Firehouse and marches South on Broadway, winds East on Perry, and onto Carpenters Lane in the City of Cape May. Under the able leadership of Parade Lady Charlotte Daily, a small army of volunteers assembles an unforgettable hometown memory each year! The Parade reschedules to 12/4/11 in the case of inclement weather.

2) City of Cape May’s Christmas Tree Lighting
Friday, December 2 at 7 p.m.

Join city officials at the Rotary Park Gazebo/Bandstand, Lyle Lane, behind the Washington Street Mall, for the official Cape May tree lighting. Santa will be on hand to make sure kids stay off the naughty list. Carolers will lead everyone in Christmas carols and you will see what a special time it is for both locals and visitors.

3) Congress Hall’s Christmas Tree Lighting and Ceremony
Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m.

We sure like Christmas here in this little town. After the city lights up their tree, stroll over to Congress Hall and you’ll get another treat – this tree lighting comes complete with a presentation from the Congress Hall Choir. Visit the Congress Hall Shopping village and the Hot Chocolate Bar while you’re there.

4) Candlelight Hospitality Nights on the Washington Street Mall
T
hursday, December 8 & 9 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Merchants open their doors to welcome shoppers, visitors and friends. If you have been a good girl or boy, you might even get offered a treat and some spirits along the way. And be sure to join in with the Towne Crier Carolers who will be strolling the three-block avenue of the Washington Street Mall singing Christmas carols and wishing you Christmas cheer.

The annual West Cape May Christmas Parade is always the first Saturday in December. Rain date Sunday.

5) Christmas Candlelight House Tour
Saturdays, Dec. 3, 10 & 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Experience the high point of Cape May’s holiday season during these self-guided tours, which feature homes, inns, hotels & churches specially decorated for the holidays (at least 15 each night); Christmas caroling and strolling musicians, trees and garland & good old-fashioned cheer; and hospitality centers with warm beverages & home-baked goodies. Includes admission to the Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, and to “An Old-fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years” exhibit in the Carriage House Gallery. Continuous shuttle service on heated trolleys. For tickets, contact Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, (609)-884-5404, www.capemaymac.org

6) Wassail Day at Historic Cold Spring Village
Saturday. December 3, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Ring in the holiday season, c. 1840! Enjoy free admission to this Village event and visit a selection of buildings, which are trimmed for the holidays and warmed by the hearth. Meet Father Christmas at the Country Store! Historic Cold Spring Village, 720 Rte 9, Cold Spring

7) Winery Tour at Cape May Winery & Wine Dinner at Mad Batter

If you would like to sample some of Cape May’s local wines, take a trip to Cape May Winery on Townbank Road in North Cape May. Tours and tasting offered daily at 3 p.m. Reservations recommended. Call 609-884-1169.

Wine Dinner
Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m.

Get a great start on the holiday season with a five-course dinner paired with an interesting selection of wines from around the country. At the Mad Batter Restaurant on Jackson Street. Limited to 60 participants. $75 per person. To reserve, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org

8) Dickens Christmas Extravaganza
Sunday through Tuesday, December 4-6

Welcome friends, to Cape May’ s annual Dickens Christmas Extravaganza. Cape May is the perfect place to celebrate Dickens and the holidays, as it transforms to a Victorian Christmas Village during this season. Immerse yourself in the world of Dickens through lectures and performances. The festivities conclude on Tuesday evening with a proper Victorian Feast. The Extravaganza costs $150 per person. Complete packages with accommodations are also available from participating inns. Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, (609)-884-5404, www.capemaymac.org

9) “Winds of Bethlehem”
Sunday, December 11, 4 p.m.

The combined choirs of the First Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church of the Advent will present the premiere performance of “Winds of Bethlehem,” a Christmas cantata by librettist Robert D. Reader and composer Jane Sbarra on Sunday, December 11, at 4 p.m. at the Church of the Advent. Soloists include Karen Buckley, Charlie Buckley and the Rev. John Mitchell, with Carol Obligado, organist.

The Church of the Advent is at the corner of Franklin and Washington Streets in Cape May. A free-will offering will be taken and a reception follows the performance. For more information, call 884-6652.

