One afternoon last week Elle and I collected Maya from school and we drove to the Reeves Reed Arboretum. It is in a neighbouring town not too far from our house. Close enough to make it an after school trip. This was the first time we had been there. Much like Van Vleck House, which we often go to, it is a private estate with amazing gardens, now open to the public. Some time last year I saw a photographic exhibition at the Montclair Library, and in the exhibition were some photos of a daffodil garden. When I saw the picture I thought to myself, I must visit this place. I wrote the name down - Reeves Reed Arboretum , and made a mental note that I would seek this garden out next Spring. I am so glad I did. I have not ever seen so many daffodils growing in one place. They take up an entire hill side, which as the name suggests, is like a bowl. A bowl filled with daffodils.
I invited Anneliese and her girls to come along, and it was really nice to get a photo of the four girls together in the daffodils. We went a little early so only half of the daffodils were in full bloom. Still it was gorgeous. Anneliese had a nice tour of the gardens with her girls, whilst I was dealing with some behaviour issues and an accident! Perfect garden outing it was not. Elle became very enraged because Maya whispered something to Bea and then they ran off and Elle could not keep up. Poor little sister – who almost yelled the house down. Oh dear! Then Maya decided she did not want to walk on the garden path out of the daffodil bowl and instead started walking up the hill off the path. I suggested she not do this, and while she was protesting she tripped over and fell down the hill. Like a cartoon character she tumbled head over heels. Getting scratches all over her arms. Poor big sister – who was then in tears. I could be heard saying “well you should have stayed to the path you silly goose”. Thankfully Maya recovers quickly despite my not being a very sympathetic Mother in that moment. I certainly had two daff-o-dils on my hands.
Non the less from all of this, we had a lovely time. I baked a carrot cake and Anneliese made iced tea. We had a picnic in the shade and admired the trees returning to life after a long winter. The girls chased a butterfly, and Anneliese spotted birds and nests. So dearly love my naturalist friend.
My girls felt put out to pose for photos, which I suspected would be the case and so they were given the incentive of cake (Nothing wrong with bribing them with fresh baked carrot cake is there?). I could not miss out on photos like this.
The estate appears to have a lovely rose garden, and a woodland path. We went specifically to see the daffodils, but from what I read on the website there are many beautiful things about this garden at other times of the year also. It was gorgeous to see the garden glowing with golden daffodil heads. Such happy flowers. Spring has sprung my friends, and it was so very worth the wait.
Widely celebrated as one of the world’s leading sculpture parks, Storm King Art Center has welcomed visitors from across the globe for fifty years. It is located only one hour north of New York City, in the lower Hudson Valley, where its pristine 500-acre landscape of fields, hills, and woodlands provides the setting for a collection of more than 100 carefully sited sculptures created by some of the most acclaimed artists of our time.
Now that Spring has sprung, we are going to plan another trip to Storm King. We went there for the first time in the Fall with Cam’s Dad and his wife Lynne – that is everyone under the sculpture! It was one of the best things we have done since moving to New York City, and I look forward to going there again. Storm King is amazing, just so beautiful. If you like Sculpture, and gardens, and a walk through a park with outstanding views, then you will love Storm King. We found it was a great extended family outing. Enjoyable for both the Grandparents, and the children. Especially great for energetic children, they get to run and run and run, as there are no waiting or lines in sight. They asked that you do not to climb on the sculptures (rocks are ok!) which at times is very tempting – even for grown ups!
We packed some hot tea and snacks and had a quick picnic before we set out walking the 500 acres. There is an open air cafe near the car parking lot that offers some yummy options – you know I like good quality, and I was impressed. We walked and walked and walked, all over the park. The girls were fantastic, literally walking for 4 hours. We made many seated stops to take in the scenery, and there were some pick-me-up moments and with a few shoulder rides here and there. So grateful they are good walkers.
We were treated to a rain storm while there, which had us all run for cover under various sculptures. It was very dramatic with dark grey clouds rolling in, dropping heavy rain and then parting as quickly as they came. It was all so moody and appropriate given the name…we were lucky that it did not cut our day short. The rain clouds lightened up and we continued on or way.
