Sesame Place Trip

We had a lot of fun this summer. Some relaxation with picnics and a local beach visit, plenty of work around the house (with still more to do, of course), and lots of learning with some simple workbooks and Kindermusik. Throw in trial-and-error attempts at potty-training, a few bouts of illness, simply being pregnant, and it’s been a pretty full summer!

In our pre-summer planning, we had wanted to take plenty of trips. While we took some local trips, one of our most-anticipated trips to visit friends in Massachusetts fell through, with Hadman coming down with a cough and fever. It ended up lasting quite awhile and turning into pneumonia, so we’re glad that the week prior we were able to take at least one kid-centric trip.

(And we fully plan on attempting a quick day trip back to Mass this fall…SOMETIME! Pre-baby, is my guess. *wink*)

Planned well in advance, we had decided on taking the little guy to Sesame Place. We had plenty of reasons for heading here, but the most important was to do something that we could all enjoy together before becoming a family of 4 (7, including cats…which we do). Goodness knows if/what we’ll be doing next year!

Dave took a 3-day weekend and we left for Pennsylvania. I’ll admit, the driving took longer than expected and both adults were rather beat by all the driving of the weekend. But, along our way, we saw what, to my guys, can only be described as a mirage on the road…

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Wait, what?! Yup. The 1960s Batmobile. (Not THE original, but still…a perfect replica. Not kidding.) Sitting in front of a bar, in a field. Like, seriously.

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Can you feel the excitement? I know I can. We already knew it would be a memorable weekend.

So, after numerous hours of driving, a Thomas DVD on a borrowed portable player (we’ve become those parents, apparently), and zero naps, we reached our hotel. This part of the trip worked perfectly: the hotel had a shuttle service that ran quite frequently to bring us back and forth to the park. So, since we had tickets for two days (BOGO, for the win!), we got ready for the dry rides and headed over.

Let’s just say that Dave wins the award for the fact that I couldn’t go on a vast majority of the rides with a baby bump. So, he had to ride with the little guy. Did I mention that he has issues with certain rides? Like, with the height and spinning and…stuff. So, clearly he gets the “Best Dad” badge for not only hitting up numerous rides but for keeping his cool and smiling while doing it. *starts a slow clap*

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Anyhoo, we stayed for a few hours and enjoyed the Sesame-ness of the place (it really is awesome), then headed back to the hotel. We used the hotel pool, which was a hit for a non-swimming kiddo like ours, then hit the hay.

The next day, we had our complimentary breakfast and struck out for the far longer lines of a Saturday. I highly suggest renting a locker in advance; it worked out great for our changes and general ease of movement.

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Okay, this is totally my favorite picture ever. My beach bums (who both HATE the heat). I’m the embarrassing spouse/mom, clearly. 

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So, we spent a long, very hot morning there doing water stuff, getting splashed, and generally enjoying the place. But, with how long the lunch lines were, we quickly decided to buy any souvenirs we wanted, then head back to the hotel. We actually ended up ordering a quick lunch and eating at the hotel, then ALL took naps (my first clue that our systems weren’t adjusting well to travel). When we finally came to, we got ready and went to Hadley’s favorite place – Barnes and Noble – to play with the Thomas train and look at books before going out to a crappy dinner then back to try the pool again.

Between the food that our systems weren’t used to, being rundown from the trip itself, and any kid germs we came in touch with, we were all feeling pretty blah and ready to come home Sunday. On our way, we happened upon a “Taste of New York” boutique at a rest stop and, I’ve gotta say, it was the best meal we had the whole weekend. Some of the fruit I brought along mixed with a bunch of local, fresh snacks from around the state (and super local grassfed Greek yogurt and cheese curds), and we were able to make it home feeling a little more like ourselves.

But, by the end of the week, 2/3 of us were sick. I’ve definitely learned that I need to try to up our immune system protection before we take trips. Big-time.

All in all, though, the trip was SO worth it. Hadman is way more into Sesame Street lately, so he LOVED “meeting” several of the characters (namely, Count, even if the Count’s splash area upset him, hee hee). It was fun to see the diversity of people visiting and thinking, “Wow, this is what Sesame Street has promoted from the beginning!” It was also interesting to hear people in one of our shuttle vans say that their daughter isn’t really a fan of Sesame and wondering, “Wait, why are you spending all this money to…nevermind.” 😉 Eh, no judging. Anyone could have a blast there.

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Gotta say, we all had a great time. And Mama got a new “cookie mug” for my milk and organic cookies…win-win! Three guesses which character mug the Dorky Daddy got.

Best. Day. Ever.

Our trip to Old Forge last year was kinda lackluster. I can never say that a trip is a waste because we always seem to have fun regardless of the situation, so it wasn’t a waste and did rejuvenate. But, between the rather cool temperatures (for August), rain, and just general stuff like that, it wasn’t great.

So, we gave it a go again this year. We only took a handful of pictures, but it was a lucky happenstance that we hadn’t cleaned off our phones’ memory; we were able to enjoy the moment far better. Especially since we fit in so. Much. Fun.

We left early enough to grab some discounted tickets to Enchanted Forest Water Safari, extra cash and breakfast on the road. This was the first year we were going to try hitting up the park with the little guy, knowing full well that most of the rides weren’t for him. Being some of the first in the park definitely helped – we were able to meander around the storybook area (PERFECT for a kid his age), check out the petting zoo (the animals bummed us out), do the few “dry” rides (first time on a merry-go-round!), hit the little kid splash pad area, and try the Lazy River together by noon.

