Thursday, July 30, 2009

Play Date with Uncle Paul

On Father's Day, when we went to a Hudson Valley Renegades game, Duncan asked us if we could go to a game with Paul. We called Paul right away to see if he was game, and he loved the idea, so last Sunday, we met him at Dutchess Stadium. Jamie and I watched the baseball game.  Duncan and Paul ate hot dogs and ice cream, strolled around hugging strange creatures in costumes (Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Rascal and Rookie Raccoon), posed for photos, stole each other's noses, and were very surprised at the bottom of the 8th when the game was nearly over. Both of them were clearly despondent when we walked back to the car. However, it turns out that the stadium is about an hour drive for us and 30 minutes for Paul so we hope to meet there more often in the future.

Always and Forever

"Mama, when I am a man, I will still love you."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

When I was a child, I went to Bash Bish Falls a lot. My grandmother lived in Copake, New York, and she worked a hop, skip, and jump from Taconic State Park. There are even pictures of me as a toddler with both of my grandmothers at Bash Bish Falls. Since I have lived in Amenia, it has long been a favorite place to hike, to photograph, to hang out, and to contemplate life. Jamie took me there on the first of my birthdays we spent together, and we huddled in the snow and ice, maybe even drinking champagne if my memory serves me. It's possible I made that part up. 

I missed Bash Bish when we lived in Connecticut, and Kent Falls, in Kent, CT, just doesn't have the same appeal. Since we moved back, I guess we have been waiting for Duncan to be old enough to walk to the top because neither of us has felt up to carrying him.  We weren't sure if he would enjoy it, but we told him we were going on a hike, and he perked right up. He loved the idea. He loved that we were packing lunches to eat while we were walking. "This is hiking?" he asked as we headed up the trail.

He made it all the way up (it's only 3/4 mile, but it's uphill; well, obviously, it is, and he has little legs). We rested once on the walk up and once on the walk down. He got a little antsy on the way down and complained of being tired, but we were nearly there so he soldiered on. As we walked back into the parking lot, I exclaimed "You made it!"  He echoed "I MADE IT!" Duncan liked "hiking."  I had already decided that if he could walk the whole way, we could start taking some short hikes as a family. I'm surprised at how happy I am that we'll be able to add that activity back into our lives again.

Beauty in the Eye

Some days, even the compost is attractive.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I have no earthly idea what's going on with my fonts.  Please forgive me.

Berkshire Botanical Garden, 2009

Need to luxuriate in gorgeous gardens but don't have time to go all the way to the Bronx? Berkshire Botanical Garden is a short drive from Amenia (realize that a short drive from Amenia is about 45 minutes) and sits in the heart of Stockbridge, MA, home of several other historical, educational, and beautiful tourist sites, like The Norman Rockwell Museum, Shakespeare & Company, and Naumkeag. Any combination of those destinations makes for a lovely summer day trip.

Jamie and I have been to Berkshire Botanical Garden a few times; we even considered getting married there. Last year, we enjoyed an exhibit of sculptures from MassMoCA. This year, we headed there to see "Gone With the Wind:  The Kinetic Art of Tim Prentice." I continue to have mixed feelings about that kind of modern art juxtaposed with more classical gardens; however, I like gardens, I like sculpture, and I like to think I have an open mind, especially about art. Although the pieces appeared metallic and architectural in and of themselves, their movement achieved an organic quality that surprised me.  It turned out that the gardens were a perfect backdrop.  

Even if you don't agree with the modern sculpture, the gardens are always photo worthy. There's a perennial bed, an herb garden, a vegetable garden, a rose garden, a lily garden, and pond garden, all tucked into a little acreage in Stockbridge. Other exhibits include Contained Exuberance: A Fresh Look at Gardening in Pots and Guest Gardens by Martha Stewart, Jack Staub, and Page Dickey. If you live nearby, consider a trip to the gardens; you won't be sorry you did.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green Grass

It's the little things my husband says and does that really matter. This is my new love song:  "I just want a lawn mower that doesn't require fossil fuel."