10) Breakfast with Santa
Dates vary by location; see below 

Congress Hall’s Breakfast with Santa is taking place Saturdays & Sundays through December 18 from 8am – 11am.

Location: Congress Hall, 888-944-1816, www.congresshall.com for more information.

Visit with Santa at the Inn of Cape May on Saturday, December 3 and 10 at 10 a.m. Enjoy a family-friendly breakfast buffet as children visit with Santa and hear a Christmas story. Christmas lists accepted! Treats for the kids. $15 adults, $10 children (3-12)

Location: Aleathea’s at Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean Street, 609-884-5555

 

 


A Victorian Christmas

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Cape May Magazine

If you ever have seen a live pine tree from the forest lit with real candles, flames flickering, the memory is forever.

And, so it is, with each holiday season I visit Cape May’s Emlen Physick house and remember a night long ago when Grandmother, a Victorian lady, surprised me with a moment of magic. She invited me into her parlor, warmed with a wood-burning stove, and there, in the bay window, was the evergreen my Uncle Bud had cut at Pine Run.

It was aglow with tiny candles in silver holders. Ropes of cranberries and popcorn outlined the shape of the tree. Homemade gingerbread boys and girls, sugar cookie angels, red velvet bows, tinsel and Christmas cards framed in silver danced from the boughs. The candles flickered for just a moment and in a flash Grandmother smothered each little flame with her silver snuffer. I think I was two, maybe three. I asked her to please, oh please, light the candles again. She just smiled the way she always did and shook her head no. Each year I hoped for a repeat performance. The tree with its fresh cut smell filling the parlor was always there in the bay window. The decorations grew in number with the years. The little beeswax candles always balanced on the boughs, but Grandmother never lit them again. That was a once in a lifetime treat.

We know the origin of the Christmas tree is Germanic. A story is told that in the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther was walking in the forest. He looked up to see stars shining through evergreen branches. The sight was so beautiful he recreated the vision with real flickering candles on live green branches and told his children the scene reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth.

At the Physick house, there is a tree with real candles but, of course, they are never lit due to fire hazards. “In Victorian times, children were called to the parlor for the lighting of small individual candles for the briefest period of time,” says Dr. Robert Heinly, Museum Education Coordinator. “A servant stood by with a bucket of water and a wet sponge on a stick. Any spark was doused. As soon as the family left the room, the candles were extinguished immediately.”

The Victorian rooms at the Physick house show the evolution of the Christmas tree.

“The original ones were small table top trees,” says Dr. Heinly. “They looked something like Norfolk Island pine and were called tannenbaum, German for fir tree, and thus the popular song O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, the folk lyrics dating back to the 1500s.

“These small trees were decorated with edible things: strings of popcorn, strings of candy, strings of dried fruit. There were homemade gingerbreads and springerle, a sort of anise tasting cookie. They made cornucopias, little horns of plenty, and filled them with candies and nuts. And they topped the branches with small candles to be lit for just a moment.”

On Christmas morning, the children raced to the tree to pick off the edibles and enjoy the morsels. Each person received one gift. “In the German tradition a pickle was hidden deep in the tree. The person who found the pickle got a second gift,” says Dr. Heinly.

“Now of course, the pickle tradition is carried on with a glass ornament, but then it was a real pickle.”

The Christmas tree tradition caught on in England when Queen Victoria’s husband, German Prince Albert, set up a tree in Windsor Castle. Once the palace tree was publicized evergreens spread their boughs throughout the kingdom, and across the Atlantic in Victorian era homes in the United States.

In the Victorian period, 1837-1901, live greens were the favored way to deck the halls. Garlands of greenery framed doorways, wrapped pillars, draped mantles and picture frames. Red bows and berries and sometimes lace added to the drama of the abundant use of holly, ivy and mistletoe. Holly, with its thorny edges, was believed to chase away witches and the devil. Mistletoe placed in a child’s room was credited with protecting the youngster from evil spirits. The legendary power of greenery can be traced back to pagan rituals of fires and dancing during the winter solstice as a reminder that spring will come.

