For Montclair Local

Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants, and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. 

Got something you think should be in Robin’s Nest? Write to us at


It pains me to do so, but I've grudgingly accepted the fall season and all of its wonders. Summer's gone, and the frost is on the pumpkin. I stand my ground and refuse to participate in the pumpkin-spice food and drink frenzy. Pumpkins are fine for home décor and garden arrangements, but I draw the line at eating or drinking anything containing squash or gourd.

My neighbors and coffee chat buddies Dan Negra and Ross Padluck take Halloween very seriously, and decorate every inch of their home and garden. It’s the talk of our part of town, and I took the grand tour with them as soon as Ross put the finishing touches on his design plan. An architect by trade, Ross makes up a yearly guide for filling the living and dining rooms with beauty. He coordinates colors and textures for a large formal table-scape, starting with orange and gold leaves on a runner topped with real and artificial pumpkins in graduating sizes. Place settings have an orange charger plate, and fall themed serving and salad plates.

Dan is more of a madcap, eclectic collector who finds new and novel knickknacks to place on shelves and tables. Dozens of figurines, sculptures, and lighted jack-o’-lanterns sit next to skull carousels and spooky houses. Ross and Dan change the décor each year, going to novelty and design stores in town, around New Jersey, and take field trips to Lancaster and Strasbourg, Pennsylvania. Their garden is a Halloween wonderland after dark, with every tree and bush wrapped in colored lights, live pumpkins, gourds, and figurines in the front and side lawn. It's a bit over the top, but Dan and Ross embrace Halloween with a vengeance. 



It's time to think about what to hand out to adorable trick-or-treaters, the only time that kids can take candy from strangers, with adult supervision of course. Please give out the good stuff, because adults go through the loot before letting the kiddies dive in and go crazy. Do not give out last year's leftover candy that no one wanted to eat, such as Smarties or dollar-store taffy which could be used by dentists to extract teeth. I give out large bags of chocolates to those who come to my door, but I need something new for this year. 






That's How We Roll opened on Glenridge Avenue in September, and I stopped by to find out how and why people were rolling, and what was going on in the large office space. A display of varieties of Thinsters Cookie Thins and Parm Crisps sat on a large table at the entrance, but it's not a retail outlet.

Confused, with curiosity piqued, I sat down with Kevin Joseph, vice president of marketing to figure it out. The space is corporate headquarters, where they deal with branding, finance and sales. You can't purchase any of the products there, but they are available in food markets and groceries around town, such as Acme, Kings and Whole Foods. Kevin said their products are “fun, flavorful and better for you, with real ingredients and no artificial flavors.” The full or snack-size bags of one of the seven flavors of cookies or cheese crisps are GMO free and kosher. The oven-baked Parm Crisps, in plain cheddar or savory varieties like sour cream and onion, are gluten-free and keto-friendly. 

If you insist on jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon, Pumpkin Spice Thinsters are packaged in a seasonal orange bag. I sampled the Apple Crumble and it was delicious. I crave salty, crispy potato-chip-like snacks, and these checked off the boxes when it came to flaky and tasty. Salt is replaced by the taste of real butter, which you rarely if ever find in snack foods. With six cookie thins or 12 cheese crisps as a suggested serving, moms and dads can munch on them between little goblins ringing the doorbell on Halloween. Much more flavorful than year-old Dum Dum lollipops, too. 

A hollowed-out pumpkin holds plants at Moss & More. ROBIN WOODS/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL


Invited to a Halloween party and need to bring a hostess gift? Have a plant that needs repotting? Visit with Amy South at Moss & More on Bellevue Avenue, and take in the beautiful greenery that spans floor to ceiling. No composed floral arrangements or bouquets there, but a bounty of air plants, succulents, and potted greenery for you to choose from. With her background in interior design, Amy showed me how easy it was to create a Halloween-themed plant arrangement, by hollowing out a pumpkin and adding soil and small plants. Put in a piece of skull-carved quartz, and you have something to display that will last through the holiday season. It's spooky décor with style that's not too literal.

It's not just plants there; they also offer bowls of quartz, citrine and amethyst crystals, incense, candles, pottery, and small fairy houses for you to take home. Amy strives to create an atmosphere of health and wellness as well, and her dream is to scale her business into a lifestyle and home accessory brand. “I create a social atmosphere, and learn about my customers and their homes. It's like a secret club,” she said. 

I'm carrying a beautiful piece of quartz in my purse now, and it's calming and centering. 

Dan Negra and Ross Padluck take Halloween seriously, as their décor shows. ROBIN WOODS/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL


We deserve something special as a reward for being such good Halloween planners, so I'm off to Sweet Kitchen on Park Street to pick out specialty pastries and cakes. Owner Matt and his servers brought out samples of vanilla cheesecake topped with strawberries, carrot cake, mango passionfruit mousse in pumpkin colors, and their fall cake, iced in tiers of orange, green and yellow, decorated with edible spider webs and leaves. What's inside? Chocolate cake with chocolate filling, of course. You know you want it, so go for it. May all of your Halloween treats be this luscious.


In this column: