It’s Beginning to Look Like Halloween

This past Sunday we finally checked out the hugely popular Jack-o-Lantern Blaze, just minutes from our house. It was packed! I think Jax wasn’t too keen on staying in the stroller because it looked like so much fun to wander around the pumpkins. Unfortunately he wasn’t allowed to have free reign and patience was running low. Better luck next year! We did grab a couple of pictures, though.

Jack-o-Lantern Madness! Quite a spectacular show.

Sunflowers – all carved out of pumpkins.

It was really sweet how into the candles Jax was.

As we prepare for Halloween crafting and the like, I am reminded of the stuff I threw together last-minute for Halloween 2009. Jax will be able to participate much more in these projects, so more fun to come!


We had a wonderful time celebrating Jax’s second birthday at Muscoot Farm. Over a dozen other kids along with their parents joined in the fun. Since my talented sister, Monica, was in town, as well as my mom, the baker extraordinaire, we went a little crazy with the crafts and decor. Some people go to the gym or watch movies. Us? we stay up until midnight gluing felt to make a farm scene and devising ways of creating frosting of varying shades of brown “dirt.” Poor Jax.

Here are the craftastic highlights!

The invitation (created in minutes on using a July 4th template):

First, we had a craft table set up where the kids glued fuzzy balls of various colors to sheep silhouettes cut out of cereal boxes. We also had paper glasses to embellish with feathers.

Then it was time for the pre-lunch hayride!

We kept lunch simple by ordering party heros from the local Italian deli. Twelve feet of sandwich, three feet each of four kinds. Even 40 people couldn’t get through half of the sandwich slices. Now we know.

{Sources: animal plates, recycled plastic plates, wooden silverware, recycled napkins}

The cake:

Yes, there is a huge problem of scale here. Where you see the little tractor was supposed to be a wooden “2” in place of a candle. I forgot the number and we had to improvise. Cake Wrecks here we come!

We tried to have many activity options for all the kids. In addition to the craft table, I made a farm scene out of felt, with removable animals the kids could rearrange.

Of course, we also had a mini farmer’s market. It turned out to be a hit with the kids to grab a market bag and “shop”:

I made the canvas market bags out of a drop-cloth I bought at the hardware store and some ribbon from the craft store. I made 16 in all, but with one drop cloth probably could have made another 16. They are really, really easy to make using these instructions. The most time-consuming part was attaching the handles, and I think that was because I went overboard reinforcing them. I would estimate they took about 8-10 minutes each.

Inside each favor bag was a little wooden tractor from Etsy seller TnTWoods, which is based in Wisconsin and wonderful to work with (we created a custom order of 16 toy tractors.)

Highlights from the festivities:

…and a very happy birthday boy!

Heritage Crafts Day at Van Cortlandt Manor

The rain couldn’t keep us from having a picnic by the river and then checking out the Heritage Crafts day at Van Cortlandt Manor. The event showcased crafts like dying wool, making butter, working with tin, blacksmithing, and open air cooking. It seems all we do each weekend is visit some sort of historic farm or museum! When you’ve got a toddler who gets excited about a haystack, and you’ve got a membership to Historic Hudson Valley, it’s really a no-brainer.

Walking down the hill to the picnic grounds.

Throwing stones into the river.

The blacksmith demonstration.

Was the sausage in the foreground there as decor or was it their lunch?

Playing the triangle.

Abercrombie & Fitch pose.

Jax interrupted his run to the hay to point out the “airplane sky” he probably thought didn’t fit in with the 17th-century surroundings.

New favorite game: jumping or falling down objects or stairs to be caught. He’s very trusting!

Memorial Day Weekend: Baby Animals Day at Muscoot Farm

For weeks I had my calendar marked on May 30th: Baby Animals Day! I couldn’t let Jax miss the excitement of good ol’ farm-themed fun. Plus, the visit is entirely free and is about 15 minutes away. He and I went with our friend Amanda and her now 4-month-old. While still too young to make all the animal sounds, I think the baby found the surroundings quite stimulating, especially the shady trees and the quite vocal cows!

In addition to a gathering of several historic farm buildings housing many animals, Muscoot Farm is also the site of a Sunday farmer’s market, so we hit that up first while the little ones napped. Then it was on to the stables and fields.