Victorians used greenery, especially mistletoe with its little white berries, in kissing balls tied with big red ribbons and hung in doorways and arches. The balls are created from evergreen boughs, holly and ivy. Victorians decorated them with little apples and even pears. It’s a kissing zone under the mistletoe to either linger there or avoid, depending on the company.

The size and complexity of the Christmas traditions and the tree grew with the success of the Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution. In the mid-Victorian years, in the 1860s, the tree was still displayed on a table top, but the branches were heavy with decorations.

Small blown glass ornaments and paper or fabric flags were popular. Ladies crocheted snowflakes and snowmen. Families had fun making decorations. They created garlands from paper circles, and shaped doilies into fairies and angels. “Scraps were popular,” says Dr. Heinly. “Scraps of ribbon and fabric were fashioned into toys and dolls. Christmas cards were saved and encircled with glitter or lace.”

The late Victorian era tree in the 1880s grew, now from floor to ceiling. Colorful decorations were factory-produced and sold in shops. The tree was often laden with tinsel then being mass-produced. Originally, in the 1600s Germans made tinsel from real silver pulled into wafer-thin strips. The tinsel legend is about a poor woman who was unable to afford decorations for her family’s tree. She prayed for a miracle. During the night spiders lodged in the tree and coated it with webs. Holy Christmas spirits turned the webs into shimmering silver delighting the good woman’s children.

“The first electric lights were added in the 1890s,” says Dr. Heinly. “They were individual candles, each with its own cord. Imagine the complexity of that.” Soon after, the first string of electric lights was invented in New York City. In 1902, the National Biscuit Company factory in Philadelphia introduced animal crackers as Christmas tree ornaments.

“As the trees got bigger, the decorations more elaborate, so too did the number of presents per person.” says Dr. Heinly. “And Victorian holiday meals grew into banquets with 10 or so elaborate courses on tables with fine linens appointed with sparkling cut glass, sterling silver, fragile porcelains – a plate and a fork, knife or spoon for every course and every type of food.” Most tables were set with place card holders, oyster forks, pickle forks, fruit knives, butter knives, knife rests and finger bowls passed before dessert to dip in a corner of the napkin, wipe the mouth and rinse the fingers.

“In Cape May, seafood would have been richly featured,” says Dr. Heinly. “There would be oysters and clams, and perhaps a fish dish. There would be a fowl course, perhaps pheasant or turkey or goose and a meat course, beef or mutton. Salads were served later in the meal to aid in digestion. There would be molded gelatins with fruit, and a cheese course. There certainly would be dessert, mince pie, plum pudding. Each course may have its own wine.

The serving of the plum pudding was carried out with great ceremony at Victorian tables. The pudding was made on Stir-Up Sunday, at the beginning of Advent. Ingredients were suet, bread crumbs, raisins, and spices, and each family member took a turn at stirring the pudding and making a wish. A ring, coin and thimble were tossed into the batter. The mixture was placed in a muslin sack that hung until Christmas, when it was boiled for hours in beef broth. It was doused with brandy, lighted, topped with holly and presented to dinner guests, who reveled at the sight. Then came the suspense. The serving with the ring meant marriage; the coin, wealth and the thimble, a happy but single life.

During dinner the sound of caroling might be heard under the street lamp. Victorians composed many of the holiday carols still sung today. There were after dinner sing-a-longs in the parlor by the piano or organ while the Yule log burned. (It was to be large enough to burn for the 12 days of Christmas.) Children popped open their crackers, the colorful cylinders left by their plates, filled with trinkets. There were pantomime performances, charades and games: checkers, dominoes and chess. Christmas stories were told. Some were from books, some from the Bible, and others were of the family Christmases in the old country or of pioneer days in this country. The Victorians revered the art of conversation and were the last generation to create their own entertainment –before movies and television.

Theirs is a magic that lingers in the glow of holiday candle light all around the Victorian village of Cape May.


Skee-Ball: The Making of a Seaside Classic

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Cape May Magazine

Somehow, Skee-Ball seemed easier to play when I was smaller. I didn’t have to bend over to roll the ball down the alley, and my lower line of sight made it easier to bank shots off the second set of screws on the left side of the lane. I learned last week, however, from the owner of Skee-Ball, Inc., I’d have scored higher if I’d aimed lower on the alley.

