Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Postcard

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the night before Christmas . . .

A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Christmas Postcard

Photo: kookykrys
Colmar, France

Friday, December 21, 2012

First Day of Winter

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Whole Foods Parking Lot

If you think the parking lot is nuts at the Princeton Whole Foods, check out what's going down at the Santa Monica store on the west side of LA. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Postcard

Warsaw, Poland

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Once again an original design detail in Princeton Landing has been lost. The wooden lamppost we reported on here and here, damaged in Superstorm Sandy, has been replaced by an unattractive tall black metal post (One would hope this alteration is a temporary—not a permanent—solution, but this is unclear as nothing about it has been reported to the residents by the Board or the management company.)

The integrity of the original design—where the lamppost and gazebo matched, creating a cohesive architectural unit—has been compromised. This is yet another change to the community's original design plan, adding to the recent addition of random signs (removed after our post), different color signs (changed after our post), and incompatible finials (changed to incompatible ones after our post about the missing original).

If FVCSA isn't going to employ a qualified design professional to advise on such changes, then it should stick to the original. These new, incompatible design details don't maintain the architectural integrity of the property, are not consistent with the overall look of Princeton Landing and don't enhance the appearance of the community.

Christmas Postcard

                                                                       Photo:  Kenny McCornick
Strasbourg, France

Friday, December 7, 2012

Question of the Week

One of the benefits claimed for reversing FVCSA's longstanding policy of having no employees and hiring a handyman was that it would save the community the cost of buying outside services such as gutter cleaning. Now FVCSA has TWO handymen, yet a parcel budget contains a $3,000 charge for gutter cleaning. What is the financial benefit from having our own employees?

Christmas Postcard

Photo: milknosugar
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gabriella Eggers

We learned of the passing of Princeton Landing resident Gabriella Eggers in yesterday's Town Topics. We did not know Mrs. Eggers personally, but she sent lovely, encouraging notes to us in the early days of this blog. She mentioned that one of her favorite posts was about singer Mary Travers, so in Gabriella's memory, we publish it again here today. Our sincere condolences to her family.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"We Get Things Done"? (#3)

Our Question of the Week back on June 8 asked, "When will the wood trim in the Parcel 1 condos be repaired and painted?" Some of the wood has been replaced—though not painted—but much of it is still rotted or missing.

With two full-time handymen on the Association's payroll, it's hard to understand why these things take so long to fix.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"We Get Things Done"? (#2)

The lamppost we reported about here has been removed. This is what the area near the gazebo looks like now. Is this considered progress?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Recycling Dates

The recycling dates in Princeton Landing for December are the 3rd, the 17th and the 31st. There is also a link to these dates in the right-hand column under Popular Posts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Question of the Week

Last week Governor Chris Christie's office released a preliminary cost estimate of the damage Sandy caused in New Jersey. When is our Association going to tell the community how much the storm cost us and what funds will be used to cover those costs?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Man Up, Anonymous!

Have you noticed how nasty the fight is getting for the four available FVCSA Board seats? This weekend someone posted anonymous flyers on the mailboxes throughout the community—one of which lifted copy directly from our blog post about the lack of financial reporting—WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION. Man up, Anonymous! Write your own copy and put your name to your opinions.

— Karen Stray Nolting and Jon Latimer

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"We Get Things Done"?

Three weeks after Sandy knocked it down, the lamppost next to the gazebo in Parcel 2 is still lying on the ground.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Legal Hair-splitting

Today residents in Parcel 6 received a letter from our management company with a new and revised ballot for our upcoming parcel election. The letter said:

We have been advised by legal counsel that there is no provision for co-chairs on Parcel Committees. However, those positions could be included as vice-chairs. The attorney said that there needs to be one person who has clear authority for each position. Candidates were contacted to determine who wished to run for each position and who wished to run for vice-chair.

How much do you think it cost us in legal fees to call one of our parcel architecture co-chairs "vice" instead of "co-"?

Decorate a Gingerbread House at McCaffrey's

(click to enlarge)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Did You See?

