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Thursday, 30 October 2014
Barista's Duke It Out
Topic: REEALY?

Baristas Duke It Out




Café culture is bigger than ever and so are the attitudes of some coffee connoisseurs. As I waited in line to acquire my morning coffee, a sudden eruption of female shouting filled the coffee shop. A patron, who evidently was a barista, was yelling at the barista behind the counter accusing her of touching the inside of her cup. When the barista behind the counter handed the patron her coffee the patron said,” I will NOT drink that, you touched the inside of my cup. Make me a new one.” 


The barista was very annoyed and challenged the patron saying, “I did not, you are nuts.” The patron stood her ground and demanded a fresh cup.  The barista complied but not without additional glaring looks and comments.


Does the patron have a valid concern? Is she valid to have said,"Don’t touch the inside of the cup or give me a new one."


How many of us, as a matter of habit, actually pay any attention to a coffee shop's espresso machine of the staff each time we patronize? I'm guessing not many.

Even though every coffee  outlet has a legal obligation to observe certain hygiene regulations and standards of practice (which include the maintenance and cleaning of coffee machines), the ugly truth is there are operators out there who simply do not care about them - or worse, are ignorant of them. They allow their espresso machine to be caked in old milk and coffee residue - forgetting that, apart from its visual appeal, a clean machine also improves the taste of the coffee that comes out of it. Do you watch to see how they are handling the cups. Are they sticking their fingers inside the cups?

So, to help minimize your chances of getting served a bad-tasting, or bacteria-infested cup of coffee the next time you pop into a co
ffee shop, I'm going to share with you a few things you should look out for before placing your order.

1. The steam wand. This is that part of the espresso machine used to steam milk.  Steam wands should be shiny and clean at all times. Observe; does the barista immediately and properly wipe/clean the wand after each use?
He or she should, before the milk dries up and hardens. The build-up of caked milk quickly harbors bacteria which will in turn infect the milk used to make subsequent beverages which, in all likelihood, could well be yours.  In making coffee beverages, milk is usually heated to 65°C-70°C which isn't hot enough to kill bacteria; so beware.


Another thing to note with regards steam wands is this: has its steel coating worn off, exposing the copper underneath? If so, best go elsewhere for your caffeine fix because ingesting copper - bacteria or not - is a health risk in itself.


2. The cloth used to wipe/clean the steam wand should be dedicated solely for this purpose and nothing else. A good barista will always wash, rinse and change the cloth regularly during the course of the day to ensure that it stays clean and doesn't smell. When you walk into a coffee shop, spend a fleeting moment - for instance, when you're browsing through the menu or checking out the cakes on display - to give the cloth a once-over (it's invariably placed next to the espresso machine). If it's dirty or soiled, it shows that the barista hasn't been washing or changing it as regularly as they should, if at all. Just like a dirty steam wand, an unclean piece of cloth soaked with old milk and coffee residue can harbor bacteria. Likewise, a ragged piece of cloth is a sure-fire sign of lackadaisical housekeeping. Time to decide if you should stay or take your leave.

3. The portafilter(or coffee basket; see next picture) refers to that part of an espresso machine that holds a tamped puck of coffee grounds through which hot water is injected to produce an espresso. Now, I know it's not always easy to try and catch a glimpse of the portafilters from your vantage point in front of the counter. But try to move around it and watch the barista in action; they should be cleaning the coffee baskets by either flushing or wiping them after each use to remove the coffee residue left over from preparing the previous cup. Failure to do this will almost certainly result in rancid espressos. It also reflects poorly on the barista.

Having shared with you the things to look out for the next time you visit a coffee shop, I should also add that there's really no need for anyone to become paranoid about coffee shop hygiene after reading this. If the place is busy, some degree of untidiness can be expected as the barista rushes through the orders.

But tidiness is one thing and hygiene quite another. Generally speaking, so long as both the steam wand and the cloth used to wipe it are kept clean, and the barista cleans out the coffee baskets after each espresso shot, there's really no reason for y
ou to fear being served a bad cup - unless of course the coffee is of poor quality and the barista so unskilled. The good news is most operators do observe these standards of practice; it's just those few bad apples who do not that give the decent ones a bad name. But, hey, who's to say you won't innocently find yourself in one of these bad-apple shops one day?

Posted by tammyduffy at 7:22 PM EDT
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Great Adventure Celebrates Birth of Female Giraffe Calf

Things Are Looking Up at Six Flags Safari


Great Adventure Celebrates Birth of Female Giraffe Calf




Six Flags Great Adventure’s animal care team is celebrating the birth of an adorable giraffe calf at the Safari. Mika, a female reticulated giraffe, was born to first-time mom Noel Oct. 11 inside the giraffe barn. Mika is the Safari’s ninth giraffe.


