SOMA People That You Meet: Janine Territo & Laura Himmelein

by Vanessa Pollock
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People That You Meet is a series of interviews conducted and posted by the The Pollock Group/Keller Williams, highlighting residents of the South Orange-Maplewood community and their diverse and interesting lives.

This edition spotlights Janine Territo and Laura Himmelein, the co-founders of Take the Cake, a nonprofit that provides free birthday parties to families who can’t otherwise celebrate their children’s birthdays. Find out more about Take the Cake here.

Janine Territo and Laura Himmelein of Take the Cake

What town do you live in? J & L: Maplewood, NJ

Where did you live before that?
J: Evanston, IL
L: Manhattan — Greenwich Village

What brought you to SOMA?
J: A job opportunity in NYC
L: After seriously considering turning our apartment closet into a sleeping alcove for our then 18-month-old, we decided it was time to join other friends and migrate to Maplewood.

What do you do (for a living or as a serious hobby)?
J: Managing Take the Cake is my main job at the moment, aside
from parenting.
L: In addition to my work with Take the Cake, I am an event designer with my own business, Party Cake Party Cake (

What’s your favorite feature of your home?
J: My kitchen! It’s bright and cheery and where I spend a LOT of my time!
L: My deck. It’s relaxing and secluded. I love hanging out there with friends — or just a cup a coffee. It always feels like a little mini vacation. I miss it during the winter and always put off storing the furniture till the last possible second.

Where do you love to go on a date night?
J: I’m almost always up for a night at the movies! If I’m lucky, we’ll have time for dinner, too. We love Wild Ginger, Walia, Arturo’s and cocktails at Coda. We also have some Montclair favorites, like Mundo Vegan and MishMish.
L: My husband and I love seeing comedy shows. The Bell House in Brooklyn is one of our favorite venues.

What’s music/album are you really into these days?
J: I’ll always be true to my old favorites, Bob Marley, Cake, Stevie Wonder, Billy Bragg, Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading, Ben Folds, etc. But lately I’ve been enjoying Portugal. The Man and The Weeknd and (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit) Selena Gomez.
L: I listen to an eclectic mix of favorites (from the Beatles to the Violent Femmes) as well as newer stuff. Just now I was listening to Alessia Cara’s “Here”.

If you could have a super-power, what would it be?
J: Although fraught with troubling consequences, I would have to say time travel!
L: Flying. That would be incredible!

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 5 years?
J: It’s really hard to pick one but Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran was a fantastic and thought-provoking page turner!
L: This is tough — I can barely remember what happened last week. So I’m going with a recent read. Lilac Girls. It really lingers.

What’s something that amazes you?
J: How quickly my kids are growing up (and how much I love AND like each of them). Everyone said it would go too fast but I didn’t believe them! My first baby is turning 21 years old this month and I honestly don’t know how that happened!
L: The generosity of our local town. When people hear of a need or a cause — they pitch in and step up.

Describe your family:
J: My husband and I have a “blended” family of 6 kids, ranging in age from 12 to 21. It’s been incredible to watch them grow and see how much they love and respect each other. I didn’t grow up in a big family and I had no idea how much fun it is!
L: Full of boys and animals. My husband and I have two amazing sons, ages 13 and 16, and 6 cats (don’t ask) and two

Describe your ideal day:
J: Coffee, someone else cooking for me (preferable great vegan food!), time laughing with my best friends, hugs or phone calls from my kids, most likely a nap (!) and a quiet night by the fire with my husband.
L: Any day spent near the ocean. The waves and salt air always centers me. Spring, summer, winter, fall — any time of year. There is nothing like it.

Favorite local place to eat?
J: I have so many favorites, but I’d have to say Cedar Ridge Bakery & Café is my top choice. It has a fun and relaxed
atmosphere and the food is wonderful. I especially appreciate all of the delicious and innovative vegan food on the menu! If we’re with the kids, Pandang is a perfect crowd-pleaser! Something for everyone and they’re the nicest people in the world!
L: I love so many for different reasons. Park Wood diner is one of NJ’s best. Love Coda’s fish tacos and calamari salad. Love Palmer’s quiches (seriously the best I’ve ever had); Cedar Ridge’s egg salad sandwich can’t be beat. St. James Gate is a must for their mussels and Dublin burger (with blue cheese); Village Coffee’s goat cheese omelet is one of my favorites; Wild Ginger’s lunch menu is a must to try. You need to go to Abril Cocina when you crave Mexican. The Able baker is the place to go for cookies, cakes, brownies – and anything else your sweet tooth desires.

Who/What did you aspire to be when you were little?
J: Honestly, I think I aspired to be a combination of Phoebe Cates, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Marcia from The Brady Bunch!
L: A Martha Stewart type with A Kate McKinnon twist.

What is your favorite store?
J: [words] Bookstore and No 165
L: Perch, Words, No 165

Mountains or Beach?
J: Mountains!
L: You’re wrong, Janine : ) It’s the Beach.

Favorite movie?
J: Harold and Maude
L: Dolores Claiborne

What inspires you?
J: The children with whom I work and their caregivers. I’m amazed and inspired by their resilience, positivity and
generosity despite the most challenging circumstances. They remind me to be my best self and to focus on what is most important to me.
L: Janine took the words out of my mouth. The kids we have had the honor of meeting are truly incredible. The thing is, they are kids — who just want to be kids. And it’s this resilience that is so inspiring.

How would you describe your “style”?
J: Casual. On my most stylish days, I actually change out of my exercise clothes!
L: Classic contemporary. Over the years I’ve found what works for me and pretty much go with that – with a few updated accessories, etc. thrown in.

Coffee or tea?
J: Coffee! Definitely coffee.
L: Coffee

What charity are you passionate about/how do you live out “CareServeGive”?
J & L: In 2014 we founded Take the Cake, a Maplewood nonprofit serving Essex and Union counties. We provide fun, customized and free parties to families who couldn’t otherwise celebrate their children’s birthdays. We are committed to the idea all children deserve their very own birthday party!

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