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Bam. We could’ve eaten and headed home at that point and it would’ve been an awesome day.

But, nope. We went on a walk to try Nutty Putty golf (something Dave and I used to do as children, then years later when we started dating), which was probably the “low” part of the day. Hadley was clearly getting tired, which made for lots of tripping and falling on the uneven parts of the “course.” But, we all seemed to have fun, followed by some ice cream before heading back to our car to get the stroller.

So, the fact that the little man took a nap in the stroller mean a) he must’ve been EXHAUSTED and b) some sort of miracle must have occurred; he hasn’t done that in a long, long time. We had a chance to look around the hardware store (SO much more than a hardware store!), do some Christmas shopping, then wander over to rest and watch ducks swim around.

While naptime continued at the bench, a little dramatic duckling rescue ensued. We observed a mama duck with her three ducklings go to a chained-off area of the lake next to a drainage waterfall area…with two babies taking the leap. Off ran Dave (I wanted to, but had to stay with the little man), along with two young guys, before the mama duck attacked one of the kids for interfering. Before too long (although our hearts were in our throats, seriously), she showed them how to hop back up where they belonged.

Whew. After that, we hit up The Mill Restaurant, another place Dave and I visited in our dating days. By the way we headed home, we all were exhausted but happy. A rain shower even produced this view (that happens to be my school, LOL)…

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I mean…seriously. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Not the most eloquent description on Earth, but it was an AWESOME day. Hadley’s asked several times why we can’t go to Water Safari EVERY day. Good lesson to learn.

Oh, and while we were still on the “having fun” kick, I upped the ante with some blueberry picking the next morning. Best. Weekend. Ever. (Even if Sunday was “let’s do some crap around the house” day. They can’t all be winners.)

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Knowing that next summer may look different (okay, definitely…it’s definitely going to look different) with another little one in the mix, we’ve totally been making this summer count.

How have you guys been enjoying your summers? 🙂 

Our Summer Vacation – Where and Why

So, it took us awhile to land on a vacation option that the whole family could enjoy. We were originally discussing one option, but the more I researched, the more our minds changed. Today, I’m here to share our thought process…and, of course, where we’ll be going!

Our goals were to take a few days to enjoy being a family in a fun, relaxed setting. (The “relaxed” part is relative; it’s more that we’d take a slow pace.) If it could be a relatively short drive (like, 4-5 hours or less), all the better. We didn’t want to try to fit a million things in and overbook, which we learned about last year (we did well, I think, but I did fit a lot in and still missed some stuff! Here’s one post and a second recapping our 2014 summer trip.)

We originally considered another trip to Mass., as well as other New England trips (namely, Maine). The more that I looked and realized a) the travel time would be nuts, and b) most of the stuff we’d be doing could be done locally, we turned our attention elsewhere: Pennsylvania.

My MIL had suggested Sesame Place to us awhile back and we put it in the back of our brains…way back. Hadley’s not a HUGE Sesame Street fan, but he’ll watch it if it’s on and we’ve also raised him watching the OLD episodes, so he knows Bob, Maria, David, etc just as well as he knows Abby, Elmo and Zoe. Then, his grandparents took him to see Sesame Street Live locally and meet Elmo, and he had a great time. After deciding to shift from the Maine trip, I started looking at the website and realized that he’s the PERFECT age to visit.

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Here are our reasons for making a completely kidcentric vacation choice:

– The place is PERFECT for a three-year-old. He’s never been on rides and has a major aversion to getting his face wet, but the rides here seem like he can handle them and will probably love them, and the variety of water areas (gentle, wild, etc) are great to test out his fears. (He loves splashing and playing in water, so there’s a splash pad area that he should love no matter what.)

– It’s a special time, being pregnant and knowing that it’s our last summer with an only child. Yes, I have dubbed it “The Summer of Hadley” and I am totally cool with that.

– It’s not too far away. Bam.

– There are options to use local hotels that are family friendly and have a shuttle to get to the joint; the fact that we’re going for an extended weekend and won’t have to pay for parking (since there are tons of extra costs with this option) adds up. ***Since I’m preggers, I may be able to get half off my ticket when I get there since I can only do a few of the rides and the gentle water areas; fingers crossed!*** 

I usually try to fit in some history, a fun kiddo activity (usually museum-based), animals, and so forth into a vacation. This summer, however, we’ve got this all covered with the other cheaper activities we have planned throughout the season.

Stay tuned for a blog post about how we’ll be hitting all these marks, and inexpensively

Ithaca – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Before I get into the semi-regularly-scheduled post, I just want to say SQUEEEEEAAAAL and best wishes to my sister, Mary, and her family on the birth of their second little one today! I’m so happy that we’ll get to be there to meet him or her. 🙂 Lots of joy in this family right now!


I’ve been around the block enough times to know that E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is unpredictable when a toddler/preschooler is involved. As a family, we have learned to plan excessively, adapt accordingly, and remain flexible at all times. Also, as with all things in life, it’s important to take the good with the bad (and be grateful for it all).

So, when we planned our recent day trip to Ithaca, NY (a little over two hours away), I went into it with the usual well-planned day with a hint of “this could change at any moment” thrown in.