“Noel is a great mom,” said Jason Holloway, a safari supervisor who oversees the giraffe herd. “She began nursing right away. Mika is healthy and doing very well.” Holloway said that Mika stood within an hour of her birth and measured 5 feet 10 inches tall.


Mika’s mother Noel was born December 2001. The calf’s grandmother, named Georgia, has been one of the Safari’s most beloved residents since 1993.


Mika ventured outside the giraffe barn for the first time Oct. 21 under Noel’s watchful eye, and Holloway was there to capture the first moments on video. Guests will be able to see Mika on the Safari Off Road Adventure during the park’s closing weekend Nov. 1 and 2, and during the Grape Adventure Wine Festival’s Safari tours Nov. 8 and 9, weather permitting.


Reticulated giraffes, also known as Somali giraffes, are native to northeastern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and Somalia. They possess a distinctive coat pattern featuring red-brown polygonal patches divided by thin white lines. Full-grown female giraffes stand approximately 16 feet tall and weigh approximately 1,800 lbs.


Giraffe gestation lasts approximately 13 to 15 months, with typically one calf born. Mothers give birth standing up. Newborn calves typically stand approximately 6 feet tall.


Posted by tammyduffy at 9:47 PM EDT

Topic: REEALY?


Staying Safe As We Age

By Tammy Duffy 

In many communities there are many people who live alone. In Hamilton Township. NJ, the Police Department instituted a program known as “Operation Reassurance”.

To take advantage of this program you must live alone and have a telephone.   Upon signing up for this program, you are then required to call the Hamilton Police Division at a special phone number to inform them that all is well. You must make this phone call to them each day Monday thru Sunday, between 8:00am and 9:00am. If your call is not received by 9:30am, the police will call you. If there is no answer, the desk officer will dispatch a police car to your residence to see if everything is alright.  The intention of this program is to make sure that people living alone will have personal contact each day with someone to make sure all is well. We are interested in your welfare and are here to help.

This always seemed like a great program  to me, until this evening.  I attended a neighborhood watch meeting and we were all reminded of the existence of this program.  They were looking for volunteers to make the phone calls. 

There was an older gentleman who attended the meeting and said,” This could be a great way to find a single older woman to date.  How can I sign up to make the phone calls to check up on them and find a date.”

At first some of us giggled at his outburst for he was an older gentleman. However, after a few moments I no longer found it funny and thought, “Wait a minute, this could be a perfect avenue for some nut job to find where are all the helpless older people and people living alone in a town are and target them.”  These volunteers are given the personal home numbers of these people living alone who sign up for the program.  I wondered what kind of background check the township does on the volunteers making the phone.

We live in a very different world today. One cannot be too careful or too aware of their surroundings and those we interact with. As your family members and friends  age and they consider signing up for these “alert” services, one must be  sure to thoroughly investigate the program. Understand who has control of your data, is the database on a secure network that cannot be hacked, have the people  at the companies selling the services had extensive background checks to ensure that they are appropriate to have your data or if its an organization using volunteers, have all of the volunteers had background checks.

Don’t assume it’s a safe program because it’s being run by a police department. Sometimes the simplest things can be overlooked, opening a door for a criminal to know you are alone. Do your own background check on these services and stay safe. 

Posted by tammyduffy at 9:23 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 October 2014 9:38 PM EDT
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Paul Strand Retrospective at PMA


Paul Strand Retrospective at PMA


By Tammy Duffy 





Paul Strand was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. His diverse body of work, spanning six decades, covers numerous genres and subjects throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa.


The Philadlelphia Museum of Art is hosting a major retrospective of this critical figure in the history of modern art, American photographer and filmmaker Paul Strand (1890–1976), whose archive of nearly 4,000 prints stands as a cornerstone of the Museum’s collection. Emphasizing the influential artist’s most important projects from the 1910s through the 1960s, the exhibition surveys Strand’s entire life’s work, including his breakthrough trials in abstraction and candid street portraits, close-ups of natural and machine forms, and extended explorations of the American Southwest, Mexico, New England, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, and Romania.

This exhibition includes approximately 250 of Strand’s finest prints, selected primarily from the Museum’s holdings, with important early prints from public and private collections. The wide range of imagery highlights how Strand radically changed his work at several key moments in an effort to identify photography's pivotal role as a means of understanding and describing the modern world. The exhibition also features works by fellow artists from the Alfred Stieglitz circle (Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, and Arthur Dove), screenings of Strand’s films, and a selection of archival material.