Skee-Ball cost a nickel to play from the 1930s to the 1960s. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

For those of you who grew up without the sound of wooden balls smacking into the ball return, Skee-Ball is a popular arcade game played up and down the Jersey coast, and, today, on every continent. There are even 10 Skee-Ball lanes in Moscow’s Gorky Park. The game started much closer to home, however, just up the parkway and across the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, 101 years ago.

Skee-Ball is an easy game to play. You simply roll balls down an alley into holes assigned various point values. The object is to score points, which generate tickets. Tickets are redeemable for prizes. For many of us, Skee-Ball tickets were practically a form of currency when we were growing up.

I started playing Skee-Ball when I was a child spending summers at my grandparents’ house in Cape May. It cost a nickel to play in the 1950s, the same as it cost my mother to play the 1930s. My cousin and I used to earn our Skee-Ball money by asking people on Philadelphia Beach if we could have their “empties – their empty glass soda bottles – which we’d redeem at the beach stand for 2 cents apiece. Occasionally, we’d work late, past the stand’s closing time, and have to bury our bottles in the sand behind the rock pilings until we could turn them in the next day. Unfortunately, a neighbor of ours also worked the beach, and, one time, found our stash and cashed it in.

We played Skee-Ball nearly every night in the summer and didn’t have much patience waiting for family members to finish dinner so we could race down to the boardwalk. Most of the time, we saved up our tickets all season so we could buy something really good. I remember saving for a present for my mother – a ceramic butter dish with a red-and-brown rooster on its cover. I haven’t seen that dish in decades, but I know it’s in our house somewhere, just waiting to be pressed into service again.

I recall another summer when I was about 10 and I was not in a gift-giving mood. Annoyed I’d been made to try tomato aspic at dinner, I decided to run away and get a job at the Skee-Ball arcade. Rising early the next day, I pedaled off to Frank’s Playland to find Frank and ask him for work. Frank Ravese was short, solid and brusque, at least with 10-year-olds. He always had a cigar in his mouth, a straw cap on his head, and a change apron around his middle that sagged under the weight of hundreds of nickels. His response to my job request was simply, “Kid, you don’t look like you need a job.” Devastated, I pedaled home.

Child’s Play

Women flocked to the game when the lanes were shortened and the balls made lighter. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Skee-ball was invented for a child, which may explain its enduring hold on children and the young-at-heart and why it tugs so strongly at our memories. Philadelphian J. Dickinson Estes built the game for his son’s birthday in 1909. His gift consisted of a 36-foot-long alley, wooden rails on the sides, and heavy metal balls you’d drop into one of three holes. The game was a hit with his son, so Estes decided to introduce it to a larger audience at the town fair. By 1911, he was manufacturing alleys for the public. but he didn’t advertise, so sales were slow.

A family in the outdoor-amusement industry, the Piesens, bought the rights to Skee-Ball in 1914, propelling the game into a wider and more lucrative market. The game was also made much more player friendly. Lanes were shortened to 14 feet to encourage their use indoors. Metal balls were replaced with heavy plastic, and two circles were added to the target board. Suddenly, women and children could lift the balls and go the distance on the alleys, so they flocked into the arcades. Skee-Ball also became a competitive sport, with an arcade in Atlantic City holding the game’s first national tournament. As the game’s popularity grew, the lanes got even smaller. Ultimately, they were cut down to an even 10 feet, which is the standard size today.

A Philadelphia Story

Skee-Ball has been a Philadelphia company ever since Estes’ son rolled his first ball. The Wurlitzer Company purchased rights to the game in 1935, and sold them a decade later to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which modernized the game with electronics, and officially incorporated “Skee-Ball, Inc.” Joe Sladek, a native Philadelphian and a former CPA with Price Waterhouse in New York, bought the company in 1985.

“The owners of Skee-Ball were looking to sell and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time,” Sladek explained. “I wanted to come back to Philadelphia, and I wanted to start working for myself at a company I could grow old with.”

