Meredith Baxter and her ‘Family Ties’ husband enjoy reunion as Christmas’ power couple

By Kellie Freeze,

In Lifetime’s holiday original movie Becoming Santa, Holly (Laura Bell Bundy) brings her boyfriend (Jesse Hutch) to meet her family and reveals that not only are her parents Santa and Mrs. Claus, but also whoever she marries will become the next Santa.

There’s no one better to play the quintessential holiday couple than Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, who played TV’s perfect parents on Family Ties. Baxter offers a little secret about portraying Mrs. Claus. “She may be iconic, but no one knows what she really looks like!” The actress figures, “Whoever we say she is — that’s who she is!”

The actress reveals that she enjoys working on holiday films because of the strong family storylines, but the flick’s biggest draw was the opportunity to work with her good friend.

“As soon as I knew he was attached, I didn’t even bother reading the script,” she jokes.

“The interesting thing about this particular script,” muses Baxter, “is the idea that the women of the Claus family are the ones who determine who is the next Santa.” She adds, “As light as this film is, for my character there’s an undercurrent of, ‘OK, this is serious business.’”

Baxter reveals that her favorite off-set activity was reading, while Gross spent his time with his fans.

“It was very, very hot where we were shooting and Michael was wearing a big fat suit,” she recalls with a laugh. “We had a huge fan in the green room and while we weren’t working, he would just position himself in front of it. He was this large, lumpy personage, just trying to stay cool.”

As for if she remains in touch with her other Family Ties cast members, particularly her TV children, Baxter shares: “Not on a regular basis, no. That’s why I covet those times when we can get together, which is really so sweet to see them. They’re such good people and good parents. I love that we raised good children who are good parents.”

That’s the most common question she gets from fans, too. “They want to know how’s Michael Fox. They want to know if we see each other, we talk to each other. I often hear, ‘I wish you’d been my mother.’ That’s a woman who’s strong and loving and has the time to sit down and spend time with her kids the way many parents don’t have a chance to.

“The fact that all the characters seemed to have some longevity in people’s hearts and minds is just lovely. It’s rare I think that that happens, and when it does it’s really glorious. I think people liked our family because we liked each other so much.”

Lifetime airs an encore performance of Becoming Santa on Dec. 25 at 10 p.m.

Foundation provides grants for educational programs

Grants provided by the Foundation for the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools are improving the schools’ programs, projects and resources.

Dotty Porcaro, president of the Manalapan Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education, said the grants are wonderful for the school district.

“I am always excited to see new things coming to the district that are great for the students,” Porcaro said. “The foundation has been phenomenal over the past few years for us and our students.”

Eight grants totaling $34,876 were recently made by the foundation and accepted by the school board. The grants are the following:

 Physics Day, Taylor Mills School, $450

 Lego Story Starter, Milford Brook School, $1,091

 Teaching with Reading Assistant Inspires Literacy, Wemrock Brook School, $3,500

 The Bass Project, Clark Mills School, Milford Brook School, Pine Brook School, Wemrock Brook School, $5,000

 MakerSpace, Pine Brook Space, $8,500

 ST Math, Milford Brook School, Taylor Mills School, Clark Mills School, $12,600

 Leveled Books, Lafayette Mills School, $1,500.

 MakerSpace in Media Center, Clark Mills School, $2,235

Pat Berger, the president of the Foundation for the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools, said the foundation consists of parents and community members. She said principals and the superintendent of schools review the grant applications.

“Teachers, supervisors and administrators can submit grant requests for anything involving professional enrichment,” Berger said. “What we look for in a grant is a project, program or resource that will affect a large number of students in a school or in the district.”

Berger provided a brief description of each grant:

 The Lego Story Starter, applied for by Lisa Garnett, requests additional starter kits and curriculum software that serves as tools for literacy instruction. It will be used to kick start creativity and boost reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

 The MakerSpace in the media center at Clark Mills School, applied for by Gail Murray, is an effort to continue to create relevant and rigorous learning spaces where library media specialists and special subject educators can be forward thinking as they design innovative ways to offer students a means to work through real and personally meaningful experiences.