This exhibition explores the remarkable evolution of Strand’s work, from the breakthrough moment in the second decade of the twentieth century when he brought his art to the brink of abstraction to his broader vision of the place of photography in the modern world, which he would develop over the course of a career that spanned six decades. The exhibition examines every aspect of Strand’s work, from his early efforts to establish photography as a major independent art form and his embrace of filmmaking as a powerful medium capable of broad public impact to his masterful extended portraits of people and places that would often take compelling shape in the form of printed books and must be considered among his greatest achievements. Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography  celebrates the recent acquisition of more than 3,000 prints from the Paul Strand Archive, which has made the Philadelphia Museum of Art the world’s largest and most comprehensive repository of Strand’s work.

Posted by tammyduffy at 3:12 PM EDT
Sunday, 19 October 2014
Dragonfly Farms Pumpkin Playground

Dragonfly Farms Pumpkin Playground


By Tammy Duffy




When fall rolls around, something spectacular happens at Dragonfly Farms. Brilliant autumn leaves emerge and bring all sorts of exciting activities for the entire family. The activities are designed to be educational and fun for children of all ages.



The 9th Annual Fall Festival & Pumpkin Playground began on Oct 1 and will continue until 31st at Dragonfly Farms in Hamilton, NJ on 966 Kuser Road.  The festival hours are 11am – 6pm Monday through Sunday and is wheelchair accessible.



There is a nominal admission, $6 per person on weekdays and  $10 per person on weekends.  Children under 3 are free.  Each paid admission receives a small carvable patch pumpkin, hay rides, access to the petting zoo, arts and craft and more!   There are additional activities available for additional cost on weekends. These include: pony rides, face painting, sand art and much more. There is a food tent to refresh your little goblins as well.


Antonia Jones, Manager of Dragonfly Farms states,” We came to Hamilton from NY with our business and quickly noticed that Hamilton is a family oriented town. We felt the need to give back to the community and create this Fall wonderland for the families of Hamilton. Each year we add to the festival based on the communities input. Our employees work very hard building the entire festival and trails for the hayrides.”


On Friday, Oct  31, Dragonfly Farms will have their first Trunk or Treat: -Halloween Round up event.  This event will start at 4pm and go until 7pm.  It will create a safe place for children to go trick or treating. Patrons will have their treats in the trunks of their cars to distribute to the little goblins who attend.  You must register in advance to participate. There will be a  costume contest, parade at 5pm, live music and much more!!\


There will also be a dog Halloween costume contest on Oct 25th from 12 to 2pm as well



Posted by tammyduffy at 12:40 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 October 2014 12:41 PM EDT
Ai WeiWei @ Large At Alcatraz


Ai WeiWei @ Large At Alcatraz


By Tammy Duffy 




Ai Weiwei, the prominent Chinese activist-artist, who is forbidden from leaving China, has been commissioned by the For-Site Foundation to create an exhibition. This exhibition entitled,   At Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," touches on the history of imprisonment on the island, and runs through April 26, 2015.  The installations are only accessible to Alcatraz ticket holders.



The FOR-SITE Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei brings his works to Alcatraz Island until spring of 2015. Ai is internationally celebrated for his extraordinary ability to communicate complex political and creative concepts in his sculptures and installations. His works raise urgent questions about human rights and the freedom of expression. His art and ideas find a compelling new context in this exhibition of works created specifically for Alcatraz--a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America's most visited national parks. 



Revealing unexpected perspectives on Alcatraz and its layered legacy, @Large prompts visitors to consider the implications of incarceration and the possibilities of art as an act of conscience. For Ai, these are not just artist themes; they are fact of life. A vocal critic of the Chinese government, Ai was secretly detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days in 2011 on charges of tax evasion, and is still not permitted to leave China. @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz reveals unexpected perspectives on Alcatraz and its layered legacy and prompts visitors to consider the implications of incarceration and the possibilities as art as an act of conscience. @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz launches a dialogue that incorporates these themes of communication, individual responsibility, and freedom on a global level, exploring prisons, and prisoners around the world.



A limited number of Early Bird Exhibition tickets are available on the 8:45 am departure. Please note, this ticket is not for a guided tour. This ticket includes the round-trip ferry service from Pier 33 to Alcatraz, a greeting and orientation on the Island, a commemorative @Large gift, regular Alcatraz admission and the Cellhouse Audio Tour:


A limited number of Special Guided Tours of the exhibit are available on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays on the 8:45 am departure. This ticket includes the round-trip ferry service from Pier 33 to Alcatraz, a special orientation on the island, a docent led tour of the @Large exhibit, a copy of the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz full-color exhibit catalogue, a commemorative @Large gift, regular Alcatraz admission and the Cellhouse Audio Tour:



To purchase regular admission tickets to Alcatraz (which includes full access to the @Large exhibit), please visit Alcatraz Cruises at



Posted by tammyduffy at 7:43 AM EDT
Friday, 17 October 2014
Trenton Makes the World Will Take Again

Trenton Makes the World Will Take Again



By Tammy Duffy



Ruth Perry, Executive Director of Trenton Health Network 


For the past several months the spread of deadly viruses like Ebola and enterovirus-68, have created fear and unrest throughout the world. 