Dave was there for a day-long comic book convention to chat with folks and sell issues of his hilarious comic book series, Holidaze. So, after we dropped him off at the college, Hadman and I were on our own. I was totally ready for the day.

Only, I wasn’t. After the long-ish drive, a coffee and tons of water, I was in dire need of a bathroom. Like, crying in the parking lot, not knowing where I even was, with a toddler insisting that we go some place (ANY place!). Finally, as my teeth floated and my eyes watered, I looked up the closest grocery store – less than 5 minutes away. Whew. Upon pulling into the parking lot, I spotted a nearby Barnes and Noble. Even better! Hadley’s favorite place on Earth.

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After the potty break, we hit up the Thomas train set and grabbed a book for Hadley’s soon-to-be-born cousin with only two very loud meltdowns before leaving. Score.

Finally! Off to the main event for the day. The Sciencenter was everything we had hoped for and more. We spent the entire morning exploring animals, shadows, lights, mirrors, our senses, sand (one of the sand tables actually displayed a contour map on top, which took me right back to Mr. Buckley’s Earth Science class), and an awesome toddler toy area with a water table. Outside was a discovery jungle gym-type thing with more sand and water tables, a music center…seriously, the list goes on and on.

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He was a VERY good boy and got a rubber snake for his troubles. I wonder where we put that thing…

For lunch, we fought the traffic outside and sat together at Ithaca Bakery. I had brought a PBJ sandwich and snacks for him but grabbed a turkey wrap for myself. This marked the first time he has sat in a restaurant without a high chair (or booster, which we don’t normally use anyway) with no wiggling or walking around. We talked and enjoyed our meals, and it was one of the best lunch dates ever.

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Here’s where things get a little ugh. I had planned to take the little guy over to a parking garage then push him around the Commons in his stroller in hopes of getting a nap out of him and getting some writing done, myself. Welp, construction. The whole thing was torn up. We visited a couple of stores, but the whole point of the thing was killed. Back to the car we went.

I decided to drive back up to the college to find a spot to park (and hopefully let the little guy sleep). I was able to get a little writing done, but he kept waking (noisy college kids, of course), so while he did nap a bit, it made for a grouchy afternoon.

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Yeah. That’s my finger. Oops. Added dose of embarrassment? He drooled SO MUCH. Hee hee.

Before picking up Dave, I took the little guy back down the hill a bit to a playground I had spotted, which worked wonderfully…until it was time to head back up to campus. Meltdown #3 (or 4 or 5…I’ve lost count).

This is where the “ugly” comes in. Back at Ithaca College, I knew the parking lot we were supposed to use as “visitors” to the convention (I had dropped Dave in a closer lot used just by vendors and probably should’ve tried to park there again). Instead, I followed the rules and buckled Had back into a stroller. After trying to cross through the inside of a building (as advised by Ithacon’s website), I discovered just how stroller (and handicapped) inaccessible the campus is. Oh. My. God. After exiting the building and meandering around the sidewalks, I reached our destination completely beat, looking like a mess, and feeling like a raging bull.

When Dave asked if I wanted to walk around (and, namely, meet one of our favorite authors, Bruce Coville), he knew immediately that I wasn’t moving from the chair I had claimed. I was a wreck, but after some water and time to cool down, we were able to retrieve the car, pack up, and head out.

Given my state, we decided to break our “take-out” rule (kind of…this wasn’t REALLY fast food) with a trip to A&W. We got to order, wait, and eat in our car just like the 1950s, which was pretty darn cool. And better control over the little guy is always a plus.

So, there we have it. Ultimately, the trip was actually a really fun, memorable one. I’m already able to laugh at the ridiculous things that threw the plans out the window, and am kind of relieved that most of the issues weren’t caused by a raucous little guy, but by the unknown situations that were thrown at us.

It already has my brain darting around planning our summertime getaway(s). 

Homes Away From Home

We all have a place that we visit, eventually getting high off the thought of possibly moving there. It’s usually totally ridiculous to dream about and beyond impractical, but it happens. Even Liz Lemon fell victim to it…

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Well, we have our “favorite spots”, too. We may love a place for its natural serenity, its bustling energy, its sustainable living practices, its cultural activity, or the very important fact that dear friends live there. Here are a few (very outlandish) dream places:

– Middlebury, VT – We visit here (almost) every year since first visiting on our honeymoon. It’s a green (in more ways than one), great little college town in a state that makes it far easier to live sustainably and support local. Somehow, it provides a mix of modern with traditional “New England small town” charm, all in an adorable package. Of course, we know no one who lives in the vicinity, making a move not only implausible but incredibly alienating and lonely. Sigh.

– Ithaca, NY – Much like Middlebury, it’s a “gorge-ous” college city with abnormally eco-friendly practices (especially for NYS). With a high-quality theater scene and the most hippies-per-capita in all of “upstate”, it’s practically a miniaturized Portland, Oregon. (That’s a good thing for us.) I can’t begin to list all the reasons we’ll never move there, but it’s a nice place to visit.