 The Teaching with Reading Assistant Inspires Literary Success project, applied for by Sari Laurence, is a reading intervention program that uses reading assistance to supplement literacy interventions already in place at Wemrock Brook School.

 The bass project, applied for by Victoria June, requests instruments for music education at the Wemrock Brook, Clark Mills, Milford Brook and Pine Brook schools.

 The MakerSpace grant, applied for by John Spalthoff, allows Pine Brook School to expand its MakerSpace classroom with items identified as worthwhile components to the educational program.

 The ST Math Program, applied for by Jodi Pepchinski, Kerry Marsala, Jayme Orlando and Gregory Schmidt, is already being successfully implemented at the Lafayette Mills and Wemrock Brook schools with exceptional results, according to the foundation.

This application focuses on expanding its use to the rest of the grade one through five schools in the district.

ST Math is a web-based software program created by Mind Research and it presents a “unique math education process that engages the learner’s spatial temporal reasoning abilities to explain, understand and solve multi-step problems.”

 The Physics Day grant, applied for by Sharyn Fisher, allows Taylor Mills School to rent an inflatable slide which serves as a hands-on experiment regarding friction and speed.

 The leveled books proposal, applied for by Allison Rogers and Mindy Musillo, requests funds to purchase leveled fiction and nonfiction books for the Lafayette Mills book room.

You can go home again

In theaters now

Sisters lets two women we absolutely love bring their comic genius to the screen. Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) are tasked with the responsibility of cleaning out their room at their childhood home as their parents are moving to a condo. But in rehashing the memories made there, the two decide there is only one thing to do: throw one last party with their old friends.

As the sisters dig through memories, we realize quickly that Maura has always played it safe, while free spirit Kate has always loved to party. Neither can wrap her head around why their parents want to get rid of this house, but both can agree on throwing the party.

So the sisters do all the prep and invite many of their old friends — who in no way resemble the pictures on Facebook or who they can remember them to be. They set out to be the perfect party hosts, only this time Maura gets to be the free spirit while Kate keeps everyone together.

Amy and Tina are funny. At times they are very funny as this is a raw comedy that doesn’t make any apologies. It is a pleasure seeing these amazingly talented women work and they tend to wow viewers with their quick wit and delivery.

The supporting characters, however, are a mixed bag. Some — Ike Barinholtz and John Cena in a bit role — made me laugh and enjoy the addition to the story. But roles for Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph felt tired in Moynihan’s case and misguided and forced for Rudolph’s character.

The unevenness of the supporting characters does NOT take away from the fact that Amy and Tina — yes, I can just use their first names — are the real stars here. Together they are a breath of fresh air on the comic landscape with everything they do. These two sisters prove you can go home again — just be careful if you plan to throw a party there.

Sisters
Rated: R
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz
Director: Jason Moore

Grade: B

The Big Short
Rated: R
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
Director: Adam McKay

Adam McKay’s peek into the credit and housing bubble collapse shows an industry full of corruption, extravagance and the willingness to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. A startling discovery by a number of seemingly ordinary individuals sets them up financially as they short the banks during the booming housing market of 2005.

Christmas is a day to share the love

ARE WE THERE YET

Lori Clinch

It is coming. There is an excitement in the air, you can feel it in the very depths of your soul. There are many preparations that go along with the family Christmas. Shopping lists, United States Postal Service tracking, and hopefully someone will remember the coffee supply is running on the low side.

You raised these children in the very same house you live in today. Yet you never gave much thought about how they felt about the bathrooms, the dust on the coffee table or the way leftovers have taken over the refrigerator. Yet, all of a sudden, you want it all to be nice. You turn on the Christmas lights, light the candles and fluff the tree so it all looks perfect.

You want to make sure the towels are all Downy fresh to remind your children how good they had it when they were home.

You make sure there is at least one Christmas decoration in each of their rooms to give it a special touch and you buy all of their favorite foods so they will all know how loved they truly are.

You have spent weeks preparing for this moment and you want to make certain it will be as good as it gets.

Then it hits you, these are your children and although they have grown up, some things have not changed. They are going to dump their wares on your freshly cleared kitchen counter where they will remain until you nag them enough to get them to put those things away.

They are going to dominate the TV, get the puppy wound up to a state (the likes of which we have never seen) and they will wonder out loud why our drinking glasses no longer match.

