Living In Montclair

My Trip to the Montclair Farmer's Market

A few weeks ago, I was headed to Brooklyn for my brother’s 50th birthday, and on my way, I stopped at Little Daisy’s Bake Shop to pick up a birthday cake and some cookies for the occasion. Before I got on the highway, I decided to swing by the Montclair Farmer’s Market -- a regular Saturday destination, although usually one that I hit on my way home, not on my way out of town. 

I can’t really explain what came over me, but the next thing I knew, I was buying my brother Brussels sprouts. For his birthday. I’d never given my brother vegetables as a gift before. I don’t think I’d ever gifted vegetables to anyone. But when I saw the giant stalk with funny little cabbages hanging from it, it seemed so preposterous and funny. (Carrots aren’t funny, certainly not in the same way.)

I left the Farmer’s Market not even considering how I might present the Brussels sprouts. None of the farmers seemed to have gift wrap, so I just brought them along naked with the bakery confections. 

If you’re looking for gifts, the Farmer’s Market has plenty of more traditional fare: pies, local honey, granola, plants, and flowers. Sometimes they have shearling throws and often they have a variety of interesting spices. I love the fishmonger and the fresh-baked bread, and I’m also kind of a sucker for the pickles-on-a-stick. That was an idea whose time could not have come soon enough for me!

In the years since I’ve moved here, the Farmer’s Market has grown into a true marketplace, where people come to meet and gather. It’s like a party. And the Walnut Street eateries complete the scene, with Montclair Bread Company, Gina’s Bakery, Le Salbuen, Ray’s, Red Eye Café, The Spot, The Corner, and Egan’s offering all manner of delectable fare. 

For me, the Farmer’s Market was a happy pit stop that Saturday, but it’s a ritual destination for many every Saturday. I love seeing people walk and bike there from all over town – singles, couples, families, pets. If you’re coming to check out Montclair one Saturday, try and stop by. The offerings may not make you laugh, but I bet they'll make you happy.

Montclair Farmer’s Market
Walnut Street Train Station Parking Lot
Saturdays  8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
June through November
And some vendors stay throughout the year!

 

Montclair - No Shortage of Porches

“Look at that porch!” says practically every client on our first tour of the town. “Oh, look at that one!”

Montclair and Glenridge are full of porches, and it stands to reason that my clients moving from the city would be drawn to them. A porch is the suburban version of a front stoop – it’s a way to be at home and be out in the world at the same time.

But it’s not just city dwellers who are drawn to porches. The National Association of Home Builders said earlier this month that of the 780,000 single family home constructions started last year, over 65% of them included porches – 10% more than a decade ago.

To me, there’s nothing better than a porch with a roof. I can’t think of many things as relaxing as an early autumn Sunday morning – watching the leaves dance around the yard or even listening to the rain – while sipping coffee in a big-cushioned chair on a cool, dry porch. I’ve seen many homeowners add a front porch and it completely transforms the feeling of the house. It just seems more welcoming.

A gracious front porch can be set up like a second living room, with rugs, table lamps, and ceiling fans. I have a friend who keeps a tea cart on her porch; it’s always stocked with glasses and an ice bucket for an impromptu evening gathering. Someone shows up with a bottle of wine and suddenly it’s a get-together. She says it’s been a great way to get to know her neighbors.

As you can tell, I’m pro-porch, even though I don’t have one of my own. But in this walkable suburb, I feel as though I benefit from the porches of others – for an evening chat or just a walk-by wave. It one of the many things that make a bustling town like Montclair truly feel like a tight community.

Hillary Clinton Visits Montclair

Last night at Back to School Night, I sat in on my daughter’s 8th period class and turned to a mom sitting nearby, “This class seems so empty.”

“It’s because of Hillary,” she said.

I was not one of the lucky 1,000 people to score a ticket for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book signing here at our own Watchung booksellers. Apparently, they sold out in an hour.

A friend went and was telling me about it this morning: people started showing up at 2:00 pm for Clinton's 6:00 pm arrival. Over the next few hours, the line wound around the corner to Watchung Field.  “You could feel the love,” my friend said. “Grown-ups. Children. There was such a sense of camaraderie.”

One of the things I love about Montclair is how that camaraderie shows up everywhere. Exercise classes. Library events. Town soccer. The Van Vleck Plant Sale. We have big town amenities (art museum, indie movie theater, a minor league baseball stadium) and a small town vibe.

In my opinion, Watchung booksellers contributes a lot to the overarching feeling of community. They support all the local writers (of which there are many!) through readings and book events, they host tons of book groups and children’s programs, they always have enough staff available to advise and recommend.

And last night they brought us Hillary.

In fairness, Back to School Night provides its own brand of camaraderie, especially at the high school. People you’ve seen throughout the years watching your kids play sports, serving together on PTAs, sitting against the window of Montclair Music Studio waiting for Abigail’s violin lesson to end – all come together for a few hours. Clumps of old friends convening in front of the Nurse’s Office or outside one of the stairwells during their children’s lunch period. It honestly feels like a great big cocktail party (although without any cocktails).

I’m the mom who always looks forward to Back to School Night, especially for the feeling of community. But I will admit this: If I’d gotten a Hillary ticket, I would have happily cut class.

 

Montclair's Magnet School System

One of the truly interesting aspects to Montclair is that there are no “neighborhood schools.” I mean, there are schools in various neighborhoods, but the student body of a school does not necessarily hail from the surrounding blocks.

Montclair is a magnet school system – one of the premiere magnet systems in the nation. When parents enroll their children, they have the opportunity to tour the schools rank their preference. In addition to their differences in size and population (for example, one school is designed only for K-2nd grade) each of the 7 elementary schools has a magnet theme around which the school day is structured. So even though all the schools teach the same district-wide curriculum, each feels distinctive, with its own “personality” or “vibe.”
Not surprisingly, clients always ask: which is the best one?

I’m sure I sound like a diplomatic mother who’s just been asked which is her favorite child. But I honestly believe all our schools are great. The real question is: which one is best for you?

Montclair’s Magnet School System
allows you to pick the home you want —
wherever it may be.


The elementary schools have varying start and end times. And depending where you live in relation to the school, your child might be eligible to ride the bus. Some families need early schools so parents can get to work. Others need a late day for their kids. Some kids thrive with a schedule where they’re on the move throughout the day, others if they’re in a more structured environment. This has never been a one-size-fits-all town and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all school system.

One of the things I love most about this system is that in the few instances where a child really is not thriving at a school, they can be moved. The other thing I love about it is that, unlike most towns, you don’t ever have to choose a house based on a school. In fact, I’ve known plenty of families that have sent siblings to different schools!

What this means for home-buyers is that you can find the house that suits your own family’s needs — commuting needs…privacy needs…walkability needs-- independent of where your child might go to school.

If you’d like to understand more about Montclair’s magnet system, give me a call. It’s one of the many Montclair offerings that make this family-friendly town so beloved.

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.