Last evening, Trenton, NJ, Director of Health and Human Services, James Brownlee presented to the Trenton City Council the city’s Public Health Readiness. He focused on Ebola and EV-D68.  There were also executives from the local hospitals and community health centers in attendance as well.


Trenton is being proactive. This is a city that will not wait until there is a death in the town to react or educate anyone in the community. They are doing this now and have been doing this for several months. They have daily calls with the county health departments, weekly conference calls with CDC, etc. If an Ebola case or EV D68 is reported the Trenton Director of Health would be notified immediately and notifications would be sent out immediately to first responders and others. They would not follow the same strategy seen in Hamilton where hours went by before key personnel were notified and the public waited for days before they were informed on what was going on.


Brownlee has done an outstanding job developing a health care partnership in the city of Trenton. A network so unique that it will make the sign on our bridge “Trenton Makes the World Takes” glow again. Brownlee stated at the presentation,” We are not doing this alone, it’s a massive team effort.” Information is shared between the Trenton Community web site and the school district.


Last evenings presentation was done at the request of Councilman Duncan Harrison who raised the issue after local news stories about the viruses. There is a great concern in the community about how the city and schools would handle EV-68 after a 4 year old in Hamilton died from the virus.  Since the press conferences in Hamilton, the only public service announcement has been a posting by the mayor has focused on the Fall festival. There is no education to the community occurring in Hamilton. The Trenton leadership is taking a very proactive approach and making sure their community is ready.


Dr Ruth Perry stated, “I think that we are in an excellent position to deal with anything that may come to the city in terms of enterovirus and Ebola.” Dr. Perry, is the executive director of the Trenton Heath Team, which is a coalition of local hospitals and the city’s health department. Perry also said, “The health team allows those in the city’s health sector to work together in times where there is not an emergency, so they are well equipped to work together when there is a public health problem.” There were also key executives from Capital Health and St Francis Medical Center at the council meeting. They have been going through daily drills for Ebola preparedness and even created ebola crash carts. The Health commissioner has mandated these drills for all hospitals in the area.


“We’ve put together Ebola carts in preparation if we get a case,” said Dr. Robert Remstein, the vice president for accountable care at Capital Health Regional Medical Center.


Brownlee said the city is constantly updating the information about both viruses posted on the front page of the city’s website. Residents should go to the site to look for the latest information.


Brownlee’s mission does not end there. He is physically going out into the community, meeting with the Liberian community in Trenton to get to residents who do not have access to the internet, newspapers or telephones. Brownlee is a health director that others can learn from.


For the past two years Brownlee has been building a network for Trenton community. Trenton residents who go between hospitals and clinics have generally been treated without the advantage of a detailed medical history. Their medical records have not been readily accessible between organizations. As a result, providers have Trenton residents who go between hospitals and clinics have generally been treated without the advantage of a detailed medical history. Their medical records have not been readily accessible between organizations. As a result, providers have lacked information on a patient’s long-term health issues and on tests and treatments previously administered. Establishing a health information exchange that pulls together data from various healthcare agencies and makes it accessible to all is a critical goal if Trenton residents are to receive appropriate, cost-effective care, Dr. Perry said.


THT has partnered with CareEvolution, a Michigan-based information technology company, to create the Trenton Health Information Exchange (THIE). The THIE allows hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to electronically share patients’ personal health information (PHI) with each other in a secure and timely manner.


The THIE will result in improved patient care while controlling costs by avoiding costly duplication of services. The electronic database enables doctors to see lab results, radiology reports, emergency room records, prescribed medications, and discharge information for the patients of each of the city’s healthcare providers.


“By having a health information exchange, doctors can see, for example, that just weeks ago, a patient had, say, a cardiac catheterization, and they can see tests and results. That way, they won’t be duplicating any of that. The system will give doctors important information to enable them to provide the appropriate level of care,” Dr. Perry said.


Increasing access to crucial medical information, Brownlee added, is important to improving health outcomes and ensuring patients receive personalized, patient-centered care. “Our emergency departments can share information in real time, leading to better healthcare for patients,” he said. They lacked information on a patient’s long-term health issues and on tests and treatments previously administered. Establishing a health information exchange that pulls together data from various healthcare agencies and makes it accessible to all is a critical goal if Trenton residents are to receive appropriate, cost-effective care, Dr. Perry said.
