Worse yet, they are going to steal your phone charger, switch the remotes around and leave your iPad out for the puppy to chew on.

Christmas morning will be nothing like it used to be. They will let you sleep in, have a cup of coffee before opening their presents and the frenzy that used to fill the air will be a distant memory.

Because they gave a Christmas list with stipulations that you purchase them nothing without prior written consent, they will have more excitement watching you open what they bought for you than opening the presents they picked out for you to purchase for them.

Extended family will come, hugs will abound and conversations will flow freely. Too much food will be consumed, laughter will fill the air and memories of Christmases past will be shared.

The day will wind down and as nightfall closes in there will be a sadness you feel, right along with a relief that Christmas Day is over and you did it well.

Life will go on, folks will return to work and those darling offspring will return to their campus homes with your phone charger tucked neatly into their backpacks.

Looking back, you will know that you would not change a thing. Christmas is about the baby Jesus who brought love into the world. For over 2000 years we have celebrated his birth by letting our families know how much we love them.

We work harder this time of year to share that than any other. We pardon, we forget and we give. We go to great lengths to make people feel special. We wish a Merry Christmas to folks we don’t know and if we do it right, we lend a hand to those in need.

I will go outside on Christmas Eve, as I have done for many years, and look up into the heavens and give thanks for it all. It is a quiet moment I give to myself and to God for all He has done.

This year I am going to add a tradition following that special moment. I am going to march right back inside and hide my phone charger.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.

Nat King Cole

By Ali Datko,
ReMIND Magazine

Among the many joys of the holiday season are the classic, beloved songs that have been passed down from one generation to the next, bringing together listeners young and old. Among the most notable and nostalgia-provoking is the delightfully ubiquitous “The Christmas Song,” subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and the baritone voice of Nat King Cole) help to make the season bright.

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born on March 17, 1919. The son of a Baptist minister and a church organist, he was immersed in a musical lifestyle at a young age. By the age of 4, he was performing for his father’s congregation, and by age 12 he had begun classical piano lessons.

Although Nathaniel was born in Montgomery, Ala., he grew up in Chicago, where he was influenced by such club performers as Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. In his mid-teens, driven to pursue a career in music, he dropped out of school to play full time.

He landed a gig with the nationally touring revue “Shuffle Along,” but faced a standstill in Long Beach, Calif., when the act floundered abruptly. In Long Beach, he formed the King Cole Trio (by that time, he’d adopted the nickname “Nat King Cole”), a jazz group that toured extensively throughout the late ’30s and early ’40s. In 1943, the trio signed with Capitol Records, with whom they released the breakout hits “That Ain’t Right” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

In 1946, they recorded the now-classic tune “The Christmas Song.” Cole later recorded three alternate versions; the fourth, recorded in 1961, is the most famous and the one still played on the radio today.

Cole’s other popular hits included “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Unforgettable” (1951), “Love Is the Thing” (1957) and “L-O-V-E” (1965). During his wildly successful career, he also hosted NBC’s “The Nat King Cole Show” (the first African- American-hosted variety show), and appeared in numerous short films and sitcoms.

Cole married twice and raised five children, among them Grammy-winning artist Natalie Cole. He passed away in 1965 due to lung cancer, with wife Maria by his side. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2000 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Did you know …

 Ryan Seacrest  ABC/LOU ROCCO Ryan Seacrest ABC/LOU ROCCO Global super-group One Direction returns to headline the Billboard Hollywood Party on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2016” beginning Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC and broadcasting non-stop until 2:13 a.m.. One Direction will perform three songs throughout the show during a bi-coastal celebration. They join Carrie Underwood, who will be performing for over 1 million fans in Times Square moments before the ball drops. With over 38 performances and 5 ½ hours of music, this is America’s biggest celebration of the year.

Author Michael Pollan’s global journey to rediscover the pleasures of healthy food will be shared with us when PBS premieres “In Defense of Food” on Wednesday, Dec. 30, from 9 to 11 p.m. (check your local listings). Busting myths and misconceptions, “In Defense of Food” reveals how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help rediscover the pleasures of eating and at the same time reduce our risks of falling victim to diet-related diseases.