Our neighbors at Novo Nordisk are already in the process of putting up their beautiful blue Christmas tree. Tonight it looked like it was nearly complete.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congratulations, Mr. President

" . . . this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fall Vignette on Van Dyke Road

Do you remember the fall vignette in front of a home on Van Dyke Road in Princeton before Sandy came through? Here's what it looks like now. The owners lost many large trees on their property, but the brave face put on by the new display gives a wink—and maybe some hope—to those passing by.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Matt Was Right . . . Again

We'll say it again—Matt was right. For those residents new to Princeton Landing—and we know there are many of you—Matt Lubas was a former Signature property manager in charge of our landscape. A few years back, Matt—who was very knowledgable and had a background with a major landscape company—advised removing a significant number of old and sick trees on the property. The number seemed high, but given the age and condition of many of those trees, it wasn't unreasonable. We're pretty sure that the know-it-all powers-that-were on the landscape committee back then will not remember the hard time they gave Matt or their unwillingness to consider his plan. Well, here we are about four years out with several severe winters storms and Irene and Sandy under our belt—and lots and lots of crashing trees. When they fall, we clean them up. When they just miss hitting people's homes or cars, we consider ourselves lucky. Nothing to see here, move along. 

The cast of characters may have changed, and we expect that a good dose of Princeton Landing amnesia will convince us that we're being proactive and doing all we can to protect people and property from falling trees. Personally, as we watched the trees on the berm just a few feet from our home sway and practically bend in half during Sandy, we were grateful that Matt was able to remove the trees that he did.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fall Back

Remember to move your clocks back one hour tonight. Daylight saving time ends at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 4.

Friday, November 2, 2012

After Sandy . . .

. . . blue sky and a Red Admiral on the chimney next door. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those still affected by the storm.

November Recycling Dates

The recycling dates in Princeton Landing for November are the 5th and the 19th. There is also a link to these dates in the right-hand column under Popular Posts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Hit Our Community Hard

Princeton Landing sustained significant damage in the storm. Some parts of the community are still without power. We took these photos this morning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Puts Us in the Dark

As of early this evening, we've lost our power. The outage appears to affect the entire Princeton Landing community. We're hoping the lights come back on quickly once the storm subsides.

Hurricane Sandy and PSE&G

Parts of Princeton Landing have already lost power this morning. Here are some links to PSE&G.

Click here for What To Do If You Lose Power

Click here for Outage Map

Click here to follow PSE&G on Twitter

Hurricane Sandy Update

Click here for the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Sandy Public Advisory.

Click here for an updated storm briefing by Gary Szatkowski of NOAA's National Weather Service for the Philadelphia/Mount Holly NJ forecast office.

Click here for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Philadelphia/Mount Holly.

Click here for Weather Underground's forecast maps.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Click here for the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Sandy Public Advisory.

Click here for an informative storm briefing by Gary Szatkowski of NOAA's National Weather Service for the Philadelphia/Mount Holly NJ forecast office.

Click here for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Philadelphia/Mount Holly.

Click here for Weather Underground's forecast maps.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

FVCSA Election: We've Got Questions (#4)

It's election time in Princeton Landing and some members of the Board will be running again. You may remember that one of the promises these same candidates made in previous elections was that there would be more "transparency" and better communication about Association business. Residents were going to be better informed than they had been in the past. This "transparency" has turned out to be more opaque than expected, raising questions we'd like to ask the candidates. Here's the fourth one.

Why were past Boards able to keep residents better informed by snail mail than the current Board can by email? In the digital age, it is faster, cheaper and easier for anyone to communicate. But not for FVCSA—at least, not for anything useful or important. We get lots of email reminders about pizza nights, bagel breakfasts and garage sales (we count 5 so far about the latter event). But practical news and information? As the saying goes, not so much.

Email could be used to remedy the appalling lack of communication with residents about FVCSA's budget and finances. The next time we get an email with title selections for movie night, how about including a short statement from the Board President or Treasurer about year-to-date expenditures versus budget projections with a simple spreadsheet attached? Or listing any expenditures that were approved at the most recent Board meeting?

Email could also be used to tell residents in advance about work on the property that might affect them. It isn't hard to think of examples. For instance, our landscape crew now posts signs warning that pesticides and herbicides will be applied. The signs are hard to read from a passing car, tend to fall over, and aren't very specific about what's being done. An email alert could be sent the same day the signs go up. Residents would then be more likely to know that kids and pets should be kept off the grass for a time after the treatment. Similar notice by email could be provided before the landscape crew descends on homes to prune shrubbery. They now arrive without warning. Residents could be told ahead of time when gutter cleaning is scheduled—it would be comforting to know before he shows up that the man stomping around on the roof is actually supposed to be there. Residents in a particular parcel could be told by email when painters will be arriving to work on decks, so the outdoor furniture or planters can be removed.

