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Happy Valentine's Day: What's happening to the flowers?

Where have all the flowers gone?

All of my loved ones know that the best way to make me happy is to take me with them to pick out my flowers for Valentine's Day or birthdays or whenever.

Since arranging flowers is a hobby of mine, I always want something different to play with. And not everyone knows what flowers would please someone picky like me who is always looking at all sorts of them. I routinely visit florist friends, even when I don't plan to buy, just to talk with them about what's in their cases.

For years, Wegmans stores in many parts of New Jersey were my favorite place to shop for flowers. Wegmans would routinely have unexpected varieties. About 10 years ago, I would buy flowers every week, and I discovered safflowers at Wegmans in Woodbridge. Who knew that a name  associated with salad oil is also related to a gorgeous flower? The flowers and plump buds with soft, thistle-like tops, dried to a paper-bag brown on tall stems. I still have them, and I have not seen any anywhere since.

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So much is free at your New Jersey library

At least two area libraries (Fanwood and Springfield) host Scrabble groups, which are among the free clubs, programs and activites that offer fun, learning and self-development opportunities to local residents. Book lending is, of course, an awesome and valuable library service, but if you think of the library as only a place to borrow books that you have to remember to get back on time, it’s time to take a good look at your local library’s website.

Libraries in New Jersey and elsewhere continue to evolve to serve modern users in numerous other ways. Increasingly, libraries have become places that encourage lifelong learning -- and fun -- for adults as well as children.

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Vision boards as art: A decoupage craft project for a happy new year  

Words to live by: Back in the day when kids declared themselves “BFF” or best friends forever, the craft brand Plaid came up with this project idea for a canvas celebrating friendship.

Years later and at the dawn of a new year, we like the finished piece because it emphasizes, in a format meant to be displayed, some of the most important qualities of a strong friendship (you can lean on me, laugh, share good times).

This wordy decoupage project is great way to relax on the eve of a new year with an activity that can set the tone for 2019.

Plaid still makes word stickers for scrapbooking and decoupage projects such as this one, but it's also easy to clip out magazine words and images that speak to our goals or to print them out from the Internet. Such a project is appropriate for today and for the first part of the year because, with the right words and images, it can be a reminder to stay on track with our resolutions and the ways we want to grow better and stronger in the new year.

The beauty of decoupage is that it can be done on a variety of surfaces. Plaid makes its Mod Podge glue and sealer in several formulations:  for paper, fabrics, furniture and even outdoor surfaces. There are matte, gloss, glittered and other finishes. So grab a magazine and clip out inspiring words and images to make yourself a crafty vision board — a beautiful, visual reminder of your dreams and what it takes to be the very best you.

There's still time to get to the crafts store! For a bit more guidance, see our previous instructions to make an inspirational decoupage table.  


Lidl vs Aldi: Competition is awesome 

Signs of things to come along Route 35 in Hazlet, where Lidl and Aldi stores are expected to open in direct competition on opposite sides of the highway later this month.According to the lone Aldi cashier that rang through my purchases yesterday in Union, that store will be opening at 8 a.m. starting Monday. 

Maybe this is a first time ever, holiday-related change in store hours from the regular 9 a.m. opening?

Nah, it's because of competition from the other German supermarket chain that opened in the area earlier this week. No word yet on whether hours will change at Aldi stores not in close proximity to a Lidl store.

It's probably only a matter of time before there's a Lidl store not far from almost every Aldi store. Both store chains are expanding their presence in the U.S. Aldi has been here longer and has more locations, but Lidl is opening its new stores rather quickly. 

The next New Jersey Lidl store is scheduled to open Nov. 28 on Route 35 in Hazlet, and Aldi is planning to move from its older Hazlet store, also on Route 35, to a newer store just across the highway. Finishing touches were being added to that store, in part of a shuttered Pathmark.

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Lidl to open third New Jersey supermarket Nov. 14 in Union 

Uniformity in sleek architecture is a big part of brand identity for Lidl supermarkets. The Hazlet store shown is expected to open Nov. 28 and will be the fourth to open in New Jersey. The state's first Lidl store opened in Vineland in fall of 2017.When the Lidl store on the westbound side of Route 22 in Union opens this Wednesday, it will be the German supermarket chain's third New Jersey location. 

To give our readers a preview of what's to come, we traveled to the Eatontown Lidl last week to see exactly what's beneath the sloping roof and behind the glass facade of this company's sleek architectural branding. 

We love Lidl's exterior design and the abundance of natural light from all the windows. We found surprisingly low food prices, many more famliar brands than one typically finds at Aldi, unusual imports, as well as meats and other products sourced in the U.S. (One example was an organic vinegar-based "shrub" soda from North Carolina in flavors like peach-ginger-cinnamon and watermelon-basil). There were toys, tools and Christmas decorations. Clothing, bundled or thinly boxed for bins, included $5.99 dresses and $24.99 men's ski jackets. 

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