– Western Mass – Dave went to school here, so he may be biased (I shouldn’t say that; I went to Oneonta and I have no intention of moving there ;-)), but he has some of the awesomest friends on Earth whom we love to visit. So, it would be worth the price of admission just to move and see them once in awhile, honestly. Add to it the fact that it’s another “like-minded” place as far as local eats, organic and sustainable practices, and more, and it’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, it’s just not worth leaving our respective families and low cost of living. *wop wop*

– Concord, MA – Okay, a few of these are my dream whereas a few are more Dave’s, so bear with me. Have you BEEN here? It’s a step back in time, with many historical homes and well-kept historical and nature preserve sites (Hello! Walden Pond much?!). I’m fascinated by the transcendentalist movement and the life of Louisa May Alcott (and American history, of course), so when I tell my students I’ve visited her home, they tend to think I’m a stalker (then ask if it’s haunted, of course). The place is just bursting with history, culture…and incredibly expensive housing. *scratches off list* 

– New York City – We’ve never said “I want to live here!” In fact, when we were in our dating stages visiting every 6 months or so, we looked in restaurant windows to see parents with kids and said, “Wow, I can’t imagine raising children here.” Between the noise and constant over-stimulation, the sheer cost is unthinkable. But, of course, not enough positive can be said about the place. So, when the time comes, we’ll allow H and any future siblings tiny doses of over-stimulation. 😉 

– The Adirondacks – Here’s another one that’s all me and pretty much 2% Dave. Maybe 0%, who knows? While we’re relatively close to the majestic Adirondack mountain range and park, we rarely ever utilize the place, going maybe once a year (like the year I went camping for a couple of days with my family or our Old Forge visits). The Adirondacks are the total opposite of NYC, with their constant barrage of peace and quiet, natural wonder, outdoor activities, and, yes, more history. (Although NY has quite a bit of history, it’s modern to the max.) Again, it’s pretty darn expensive (unless you pick a less popular lake) to get even a shabby camp, and I’m admittedly a pretty crappy swimmer to be utilizing a lake, anyway, but for the gentle calm, fun and exercise of canoeing and hiking, and animal encounters? I’d take it. Plus, what better way is there to raise a child? 

– Cooperstown, NY – This is by far the closest “home away from home” for us. Every once in awhile, we take the drive out for their Saturday (indoor!) farmers’ market, random event (like their annual Candlelight Evening I’ve mentioned several times), or just to grab a deli lunch and head down to picnic by the lake. It’s another diamond-in-the-rough: rich literary history (no, really), incredible museums (sure, baseball, but so much more), picturesque scenery and perfect “Andy Hardy old-school town” vibe, plus an incredibly active group of people working to make the place as good as it can be. If I ever make millions of dollars writing the next big American novel, we’re movin’ there. 

What’s YOUR “home away from home”? I’d love to hear your favorite spot(s)!

Back to Vermont

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Long one today! Grab a cup of coffee and prop your eyes open with toothpicks, folks. 😉

Have you noticed that we have a bit of an autumn tradition? Yep. Every year, we make it a point to take a quick overnight trip to Vermont. Our first stop to the state was actually early on, when we were first dating, to attend a friend’s wedding. We fell in love with the state and its awesomeness back then, so we returned for our honeymoon, for our one-year, three-year, and now our four-year anniversaries. (Our second-year anniversary, Hadman was only a few months old, so we nixed it.)

We had taken to pretty much following the same equation every year: head to Middlebury, hit up the co-op to stock up (and shops if they were open), have “tea on the veranda” at the inn, and crash until dinner. The next day, waffles at the inn (a MUST), followed by a slow trip back home, stopping in at antique shops and Camelot Village along the way.

This year, we adjusted things a bit. We’ve been noticing some changes; some of our favorite antique haunts on the way home had closed, and because we visit Sunday into Monday, a lot of shops in Middlebury are closed. So, we headed out early on a Saturday morning. We also added a couple of stops and deleted a couple of unnecessary ones.

The foliage from NY into VT was absolutely perfect this year. Sometimes they’re not even close to turning; other times, there are very few trees left. We lucked out this time! So, after a quick gas-up and a grab of a couple of local egg white sandwiches (Hadley ate at home before we left), we were on our way.

This time, we stopped at the outlets near Queensbury. It was a very last-minute thing, and I promised Dave that we’d be there no longer than 30 minutes (just to run into a couple of kiddo stores). I was true to my word, and in no time we had a few deals and were back on the road. Woohoo!

By the time we rolled into Middlebury, Had was napping in the back and needed far more time to do so. So, Dave checked in with the inn (strangely enough, our room was ready early), and we tag-teamed staying in the car with the sleeping munchkin while grabbing potty breaks and lunch. I ran to the co-op nearby to stock up on salad bar fixin’s (and, ahem, homemade organic desserts), and we all enjoyed the quick lunch in the car. We’re fancy.

After getting settled into the room, we explored the town and did some small shopping. The shops ranged from quirky to adorable to kitschy to stylish to traditional (we finally hit up the Ben Franklin! And it was exactly what I imagined it to be, LOL). Hadley picked out our Christmas ornament (a sterling silver old-school truck hauling a Christmas tree) before melting down, so we high-tailed it to the park to get some energy out. Let’s just say — LEAVES!!! And an awesome gazebo was icing on the cake. A sweet local guy ran over to take our picture without us asking.

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By this time, we decided to head back to the inn, and tea was almost over so the only cookies left were ones I wasn’t sure had nuts (Hadley’s okay with peanut butter so far, but we haven’t tried any other nuts yet), so that was kind of a bust. We went to our cozy room to relax, play, watch TV, and get ready for dinner.