More later on why we even need a lawn mower since we live in campus housing, and the maintenance crew "cuts" our lawn...for now, I will simply revel in the beauty of making a difference.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rhymes With...

It tickles me that Duncan loves to rhyme. It's just plain cute, to begin with, but the ability to rhyme at this age is a good predictor of future reading ability. I feel pretty secure that Duncan will have no difficulty learning to read. Tonight, after a particularly naughty day (we're all tired and cranky as we catch up on our camping sleep), he rhymed all through dinner and his bath. He rhymes real words and loves creating nonsense words. "Did you know _______ rhymes with ______?" He even created his own game that went something like this. "What would we do if we had no chair?" The other player needs to create a funny answer that ends in a word that rhymes with the key word. "We'd have to sit with the bear." I was pretty impressed that he created this language puzzle and enjoyed it so much. 

My favorite rhyme this evening: "Door rhymes with boar and whore!"

(Note:  We are really NOT using the word whore around our house. Duncan created it as a nonsense word. Just in case you were concerned...)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chubby Bunny Update

We are slowly adjusting to being shareholders. We have figured out how to work our trips to the farm into our weekly grocery routine, and I'm becoming more accustomed to planning a week's worth of menus around the produce. 

It's not a perfect setup. We receive an e-mail early in the week that tells us what will be in this week's share, and then when we get there, there are inevitably four or five things I haven't planned for, and I need to scramble to find a way to use them. There is still more salad than we need, more swiss chard than we care for, and not enough broccoli. The first week or two, we found we were having refrigeration issues. Our vegetables were going bad before we got to them, which was curious since they were freshly picked. We are learning what needs to be used right away, what needs to be stored in the vegetable bin in the fridge, and at what temperature and humidity we need to maintain the conditions.  We learned that the lovely cotton, drawstring produce bags I purchased are not working for us (though they're working fine for Karl). What has been far more successful are those "as seen on T.V." Debbie Meyer produce bags that are said to absorb the gases that make fruits and vegetables go bad. I didn't believe in them but heard from several people how great they are, and so they have been for us. We are still wasting things; there is an entire cabbage hiding in there, half from two weeks ago and half from last week. I don't know what we'll do with it but hope we'll actually use it. All in all, we have adjusted to getting the food in the house, but what have we been eating?

Salad, and a lot of it.  I can't keep up with the salad. I was not saddened today to find out that this week's rains reduced the salad share. How much salad can you eat, really? One pound of greens is a LOT for two people (Duncan won't eat salad). The salad has been great, however, with the turnips, which I continue to enjoy, with the radishes, and with the broccoli. Scallions have come in handy. Some surprises included kale, which we enjoyed in a kale and corn salad (pictured with veggie burger), that caused Jamie to declare that of all the new things we had tried, it was his favorite. Much to my surprise, I also liked beets, broiled with a sauce of butter, maple syrup, and soy sauce. The little, purple, alien kohlrabi were my favorite. By the time we shared them with Karl, there weren't a lot, but they were sort of sweet with the texture of a potato. I look forward to having them again. We have not yet been won over by swiss chard, which we have tried in a number of different ways. In polenta, it was miserable. I liked it best with raisins and pine nuts; Jamie liked it best with a sweet and sour sauce with ginger and hot pepper. "Liked" is a relative term though. Of all the things we have tried, chard is the one I would not purchase in the grocery store. Last week and this week brought us some old favorites; green beans, carrots, raspberries, garlic. It's refreshing not to have to think of what to do with them, but that comfort comes at the expense of losing that little bit of excitement in trying something new.

I'm still happy about experimenting with Community Supported Agriculture. As with any other part of life, it has its ups and downs, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Sure, I'm trying some strange things, and learning what to do with them is a lot of work. Sure, the swiss chard keeps coming, and I just don't like it. Sure, I don't know if locally grown, organic kohlrabi really tastes better than it does from the supermarket because I have no basis for comparison. But it's just plain better for us. I've read enough now about pesticides to be concerned. I've read enough about how far the average item in the grocery store travels, at the price of expensive, nonrenewable, polluting fossil fuels. I KNOW where my vegetables come from and how they are grown. If I have a question, I can e-mail the farmer. 