Posted by tammyduffy at 7:28 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 17 October 2014 8:03 AM EDT
Thursday, 16 October 2014
1800PetMeds Really Does Love Our Pets


 1800PetMeds Really Does Love Our Pets


By Tammy Duffy



Photo by Duffy: Officer Jose Munoz, Trenton Humane Law Enforecement Officer holding the donated carseat from 1800PetMEds


As a responsible pet owner we must be diligent with our pets and obtain their vaccines, feeding them proper nourishment, getting them spayed or neutered, giving them tick repellent and chewables for heartworm,etc  These are the essentials.


In NJ I was told there is a law that was passed that requires pets to be restraint while riding in your vehicles. If they are roaming around the car or in your lap, you can get a ticket from what I am told.





I would consider myself a very responsible pet owner. Some would argue and say, I am over the top with my furry kids. In the past,  I have  used the web site, 1800Pet Meds to obtain Frontline, Heartguard and a variety of pet needs for my furry kids.  They are quite efficient. Today, 1800PetMeds did something else great, besides keeping my kids healthy. 


Recently, I purchased a new car seat for my newest little rescue dog, Ana. She is a pint size 5 pound Westie/Yorkie Mix. Her other rescude sister, Sophia is 45 pounds.


I received the new car seat over the weekend and found that it was too small for my little Ana, even at 5 pounds.  So, I finally called 1800PetMeds today and said, “I am sorry I bought the wrong size can I return this for a credit?”  I did not use it, upon opening it found the carseat too small. Their response stunned me. They said,” We will give you a credit, but we would like for you to donate the carrier to a dog shelter.”   I gasped and said,” WOW! This is  so nice! I will definitely do that. I am so happy to see that they asked me to donate the carrier. It’s a very nice carrier. The cost was $48.00 for the XSmall car seat. It is lined with lovely soft cushions and fleece. A really comfortable seat.


I had a free moment so I went to the Trenton Animal Shelter on my way home and took the carseat there.  I knocked on the door and was greeted by the nicest person, Officer Jose Munoz, Humane Police Officer. Jose is a 15 year veteran at the animal shelter and was so thankful and grateful for the donation of the car seat. The animal shelter in Trenton has a noble job in the community. Officer Jose has been working at the shelter for over 15 years. His dedication to the animals in the city of Trenton deserves a reward.


The Trenton Division of Health provides the community with services that enhance the humane care of animals in the City of Trenton. The mission of the Bureau is to educate and promote a better quality of care for all animals in Trenton, being mindful of the need to protect the citizens of the city in accordance to the state and local laws and ordinances. Adoptable animals from TAS can be viewed online through TAS.Petfinder.com website, featuring photographs and a description of the animal.


TAS also features adoptable animals every Sunday at PetSmart in Langhorne, Pennsylvania between the hours of 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm.




There will also be a fundraiser, November 2, 2014 from 2-6pm at RHO Waterfront. Rho is located at 50 Riverview Plaza in Trenton, NJ.


This fundraiser will be benefiting the homeless pets of the Trenton Animal Shelter. This event will featuring food, ,music, vendors, and much much more. Please come out and help us raise money to help the homeless pets of the Trenton Animal Shelter

Posted by tammyduffy at 3:29 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 16 October 2014 3:33 PM EDT
Sunday, 12 October 2014

When BYOB Means Bring your Own Baby


By Tammy Duffy



There is a relatively new business located at 85 South Main Street in Yardley, PA. The business is called, The Artist’s Cellar, owned by Mary Jane Martin. This brand new BYOB is a place that allows patrons to  “Paint and Sip”. 


The Artist's Cellar, believes that every one has talent and that people will enjoy pursuing an interest, the more you unleash your abilities.  It is the hope of the owner of this art studio that both adults and children will come to the cellar.


The way it works is you go on line to their calendar and choose a painting that you would like to paint. You sign up for the class on line or you can also call them. Patrons are encouraged to bring wine, beer or cocktails to the classes.


As a professional artist I thought, let me give this a try.  Let me see how this works and how I can educate the community on this new novice painting experience that is sweeping the United States. 


Last evenings experience at this particular studio was unpleasant to say the least. I made my reservation several days in advance and received an email confirmation to attend the class.   The receipt does not have any contact information on the studio, i.e. address or phone number.  So before I left my house I had to Google,  The Artist Cellar to find the address. 