Skee-Ball became a competitive sport in 1932 when the first national tournament was held in Atlantic City. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Two of Sladek’s children have since joined him in his dream. Son Michael runs operations, and daughter Eileen Graham handles marketing and HR. There’s also a grandson, four-year-old Liam, coming up in the business. Liam likes to play Skee-Ball while his mother’s working, so he’s the product “tester,” according to his grandfather. Sladek is CEO and Jeff Hudson is company president.

Today, the family business is based in Chalfont, Pennsylvania less than five miles from where Skee-Ball was created. The company currently manufactures about 2,000 games a year and estimates it has 125,000 alleys in the market today. Customers range from the Chuck E. Cheese and Dave and Buster’s chains to the Family Fun Center and Victoria arcades in Cape May. About 20 people have games in their private homes.

Starting in the 1990s, the company began to expand to a full line of ticket-redemption games, which includes Tower of Power, Super Shot and Skee Daddle, a pint-sized version of Skee-Ball for toddlers in which they simply drop the balls into holes. Ahh, were it that easy for the rest of us.

Staying current with technology is Sladek’s biggest business challenge today.

“Skee-Ball is a very old game,” he said, “and it needs to be constantly updated.”

He’s very proud of one update. A year ago, Apple added a Skee-Ball app to its iPhone offerings. Quickly climbing to Apple’s top10 list of most popular apps, Skee-Ball is still on the list.

Classic Skee-Ball, however, must be played with real balls and actual alleys. Skee-Ball, Inc. sells two models today, the “New Classic,” which sells for $4,000, and the Centennial, which goes for $5,500. The latter was launched last year to commemorate the game’s 100th anniversary. With the exception of 21st century technology, it replicates a game from the 1930s the family found in storage when it bought the company.

“It’s the oldest game we’d ever seen,” said Sladek’s daughter, “It’s made of maple. And it’s like a beautiful piece of furniture.”

Hard Sell

Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Sladek may make his living selling Skee-Ball now, but he wasn’t always a fan. He didn’t even like the game growing up. He preferred video games. His future wife would change that, however.

“She was a fanatic about Skee-Ball,” Sladek remembered. “She used to clean my clock when we played and she still does.” Pressed for actual scores, Sladek will only share that his wife routinely rolls between 240 and 300 points a game and he rolls “less than that.” It’s become a family joke, he said.

Sladek remained a holdout on Skee-Ball even when his kids were young and played pretend Skee-Ball on the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. Gradually, however, he began to see the benefits of the game.

“Anyone who can pick up a ball can play,” he said. “You don’t have to be 20 and in shape. You can be four or 94. It’s also a very family-oriented experience. There’s competition but there’s also camaraderie.”

Aside from Skee-Ball’s appeal, there are more subtle cues pulling people into the arcades to play. Skee-Ball has distinct music, capable of galvanizing parents as well as their children. It’s music Sladek built into the game in 1986, and it’s music he continues to use today.

“People recognize it,” he said. “It’s like the start of a horse race.”

The Only Games in Town

You can hear those notes only in two places in Cape May today – the Family Fun Center and Victoria Arcade – on the boardwalk. Both are owned by Adele Tiburzio, whose family has been in the amusement park business for 100 years.

“My father wanted to put Skee-Ball in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York,” Tiburzio recalled, “so he applied and got permission to rent two buildings in the fair’s amusement area. We had 100 lanes in those two buildings! I remember my mother taking me to see it when I was 14. It was packed. It put my father on the map.”

Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

A year later, Tiburzio joined her father’s business as manager of a Skee-Ball arcade in Willow Grove Park in Pennsylvania. Preferring to own, however, she bought Fun Land from the Tennenbaum family in 1975, and moved to Cape May to run it. Eight years later, she purchased her second arcade, Frank’s Playland, making her – then as now–Cape May’s reigning Skee-Ball operator.

“Everybody loves Skee-ball,” Tiburzio said, who has kept the cost of the game at a quarter so more children can play. “It’s a game of skill and you win prizes. The more you play, the more you get. It’s addictive.”

At 84, Tiburzio still rolls an admirable 300-320 points a game.