Here's what else I like though. I like standing next to my son in a field picking green beans. I LOVE that he got into the car and wanted to eat a raw green bean, warm from the sun. I LOVE that one of the things he wants to be when he grows up is a farmer (well, I hope he gets over that, but I like the idea that it's a sustainable industry). I LOVE that he has gotten closer to the source of his food and knows what it looks like when it's in the dirt. It makes me feel better about our future, as individuals and as a population that is sharing the planet with so many others. Today, what made my day was this quote from Jamie: "I have to admit that when I look at the produce in the grocery store now, I'm slightly repulsed by it - especially the fruit. All the wax and preservatives." There has to be a better way, and there is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ghosts at the House That Ruth Built


Yankee Stadium '09

It was bittersweet: walking around The House That Ruth Built to get to the new Yankee Stadium. With the newness, fortunately, came an incredible ease at managing security. If you don't remember the trials we faced trying to get into Yankee Stadium with Duncan last summer, please revisit that post. We were better prepared for this trip, to be sure. We didn't even attempt to take in a diaper bag. Duncan's spare clothes were packaged in individual Zip-Loc bags, and remembering having our spray-on sunscreen thrown away last year, we took wipe-on sunscreen in individual, disposable packages. Everything was contained in a disposable, plastic grocery bag in case we had to surrender it. Happily, it was all easy. Sure, we had to turn on our cell phones and cameras to get in, but the security staff was quick, efficient, and pleasant.  

Yankee Stadium is notorious for its ticket prices, which have only increased with the move across the street. Our seats were pretty high up because that's what we could afford, but those seats are not as steep as the old stadium, and they are grouped in smaller sections. The end result was that I was only slightly uncomfortable being so high up because I could only really envision myself falling down 10 rows. The last time we sat that high up I wouldn't leave my seat. We sat high up once for a subway series and once for a game we attended with John and Kathy. When we were that high, I wouldn't even get up to go to the bathroom. Luckily, we also sat on the end of the row, which came in handy as we took Duncan on walks to keep him from getting bored. It was furiously hot up there, but we were only steps away from the concourse, which is covered but open, creating a nice wind tunnel that dropped the temperature at least 10 degrees. 

Concession stands were plentiful and lines reasonable. One of my favorite features of the new ball park is the calorie count listed next to all the food products. It turns out that a hot dog is about one of the lowest calorie items you can buy at a ball park at about 275 calories. A soft pretzel tops in at abut 600, slightly more than ice cream (530 - 590, depending on flavor). Some people are probably finding this excess of information disturbing; I find it comforting. I like knowing exactly what damage I'm doing to my diet. I liked thinking that ice cream was a better choice than a pretzel. Another feature I appreciated was the garbage. No, really. Yankee Stadium composts. No joke. Each bank of garbage bins has one can for trash, one for recyclables, and one for compost. They could use some signs to explain what people can compost, but it's a great start. I happened to notice that my plastic cup was compostable as well as the cardboard try they put our food in. I've been told that the new stadium is a fairly green structure, right down to the low flow toilets, and I was happy to hear it. But composting at Yankee Stadium...who would have thunk it.  

Duncan had a lot of fun. Granted, he told us later that his favorite part of the day was the train ride, and he did need to wander quite a bit during the game, but we made it through six innings, double how long we lasted last year. There was plenty for him to watch, and he enjoyed clapping and cheering with the crowd. He told us he was a Blue Jays fan, which is a step up. Last we knew, he supported the Red Sox. I don't think any of us watched much of the game. I watched Joe Girardi get ejected for contesting Jeter being called out stealing third when there was no tag. Jamie and Duncan were out walking. I missed some big action too while Duncan and I were walking down the ramps and up the stairs, but we enjoyed the atmosphere.

