all Photos courtesy of Ronnie Koenig

This past fall, my family and I did the unthinkable – we left Brooklyn and moved to New Jersey. There were plenty of reasons not to go, but ultimately the excellent schools for our 6-year-old twins won out over our desire to stay in our beloved hood.

I’ll admit it –the first few months were not easy. There are a lot of things about Brooklyn that I really miss. When the twins and I stepped out onto Prospect Park West in our old neighborhood of Windsor Terrace, the avenue felt alive with activity and energy. Here in Princeton, the landscape is beautiful, but our street is eerily silent. Also, there are a lot of deer here, and that’s kind of freaking me out.

But I don’t want to be that girl who only ever talks about Brooklyn and how great it is, so I decided to be open and do some exploring. Here are the things I love about my new home state so far:

1. Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve: This is a beautiful place for family nature walks, with well-marked trails that led us to the mysterious Devil’s Cave. Now that we know it’s so close by, this will likely become one of our go-to weekend activities.

2. Cocktails at Agricola: If I had any thoughts about New Jersey not being sophisticated enough, they were erased at this amazing farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Princeton which was so busy, we had to jockey to get a seat at the bar. Their Earl-y Winter cocktail, made with earl grey-infused vodka, helped chase my new girl blues away.

3. Grounds for Sculpture: Back in New York, we had our favorite outdoor spots, like Wave Hill gardens, where we could spend a Sunday just walking around (and then eating a cookie at the snack bar). I was amazed to find Grounds for Sculpture, a 42- acre sculpture park and museum, nearby. The sculptures ran the gamut from sublime to disturbing and it was amazing to find this combination of art and nature so easily accessible.

4. The Farm Cooking School: As a Valentine’s Day celebration, my husband and I took a pasta making class The Farm Cooking School at Roots to River organic farm in Titusville. Walking around a farm on a Friday morning, I knew this was not an experience I could have in Brooklyn and I’m excited to explore more of the food and agriculture the Garden State has to offer.

5. The People: Princeton is filled with some decent folks, ones who might even turn into friends. The other day when a parent from my son’s school offered to watch him so he could continue playing while I ran to meet my daughter’s bus I was truly moved. It’s the small, friendly gestures that mean so much when you are the new kids on the block (and the new adults, too).

After a few months of exploring and trying to be friendly, I stopped thinking about what New Jersey doesn’t have and started to imagine really having a life here, filled with fun and friends. In fact, the only real drawback I’ve found so far is the deer. I mean, they are everywhere, staring at you from the side of the road with their creepy deer eyes, daring you to drive around a curved part of the road so that they can suddenly leap out into oncoming traffic.

Of course, I still love and miss Brooklyn, but I’m starting to think – if I don’t accidentally kill any mammals, we just might be okay out here.