The Jersey Momma Year in Review 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018
2018 has come to a close, and I must admit, I'm a little sad to see it go! What a great year it's been! Once again, I'm so proud of how far this blog has come, and I am humbled by every person who reads it. It has always been my greatest wish to help others with this blog, to provide honest opinions and a safe resource for families to come to when looking for advice, reviews, recipes and more.

Check out my 2018 highlights below, especially if you're new to the blog. There might be some posts you haven't read or some recipes or reviews you want to revisit. Happy New Year, everyone! I can't wait to share 2019 with you. I already have BIG plans in store (*claps hands enthusiastically*)!


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Hersheypark Announces Expansion: Hershey's Chocolatetown Opening 2020!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Hersheypark is expanding! The plans for Hershey's Chocolatetown were unveiled today in a fun social media reveal by Hersheypark. What can you expect from this expansion, happening in 2020? Read on for more details!

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Winter Boredom Busters for Kids

Winter can be so much fun for kids, but it can also get boring pretty quickly, especially on sub-zero days when you literally can't go outside. So I've compiled some ideas for indoor winter fun (that don't take too much planning or effort).  Think Spring!



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Easy Overnight Stuffed French Toast

Saturday, December 22, 2018
If you're looking for an easy stuffed french toast recipe, look no further! This is a recipe that I make every Christmas Eve to enjoy Christmas morning, but it's good any time of year and tastes amazing. Plus it's easy, easy, easy! You know I'm all about the ease.


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Minecraft Books for Kids: Inspiring Reluctant Readers

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Minecraft has truly taken the world by storm, and there's no better way to inspire young readers than with subjects they love. But if you search any book site for Minecraft fiction, your choices are a bit overwhelming! So I've narrowed down some of the best Minecraft series we've read so far (and believe me, we've read many over here). I've also included Amazon affiliate links throughout, in case you'd like to purchase some of them yourself (you can read about my affiliate connection on my disclosure page). If you like this post, you can also read my other reviews,  More Minecraft Books for Kids: Diary of a Minecraft Zombie and Minecraft Comics for Kids.


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Winter Day Trip Ideas in New Jersey and Beyond: Indoor Winter Fun in NJ

Friday, December 7, 2018
Winter day trip ideas are a big topic of a discussion on message boards and in Facebook groups. It's hard to figure out where to take the kids when the weather is bad. Finding fun indoor play ideas is hard enough, but entertaining kids on the weekend or during a vacation when it's too cold to do anything else, well, that ain't easy! So here's a list of over 25 fun things to do in and around The Garden State during the winter months. From play mazes to museums, I've got ya covered!


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Callie's Charleston Biscuits for The Holidays: New Fancy Food Show Find!

The holidays are just around the corner! I have something new for you to try at your holiday table this year, and you're not going to want to pass it up, trust me. Over the summer I was honored to experience biscuit making first hand with Carrier Morey, owner/creator of Callie's Charleston Biscuits while attending The Fancy Food Show in New York City. What fun it was!! I'll probably be talking about The Fancy Food Show until next year, but I can't help sharing some of the amazing foods and brands I sampled there. If you're looking for something new to serve at your holiday table this year, you must check them out!


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Celebrating Smallfoot with a Blu-Ray DVD Giveaway!

Sunday, December 2, 2018
Have you seen Smallfoot? It's such an adorable movie and perfect for a cozy family movie night this winter! I'm celebrating the DVD and digital release of Smallfoot with a giveaway! Win your own Smallfoot Blu-Ray DVD Combo Pack below! Read on to find out how.


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A Review of Northlandz Train Museum in Flemington: All Aboard?

Saturday, December 1, 2018
*Northlandz is currently under new ownership (as of 2019) and has been going through remodeling and beautification. This post was written prior to that new ownership. I have not visited since the updates and changes, but when I do, I'll be sure to rewrite this review!

*I added some thoughts from my most recent visit to Northlandz (if you have a chance, please check them out at the bottom of this entry, under Added Thoughts.  Great title, right?)

I used to drive past Northlandz in Flemington every day when I was a teacher.  And I would always think, "I wonder what it's like in there?"  Hard to tell from the outside- all you see is a big gray building and a small sign announcing it as home of the "Worlds Largest Model RR, Great American Railway and Doll Museum."  I thought there was a real train track outside of it, but I wasn't sure.  So you know I had to find out!


What is Northlandz?

Northlandz is a miniature train museum located right on Rt. 202 in Flemington. It is similar to the well-known Roadside America in Pennsylvania.   Even if you don't have a little train enthusiast in your house like I do, it is still a point of interest.  Read on!


What Will I See There?

Northlandz is basically a walk-through model train display- over 8 miles to be exact (think giant train display, not so much a 'museum').  You peruse through at your own pace and peer into or over each display.  It's basically a spiraling effect as you walk up and up into the building.  You are viewing all of the incredible train tracks and landscapes at different angles.  The added little stories about Grandma and why certain scenes look the way they do is a cute added touch. There are also dollhouses, dolls and doll displays to view, too (you can view a video clip on their website).  The Jersey Momma's boy just skipped past those with a definitive, "Yuck!"



The Train Ride

When we first visited, there was also an outdoor working train ride (a real one), that drove us through a small area behind the museum and back.  I could not find much about this on their website, so I can't guarantee the ride is still available.  I also recall there being a small fee to ride the train (at the time it was $2.75 with ticket purchase).  If it is still running, I do recommend the train ride.  Although the area around the track was in a bit of disarray and there were not many sights to see, my son still enjoyed the ride and was excited to be on a real, colorful working train.