“My father taught me how to bank the ball so I could get higher scores,” she said. Bank off the right side, not the left, she advises players.

There were four Skee-Ball venues in town when Tiburzio moved here – Fun Land, now the Family Fun Center; Frank’s Playland, today the Victoria Arcade; Skee-Ball Palace, a former neighbor of the Beach Theatre; and Rickers, a concession on the boardwalk that is vacant today. While there is some debate about which store was the first to offer Skee-Ball, Rickers seems to edge out Frank’s for that distinction. Rickers had two Skee-Ball alleys at the back of the store. My mother and her friends learned to play there in the 1930s. She is candid about her lack of Skee-Ball skills, however. he sometimes over-shot the lane, she said, and her ball would go flying out of Rickers’ back door, presumably rolling into the ocean and scoring nothing.

Standing behind her counter, Tiburzio has watched several generations of families learn, play and teach Skee-Ball. orking 13-hour days over a lifetime of Skee-Ball seasons, she has gained a sort of “Skee-Ball wisdom” about why people play and how their motivation often changes over time.

“The kids play for the pleasure first and the prizes second,” she said. “The older players play purely for the joy of the game. I tell the kids to stay nearby and often people will give them their tickets.” Donna Laudeman, a lifelong resident of Cape May and hostess at the Lobster House, exudes that joy when she talks about Skee-Ball games past and present.

Photo by Macy Zhelyazkova

“I remember the thrill of dropping the nickel in, pulling back the handle, hearing the click as the balls come down one-by-one, and hearing the sound of the balls when they hit,” she said. “It was incredible.”

The game has taken on an even deeper meaning for Laudeman now that she’s an adult.

“I went to play the other day with a friend,” she said. “We were laughing and carrying on, and when we were done, we looked around the arcade for a child we could give our tickets to –someone with a cup of tickets who didn’t have as many tickets as the others. We ended up giving them to girl who was totally surprised. She couldn’t fathom people giving tickets away. The smile on her face was a beautiful thing. It was a win-win totally.”

The game changes for many of us as we grow older. Similar to life, perhaps, we scramble for empty Coke bottles to play the game to win the prize when we’re young. We play for the joy of playing now – or the smile on a child’s face – and we’re happy helping others work toward their prize when we’re older. Who knew a ball, an alley and a set of circles could impart such insights.

Now if I could just find that rooster butter dish.


Feeding a Bunch with Brunch

I didn’t invent the concept of brunch, but I have warmly embraced the idea throughout my career. My gluttonous gourmand side gets excited at the thought of having two meals combined into one sitting. The grand Sunday brunch buffet was once the stalwart showcase of the upscale hotel. The standard hotel brunch featured items such as omelet stations with a multitude of fillings from which to choose; Belgian waffles oozing from cast-iron presses; oceans of jumbo shrimp surrounded by piles of freshly shucked clams and oysters. All attended by chef’s in crisply pressed white tunics and towering toques. Glacial ice carvings and polished chrome-domed chafing dishes assaulted the eyes. Aromas emanated from beneath the polished domes and from steamship-sized roasts penetrating the nostrils, stimulating the appetite. Sadly, few hotels stage this kind of culinary carnival anymore.

While not containing the same pomp and fanfare, the home holiday brunch can still be a major sensory sensation. Brunch food can easily be prepared in quantity and in advance of the party.

Eggs can be very time and temperature sensitive. Egg casseroles such as quiche and strata hold much better than their fried and scrambled counterparts. Both strata and quiche are baked custards that can be enhanced with a variety of savory accompaniments. Quiche is the classic French savory custard pie traditionally baked in a pie crust with gruyere cheese. This is just a starting point. What makes quiche a great brunch dish is its versatility as a component of the whole meal. Smoked salmon and crab quiches can add  seafood to the meal in an inexpensive manner. The cheeses used can be varied as well. Try and utilize semi-firm meltable cheeses. Cheddar is too oily on its own. Fresh mozzarella is too watery and may prevent your custard from setting firmly. Goat cheese adds a bit of tang to the dish, as can feta cheese for a Greek-inspired quiche.

