BLINQ A "Winter market" drew a crowd to downtown Westmont, even before the season's first flakes started flying.

"We probably had 2,000 people over six hours," says Douglas Kelly, a board member of the Haddon Township Business Improvement District, which sponsored Saturday's event.

Donna Gottardi's "My Fair Trade Lady" handmade gift shop was among the 22 local businesses represented. She opened on Station Avenue in Haddon Heights on Sept. 9.

"The market helped people kick off the holiday, and it was great exposure for us," says Gottardi, who lives in Audubon and is an adjunct anthropology instructor at Rutgers-Camden. "My first customer on Monday morning was someone who had seen us at the market."

yKevin Riordan, www.inquirer.com/blinq

Menendez's

D.C. proposal

CAPITOLINQ New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is engaged.

The Democrat proposed Monday night to Alicia Mucci, adding another milestone to a year that has swung from an ethics cloud to achievement and, now, personal joy.

Menendez proposed at the Capitol rotunda, according to his staff.

Mucci, 45, manages real estate investments, according to Menendez's staff. She is from Bergen County - several reports say Paramus.

The engagement comes at the end of a whirlwind year that began with questions about Menendez's future as the senator, 59, faced a series of ethics questions, which were never fully resolved but have largely faded into the background, giving Menendez room to step to the forefront of several high-profile issues.

(The most salacious allegations were either never backed up or crumbled as supposed accusers backtracked; other issues, still unresolved, centered on Menendez's accepting flights on a donor's private plane).

Since then, Menendez has helped usher an immigration overhaul through the Senate and become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving him a major role in the ongoing debate over the U.S. deal with Tehran on Iran's nuclear program.

Menendez is divorced and has two adult children, Alicia and Robert Jr.

yJonathan Tamari, www.inquirer.com/capitolinq