Monthly Archives: November 2013

Berkshires Adventure Part III

While we were in the Berkshires, we also went to the Norman Rockwell museum.  Norman Rockwell was from Stockbridge, MA, and spent his later years there.  He’s most famous for illustrating the cover of the Saturday evening post for decades.  He also did Rosie the Riveter.  It’s funny how iconic many of his works are.  I really don’t know art, but I was familiar with canvas after canvas.  Walking through his illustrations was like walking through history.

After his death, a museum was created for his works, and his studio was moved there.  It is a really idyllic location.  The museum itself was a bit on the expensive side, but if you just want to see the grounds, there is no charge to wander around and see the studio.

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The leaves were just at their peak – beautiful!

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Rockwell’s studio.

They had a cool activity for the kids to do.  It was like a scavenger hunt – they had to look for particular paintings and then answer a question about them.  And of course, it was nice to once again be able to do some activities inside, and then run around outside to get our wiggles out.  Here are Aaron and Lydia playing among the apple trees on the museum grounds:

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Berkshires Adventure Part II

While on our mini-vacation in the Berkshires, we went to the Hancock Shaker Village, located in Pittsfield, MA.  It’s a living museum, meaning there are volunteers that are working in various areas doing what people would have done in the 19th century – blacksmithing, caning, cooking, farming.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  The land and the buildings are meticulously maintained.  There weren’t very many people there, so we were able to have long talks with the various volunteers who were all friendly and clearly loved what they were doing.

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The Shakers were a religious sect that believed in strict division between the sexes.  When they gathered, the women all sat on one side of the room, with the men on the other, and they sat facing each other.  There was a women’s workhouse, where the women’s work was done (weaving and broom-making), and a men’s workhouse, where they made chairs and other furniture.  They did quite a business selling their goods – particularly their furniture.  Not surprisingly, they died out (I guess that’s what happens when you can’t touch each other – no new members are ever born!).

The Shakers were not afraid of new technology.  They embraced a lot of newfangled ideas.  When they had a catastrophic barn fire, they spent several years constructing a circular stone barn.  I asked one of the volunteers why the barn looked the way it did.  What was wrong with the traditional red wooden barn that you see everywhere (still!) in New England?  Here is their barn:

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It turns out they put a lot of thought into the design of this barn.  Rather than expending energy throwing hay up into the hay loft of a traditional style barn, only to have to pitch it down again for the cattle to eat, they made the second story of their barn accessible to oxen carts via a dirt ramp.  The oxen carts would drive up into the second floor and around the circle, and the hay would be pushed off the cart and down into the center, where it would be ready for the cows to eat when they came in.  The cows themselves stood with the front of their bodies on slightly raised platform where the milking would be done, and their back ends lowered a bit, so that any cow patties would end up on the lower floor, and the milk canisters stayed clean on the platform.  There were hatch doors in the lower floor that could be opened and the cow patties could be shoved right down and into a waiting cart below, which would then drive up and out and away to fertilize the fields.  It was really ingenious, especially considered there was nothing even remotely like it in this region.

The kids had a great time – there’s nothing like a museum that involves spending time out of doors!  When the littler ones got tired of looking at furniture and things inside, they ran around outside.  Here they are tumbling around in the grass outside while we were learning about the history of the Shaker chair:

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The other fun thing was that the sheep were just roaming around free.  They wandered in and out of the barn, and the kids walking through them, which they were ok with, until they weren’t, and then they’d run off all in a pack.  It really did feel like stepping through time.

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Speaking of stepping through time – here is the bathroom.  Thankfully they had actual bathrooms for visitors. to use, because I was not getting anywhere near one of those corncobs!

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We’ll definitely be back there someday… there was a lot to see, and it’s one of those places that I think you could get something new out of every time you go.

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Berkshires Adventure Part I

We’ve lived in Massachusetts for 10 years now, and until this fall we had never been out to the Berkshires – the Stockbridge, Lenox, Lee area.  A happy confluence of events ended up providing us with a week’s stay at a time-share resort just outside of Stockbridge.  While we couldn’t take an entire week off of work or school, we scheduled a mini-vacation over Columbus Day weekend and headed west.

The resort is one of those time-share resorts, where you buy two weeks worth of vacation and can choose among all of the resort properties.  This one is nestled in the hills just outside of Stockbridge, MA.  We had no idea what to expect, and ended up being very happy with our two bedroom condo.  They had two indoor pools, mini-golf, and an arcade.

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Lydia almost made a hole-in-one!

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Jake golfing like a pro!

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Nate looking hot. Just because.

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Aaron has a bit of difficulty keeping the ball on the course. Said the lady who almost got beaned with his ball whilst taking pictures of him.

I have never, nor will I ever, understand the pull of the arcade.  The lights, the noise, the chaos – for me it’s an automatic headache.  Add to that all the little germy kids running around putting their little germy hands all over everything, that you are then expected to touch.  And add to that the tickets that you earn to buy “prizes”… prizes that cost about $10 to earn, and are worth approximately $0.23.  We gave each of the kids $10 to spend.  Gone are the days of stuffing quarters into slots.  Now, you put cash *or your ATM card!* into a machine, and it spits out a card with money value on it.  You then swipe the card through the various game machines, and they deduct your hard-earned money and add tickets.  I warned my little angels that $10 was all they were going to get all weekend, which they of course blew through in about 20 minutes.  The real meltdown didn’t come until it was time to turn the tickets in.  Jake didn’t care – I don’t think he traded his tickets for a prize at all.  Aaron was beside himself that they had little plastic soldiers – one for two tickets.  So he depleted their soldier supply and traded all his tickets for soldiers.  So far so good.