We always like to eat dinner and breakfast at the inn since they go out of their way to source their food locally and it’s always a good meal. This year, we were a little disappointed that our waitress didn’t offer any children’s ideas (last year, the waitress was a sweetheart and worked hard to make suggestions), so I had no choice but to give him some of my food and some healthy snacks I had brought along. I know this probably ticks off wait staff, but I would’ve been happy to purchase a meal for him…had it been offered.

Otherwise, our meals were delicious and Hadley, while coming close to having some “bother folks near us” moments, maintained his composure pretty well. *huge sigh of relief* Seeing a couple of other young children in the space helped calm my nerves about it, too. 😉

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After a good night’s sleep, we got dressed and ready in the morning, excited for breakfast. It’s always more casual, so I tend to be less nervous about Hadley acting out (which he did, a little). I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s going to happen and we try hard to maintain our patience and have a conversation with him or try distractions, but ultimately it’s the life of a toddler. Poor thing has only so much of an attention span.

There were waffles! So, we loaded our plates and went to town. Hadley had made a little friend who came over to greet him, which was downright precious. All while eating breakfast, though, my thoughts were onto our next adventure…

See, we weren’t able to go apple-picking locally this year thanks to weather and scheduling. So, I figured I’d see if there were any local apple orchards or pumpkin patches so that we could at least do SOMETHING fall-ish while in VT. These weekends seem to breeze by so quickly that before you know it, it’s winter. So, when I discovered Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, I couldn’t wait to get there.

It was everything I hoped for and more! We were the second customers of the day, so it wasn’t busy at all. They had a wagon to pull him around in, plenty of apples, tons of pumpkins to choose from, and the woman running the place adored Hadley (her grandkids are out of state, and he’s such a ham it’s hard not to fall for him). It. Was. Perfect.

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After loading up on apples, pumpkins, gourds, cider, and a couple of donuts, we hit the road.

We only visited one antique shop (and didn’t find anything, which is fine), and stopped at a maple shop to pick up some candy for folks back home, then meandered towards Bennington. Starving and unsure of what there was to eat locally, we found a Stewart’s and I grabbed burgers before we high-tailed it to the monument.

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We love visiting this thing, and I’m not sure why. We can relax on the green (it’s where we ate lunch; Hadley sat still, can ya believe it?!), Hadman can get his energy out and run around, Dave can get his annual “picture with a militia man”, and we can get potty breaks before heading to our last stop – Camelot Village.

Dave was kind enough to let me go inside and look around (we brought Hadley in and he was doing fine, but Dave thought it’d be nice to get him outside for awhile longer before the long haul back home). I saw some awesome stuff and almost grabbed a thing or two, but more than anything it was just nice to have the chance to look.

Then, before we knew it, we were home. The trip back does get excruciating, but the fact that we were traveling on a Sunday made the traffic far easier to deal with.

So, there’s all the boring details of our trip to VT! It’s somehow an exciting, relaxing, fun, at-times stressful trip that we LOVE to go on, but that I LOVE getting home from all at the same time. Like, after we do it I feel like we can hunker down for the winter (unless we want to take a quick day trip to Mass to see friends). Either way, it’s always invigorating to see a place that feels like home but that takes us to a new comfort level every year.

Oh, and you know we stocked up on soap while we were there, right? That’s our thing.

Why NYS is the Best Place for Fall Living

Happy Columbus Day! If you’re looking for something to do today, this post is for you! I’ve mentioned some of the stuff I can’t WAIT to do this fall with the fam. Some of them were great “general” ideas that anyone can do anywhere. Others are totally area specific. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Upstate/Central New York autumn must-do’s.

Side note: Upstate? It ain’t Westchester. Just sayin’. Just try ‘n fight me on this one.

I’m a fan of lots of places. We’ve got BFFs in Western Mass, and love visiting the place; there’s SO much to do! We hit up Vermont practically every fall. I’ve enjoyed visiting Maine and Pennsylvania and tons of other New Englandy-type places over the years. I even sway city-lover, thanks to Boston, NYC & Philly (hard to pick a favorite…).

So, what’s so great about NYS/CNY?

Strangely, there are points that Dave and I are sick of the place. Our opinions have bounced around about where to live, and we’ve considered relocating, but the ultimate fact still remains: Family is #1 to both of us, followed closely by those rare lifelong friends (the ones we can easily visit or who have decided to move back “home”). So, this is where our hearts remain.

So, we know the bad (depressing) facts of “here.” But, because of our lifelong experiences, we also can recognize the awesomeness. In the fall, the place is freaking BRIMMING with it.

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Leaf peeping at its finest. You can say yours is the best, but seriously…ours is. 😉 If it’s early in the season, pack the car and head up north to the Adirondacks (stop for a bite to eat in Old Forge, or one of the “rustic” diners hidden in the deep woods). If it’s mid-season, hit anywhere south of the Adirondacks. Seriously, throw a dart and go there. Just check out this map first.   

The food be kicking. (<– Clear evidence that I am far from an urbanite. Or cool.) Okay, the food can be pretty great here all year 'round, but when the comfort food season hits (yes, it's a season unto itself), this is the place to be. Two words: Chicken riggies. Two more words: Utica greens. A couple more: half moons. Plus, the seasonal produce is insane and this is our favorite season to hit up our locavore restaurants. The chefs are amazing to begin with, but the flavors of the season just sing under their expertise.