If you feel quiche is too light and dainty, then it is time to introduce you to strata. Strata is a savory meat lover’s version of bread pudding. It is also a time saver for the home cook. Consisting of layers of sliced or diced leftover bread, layered with cheese and sausage and onions, then soaked over-night in a rich egg custard, strata is a hearty addition to the brunch menu. It then can be baked the next morning, cooking time is approximately 1 hour, then allowed to set prior to service. As with quiche, when making strata the basic custard formula never changes. For variety, use different types of breads, meats, cheeses and vegetables. When working with savory custards, blanching or sweating meats and vegetables first will prevent moisture from diluting your custard which would leave you with a soupy end product.

The French have also provided us with another brunch classic: the filled crepe. Crepes can be either sweet or savory. Apples and fresh berry-filled crepes can be topped with fresh whip cream for a sinful Sunday treat. For a truly decadent twist, fill your crepes with Bananas Foster and top with vanilla ice cream. Over the top for sure, but there are still a few months to swimsuit season so indulge yourself and your guests.

For savory crepes, add fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or dill to the crepe batter. Then fill with chicken a la reine or salmon in mustard cream sauce or even ham and cheese. Bake lightly. Another favorite from the French is Pain Anglaise, better known in the states as French Toast. Traditional French Toast, made at the last minute, can be cumbersome for the host trying to juggle cooking, while attending to their Mimosa-sipping guests. The Persnickety treatment gives this breakfast classic a time-saving makeover by telling you to stuff it. The bread that is. My current favorite twist is to smear one slice of bread with Nutella and the other slice with marshmallow fluff. Next, fold both halves together. Soak in your favorite French Toast batter. Roll in graham cracker crumbs. Finally, brown in a skillet. This dish can be done up to this step a day ahead of time. Reheat for 20 minutes prior to eating. Kids of all ages will enjoy these S’Mores even without the campfire.

No brunch is complete without potatoes. Rather than be the lonely side dish, make it central to your meal. Corned beef hash has gotten a bad rap thanks to the canned version which looks more like Fido’s meal than a treat for your family. Made from scratch and topped with a poached egg, this American classic deserves a second chance at the brunch table. Hashes can also get the gourmet makeover treatment. Add roasted root vegetables to your favorite home fries recipe. Fold in leftover diced roast beef, salmon, chicken or even a can of crabmeat for a colorful and flavorful addition to the Holiday table. Herbs, caramelized onions and spinach can also be added to the home fries base to elevate the dish.

This Holiday season, recreate the classic brunch at home with some creative menu planning aided by some adult beverages you can make family and friends happy to be at your home for the Holidays. Have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, until next year Bon Appétit.

S’Mores French Toast

(Serves 4)

  • 8 slices Texas toast
  • Nutella spread on 4 slices
  • Marshmallow fluff spread on 4 slices

The Batter

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Vanilla extract
  • Nutmeg cinnamon
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar

Whip eggs milk and spices until frothy. Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Smear one slice of bread with Nutella and the other slice with marshmallow fluff. Fold both halves together. Dip in egg, then crumbs. Grease skillet/griddle well. Heat to 325 degrees. Cook S’mores 8 minutes each side. Cut in half. Douse with powdered sugar.

Crepe Batter

  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp melted butter

Mix all ingredients in blender. Pulse 10 seconds. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Persnickety Note: This is a universal crepe batter that can be tweaked to specific uses. For sweet crepes, add sugar or vanilla extract. Savory crepes can be enhanced by adding fresh herbs appropriate to the dish.

Chicken A la Reine Filling

  • 4 chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 red pepper medium, diced
  • 2 green peppers, medium diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp flour

In sauce pan, melt butter. Add diced chicken. Cook over medium heat until halfway cooked. Add onions, shallots and garlic. Sweat 3-5 minutes. Add thyme and mushrooms. Cook 5 more minutes, add peppers. Dust with flour. Stir until flour is absorbed. Deglaze with sherry. Add cream and milk. Simmer until very thick. Adjust seasonings. Cool. Fold into crepe shells.