I arrive for my 7 pm class twenty minutes early. I only see one car in the lot behind the building. I thought that was odd.  I walk to the front and walk up the handicap ramp on the side of the building, the doors were all locked. I then walk to the front of the building, I can see someone in the studio, try that door, it is locked. they see me but do not acknowledge me or help. I then walk around the back of the building and found a door open.

A woman, who I later learned was the owner said to me,”What are you doing here?” in a stern and inappropriate way, all the while giving me a look to kill. I responded with,” I am here for the art class.” She responded,”Well the class does not start until 7:30pm. So we are not open.”  Again, in a very snotty tone. I responded with,” Ok, I will leave and come back, my bad I thought it was seven.”  She responded with,” Good.”  After she said that I think she realized that what she had just said was beyond inappropriate and said, “You can stay.”  I honestly was so annoyed with her behavior that I left. I contemplated just going home. I very much value my free time and do not enjoy being treated with disrespect. A very unwelcoming atmosphere.


I left the studio and returned at 7:15pm.  I noticed others were getting to the studio at this time. I noticed every person and group that came that they all did the “where is the entrance that has an unlocked door dance.”  This was quite odd due to the fact at this time there were now 3 people, the owner and two employees in the building. They saw every person struggle with the doors but gave zero acknowledgement to anyone…via giving directions to which door was actually open.  There was signage placed on the sidewalk in front of the building, creating the direction that this was the door to enter….only to find the door was locked if your traversed the front sidewalk entrance. It was quite perplexing how they completely ignored everyone .  We all had to do the “door dance”.  I also found it odd that if you have a handicap entrance that you do not unlock it for your patrons to use.


Upon entering the room one cannot help but notice the vastness of the room, the large monitors in the corners, and the number of paintings around on the walls and in stored space.  I also noticed the lovely wooden floor that did not have one speckle of paint on it. I have never been to an art studio that does not have paint speckles on the floors that resemble abstract paintings in their own right. I proudly have one of these abstract painting floors in my art studio. 


As I enter, I notice that people’s names have been written on the brown paper that covers the tables, so I look for my name. I circle the entire room.  I will also share with you that no one greets you as you enter to check you in or acknowledge that you are there. As I finish my lap around the room, I notice that my name is no where to be found on any of the tables. I then go up to the owner and said, I do not see my name. She said,” Ok, let me have your name.” I give it to her and she goes to her computer. She comes back to me to tell me that she cannot find me in her computer. I said,”Well, I have my receipt in my car would you like for me to go get it?” She responds with,” Yes.”


At this point I am annoyed but go and get the receipt. I come back in, give it to her and she says,” Did you just sign up today?” I tell her,” No, several days ago.”  The receipts that you are given to not demonstrate the day of your class, time, address of the studio, just the name of the painting you picked.


The owner then asks the one assistant to set up a place for me. She does and I am told to get an apron. I get one, but cannot help notice that they had not have been washed and reused from class to class. As an artist we are very familiar with a freshly cleaned apron versus the one that could probably walk to the easel on its own.


 I live in Hamilton, NJ and we recently had a youth die from EV D 68, and no one knows where he got it from. There is no proof he got it from the school, but could have been a business, playground, etc. Adults can get EV-D68 and then give it to their kids. The virus can live on surfaces for 24 hours. So this bothered me greatly. I could only then wonder how they cleaned the handles of the brushes that they reuse from patron to patron.


The one assistant came up to me and gave me a paper plate of paint. She then said to me,”Sorry for the delay in setting you up, but you were late and we had to rush to set up your area.”  I had to do everything in my power to respond with a level of respect. I said to her,” I was not late, definitely was here on time, was actually early, and did not ask you to rush.”    She then walks up to the owner, whispers to her, again another glare I get.  Now mind you, I made it clear that I write the art blog for the Trentonian newspaper. So, one would have thought they would have been on their best behavior and been helpful.


As people began to settle in their perspective spots I could not help but notice the massive amounts of alcohol each group brought with them.  One couple had two large growlers of beer and a bottle of wine, two gals that came, had numerous large bottles of wine,etc. There was not a couple that had less than 2 bottles of wine with them, some had even more. They are supplied with a large tub like ice bucket from the owner to keep their alcohol cold. The two ladies sitting across from me brought in a picnic and two very large bottles of wine.


The demographic of the people in the class I took were all white and I would guess that their ages were 25 to 34. There were three women that were above that age. The one team of gentlemen who came spoke about how they were the owners of Cream Ridge Vineyard, yet I found it interesting they were only drinking J. Lohr and Saudi Creek wines, 3 bottles for those two gentlemen.  There was no doubt these gentlemen who said they owned Cream Ridge, clearly did not. They were about 29 years old. Why were they not drinking their own wines? Well, I have drank the wines from the vineyard and I am not a fan of them either.


