Living In Montclair

Montclair Makes Music Today!

I discovered Make Music Day by accident, it somehow having slipped by me for the last few years. In fact, when I walked past the string duet in front of Montclair Local, it still didn’t occur to me that I’d stumbled upon a town-wide event. But then I walked over to watchung booksellers, saw the amps and microphones set up outside the shop, and became more curious.

Make Music Day has been going on in Montclair for the past three years, our own local event inspired by Fete de la Music – a “music holiday” that began in France in 1982 and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, Make Music Day is a day-(and night-)long offering of free musical performances all over town.

I got myself a schedule and was even more excited to learn that many of the free evening gigs were taking place on and around Church Street – in other words, all walkable to one another!

The other thing I loved was how many young people were participating.

If you’ve already made your home here, you’ll know that this event feels “so Montclair.” This is an artistic community with a wealth of residents committed to bringing the arts to the public as often and awesomely as possible.

If you’re considering Montclair as your future home, you’ll find that this is just one example of how festively we roll here: free music days, yoga in the street, food fests, jazz fests, art walks, and one of my personal favorites, the bus parade of high school graduates that wends its way through town after the commencement ceremony so that the rest of us can bang pots and scream out our congratulations – a spectacle that can feel like New Year’s Eve.

If you’d like to find out more about Montclair or our also-festive neighboring communities, please reach out. I love showing off my town.

New Listing: 19 Norwood Ave Upper Montclair ? Private and Walkable!

19 Norwood Ave Montclair - seating areaWhen it comes to 19 Norwood Ave, I’m not sure whether to gush first about the house itself or the location.  

This house is the perfect size for a growing family. Four bedrooms on the second floor (two connected by a sleeping porch that can serve as a playroom!) and a fifth up on the top floor that can accommodate family or guests, 2.5 baths, eat-in kitchen, central air and a beautiful, open layout that feels inviting and warm. Windows and French doors abound; gorgeous hardwood floors throughout. This house has been meticulously maintained.

The backyard is like a private park, thoughtfully designed to accommodate both play and contemplation. Private and lush with mature trees and plantings, it makes you 19 Norwood Ave Montclair - yard feel as if you’re on vacation in your own home.

But 19 Norwood offers more than grace and beauty. Situated a few blocks from Upper Montclair Village, it has a Walk Score of 81. The train and bus are about 8 minutes away on foot, as is Anderson Park, the Bellevue Theater, restaurants, ice-cream shop, toy store, clothing boutiques, pharmacy, banks, exercise studios, hardware store, hair salons – the list goes on and on.  

When you visit this home, try and schedule enough time to walk the neighborhood. It’s remarkable to experience how “away from it all” this house makes you feel while you’re so close to town.

Listed at $779,000, this home is not likely to last. Give me a call – I’d be delighted to walk you through it!

Stepping Out For A Movie ? The Magical Montclair Film Festival

There are plenty of things I’m proud of about Montclair. We have a magnet school system that is held up as a national model of how to provide integrated education in a diverse town. We have a volunteer-run online message board that allows thousands of people to provide  recommendations for services or help find the owner of a lost dog. We have an adult school that makes lessons about everything from interview skills to Qigong available to everyone in the community. This is a town that strives to bring people together, and it's a place where people want to be together. One of my favorite examples of this is the Montclair Film Festival.

For 10 days in May, Montclair turns into Movie Heaven. There are screenings everywhere, practically all the time – films that have been at Sundance as well as home-grown gems. The number of people who turn out to volunteer – as ushers, ticket takers, etc. – is amazing. It makes going to the movies a bigger, funner event.

On opening night, I went with friends to see “Step,” a documentary about teen girls from Baltimore whose step dance classes transformed their lives. This is the type of movie that I love, a story that reminds us how strong we can be when we band together for a common goal. There were live steppers who performed before the film and then afterwards, two people from the movie took the stage and spoke. And even though we were at the Wellmont Theater, probably the largest venue at the festival, it felt very intimate. We were all touched.

Before the show, my friends and I had dinner at one of Montclair’s newest additions: The Crosby on Glenridge Avenue. The place was hopping and it was only a short walk to the theater – another thing I love about this town that I may have mentioned once or twice.

So many of my clients come from the city at a time in their lives when they want a bit more space of their own, or maybe to grab a little privacy. But they come here because they want to feel a part of something too. And I’m so proud that Montclair can provide all of that. I don’t think I’m being overzealous when I give us five stars.

 

Montclair: Activities for Kids

The forecast is for snow this weekend, maybe the last of the season. It doesn’t seem like it's going to amount to much, but if it did, my (big) kids would be spending some time on one of Montclair’s sledding hills. You never seem to outgrow sledding.

I remember as a young mother, feeling so grateful to live in a town that had so many sledding options. Because when it’s cold out, the number of outdoor activities for kids really dwindles. In fact, it’s one of the things that worried me about raising kids here versus in the city, where there’s always something to do.