You can pick all ya want. *giggles* Pick. Like nose. Ha! But, no, really, I’m talking about apples and pumpkins (and sometimes autumn berries, if you’re lucky). Apples are king here in NYS, so whether you just want to grab some at a farmers’ market or pick your own, this is the site to find out where. And it just isn’t fall without a pumpkin (or 12), so check this site and click on the region you’re interested in, or just check out my neck of the woods at this site. And, yes, those websites suck, visually. I agree. 😉 

We’re a boozy state. Okay. Iffin’ you’re into such fun, upstate is rife with breweries, cider mills (ahem, the HARD stuff), and wineries. You can spend a day touring a path of wineries, or just hit up one brewery to test their wares. Dave and I enjoy NYS wines, even though he enjoys drier stuff and I’m perfect for the sweet-leaning NYS grapes. And while I should admit for all the world to hear that the Utica Brewery is the best in the world (it’s good…it really is), I actually prefer Brewery Ommegang. Apparently I’m into the Belgian stuff. Who knew? Seriously, there isn’t a flavor I DON’T LOVE. And if you’re going to visit their just-outside-Cooperstown spot, you MUST hit up their munchies. Far more sophisticated than traditional pub fare; I highly suggest the fries. (No, really. Fries. With a combination of dipping friends. A party in your mouth!)

Speaking of cider… If you’re into the kid-friendly stuff, our cider mills are sure to make you happy. We’ve got simple cideries that provide just some basic cider, and maybe donuts on the weekends. We’ve also got huge mills that show you how the stuff’s made and sell gifts, specialty foods, pies, fudge, anything in a jar (you think I’m kidding), and, sure, cider. (I’m talkin’ about you, Fly Creek Cider Mill!) Check out this search (yes, I’m sending you to a Google search since they’re not all in listed on the same website) to find your new favorite! Seriously, I didn’t even know Clinton had a cider mill until a short while ago.

Hayrides and corn mazes and farmers’ markets, oh my! In case you haven’t already noticed, there’s a $%&#load to do throughout upstate. While locals often complain about the sheer lack of anything to do, much like a lazy, bored teenager, it’s actually pretty untrue. I guess it depends on what you’re interested in. Like, Dave and I aren’t huge winter people. We have a few activities that we do, but for the most part it’s “hunkering down with some homemade cocoa and an old movie” season. Others come alive in the winter, with snowmobiling or snowshoeing or skiing galore.

Autumn, however, is THE time to enjoy whatever you like. Search for a farmers’ market to visit and make some roasted root veggies. Like to get freaked out? Take your pick. Want a hayride or corn maze for the kiddos? See if any of these will fit your needs. Honestly, if you just search for activities in whatever area you’ll be visiting, you’ll find something.

Here are our own favorites, in no particular order:

Fly Creek Cider Mill — two words: duck pond. Two more words: Free samples.
Oneida County Public Market — we do this year ’round, actually
Cooperstown Farmers’ Market — one of the few “indoors” markets (and if you’re heading to Cooperstown, enjoy the leaf peeping along the way and wander the town. If you haven’t been, plan to stay a day and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, and if you’re not into baseball, head over to the Farmers Museum and/or the Fenimore Cooper Museum nearby. 
– ANY Finger Lake wineries (pick lake, grab a map and just go!)
North Star Orchards for some apple pickin’
Beardslee Castle or The Tailor and the Cook for some impeccable locavore grub
Cullen Pumpkin Farm — We may get our pumpkins here this year… Corn maze and wagon rides, too!

What are your favorite fall activities? Got any places that you’d like to share in the comments? Feel free to link!

Falling for Fall

Hey, folks who read stuff online! Today’s frickin’ September 1st. SEPTEMBER, dudes and dudettes. So, while I’m by NO means looking forward to heading back to school (not whining but stating a fact: I am fraught with all sorts of anxiety at the thought of returning; I’ll man-up soon after getting back into the swing of things), the paradox is kinda weird. That’s because I super heart fall.

As long as I can remember, I’ve most loved the sweet but somber smell of decaying leaves, the necessity to throw a denim jacket on while enjoying a walk on the first crisp night, and cranking up the oven to help Mom whip up perfect apple pies or Grandma’s famous soft molasses cookies. It’s a thing of beauty, my friends.

So, of course I’m excited to continue my love affair with autumn, and to spread the love with my family. (Shh. Don’t tell Dave. He thinks autumn and I are “just good friends”, so let’s keep it that way. Although, it’s his fave, too, which is why we got married in October. Huh.)

As Hadman grows, EVERYTHING has become more of a fun, at times unpredictable adventure. Even the experiences he had last year for the first time (the year before, he was a brand new infant) that we all enjoyed giving him will be like new this year.

Here was his first autumn ever…

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Here were a couple of experiences last year…

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What’s better than Vermont and an apple orchard in the fall? I mean, really. Nothing that I can think of.

And, thanks to Pinterest, here are a few of the goals of mine this year. I like to use these as guidelines and reminders of the things we love about the seasons, hopefully reducing the guilt factor when I don’t check off every last one. Although, if I did, it wouldn’t suck.