The class begins and the instructor places the painting on the easel. The way the room was set up it was impossible to see the painting that you are there to paint, unless you sit in the front row. They had two projection TV’s set up with cameras on the stage where the instructor was, but you still could not see the painting that way. If you are going to have all this technology to make it easier for people learn how to use it so its actually helps the patrons. As the instructor began teaching and painting she stood in front of the easel which also made it impossible from where I was sitting to see what to do. It would be better if there was a small copy of the piece for the night at each seat. This would ensure that people could not have to giraffe neck to see the painting. 


There was music playing overhead which was extremely distracting and interfered with the instructor. I could not hear the instructor.  There was never any acknowledgement to the patrons to see if they could hear. As patrons drank more the room became noisier also led to the inability to hear the instructor.


As we began to paint, we were all told numerous times, take care of our brushes, do not leave them sitting there to dry out and place them in the water. This was told to me at least 8 times during the class as well as to others. They actually too the step to place your brush in the water if you did not comply. I also got "scolded" for making my paper towel too wet that I used to clean off my brushes, that the wetness would soak through to the table. You also ran out of paint and were made to feel that you could not ask for more. They significantly underestimated the amount of paint that was needed for the painting.


The two women sitting across from me one hour into the class had already polished off one bottle and started their second. The one gal whose name was April, was inebriated. She began talking in baby talk for the rest of the class, quite loudly. I was sitting on the stool that is provided and all of the sudden heard a baby’s voice. I thought, “Oh, a kid came that I missed. No, it was an adult who was drunk talking in baby talk. I thought where am I? Her friend was just as drink; at least she was refraining from baby talk.


The couple sitting to my left was on their first date. The guy seemed cool, the girl intensely competitive. She was constantly berating her dates painting. She went to the extreme to grab the instructor to have the instructor compare the two paintings all the while saying,”Mine is better than his, right, mine is better, mine is better.”  The instructor in the end agreed with her, I suspect to just quiet her and proceed. I would suspect there will be no second date.


The baby talking drunken adult then started singing loudly with her drunken friend. That serenade only lasted a few measures but then thwse baby talk intensified. It was outrageous. Neither the owner nor the staff said or reacted in any way to this outrageous behavior and allowed the two girls to drink. I then noticed that the numerous bottles of wine and growlers that people brought were also all empty. Yikes, anyone hear of DUI?



One of the patrons was having difficultly with the painting that was selected. I heard her talking to her mother and she does paint by number paintings. She did not know how to draw. She became very frustrated so the instructor and art assistance removed her from the room and placed her in the hallway (where there was limited light). They did not know how to help her.  They set her up to sit on the steps that led to the second floor, no easel and her paints. I walked into the hallway and was horrified that a patron would be treated in this way. The art assistant did not know how to help people.  Again, this unwanted feeling just metastasized through this experience. 



The ergonomics of the experience are also worth reporting on. The stools that you are given are almost the same height as the tables. So when you sit on them you are way above the tabletop. The small easel that they place on the tabletops force people to hunch over like the hunch back of Notre Dame to create your masterpiece. I could have stood up, but was running a marathon the next day so did not want to be on my feet for 2.5 hours.You see that in the photo above. Even if you stood up patrons still had to hunch over.


We all finished our paintings. As a professional artist I found the pace of the class extremely slow and found myself waiting for the instructors next steps.  However, for novice paintings, especially those impaired by alcohol, the pace seemed correct.


This new fast growing market of sip and paint events, I do believe offer a unique experience for the general public and corporations. However, the companies popping up need to be focused on their patrons, so they come back and recommend their studios to others. If you are professional painter this is not an event you would enjoy t attend I believe. However, you will enjoy teaching others who attend the events,so could be a great part time job.


The places starting up should ensure they grab artists that can teach others, not just kids out of college who have no experience dealing with the general public beyond twitter and facebook.


Posted by tammyduffy at 4:00 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 12 October 2014 4:04 PM EDT
Saturday, 11 October 2014
IN THE PINK: A Celebration for Women


IN THE PINK: A Celebration for Women


 By Tammy Duffy




Every year, in the month of October we celebration National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The world is surrounded with pink ribbons, pink 5k races, and events focused on celebrating and recognizing women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is a disease that does not discriminate. It sees no color, it sees no race. It can afflict anyone.


New Jersey’s breast cancer incidence rate is fourth highest in the U.S., and New Jersey has the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S. among white females according to recently released statistics by the American Cancer Society. Mercer County’s incidence rate is higher than both the NJ and US rates increasing the likelihood of knowing or being related to someone diagnosed with breast cancer. “With alarming statistics like these, the role of the BCRC becomes even more significant,” explains Judy Hutton, CEO of YWCA Princeton. “‘in the PINK’ not only helps us raise crucial funds for BCRC, but it also helps create awareness and hope,” adds Hutton.