In January 2016, ABC Family will be renamed Freeform. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the network will premiere its new series “Shadowhunters” at 9 p.m. One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the first episode. “Shadowhunters” is based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, and follows Clary Fray, who comes from a long line of Shadowhunters — humanangel hybrids who hunt down demons.

Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison joins Investigation Discovery as new host of “Dateline on ID,” beginning January 2016, along with “Front Page” specials throughout next year.

Pasta presentation puts pupils in touch with Italy

By MAUREEN DAYE
Correspondent

 During a presentation about pasta that took place at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School, Italian teacher Linda Schiano is assisted by eighth-grader Julia Messina. During a presentation about pasta that took place at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School, Italian teacher Linda Schiano is assisted by eighth-grader Julia Messina. MANALAPAN — Linda Schiano, who teaches Italian at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School, enthusiastically shared her knowledge about how to create and cook pasta with more than 100 eighth-graders on a recent day at the school.

Some 10 years ago when Schiano began teaching at MEMS, she came up with the idea of having an annual pasta presentation for her students. She said she appreciates the support she has received, particularly from Assistant Principal Paul DeMarco, who is the world language supervisor.

Schiano said she was inspired by her parents, Susanna and Emilio Schiano, who emigrated from Naples, Italy, to the United States 60 years ago.

“My parents, who were born in Italy, inspire my cooking,” she said. “They always made home-cooked meals with fresh healthy ingredients. My work is completely based on my heritage. My parents were born in Italy and struggled as immigrants to make a life for themselves and their children here. I am so proud to be Italian-American. I am so excited to be able to share my passion with my beautiful students.”

Schiano showed her students the pasta maker her mother brought from Italy to America. The decades-old device looked brand new.

Schiano’s grandmother, Costanza Colatosti, from Cappella, Naples, was also an inspiration.

“I would make the spaghetti on Sunday afternoon with my mother and my nonna (grandmother),” Schiano said. “I have wonderful memories of preparing the dough and putting it through the machine and then spending time with the entire family enjoying it.”

Speaking of her mother and her grandmother, Schiano said, “They did not have a rolling pin to roll the dough. Instead they would use a broom stick; very ingenious.”

During her presentation, Schiano explained the history of pasta and other Italian foods, including espresso, cappuccino, biscotti, Nutella, pizza and tomatoes.

Pasta is a staple in Italian cuisine with more than 200 shapes, Schiano said. It was known as a poor man’s food because it is inexpensive and has few ingredients — flour, eggs and salt.

Her goal is to help her students learn the history of Italian food.

“I want them to take this knowledge and share it with their parents and their grandparents,” Schiano said.

Over the years, Schiano has expanded her presentation to include a history of Italian foods.

“The presentation is special because it talks about the rich and fascinating history of various Italian foods,” she said. “Italian food is known worldwide. The first pizza was named after Queen Margherita. That is where we get the name Margherita pizza. The colors used in the ingredients are the colors of the Italian flag; green – basil, white – mozzarella, and red-tomatoes.”

The drink cappuccino comes from the Capuchin friars, referring to the brown color of their habits. The word biscotti in Italian means twice cooked because the cookies are baked and then cooled, then put in the oven again and cooked to take out the moisture.

“The students really seemed to enjoy the day,” Schiano said. “I think they feel it is relaxing, interesting and informative. Many of them are of Italian descent and can identify with the foods (I speak about) because they eat them at home.”

She said her students often tell her they tried making pasta at home after watching her do it in class.

Julia Messina, 13, said the event was interesting and special to her.

“Our teacher, Signora Schiano, has brought the essence of Italy into the classroom,” Julia said. “She has taught us the background of many Italian dishes that are well known.”

Mary Rohmeyer, 13, said the pasta presentation was a highlight of her day.

“I learned about different foods and drinks from Italy,” Mary said. “Most of all it was interesting to learn how to make pasta.”

Nicholas Delgrande, 13, said he loves how Schiano shares interesting stories behind the Italian items.

“I feel like she really cares about this presentation,” Nicholas said. “I enjoy it very much because I’m Italian.”

Jake Mollica, 14, said the presentation was moving and recalled how his late grandfather cooked wonderful Italian foods.