What Do I Need To Know?

Northlandz is old.  I'm not going to lie.  When you walk in, it is kind of dark and smells like your grandfather's basement.  Many of the displays are dusty or in need of minor repairs.  Some of the doll displays had spider webs on them.  But you know what?  It was still pretty darned amazing.  My son did not seem to notice any of the things I just mentioned.  So sometimes you have to ask yourself, "Will my child like this?"  and not, "Will I like this?"  (that basically sums up parenthood, right?).



Jersey Momma Tips

*If you have time, please read my 'Added Thoughts' after my tip section, below.

*This post was written prior to the remodeling and new ownership in 2019

*There is a cafe inside but it did not seem very enticing to us so we skipped it.  If you drive further South on Rt 202 into Flemington, you will find plenty of shops and places to eat if you are interested in traveling outside of Northlandz.  You can visit my favorite Chick-fil-A Flemington, just ahead on 202 South, near the circle!

*Admission is pricey, so be on the lookout for discount coupons (kids under 2 are free).  There is one coupon in the KidStuff coupon booklet, sold through fundraisers in most schools.

*There is no restroom to use once you start your journey into Northlandz, so be sure to use the lobby restroom before you venture into the museum.  And unless they have done a complete makeover, this is not the nicest bathroom you'll ever visit, so be forewarned!

*We once visited Northlandz in the winter time and it was a bit chilly in the museum.  For some unknown reason I had decided to leave my own coat in the car, which was not a wise decision!  Hey, at least The Jersey Momma's boy had his coat.

*If you will be visiting with very young ones, consider bringing a stroller, as there is a lot of walking and winding through the museum.

*Visit their website for more details, hours and admission info.

*They suggest bringing binoculars, which we did not do.  But a camera is a must, for sure!

*Like always, I suggest you give it a chance.  It is not Disney World.  It DOES need some updating and repairs, but it has an amazing history behind it, and I truly feel it is worth seeing at least once in your life, especially if you have a train enthusiast in your house.
 


Added Thoughts

(please bear in mind that this was my experience prior to the new ownership of 2019. I am happy to hear that someone else bought Northlandz and is in the process of sprucing it up. It looks great from the outside!)

We have been to Northlandz at least four times with my son, starting at the age of two (he's now almost six).  He still loves it.  It's a special trip to take for a boy, especially with daddy, or maybe grammy and poppy.  But like I said, it's not cheap ($33.00 for two adults and one child and that includes a coupon).  And I have to be honest here again.  There are some glowing reviews of Northlandz out there.  Just do a search on "Northlandz reviews" or "What is Northlandz?" and see what you find.  But I think giving them a glowing review is also doing them a disservice.  Because they need to know that their amazing display is going downhill.  Northlandz, I love you.  You know I love you.  I can see the incredible amount of heart and work that you have put into this train display in your lifetime.  But you need to know this:  your place needs help.  The carpets are dirty.  The walls need painting.  The displays are dusty and some are falling apart.  The last time we were there, on a 91 degree day, the air conditioning was "broken."  "On the top floor only," you told us, but that was not true, and we spent 30+ minutes along with other babies, small children and elderly people, walking through a stuffy, sweltering display at full cost.  We ran into another patron who told us she visited last year and the same thing happened.  So is your air conditioner really being repaired?  Or is it just constantly broken?  It's okay if it is, but you need to own up to the problem and not keep lying to your customers.

As we walked through, I thought, "Why not ask some local boy scout troops to help?  I'm sure they would paint some of these walls free of charge, as long as they could leave a little plaque there with their names on it?"  or, "Why not get some local businesses to see if they can donate some new carpeting in exchange for free advertising?" or "I wonder if any local train enthusiast groups would be willing to donate some time to help dust and clean the displays?"  "I know the good people of Flemington might even be willing to donate money to help restore the outer grounds, if you would only ask.  Somerset County 4H has a train group- could they help you just to clean and repair some of your incredible work?"  Every train display needs maintenance.  My dad is a train enthusiast, so I know this.

The Jersey Momma's Momma (The Jersey Grandmomma?) is a little more outspoken than I am, so when we finished our last visit at Northlandz and the owner asked us how the Jersey Momma's boy liked the displays (he ALWAYS loves the displays, he could care less if anything is dirty or old or broken!), the Jersey Grandmomma smiled and suggested some of the things that I just mentioned, about the boy scouts and the air conditioning.  The owner seemed thoroughly offended by everything, and was very snippy.  "What needs to be worked on?!" he snapped, "I work in there every day!  And the air conditioner is broken, I told you they are fixing it."  His tone made me cringe.  I quickly maneuvered my son away and got that icky feeling in my stomach that comes from confrontation.  I was sad because it suddenly made me feel like not going back there anymore.  I just wish that every business owner would realize that you have to be courteous to your customers, even if you feel insulted, even if your feelings get hurt.  Find a nice way to accept what they are saying and call it a day.

As we walked out of the museum that day, with my son all smiles, I heard the owner turn to someone he was sitting with and say, "There's always one," and my heart just broke.  What an absolute shame, and what a terrible thing to say, loud enough for a grandma and her little grandson and his mommy to hear.

I am not saying never to go to Northlandz, because the kids love it.  I've already said that.  and I've already shown you how amazing it is.  But I thought this side of the story needed to be told, too, instead of just adding another glowing review to the internet.
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