I'm not sure when we'll get back to Yankee Stadium again, probably not until Duncan will remember and appreciate it, but we're proud to say he saw the old stadium in its last season and the first season in the new one. The old and the new, the young and the old; life is good.  

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday America

Since Duncan was born, we have had rather lackluster Independence Day celebrations. Until this summer he was napping, which impeded our ability to go anywhere interesting. Fireworks happen long after his bed time. We have stayed at home, pretending to celebrate with a cookout and some sparklers, but it wasn't the same. I enjoyed a childhood of military 4th's (and THEY can do it up) as well as a lot of great adult times with friends and family. We just hadn't come up with a good way to celebrate with Duncan.

This year, we decided to return to the Clermont Historic Site, where they were having an historical celebration. We toured the house, and a few costumed characters discussed their role in the Livingston family's history and the Revolutionary War. For the children, there were games (cherry pit spitting contest, three legged race, ugliest face), crafts, and a story hour. Other entertainment included a fife and drum band, musket firing demonstrations, a lecture about period undergarments (would I lie to you?), and free ice cream and watermelon sponsored by Stewart's. The Clermont offered a good view of the site where the fireworks were set to go off, but we didn't stay.  Maybe next year.

It turned out to be a perfect way for us to spend Independence Day (which we explained to Duncan was America's birthday). He was entranced by the fife and drum band and sat watching them for nearly an hour. We watched the children's games; the finish of the three-legged race was quite controversial as one child alleged that another's father and pushed her over. The man who did the story hour turned out to be "Tom the Music Man" who does a program with the kids at Duncan's preschool once a month. We ate ice cream and every manner of fried and disgusting food. And then it was time to go home. We enjoyed a little history, good music, and some food that was bad for us and made it home in time for bedtime.

Happy Birthday America.

Wanted: New Barbecue Tongs

The day before we went camping, Jamie and Duncan were packing the camping equipment in the car. Jamie opened his glove compartment to get the key for the car top carrier only to find...a field mouse. He tried to catch him, but the mouse got away. He appeared to have chewed up some Kleenex as well as the car iPod adapter cords. We assumed we had scared him away and continued getting ready for our trip.

The morning we left, Jamie went back into the glove compartment, and there was the mouse again! After failing to catch him again, Jamie went out for traps, and we set sticky traps in the glove compartment.

We left for our trip. I was a little uncomfortable for the obvious reasons: who knows what a mouse could chew up in there; who knows what he could ruin if he nested in there; would he get into our camping food, which we usually store in the car? We checked the glove compartment frequently throughout the trip but saw no further trace of the mouse. We were free.

On Thursday, two days after we returned, Jamie was out running errands and noticed a slightly familiar, offensive smell when he turned on the air conditioner. When he returned home to investigate, he found a mouse corpse nestled into a small space between the glove compartment and the engine. He had already tried a number different tools to remove the mouse, but to no avail. Finally, he gave in and used the only thing long enough that had a pincer grip to grasp the rodent body; our barbecue tongs.

Mickey is gone, but we could use some new barbecue tongs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Into the Woods

Camping was unexpectedly successful. Jamie may have expected it to go as well as it did, but I was trepidatious. Duncan appears to be relatively well adjusted, resilient, and open to new things, but he has his moments, and in those moments, he literally digs in his heels and refuses to participate. Camping could either have gone well or horribly wrong; in my worst case scenario, we would have been forced to return at 9 p.m. on the first day.  Happily, I was wrong.

For the most part, Duncan reveled in being in the woods. He enjoyed all the new and different things; tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, camp fires, camp stove. It turned out that Lake Taghkanic has great rest rooms, at least where our camp site was. Each unisex lavatory had its own shower and toilet, which proved to be the perfect set-up for a three-year old's burgeoning potty training skills and bathing. The camp ground was relatively uncrowded on the Sunday through Tuesday before Independence Day so we didn't have to feel we had a captive audience for any family drama that erupted. Sleeping proved to be a bit tricky, as it always is when Duncan is involved. Given the novelty of the scene and the impossibility of light-proofing a tent, Duncan went to sleep after nine the first night and around 8:30 the second night. And don't think he would sleep in. Just don't entertain that fantasy. I didn't.  