Then it was Lydia’s turn.  It was going fine until she realized that Aaron has won many many more tickets than she had (he had played this spin-a-wheel thing that won him a whole crapload of tickets).  Once she realized that she would only get two small prizes while Aaron got a bagful of soldiers, she completely lost it.  We had to leave without choosing any prizes.  Once we got back to the condo and she calmed down, we discussed going back and trying again to chose her prizes.  Eventually she realized that we were really not going to add any money to her card, and she was going to have to choose her prizes or get no prizes at all, so she begrudgingly chose a couple little trinkets and we mercifully said goodbye to the arcade.

Stay tuned for more Berkshire adventures, including the Hancock Shaker village and the Norman Rockwell museum!

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Lost in the Corn

Every year we go to Mike’s Maze in Sunderland, MA.  It’s a corn maze that is more than a corn maze.  Each year has a theme that goes along with the design of the maze.  This year’s design was a portrait of Salvador Dali, the mind-bending artist who employed optical illusion in his works.  If you look at it, you’ll see that it looks easy – not even maze-like.  But here’s the hitch.  There are about 20 different stations within the maze, and at each one you’re supposed to answer a question.  So you have to find your way through the entire maze, and this year it was really hard.  There were a lot of small paths that led nowhere, so we were frequently having to double back, and getting turned around.  But we persevered, got to all the stations, and answered all the questions.  They all had to do with optical illusions, so we had to stare at pictures, and read funny writing.  It was fun for the kids.  Heck, it was fun for us grown-ups, too!

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As we were wandering lost through the maze at one point, we realized we were at the very edge of the maze – and right up against this very pretty old cemetery. I had to snap a shot through the corn.

In keeping with the optical illusion theme, they had built an Ames room.  It’s a room that’s built with very specific proportions so that it looks like a regular room, but the people or objects on one side appear to be HUGE.  The kids had a great time goofing off in there making Nate look 2 feet tall!

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Each year’s theme is fun, but I thought this year’s theme was extra fun, and educational, too!  I can’t wait to find out what next year’s fun will be!

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Apples of My Eye

 

This fall was almost a bust for apple picking.  If you know us, you know we love apples.  For some reason, my kids eat more apples than should be humanly possible.  Especially the biggest one – he eats up to four apples a day.  When I go to the grocery store, the check-out clerk invariably says, “Making applesauce, eh?”  No.  We just eat this ridiculously large number of apples every week.  So it stands to reason that one of our favorite fall activities is apple picking.  It combines two of our favorite things – being outdoors, and apples!

The glitch this year is that our normal apple orchard has fallen on rough times.  We’ve noticed for years that they haven’t seemed to be taking care of the apple trees – they’ve become overgrown, too tall, and the land between the trees has not been properly groomed to make for ease of picking.  Each year it’s gotten a little harder to find non-spotty and non-wormy apples, and a little harder to physically pick said apples.  We’ve always gone to this orchard because it’s near where Nate grew up.  In fact, many many many years ago, his family owned that land.  So it has historical significance, in addition to the years and years of memories we have of it.  Anyway, we showed up there this fall to pick apples, and they said they didn’t have apples to pick this year.  They said a freak hail storm had come up and ruined the apple crop.  We think they just didn’t have any good apples this year for lack of caring properly for them, which is a real shame.  So we went away dejected.

A few weeks go by, and we’re all still longing for apple picking, so we went to a closer-to-home orchard that the kids had had field trips at in their pre-school years.  It turned out to be lovely.  Their trees are pruned so that the fruit is reachable, it is nicely groomed for ease of walking from tree to tree, and they had so many different varieties – all clearly marked.  We came away with many, many apples of many, many varieties.

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Look at how relieved they are to FINALLY be picking apples!!



 

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Mums!

Our local college puts on two flower shows each year, the Bulb Show in the spring, and the Mum show in the fall.  We try to make it to both, because a) flowers are nice, and b) it gives us a great excuse to wander the whole plant house, visit all the rooms, and marvel at the strange and wondrous things contained there-in.  We always have a great time.  Added bonus this year: the first day of the show coincided with the last day of my parent’s fall visit, so we got to show Grandma and Grandpa all of the flowers.

These mums were grown high up and then trellised down the wall:

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This giant mum is about the size of a grapefruit.  Apparently, if you start a mum plant, and keep trimming and trimming and trimming it until it’s growing just one long stalk upward, it will bloom this gigantor-mum at the top:

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A little reflection pool in the mum room – when people found mum-heads that had broken off their plants, the placed them in the pool.  You can see the greenhouse glass reflected:

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These are not mums, but they are some of the most interesting flowers I’ve ever seen:

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Stay tuned for more fall adventures in the coming days as I try to catch up with my blogging life…

 

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Fall in New England

Fall is the most beautiful time of year here in New England, and for us, it’s also the busiest time of year.  School starts, with all that entails, plus two birthdays, the yearly visit from the California parents, and all the fall activities that we enjoy each year.  As a result, I’ve been remiss at updating the old blog.  But here I am, giving you some scenes of fall from our beautiful neighborhood.

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We are very lucky to live near the campus of a small liberal arts college, giving us access to beautiful grounds to enjoy year round.  Of course, the fall is the most beautiful time.

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Isn’t it strange how summer and winter both seem endless, while spring and fall go by in a heartbeat?

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