This evening the 10th  Anniversary “in the PINK” Fashion Show Benefit  took place at the Westin Princeton Forrestal Village. All of the event proceeds  at this event benefit the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) at YWCA Princeton. The evening featured  a cocktail reception and a silent auction featuring a stunning array of experiences and merchandise, followed by sit-down dinner and an awe-inspiring fashion show.  The models in the fashion show were:Holly Chen, Nidia Fernandez, Maggie Jara, Doug Johnson,Rachel Katz, Alyson Keyes,Arlene Lintag, Emily Lintag, Emmanuel Beza Marte, Sabrina Marte, Alyssa Martin, Maureen Offord, Assenka Oksiloff, Cindy Pinelli, Deepti Rana, Raj Rana, Suzanne Reynolds, Eneida Rodriguez, Sally Samuel, Dr. David Sokol, and Dr Shirnett Williamson. 


In the PINK is a unique event that celebrates the strength, beauty and spirit of those diagnosed with breast cancer. It also pays homage to the courage and compassion of their support network during their journey. This year’s fashion show featured the hottest fall and winter trends by Lord & Taylor. The clothes and accessories were modeled by breast cancer survivors, along with a chosen member of their support network, which includes family, friends, and medical professionals.


This event is a celebration of those surviving and thriving despite a breast cancer diagnosis. The BCRC relies on the proceeds of this event to continue to do the important work they do with women and families living with breast cancer..  The BCRC takes a comprehensive approach to breast cancer support and education, the BCRC at YWCA Princeton positively impacts the lives of more than 5,000 individuals each year, and helps hundreds of women learn to live with, through, and beyond breast cancer through free support groups, private counseling, a peer support network, lectures, mind/body wellness activities, free wigs & prostheses, a patient assistance fund, resource library, transportation-to-treatment program with their "treatment express" (which was donated by a local onocologist) and more.


The YWCA Princeton is especially grateful for the support of this year’s sponsors: Title Sponsor Lord & Taylor, CHEMRES as Spirit Sponsor, an anonymous Courage Sponsor, Compassion Sponsors Capital Health, Hopewell Valley Community Bank, University Medical Center at Princeton, Oasis Spa/Just For You Center, and an anonymous donor. Princeton Radiology has returned as Dessert Sponsor.  Several individuals joined this year as Patrons. Inspiration Sponsor Hamilton Jewelers sponsored a special, limited edition pin made in honor of the 10th anniversary of the event


For more than 40 years, the center has been providing free programs designed to help women through the entire breast cancer journey – from diagnosis through treatment, recovery, survivorship, and even recurrence. Their comprehensive approach to breast cancer support and education positively impacts the lives of more than 5,000 individuals each year, and helps hundreds of women learn to live with, through, and beyond breast cancer.


Their outreach program brings education directly to Mercer County, central New Jersey, and Bucks County. Trained YWCA staff members are available to meet with community organizations, corporations, places of workshop, schools, to talk about breast cancer and teach women to do self-examinations. Presentations are tailored to the group and may include a workshop to identify women who quality for free breast health services


Each of the women who attend this event all had a story of triumph. I was given the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Sally DaSilva, a breast cancer survivor.  In January 2013 she was playing with her son, Vincent II. He accidently hit his head on her breast area. Several days after this happed, Sally was still in pain. She went to the doctor only to discover she had a mass/lump in that very breast.  Sally was only 38 years old, too young for a mammogram according to all the “rules”. She went for a mammogram and that is when as Sally puts it, ”She started a new normal.”  Just one week prior to her diagnosis, Sally’s husband’s mother had passed away. Sally carried this burden and did not tell her husband right away, due to the death of his Mom. She lost another relative shortly after that as well. Her family embraced her once she told them and have been her support and strength through the years.  Her son saved her life.


Vincent DaSilva, Sally DaSilva, Vincent DaSilva, II, and Marilyn Samuel


 I will repeat something I said in the beginning of this article. This is a disease that does not discriminate. It sees no color, it sees no race its sees no age. It can afflict anyone, women and men. Make sure those you love get their mammograms and stay alert to changes in their breasts. As women we do not want to ask for help, it is viewed as a sign of weakness. We go through the toughest things in life alone sometimes. The women in our towns do not have to go through their breast cancer alone. They can reach out to the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Princeton and get loving support through their journey with this disease. Reach out to them, these ladies are doing amazing things for other women. 






Posted by tammyduffy at 7:07 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 October 2014 11:24 AM EDT

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