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Most of these are self explanatory, but a couple need a bit of elaboration. Or maybe you don’t care. But, just in case, here goes:

– I very rarely do lattes or purchased flavored stuff, so when I say pumpkin latte, I mean just one will do the trick. Just one pumpkin spice-flavored cup of caffeine, thanks.
– Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin cookies. Whatev. I’m not picky.
– Fly Creek Cider Mill near Cooperstown is a family tradition for me as long as I can remember. It’s an awesome leaf-peeping trip in itself, but grabbing some overpriced cider and feeding their resident ducks complete the season. Totally.
– Vermont started as our honeymoon spot, but has turned into a fall family road trip. Fun!!
– Okay, a locavore date entails saving up, getting a sitter, and going to one of the few pricy-but-worth-it restaurants that serve locally-sourced gourmet food. We don’t get many dates, so these are super special ones. Plus, fall flavors are incredible, am I right? You know I’m right. Pumpkin risotto? Get out.

Oh, and because I believe strongly in surrounding oneself with the cozy reminders of what makes us happiest, I’m a believer in seasonal decor. If you’re into country kitsch, do it up. Antiques? Go for it. Since I’m the antiques-with-a-modern-twist girl, I’m working on finding a happy medium. Check out a couple of ideas (that still stand true) from last year:

The Fall Inspirations I Totally Heart
What I Attempted Last Year
A Fall Tableau (With Really Crappy Pictures)

What about you guys? What’s your favorite season? Do you go all out? Or do you live it up every day of the year?

A Quick Trip and Summer Check-In

So, we got away for a quick day trip to Old Forge last Friday! And, of course, the weather sucked. I mean, felt like a drizzly, cold autumn day. Luckily, we both love the fall, so it wasn’t a huge downer. Just a little road bump.

Here’s a quick recap of the day. Let’s see. We left a bit later than I had expected, but since I knew it wouldn’t be a super full day, it totally didn’t matter. And, unfortunately, Hadman wasn’t great in the car to OR from Old Forge. Eh. Ya win some, ya lose some.

We drove into town and found a parking spot. Since it wasn’t quite lunch time and the farmers’ market wasn’t open for business yet, we decided to make a stop at the Old Forge Hardware Store. It’s not really a hardware store as much as a general store, including tons of kitchen items and toys and books. Of course, we left with a book for the little guy.

Then, it was time for lunch. We hit up the Adirondack Cafe, and considering it’s hard to navigate this place without a stroller, it was great to be welcomed to the place. (Walt’s Diner was embarrassingly not great about it.) Tough when it’s a touristy town.

Anyhoo, we had a great meal, then walked through a fine mist over the infamous bridge down by the lake to see Hadman’s favorite — duckies! They were, luckily, loving the weather.

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Then, we decided to try the beach area nearby. Sure, it wasn’t warm enough to ENJOY it, but we had fun walking around and collecting things. And, of course, some more ducks came by to say “hi” again. I even stuck my feet in the sand (although it doesn’t really count on my summer list…not really what I meant).

We walked to the farmers’ market, but it started raining heavier and there wasn’t tons to choose from. We did leave with some wine from the Montezuma Winery (a super sweet Fat Frog Red and delicious Canvasback Red) and some raw honey for Dave.

After the market, we decided to drive the back roads near the ski slopes (you can actually ride the ski lift to get a great view, but with a wriggly 2-year-old and on-and-off rain, it wasn’t happenin’) and saw at least half a dozen random deer, a family of turkies, and a fox. Fun, fun!!

All the while, Dave and I realized we were both craving a donut. Just a cup of coffee and a donut. For some reason, we continued our drive in the opposite direction and happened upon this joint…

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Bingo! It was like a place you would’ve found in the ’40s. They only had coffee and two kinds of donuts. Just two tables for outdoor seating. It was perfect. And, yes, I wore a sweater and scarf. ‘Twas chilly! Just the right kind of day for a homemade donut and a big, super hot cup of coffee.

So, it wasn’t the greatest day ever, but we had a good time. It also makes me want to hit up a farmers’ market with more locally-grown produce, and that’s labeled for it. Just saying.

Oh, and what better time than now (not that summer’s over — it’s not!!!!) to check in with my summer fun list:

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A couple of them weren’t done as much as I like (like family walks, and the garden had a major issue I’ll get into later), but they were done. I’m also hoping to putter a bit more, get a WARM sandy day, and I’m thisclose to finishing two books. TWO! That’s humongous, folks.

How’s your summer going? And don’t tell me about your kids returning to school already. Our neck of the woods, the kids don’t go back (meaning I don’t return to work) until after Labor Day. Let me have this!!! 😉 Just kidding, you can tell me about it, but I’ll be plugging my ears and singing “la la la” the whole time.

Massachusetts Vacation 2014 – Concord, Pt. 1

Surprise! We snuck away for our family vacation last week! I didn’t post about it in advance because we’re those super-private, protective people who don’t like to announce when our home is free for the pickin’. Call us crazy (it’s okay, we’re used to it), but we’re mostly concerned about the kitties. 

Anyhoo, I figured I’d write a few posts on the trip itself (was going to do a quick rundown today, but I’m chatty), then share a post or two about how we kept a toddler happy along the way, how we alleviated some of the “rush here, rush there”ness of a road trip, a few of the sights we enjoyed most, and anything else that pops into my head along the way. Sound good?

Let’s just say from the start, this trip wasn’t a relaxing retreat. It was meant to be a fun family adventure, which usually recharges the adults’ minds, gives the little guy some new, fun experiences, and, though enjoyable, makes us all feel happy and lucky to return home safe and exhausted at the end of it. Check, check, and check! 