None of this is especially difficult, and it doesn't cost anything to send email. It does take coordination among the Board, our property managers and our contractors. But mostly it takes a commitment to act on past promises to communicate openly and effectively. Right now FVCSA is giving residents the least amount of information at a time when communication has never been easier. It is the Board's responsibility to lead on things like this and set expectations for those who work for the community. So what happened to "transparency" and better communication?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Fall Events by Kingston Historical Society

The Kingston Historical Society will hold its annual meeting on October 25, 2012, at 7:30 pm at the Kingston firehouse. After a brief meeting the KHS will host an illustrated presentation by historian Clifford Zink titled "A Lovely Place to Live: Heathcote Farm Gracefully Adapts to Changing Times." Mr. Zink is a local historian, author and preservation consultant in Princeton and an expert on the Withington Estate—Heathcote Farm. In 2011 he received the John A. Roebling Award for his outstanding contribution to documenting and preserving the industrial heritage of the area. Mr. Zink is the author of five books including The Roebling Legacy and The Monmouth Country Park System. He is currently compiling a history of preservation in New Jersey for the N.J. Historic Trust. The Kingston firehouse is located at 6 Heathcote Road (off Route 27). The meeting is free and all are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

On Sunday, November 4, 2012, the KHS will offer tours of Heathcote Farm led by Mr. Zink. Space is limited and reservations are required. Tours for up to 15 people will begin at 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. Reservations can be made by email at KHSofNJ@gmail.com or by phone at 609-223-3877. Please leave a contact name, phone number and preferred tour time.

Photograph of Heathcote Farm as the Withington Country Estate courtesy of Clifford Zink

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FVCSA Election: We've Got Questions (#3)

It's election time in Princeton Landing and some members of the Board will be running again. You may remember that one of the promises these same candidates made in previous elections was that there would be more "transparency" and better communication about Association business. Residents were going to be better informed than they had been in the past. This "transparency" has turned out to be more opaque than expected, raising questions we'd like to ask the candidates. Here's the third one.

Where does FVCSA stand financially? Frankly, we're finding it hard to tell. The August newsletter included the only Treasurer's Report the Association has published so far this year. It is not very informative. It starts with a long statement about the complexity of Princeton Landing and its relationships to the world around it. The "report" then describes three financial objectives—reduce costs, anticipate capital outlays, improve return on investment—and says that the community's investment goals are to reduce risk and increase return. All that is fine. It's also fairly obvious. What's missing is specific information and thoughtful analysis. How are we doing so far compared to what we expected in our budget for 2012? What does the Board plan to do to reduce costs? What costs are rising or hard to control? What capital outlays are anticipated, and when? Are capital reserves expected to cover these outlays, or are special assessments likely?

The last paragraph of the "report" is truly mystifying. It starts with a grand statement about the impact of the "global economic downturn." This is a community newsletter, not The Wall Street Journal, so what is the writer trying to say? Is this a roundabout way of telling us that the Association's investment portfolio has lost value? We don't know—the "report" includes no numbers!

We could dismiss the August newsletter as harmless puffery if details about FVCSA's finances were readily available elsewhere. However, when it comes to finances, Princeton Landing seems to have become an information-free zone. As we've noted in a previous post, there is little financial data available to residents on the FVCSA website. If the Board is providing information at its monthly public meeting, there is little record of that happening. The few mentions of FVCSA finances that do appear in this year's Board minutes provide even less information than the newsletter.

We are all members of FVCSA. We pay several thousand dollars each year in maintenance fees. Many of us have run businesses or managed budgets in our daily work, and all of us handle household budgets. We know something about financial plans and we know how to read financial statements. For many of us, our home is our biggest asset, and we are concerned about what the Board is doing to protect our investment. We need more than high-minded generalities. It's election time, but we can't evaluate how the Board has handled our community's finances this year without real information. Why isn't that information being provided to us regularly? Why should the burden be on us to go find it on our own? Whatever happened to "transparency" and better communication?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nature Guide to the Rescue

Was it some sort of human/feline telepathy or a Vulcan mind meld that I witnessed at Terhune Orchards a few weeks ago between our Nature Guide Jon and a sweet kitty from the farm? Whatever it was, kitty somehow conveyed a serious thirst that needed quenching under the warm end-of-summer sun. She sent the signal and then jumped up on the outdoor sink. Jon obliged by turning on the tap . . . 

and waiting . . .

and waiting . . .

and waiting . . . while kitty drank.

Afterwards kitty jumped down and settled in for a nap.