The weather cooperated pretty well. It didn't rain at all except for a few showers here and there. On Monday, our plan was to spend most of the day at the beach so we were a little concerned when we woke to gray, gray skies. By the time we had breakfast, took a walk, and played on the playground, however, the sky had begun to clear, and we headed to the beach. Duncan had fun playing in the sand and watching the other kids. He's still a little anxious about the water, but he did venture in. We had lunch on the beach and then went out in a rowboat. Duncan proudly "rowed the boat," which means he managed to hold one oar while Jamie kept us from tipping over.  Duncan and Jamie grilled hot dogs on the fire, we fought the gnats, and we roasted marshmallows.  Good, clean (sort of) fun was had by all.

S'mores, campfires, and tent-sleeping seem to have made their mark.  We survived two nights on our first trip and felt brave enough to book a second trip.  I've been wanting to go to Old Sturbridge Village for a while so we're going to camp at a nearby campground and spend a day there.  I don't imagine we'll sleep any better, but Duncan is pretty excited to go camping again.  

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Say the Right Thing

My little boy is in training to be a great man.  I'm working on learning to appreciate the sincerity, even if it means I have to walk away to laugh out loud.  About my exercise regimen, Duncan says:

"You're getting smaller Mama."
"You're getting TINY."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

And In Case You Needed a Good Laugh

Duncan is usually pretty photogenic, almost frighteningly photogenic, but sometimes he does this thing in the car when he's bored. Not so attractive. When he is 16, I will be in big trouble for this, but so it goes. That's why I get paid to be the Mom.

American Leonardo

I have driven past Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie innumerable times in the last 21 years but never ventured into the former home of Samuel F. B. Morse. We arrived at Locust Grove just in time for the first tour, a private tour as it turned out. Our tour guide was a stooped and aging man who returned to the porch after showing us the house and sat peacefully on the wrap-around porch to await the next visitors. I wondered how long his rest would last. I expect he had plenty of time for a siesta.

Morse was a painter by training; after he graduated from Yale, he attended the Royal Academy in London and later founded the National Academy of Design and served as its president for 20 years. Most of us know him better as an inventor; on a trip home from Paris, he conjured the idea of the telegraph and Morse code, and he returned home to realize his vision. His invention made him a wealthy man, more so than the portraits he commissioned in New England, but he would continue to apply his artist's eye as he developed his new home in Poughkeepsie.

Morse and his first wife purchased the property in Poughkeepsie in 1847, and he set about converting the Federal house into a Tuscan style villa.  He added wings to the north and south and created an octagonal room, a porte-cochere, a billiards room, and a four story tower that faces the river.  In 1901, the property was acquired by the Young family, who continued to develop the property.  The interior remains exactly as it was the day its final owner, Annette Innis Young, passed away.

I enjoyed the tour.  The house has an interesting collection of artifacts, including Chippendale furniture, Hudson River School paintings, and English silver.  The grounds are free and offer about three miles of tranquil walking trails and gardens.  One of my favorite features was what appeared to be a community garden that was being tended by local families.  The next time you drive by Locust Grove, think about taking an hour to stop in for a visit.  It's a quick and worthwhile trip back to the 1800's.

Bowdoin Park

We've had a slow start to Duncan's summer field trips.  Last week, we needed to make a trip to Target in Poughkeepsie before we went camping so tacked on an afternoon at Bowdoin Park, which has a nice playground and a fantastic water feature.  I forgot to take a picture of the water, but it was essentially a sprinkler park, complete with three turtles that spouted water at various intervals.  Duncan wasn't interested, but maybe next time.  He did enjoy the playground, and it was nice to spend time by the river on one of the few sunny days we've had since summer began.