Over the years, things have changed. Now, if one of my clients with young children has the same concern, I could probably talk for an hour  straight about all the things available for kids here -- even in the cold. Sometimes it seems like Montclair was designed for kids.

There are two indoor skating rinks (plus a pond that sometimes freezes deeply enough to safely skate on), an indoor soccer facility and indoor swimming at the YMCA and Montclair State University. There are art classes galore -- at the Montclair Art Museum, Studio Kids Art, and Fern Bass Studio, to name a few. There are two martial arts dojos in town, and more close by. There are two YMCAs in town, one devoted specifically to children and families; two library branches, each with story times and kids programs; and two locations for the renowned Music Together programs as well as a School of Rock.

One of my favorite additions has been the indoor play spaces, such as Kidville and The Little Gym. Those weren’t around when my kids were small. You can take your kids beading, or make some pottery, or even go on a pizza tasting extravaganza – I like Mr. Dino’s, but that preference is often contested in my house.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to take advantage of all the kid-centric offerings here in town. I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post. Feel free to help me out and leave your favorite kid activity in the comments!

Sweet Montclair

For salesignI’m not sure exactly when I became so interested in bees. But I do remember the day, a few years ago, at the local farmer’s market getting into a conversation with the honey vendor that kept me rapt for almost an hour.

We talked primarily about hive society and hive politics, but then he started explaining how eating local honey can be beneficial for seasonal allergies. Growing up in New York City, we did not have many local hives in the neighborhood, so it was a bit of a thrill for me to walk out the door the other day and stumble upon a sign for local honey right on my block.

I not only bought a jar, I also learned that many families around town host hives for local beekeepers – usually in exchange for honey. Hives need to be spaced a certain distance from other hives so the bees are not all trying to collect nectar and pollen from the same flowers.

My bee neighbor told me a funny story about how one day a whole swarm of bees came buzzing right down the length of our street, something I’ve never seen in the over 20 years I’ve lived here. He thought they might be coming from Van Vleck House – another beekeeping site – though frankly, I don’t know why they would ever want to leave there; it’s one of the most beautiful public gardens I’ve ever seen.

I love living in a town that is home to an art museum, an indie movie theater, an indoor soccer field, and strategically placed honey bee hives. And even more, I love being able to walk to all of them. If you want to find out more about the magic of living in a walkable suburb, give me a call!

Hygge - You Know It When You Feel It

Living RoomPractically every time I open a magazine or click online these days, I am confronted with hygge. And my first thought is: Finally, someone is speaking my language!

Hygge is a Danish word that's started getting a lot more airplay lately, especially as winter comes upon us. Pronounced hue gah or hoog uh, it’s often translated as a kind of soothing coziness that, for Danes, is such a collectively held ideal it’s as if the concept is woven into their very being. I know this first-hand, as my mother was born and raised in Denmark. As a result, I grew up with the notion of hygge all around me.

There were some things my mother never quite “got” about living in the States – like American sandwiches. For example, she’d make PB&Js on rye bread. Or worse, she’d make peanut butter, butter, and jelly sandwiches! (Danes put butter on every piece of bread, regardless of what else is going to be added.)

But she did "get" hygge and, genetically, so did I.

The loveliness of hygge does not just revolve around warm fires and soft blankets – though that’s often how home design magazines illustrate the concept. It’s also tied to the profound goodness of being with people who nourish you. The deep pleasure and comfort that comes from hunkering down with the someone (or someones) you love.

I have always attempted to create a sense of hygge in the homes I’m selling. Not only because it makes buyers feel good when they tour the house, but also because it’s an idea that I feel so personally committed to. It’s even one of the reasons that I decided to make my home here. Montclair itself feels hygge to me.

Our clothing shops are hygge. Our yoga studios are hygge. Even our tattoo parlor feels hygge.

When helping people find their "right home," hygge is always a feeling I try to help someone identify (although I rarely ever call it that!). That space where they can truly sink into contentment. Their happy place.

Walkability Is The New Black

Patio DiningI just read a piece in the New York Times about how today’s buyers are more interested than ever in homes “close to town,” further supporting my theory that walkability is, in fact, the new black.

On December 16, Marcelle Sussman Fischler writes, “With an uptick in buyers wanting to live within walking distance of restaurants, shops, schools, parks and train stations, single-family homes closer to town are selling better than ones that are farther afield, real estate agents say.”

She goes on to say that buyers think of walkability not just as a “convenience” but also as a “quality of life” choice. People want to run into friends on their way to the drugstore or a restaurant – and they’re not talking about fender-benders.

Being able to walk where you need to go makes life feel easy – at least it has for me. I live within a half mile of two of Montclair’s four main shopping areas -- Upper Montclair Village and Watchung Plaza --  and there are even more walkable “town hubs” beyond those. I love that I can walk to the movies, walk to great restaurants, walk to the post office, or the nail salon, or the bookstore. It’s one of the things that make the feeling of community here so very strong.

