It was a long, muggy summer, made even more uncomfortable by my being laid up with a broken ankle. September drew to a close and having just been cleared to bear weight on my booted left leg, and with my kids (finally) back in school, I gleefully escaped the Big Apple to go down the shore of New Jersey and meet up with some truly kick-ass women. Notably, I first met each of them on the internet. There will be more on those real authentic women later, but I must begin my story by talking about the Where before the Who.
This was my second year joining with my fellow Reality Moms in partnership with The Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum to celebrate active duty military families who are either preparing to, or have just, welcomed a new baby.
I’m a military brat, so I know first hand that while our active duty military personnel sacrifice as part of their service, their families serve and sacrifice right along side them as well. It is an honor for me to spend time with these families, play with their kiddos and gave them time for more than two bites of lunch, and try to convey how much we appreciate all their families do for us as a country.
With help from the good folks at Joovy, Tervis, Viking Toys, and Corolle, the Military Salute Baby Shower gifted each baby with a stroller, adorable dolls and learning toys, plus a very special tumbler a backpack style diaper bag for their grown up. Bonus: each family went home with a quilted baby blanket of their choice.
I have to rave about the handmade baby quilts crafted with love and donated by The Seaport Stitchers especially for the Military Salute event. The Stitchers are a group of craftswomen who meet at the Seaport, working together to create quilts which they then donate to patients undergoing chemo, as well as other causes and events. Of course they also sell items at Tuckerton’s Christkindlmarkt, with the proceeds going to purchase supplies for more quilts to be donated. How cool is that? Perhaps my favorite moment was when each mom, after eyeing up their favorites all afternoon, got to choose which quilt was going to become an heirloom for their growing family. Priceless.
That was day 1, but what my friends and I didn’t realize was we had barely scratched the surface at Tuckerton Seaport.
The following morning we rolled into the gift shop to poke around a little, and to meet up with the Museum Director of Tuckerton Seaport, Brooke Salvatore. Although Tuckerton Seaport is generously run with the support of hundreds of volunteers, Brooke is the beating heart which brings life to all the amazing offerings of Tuckerton, and on this day she was going to be our guide.
Please note, I first visited the Seaport in the Spring of 2017, and since then I’ve brought my kids to Tuckerton numerous times. However, until last week, I’ve never explored it without children in tow. Visiting with a group of adults and no children was like exploring a brand new place.
First, Brooke took us to visit the charming Union Market for coffee and a late breakfast. With 6 of us there, I got to see a good variety of their menu, and oh my goodness, it was all so good (the Bikini Buster is deadly delicious). I could also gush about how welcome it is to have a place for good, affordable fare right there off the boardwalk of the Seaport, or how comfortable and relaxed the atmosphere was both inside the cafe and outside on the deck seating, or how I admire their commitment to be an eco-friendly restaurant, but all that will have to wait for a full review of their establishment.
Besides, I have to talk about all the opportunities to not only observe, but actually take classes with the makers of Tuckerton. I’m fortunate to have previously shared a demo by Stephen Nuttall, one of 4 professional blacksmith demonstrators who embody and teach about the art of working steel with fire. As amazing as it was to watch my children during that first encounter, watching him work while chatting with a gaggle of grown women was even more so. We’d have stayed there another hour, I’d bet, but Brooke wanted us to see a man about some ducks.
Andrew Tonnesen, a product of the Tuckerton Seaport Youth Carvers program, was working on a wooden duck decoy when we walked into his shop. While he carved, he explained to us a brief history on the tradition of duck decoys, as well as the differences between Barnegat Bay and Delaware River styles. Andrew also shared with us some of the delightful carved Santas he’s been working on recently, which I’m sure was in no way meant to entice us to return for the holiday woodworking class where wooden Santas will be made.
The tour of makers continued with a visit with the glass blowers who are renovating a site where they will soon demonstrate their craft, while creating everything from lighting fixtures to holiday ornaments. We weren’t able to hook up with the basket weaver or get into any fiber arts this visit, but we did stop in the shop where the boat building happens!
Yes, you CAN spend a weekend building a boat at the Seaport, but if you aren’t quite that ambitious, you can spend the better part of an hour painting “flatties,” another type of wooden decoy. Trust me, no matter how old you are, trying to paint realistic looking animals with a group of friends is a throughly enjoyable endeavor. Especially if your flattie turns out as flawless as mine!
(I don’t know the type of bird this is meant to be, but my instructor said I was hired!)
Had I not been hobbled in my walking cast, I would have loved to walk the 1/2 mile nature trail. Instead, Brooke took me and the rest of the Reality Moms to check out the newly opened Lady Magpie’s Tea & Curiosities, with it’s STEAMpunk Tea Room.
Stepping onto an enclosed porch I wasn’t quite prepared to step into a new world of repurposed and upcycled creations. Located in the old Captain’s house, the Tearoom is just behind a library filled with histories and artifacts from the Jersey shore and Ocean County’s long baymen tradition. The house may well be as haunted as the rumors say, but it is completely suited as a place where creations in steampunk style and vintage china meet for tea.
In a playful nod to their steampunk aesthetic, the proprietors set out displays with some of the library’s collection that focuses on one or more topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). In addition, Lady Magpie lived up to it’s name by serving up a proper tea, complete with sandwiches, scones and shortbread, followed by a tray of petite desserts, all of which was a scrumptious respite to round out a day of exploration at Tuckerton Seaport.
As it happened, we just missed the opportunity to catch the brand new ferry (including an eco-tour) which will soon begin running between Long Beach Island, NJ and the Tuckerton Seaport. I have to say, I’m almost glad. I’m not sure I could have taken in one more memorable and amazing experience from The Tuckerton Seaport.