We left on Thursday to drive the 4+ hours to Concord, Mass. I picked Concord because I love its history and because the monkey is still way too unpredictable and non-listeny (totally a word… “disobedient” sounds so evil, and it’s not really accuratre) for a big joint like Boston or Philly. We also hoped to fit in some friend-visiting in western Mass, which we did; I, however, still feel guilty over the people that we missed. I’ve gotta get over it, and I know that a toddler is a natural time usurper, but I still feel badly.

So, anyhoo, we left just shy of 8am (later than I’d hoped) on Thursday morning, packed to the gills with clothes, toys, food, a pack ‘n play…pretty much everything in our house sans the cats. I’ve gotta say we lucked out with our monkey on the trip; for the most part, he was an absolute trooper while traveling. Sure, he got cranky once in awhile, but I was generally pleasantly surprised and proud of what a great boy he was for the drive.

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The trip out was long, but not bad. Hadman hadn’t slept well the night before and ended up in bed with us (see above picture; hugely rare these days), so we were all pretty tired; he fell asleep and did a morning nap vs. his usual afternoon nap. It was PERFECT for the drive to-and-from Mass. We took a couple of stops along the way, and we snacked on healthy stuff I’d packed for the road.

When we reached Concord, it was too early to check in, so we took a quick potty break at the visitors’ center (loudest. hand dryers. ever.) then parked on a Walden Street. We scoped out the storefronts for a game plan and decided to grab a meal at the Main Streets Market and Cafe. Again, after a week of terrible two behavior, I was shocked at how well-behaved Hadley was for lunch (for the most part). Oh, and the joint had awesome food. Top-notch, really.

We then hit up the Toy Shop of Concord, which was beyond awesome. It’s an independently-run joint and was super kid-friendly (one would hope), so it gave Hadley a chance to get out of his stroller and engage with other kids and (mostly) toys, toys, and more toys. The funny thing was, I love buying things we’ll use every day while on vacation to remind us of the fun trip we had, so I was fully planning on buying him whatever the heck he wanted…and he picked nothing. He enjoyed certain toys, but then moved on to the next thing, so it was impossible to get him to select something on his own. Eh. We ended up with a Green Toys submarine for some fun in the hotel bathtub that night.

After Dave threw more money in the meter, we hit up my favorite antique shop ever, Thoreauly Antiques. I mean, perfect, right?! The place isn’t very big, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in substance. Their selection is perfectly in-tune to a modern antique-collector. Here are just a few of the things I was eying:

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I seriously almost got one of the lavender sachets (either 3 or 6 for the “3 humans, 3 adults” or “6 altogether”). And the NY Central drove through my hometown, so, yeah.

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Sorry for the fuzzy picture; I had a man with a stroller hot on my heels. 😉 But the vignettes around every corner were just incredible. (That’s a plate of old keys, BTW.)

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Pages of French from the 1800’s. So much could be done with those. Oohh, la la. 

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Old hotel numbers on brass key chains. I started to look for our home number, but *someone* was getting fidgety. Not saying whom…who?…but it wasn’t Dave and it wasn’t me.

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More keys!

Knowing full well how almost-to-capacity our car was already, I didn’t grab a darn thing. We did head a few doors down and purchase a bit of candy (as a “thanks so much” gift for our neighbor and my mom, who watched the house and checked on the cats while we were gone…and as a gift to ourselves for eating such healthy snacks in the car) at Priscilla Candy Shop. In all honesty, the customer service left something to be desired, but the candy was worth it.

Then, we took one final stop at the GORGEOUS Concord Bookshop. My word. I’ve never seen a library or book store in my LIFE that was more impeccable than this one. I assume the shelves were mahogany, and everything built custom for the space. The book selection was insane (the first thing that hits you as you enter is the biography section…they must’ve seen me coming a mile away), and it was quieter than any library you could ever imagine (although it had a good stream of people swimming throughout). We purchased a few books then hit the road.

By the time we checked in and unloaded anything we’d need into our room at the hotel, it was after 5pm. Hadley was still bouncing with energy and I had no idea what to do for dinner. We found a couple of menus for a nearby Italian restaurant, so decided to order in for the night. (Very important tip I’ll dive into further in a future post: Know thyself. If your little one is probably not willing to sit still, going out to dinner — even if you had your hopes set on it — is not a “must” while on vacation.)

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Besides, we could sit back in our comfy clothes, allow him to run around, and watch precious C-A-B-L-E (HGTV FTW!). Plus, when I picked the food up I saw how dressy most of the people eating and working at the restaurant were, so it wouldn’t have suited us much, anyway. One large pizza, a pile of pasta, and two flan-ish desserts later, we were satiated (half the pizza went to waste; Hadley’s appetite was unusually chill). Two bathtimes later (Had’s and mine), Hadley was in the hotel-appointed crib…playing a highly amusing game (to him) called “Hi, Mama! Hi, Dada!” Ahem. Into the bed he came. Within moments, he and Dave were completely zonked. I finished my episode of House Hunters, read some more of my latest favorite book (Marmee & Louisa, highly appropriate to the trip), and went to sleep.

Have I mentioned how much I love the squishiness of sleeping in a hotel bed? Because I do. And, apparently, so does Hadley.

That’s it for today! I’ll stop by this week with the last activity at Concord, then meeting up with our friends back to the west. Yay!