And you can feel the commitment of the community in keeping our “downtowns” lively and vibrant – not only by their patronage, but also in how very many residents open up their own shops or restaurants, creating the niche destinations that they want to see here.  

With so many “downtowns” in one town, it’s not too difficult to find a home that’s walkable to at least one of them. And the even better news is that if perching high atop a mountain with New York City views is more your thing, there’s plenty of off-the-beaten path homes to choose from too!

And I’m delighted to show you all of them – so you can find exactly the shade of black – I mean walkability -- you’re looking for.

 

A Walk To The Wellmont (in Montclair)

Jim Gaffigan Tour PosterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to see Jim Gaffigan at the Wellmont Theater. If you’re not a Gaffigan fan, all I can say is LOL. This guy is consistently hilarious without being crude and it was the perfect way to de-stress before the holiday.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. People young and old were in attendance, which is not unusual for the Wellmont – our own local concert venue hosting everyone from Tom Jones to One Direction to Max & Ruby in the Nutcracker Suite. I think Jay Leno was there the night after Gaffigan.

Growing up in the Manhattan, I loved being able to see live performances easily and locally. And living in Montclair, I’m afforded that same luxury. In addition to the Wellmont, we have a “grassroots” concert series called Outpost in the Burbs, bringing folk artists like David Bromberg and Joan Osborne practically into our living rooms.

And Montclair State University has an incredible series called Peak Performances – interesting (and sometimes avant-garde) music, dance and theater events that are often written up in the New York Times as “not to be missed”. (By the way: tickets are usually $20 each and there is truly not a bad seat in the house.)

But here’s the coolest thing for me: I picked up my Gaffigan tickets at the theater (rather than through Ticket-Master), because I happened to be walking around downtown when they went on sale. The night of the show, we had dinner at Fusion Empanada, window-shopped our way down to the theater, and returned hours later to our car where (unlike Manhattan) we’d parked easily (and freely) on the street.

Just to keep it real: we don’t walk everywhere all the time. But we all relish that we often have the option of ditching the car and being out among our neighbors – doing fun things, eating good food, and having a few good laughs.

 

We All Walk Together

Walking on SidewalkEven though I’ve always inherently understood that “cities” tend to be more liberal than rural areas, I never really took any time to think about why. This New York Times piece was an interesting read on how liberals and conservatives tend to organize themselves geographically.

Montclair is a decidedly liberal town. We are a village that tries to welcome all residents with open arms, but the truth is, conservative bumper stickers on these streets are not very typical fare.

But the other truth is that we have plenty of conservatives living here – happily, I might add. I’d always wondered why a right-leaning homebuyer might choose this town (which is about as blue as they come). And, although I can draw plenty of conclusions from this article, I chose to read it as a kind of treatise on how walkability can be one of the great political unifiers. (I know, I know – I’m a walkability nut – but what else can explain the harmony we typically have here in Montclair besides the fact that we all really like that we can walk to Java Love for our morning coffee?)

Over the years, I’ve worked side-by-side with many of my more right-leaning neighbors – on the PTA, on boards, and even in the business of selling homes – and I’ve noticed that, for the most part, our ideals are far more similar than they are different.

Because the third truth is, it's simply a lot more difficult to have an “us versus them” stance when we’re all sharing the same sidewalks. (And bike racks. And train seats.) Or at least that’s how it seems to me. If you’re looking for a change – upsizing, downsizing, or a place to start a family -- I’d love to show you around my town; it can win the hearts and minds of practically everyone.

Slow Down and Linger

One of the reasons I like living in a walkable suburb is because it slows the world down a little bit. And one of the best things about slowing down, is having the opportunity to linger.

Lingering is not something you can do very easily in a car. (And if you do, you’ll probably hear about it from the car behind you!) But when you're walking, you can linger on the foot bridge over Edgemont Pond if you happen to see the white heron strutting near the shoreline, or you can linger in front of the Montclair Bread Company because it smells so dang good out there.

One of my favorite places to linger is Watchung Booksellers – and not just because it’s my neighborhood bookstore. It's just a delightful place to spend time. It’s cozy and unhurried. And everyone in there seems as if there’s no place they’d rather be. Add to that the fact that it's full of books and it just doesn't get any better than that.

I came across a piece about Watchung Books  on Facebook (another place I sometimes like to linger) and the writer summed up the vibe so well.

“The term ‘curate’ is often used for what booksellers do, but as [owner] Margot and I sat chatting about the business in the conjoined café, we agreed it is less like a museum collector than a chef or a matchmaker. What do you want to read today? With platters of book covers spread out before you, the store resembles a cocktail party of stories and ideas.”

I loved reading Thomas Pluck’s ode to my favorite bookstore. I liked the way he provided so much context for its existence, and how he, himself, lingered over details about our town, painting a picture that feels authentic and true for all of us that have made our home here.

Maybe it’s just the sweet melancholy of autumn, but it’s been feeling especially good to me these days to slow down and linger.