These lambs were only two weeks old.

Still too tired to check out the Jacob sheep.

When Jax woke from his nap he was delighted to discover himself surrounded by cows.

But he was quite apprehensive about petting the chick and kept a safe distance.

He wouldn’t get any closer to the duckling, either.

The  chicks were on the left and the ducklings on the right and he stood in this corner looking back and forth, pointing and saying “chicken, duck.”

And then, the mother of all farm birds: a gigantic turkey.

You can never stare at a tractor too long when you’ve only ever seen one in a book.

{Try to spot him pointing at the bottom of the video window.}

We saw cows get milked and remarked upon how the milking machines use the same mechanism as a human breast pump. I guess we’re all mammals.

We went back to look at the sheep and poney, which Jax had missed as he slept.

Jacob sheep, meet Jacob.

We went for a second round at the farmer’s market to pick up some dairy products and raisin bread. Jax tried the milk and bread immediately, but mostly had fun just ripping it apart.

Good-bye for now. We are sure to be back to watch the baby animals as they grow!

Memorial Day Weekend: Animals and Acrobats

We kicked off the long weekend on Saturday with a trip to the Van Cordlandt Manor. This 17th-century manor hosts a couple of big events each year, and the one that celebrates the opening of the summer season is called Animals and Acrobats. It’s an old-school carnival/circus show, with music and puppets and various performers (the eponymous acrobats of course). Birds of prey and horses were also a hit.

The event was also a great excuse to hang out with another family we recently met that also has a 1-year-old. While the boys are still too young to really understand playing together, they enjoyed the same things, and it was a great time chatting with the parents!

See the bales of hay in the foreground? That was a major attraction to the toddler set.

We are all staring at a huge owl sitting in the grass over in the shade.

“Hoo hoo”

Both the boys loved this puppet show. It was classic Punch and Judy, and most of the jokes were about drinking too much, but it was captivating to them.

Watching the musicians on our walk back to the car.

In all, the event is probably one that will only get more interesting as Jax gets older. Eventually he’ll want to watch the juggler of fire and learn about the hawks. For now, the music and puppets, the owl and climbing on the hay were entertainment enough!

Sheep to Shawl Festival

Yesterday Jax and I went with friends Amanda and baby Grace to the annual Sheep to Shawl festival in Sleepy Hollow. It’s an event held at Philipsburg Manor, a 17th-century Dutch farm which now serves as a living museum, with a working mill, cows and sheep, and costumed tour guides who are actually really quite fun to speak with.

The first stop was the all-important sheering of the sheep demonstration. The 17th-century trimming scissors made us a little nervous, but this woolly sheep got his winter coat removed without any harm.

The last time we went to Philipsburg Manor the cows were all inside, so it was fun to see them grazing in the field.

The sheep herding demonstration was one of the most exciting for Jax.

“Dog. Doooooog.”

Next up was spinning: I learned in chatting with this guide that we’d only see knitting and weaving in the 17th century, as crochet hadn’t been invented yet: Crochet arrived in the States in the mid-19th-century and it had only been developed in late-18th-century France.

The dying of the wool was done in boiling water over this open flame.

On the left, onion skins are dying the wool a bright yellow. On the right is a deep red produced by tree bark.

We took a quick stop into the mill.

Weaving demonstration

The guests of honor! Jax was so excited to look into the barn and see these guys. He kept shouting “baaaa!”

Then one sheep stuck his head out and yelled “baaa!” back. I don’t know if Jax ever thought that would be coming.

A tour of the stable

The walk back

Sunday at Sunnyside {now with more photos}

Last Sunday we put our Historic Hudson Valley membership to use and spent the morning at Washington Irving‘s riverside retreat, Sunnyside. The author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Irving is still quite the local celebrity, putting Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown on the map (there is now a neighboring town called Irvington as well). In his time, he was a world-famous best-selling author and was also supposedly the first author to live off of his writing alone. We (OK, Seth) can relate to that feeling of accomplishment!

After spending the first 52 years of his life crashing on other people’s couches (he was a traveler), Washington Irving built Sunnyside to mirror places he’d visited, with influences reminiscent of Amsterdam, Spain, and England. He had to add on to it, too, since he was living with an entourage of something like 7 unmarried nieces (he never married either, his fiancé having died of yellow fever leaving Irving heartbroken).