Salmon Hash

  • 1 lb cooked potatoes, medium dice
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups salmon, cubed
  • Chopped scallion
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

In cast iron skillet or griddle, grease with a little oil. Sauté onions and peppers. Add potatoes and cook until crusty. Fold in trout, scallion and parsley. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Top with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce.

Food Processor Hollandaise

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 lbs hot melted butter
  • Juice 2 lemons
  • Salt white pepper
  • Tabasco

Add ingredients to food processor and blend.

 


Pet Boarding, Pet Sitting, and More

When you are visiting Cape May for the day, or if you are traveling to Cape May for a visit of several days, but cannot find a dog-friendly accommodation (more on dog friendly accommodations in a month or two!) there are several doggie day cares, pet sitters, doggie boarders, and kennels in the area; and also a great shop to purchase toys, treats, and necessities for your pets. Several of these options are listed below for your convenience.

Whether for a few hours, a day, or longer, you will want to research several choices since, just like people accommodations, each of these pet care businesses offers a variety of services in a variety of settings, and you will want to check to see which type of facility, and which specific facility best meets your, and your doggie’s needs. Check to see if the facility you are looking into is insured and certified. You as well as the pet care business you choose, will want to make sure that your pet is cared for happily and safely.

AND, you will want to plan in advance. By working in advance, you will be able to insure that you get a dog-friendly accommodation for the dates/time you want OR that you are able to reserve space for your pet at a boarding or day care facility of your choice. You will also want to know area vets and emergency facilities, just in case. Planning in advance will insure that both you and your pet have a safe and happy vacation.

Linda’s Recommendations

Dog Days Pet Store

Located in the Washington Commons Mall, they offer special doggie treats, pet toys, leashes, collars, bowls, and even pet themed people goodies such as notepads, socks, throws, and much more. Be sure to stop by while you’re staying in and visiting Cape May, and be sure to buy only safe toys and treats for your precious pets, which you will find here at Dog Days.

McCullough Pet Boarding and Sitting

Located right in Cape May, they offer a wide variety of services which include overnight boarding, pet sitting, and doggie day care. They will transport your dog to the vet, groomer, etc. and even do state-to-state transportation. They also do on site pet sitting, dog walking, feeding, changing/cleaning litter boxes for a one time only or more stop. Again this could be for one day, overnight, or long term care. They will also will do light grooming such as nails, brushing, bathing, and ear cleaning. Contact them at joannem@comcast.net or find them on Facebook

Ruffing Ranch

Located in the Cape May Court House area, these former vet technicians provide day care services with “taxi rides” to and from, if needed. They also provide in-home pet sitting. Contact them at RuffingRanch@yahoo.com or visit them on Facebook

Zoo Sitters

They provide pet sitting including dog walking, pet feeding, house sitting, litter box changing/cleaning, and local transportation. zoositters.com

Windrift Kennels

Located in Cape May Court House area, they provide boarding, grooming, and day care with indoor and outdoor runs. Contact them at www.windriftkennels.com

When choosing a doggie day care, boarding facility, or kennel, also ask if you can bring your pet’s regular food and bottled water. This will help to avoid digestive upset from changes in diet or water. Also, be sure to bring any medications and specific care specifications for your pet, your pet’s special bed/pillow or crate, and collars with identification and leashes to insure a safe and happy stay away from home.

Emergency Care

While you are in Cape May, whether your pet is with you in a pet friendly accommodation or visiting a boarding or day care facility, in the event of a veterinary need or an emergency, you will need to know who to contact. We have had several guests who visited the vet while here and were very happy and satisfied with the help, advice, and care they received. We had two guests who even returned and – on purpose – included a visit to the vet since their dog “liked the vet better than the vet at home.”

Cape May Veterinary Hospital. Located at 694 Petticoat Creek Lane in Cape May you can reach them at 609-884-1729.

South Jersey Veterinary Emergency Service. Located at 535 Maple Avenue in Linwood you can reach them at 609-926-5300.

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GOOD READ of this month: Oogy – The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin. Oogy and Larry visit local libraries in order to help raise funds for local animal shelters. This book would make a great holiday gift, especially as we look to the New Year for hope, love, and encouragement in days ahead. Oogy will show you all that and so much more. Enjoy!