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My Visit to Stress-Reducing Spots

By Julia Mortimer

The days are shorter now, and thoughts of heading to bed begin for me around 5 pm. While I’ve been eager for the holiday season and excited for snowy days ahead, the change in temperature forces us to get creative with activities. Not only does the weather act as an obstacle, but the restrictions from the pandemic are an added deterrent in everyday life.

During the winter months, I tend to fall into a rut. The cold darkness sometimes puts a damper on my usual positive moods fueled by sunlight. In an effort to push away the seasonal sadness, I try to stay busy with stress-relieving hobbies. One includes baking, but on days when I feel lazy, visiting a local bakery is always a solid alternative. Flour on First has just opened in Atlantic Highlands, replacing Flaky Tart. It is owned by one of the previous Flaky Tart owners Laura Martelli.

The bakery is located in the same spot as the previous shop. Flour on First offer such delicious desserts, salads and other lunch options. I have a huge sweet tooth, so naturally I decided on a raspberry linzer bar. I walked down First Avenue, the charming downtown street in Atlantic Highlands, and enjoyed the flaky, fruity treat. I live about 20 minutes from the area, but I never mind taking the drive to the quaint, waterfront town.

In my research for stress-relieving and rewarding things to do in the area, I stumbled upon A Time to Kiln. The pottery studio located in downtown Red Bank is a spot I’d go as a kid to sloppily paint a plate or attend a birthday party. On this particular November day, it was warm, so the studio had outdoor seating. My two friends and I went, picked out our pottery pieces and began painting at a table on the street. I chose a vase, which I plan to put eucalyptus in (another stress-relieving effort). I had no vision for my piece, which is apparent on my speckled lavender vase with random clouds and polka dots dispersed throughout it. It was truly a wonderful experience, escaping the chaos of elections, pandemics and seasonal sadness – to focus on something, even if only for an hour. Once you’ve completed the piece, it has to go into the kiln. Then your pottery is ready for pick up in a week, which I love because it gives me something to look forward to!

Visiting local bakeries and painting pottery pieces are a few ways I’ve found to bring that pep back in my step this winter.

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