I particularly loved the vines and hope to visit in the next month or so to see them all in bloom. Its’ a great place for a walk and a picnic, too. Next time we’ll make a day of it! I wish I had remembered to bring the battery for our camera so I could take more shots than just these, especially of the view of the Hudson and Irving’s pond…

It was a fun way to spend the morning and reminded me I’d like to read Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. We all are familiar with the stories, but I’ve never actually read them!

This weekend the fun continues: a friend, our babies, and I are heading over to the old Dutch Philipsburg Manor for a “Sheep to Shawl” festival, a day combining costumed tour guides, old breed sheep, and yarn. Can it get any better? More to come!

~Updated~  Photos from Seth’s camera:

A Day in Cold Spring

We spent yesterday in Cold Spring, our go-to destination when we want a taste of something different but don’t want to travel too far and have nothing more than a spare diaper or two on us. In other words, our plan when we haven’t planned.

Cold Spring is lovely for so many reasons. It’s a little town with a sloping hill of a main street ?? lined with casual restaurants, cafés, a few galleries, and several antique shops ?? that leads to the Hudson River.

There are plenty of shops of all kinds, and the general mood is pretty laid-back. One of our favorite places to eat or have a drink is called Silver Spoon. We didn’t make the stop there this time, but it’s been great for catching sports games, grabbing a quick bite (and not just the typical bar fare either), and pretend you’re a local (seems to be filled with regulars). It’s also kid-friendly. Whew.

This storefront is for rent and I hope whoever rents it will keep this cool painting on the facade. It depicts the Hudson River just north of Cold Spring, and that building on the little island is an old over-grown abandoned armory I’ve only seen pictures of.

Once you reach the bottom of the hill, an old passageway leads you under the train tracks and over to the water side. But first, we had to stop at one of our favorite low-key, kid-friendly outdoor restaurants.

The old Cold Spring train station is now a restaurant called the Depot. Every 15 minutes or so a train passes by on the tracks right next to the terrace. At first Jax was scared, but then he and Seth made looking for trains into a game.

This table and little walkway are actually part of the adjoining park. We took a stroll through this passage to take the underpass (that brick structure in the back left of the photo below).

Out on the other side is a pretty jetty with spectacular views of the mountains across the Hudson. It’s remarkable how high ?? and how close ?? they are at this spot.

More train-related fun: a long cargo train passed us along the other side of the river.

The ducks were a little too friendly and had Jax running for cover.

There’s also some more green space along the river.  This is a great field for flying kites or watching the sun set over the mountains.

Good bye for now!

Sunday Afternoon Apple Picking

Autumn is in full swing here, but some beautiful summer-like weather on Sunday meant we could partake in fall’s activities under a warm sun. We decided it’d be a day to take advantage of one of the benefits of living in Westchester County: its proximity to some family farm fun.  This one-year-old thought it was a fabulous idea!


We started the day with a pumpkin craft: I cut a piece of finger painting paper into the shape of a pumpkin, taped it to Jax’s highchair, and then put two little blobs of paint onto it. Remembering what my mom learned in a young children’s art workshop, I stuck only to primary colors to have Jax discover the result of mixing all by himself. So with a red blob and a yellow blog and lots of messy play, he made orange! I then used a leaf-shaped paper puncher to punch out colorful paper leaves in yellow, red, and orange, and added those to the mix. The result:


After some delicious bagels at our neighbors’ (we have the nicest people living all around us!), we headed out to Stuart’s farm to see the real thing and pick our own apples.



Try as Seth did to show him how to do pick apples, Jax mostly just studied the technique rather than try it himself.





He knew all about tasting them, though.











When our bag was full, we headed over to the pumpkin field and let Jax crawl all around.







Then we finally found the perfect pumpkin to take home:


So Jax waved good-bye as he crawled away:


On our way out I took some shots of the random vestiges of farming’s past (Stuart’s Farm has been around since 1828):


as well as its present day:




That building to the right is the bakery, where we tasted a freshly-made doughnut. It was a totally new species of pastry to me.


On our way out I snapped some photos of the autumn colors in their many forms.