“I really enjoyed seeing these foods again and it made me smile thinking about my grandpa,” Jake said. “Thank you, Signora Schiano.”

Pupil’s project draws response from ballerina

By MAUREEN DAYE
Correspondent

 MEMS pupil Sydney Block is a dancer who created a project about Arantxa Ochoa, a celebrated ballerina in the Pennsylvania ballet. MEMS pupil Sydney Block is a dancer who created a project about Arantxa Ochoa, a celebrated ballerina in the Pennsylvania ballet. A girl who studies Spanish at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School (MEMS) recently had an exciting encounter.

To celebrate Hispanic American Heritage Month, Spanish teacher Chandler Oliphant asked her eighth grade pupils to conduct research and design a poster to honor the life and accomplishments of a famous Hispanic American.

“One of my students, Sydney Block, is a serious dancer, so she decided to research Arantxa Ochoa, an accomplished Spanish ballerina who currently practices her art in the United States,” Oliphant said.

Sydney, 13, who is the daughter of Elly and Doug Block, said she was half joking when she told her mom she wanted to share her project with Ochoa, who is a celebrated dancer in the Pennsylvania ballet.

“My mom said it was actually a great idea,” Sydney said. “Then the next day she sent (an email) to her.”

In her email, Elly Block told Ochoa that Sydney is taking honors Spanish and chose to reflect how Ochoa is a hero.

“My daughter is a dancer, and although your name was not on the teacher’s list, she asked if she could do her project/poster on your life,” she wrote to Ochoa. “We thought you might be interested in seeing her finished project.”

Ochoa responded with a sincere thank you note in which she said, “This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me. Please tell (Sydney) that I feel honored she has chosen me and that I would love to meet her sometime. You mentioned that Sydney dances … is this something she would like to do as a career, what kind of dancer is she?”

Sydney said at first, she did not believe it when her mom told her that Ochoa had responded.

“I was very excited,” the young woman said. “I didn’t think someone like Arantxa would even have time to open her email, let alone respond.”

Oliphant said her supervisor, Paul De- Marco, believed it would be nice to share the news because it demonstrates how the World Language Department at MEMS is able to make connections with Spanish communities outside the middle school. Sydney said she picked Ochoa because she seemed like an interesting person. The project surpassed her expectations and Sydney found Ochoa to be inspirational.

“I realized I have a lot in common with her,” she said. “She says she does not have a perfect ballet body and I don’t either. For example, my feet pronate (the inward roll of the foot). I also have flat feet. I have to work a little harder because of my imperfections.” Sydney thanked her parents for their support. “My parents were just as excited for me as I was,” she said. “I want to thank them for all their support with dance. They know how much I love it and how important dancing is to me.”

Sydney has been dancing for 10 years. Ballet is one of her favorite dance forms, but she does many other kinds as well. She is a competitive dancer at Center Stage Dance and Theater School, Marlboro and East Brunswick.

In the future, Sydney said, she hopes to participate in a ballet company and would love to have any job in the dance field. Appearing on Broadway is one of her many goals.

“I would love to keep in touch with Arantxa,” the young woman said. “Arantxa gave me some hope because she worked through her imperfections and ended up becoming the principal dancer in a ballet company.”

Grateful for service to the community

We wish to make all the readership of the News Transcript aware of the superlative contribution made by Dr. Lawrence Weiner and Dr. Gregory Jewell and all their associates and staff at Town and Country Veterinary Services in Manalapan.

The best way we can describe how they work is tirelessly, efficiently, sensitively and neighborly. They seem that way no matter what new hire joins their team, no matter what task they take on. They take a personal interest in your pet’s welfare. They take care to be thorough about your pet’s needs and delicate as to how your pet care experience affects you.

They make those little, but significant gestures beyond the expected that endears them to you enough that you want them as your neighbors. They know why they are there and you come away all the more grateful for their contribution to the community. For 15 years we have seen all that we have stated about them to be true.

We highly recommend you stop in and give these folks the chance to show you how wonderful an experience pet care can be for you and your pets. You will get great pet care, but also likely make great friends there. Thank you, Town and Country Veterinary Services.

Lance and Leslie Cox
Freehold Township