There is an open tour trolly ride available, which we jumped aboard at the end of our day to cover some distance quickly. Despite walking for hours we did not see everything. There are also push bikes for rent, and so you can pack a picnic for your love and the pair of you can bike around Storm King – sounds romantic right? When we were there we saw many hipsters doing just that. It made me want to be young and in love (and a hipster)…all is not lost…the love part I can do, and so this Spring we plan on doing the bike n’picnic combo…but of course we will have the children with us. Anyone else want to come too? Let me know and we can set the date!
It was hard for me to decide what my favorite sculpture was. I adore Andy Goldsworthy and it was a highlight to see “Storm King Wall” by him, but after much thought my favorite piece is “Storm King Wavefield” by Maya Lin. You can read about it in the NY Times. I grew up between rolling green paddocks and the ocean, these undulating hills feel so right to me. I love how the trodden people path is like the cow paths of my family farm. This work speaks to my soul on so many levels.
Like I said, we went in early Autumn. I have heard it is especially beautiful in late Autumn when the leaves are at their peak colour. Each season brings something unique to the experience. I look forward to visiting one day when the wildflowers are in bloom. Storm King is the perfect outing when you want to get away from the day to day of regular life, and need something restorative rather than stimulating. It is a Zen paradise that recharges the soul.
Storm King is open Wednesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from April through November. Opening hours are 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (grounds remain open until 8:00 pm on Saturdays, May 26–September 1, and on Sunday May 27 and Sunday September 2); until 5:00 pm in November. Storm King is open only on weekends after November 11 (November 17–18 and 24–25). The 2012 Storm King season closes on November 25.
Senior Citizens (65 and older) $10
College Students (with valid id) $8
Students (K-12) $8
Children under 5 Free
Wow, I have just had another long blog break. Couldn’t keep the momentum going after Christmas. This time of year when the days are short and grey, I have to use all of my positive life force to stay on top of it. It is amazing how weather can effect your whole being, and I feel really effected by the cold short days. After a few months of the frigid, grey, barren landscape I start to yearn for another life. Which is kind of silly you know, because I have a good life, right here, right now.
To combat the winter blues what is one to do? Eat well, exercise, visit with friends, go to art galleries and when things get really blue, well one must go shopping! Given we live 16 miles from one of the best shopping metropolis in the world, this thought comes to mind pretty quickly. The truth of the matter though, is that I am not a carefree shopper anymore. I am plagued with a consumer conscious. I try and tread lightly when it comes to purchases, and shopping for no reason (other than I can and want to) does not sit well with me. Yes, alright, I know, shopping can be fun, and it is thrilling to buy pretty new things, and part of me wishes I could be in that ignorant place, and be in denial about my role on earth…but I just can’t. I know it all counts…every little bit. So better I feel proud of the things I DON’T own and be able to say, I am really trying not to shop, and I chose not to buy that.
BUT – trying not to shop does not stop me. One of the ways I talk myself around this is that I am allowed to purchase art and craft supplies and handmade art and craft of others. Art and craft after all has lasted and evolved through the ages. It is known to increase moral, reduce stress and keep people occupied. People find peace, contentment, and reward in arts and crafts. The arts and crafts foster skills, and savors time. Enough said.
I allow myself the pleasure of shopping for supplies, and then I also have the pleasure of creating and the reward of making. This elongates the whole process of acquiring an object. It gives my possessions a greater journey and it eliminates some of the guilt I feel about suppressing others into factory work on my behalf. If you are in any doubt about what I am talking about, then you must, please watch this film. Cam and I have watched a few films lately, across various genres and topics, and a common thread I found in them is that they all portrayed richer more powerful people suppressing others into undesirable positions, intentionally, or inadvertently. I hate seeing a life led into an unpleasant existence because they feel they do not have any other choice – or because it is all too easy. Can you imagine being in the position of “I need money, I need a job, there is nothing else available, so I will work in the factory down the road gutting a pig”. Because people eat a lot of bacon, pork, pig, and they always need workers. I have this Utopian view, that If I do not want the things that are made in dismal soul destroying factories, then the jobs wont be available, and as is human nature to survive, the people would find something else to do. Hopefully. There is supply and demand and there is demand and supply. If people stop buying the item, then eventually, factories stop production of the item, and people do something else with their life. But what? What ever the demand calls for…and so join me friends, please make ethical demands. Demand things that come from a good place. Demand that workers be treated well. Demand that we have good options. There have always been poor people throughout civilization, and some of mankinds most remarkable achievments have been created by the poor, or slaves. I just wish that today, in this era, that more people were working towards something that at the end of the day, made them, feel good.
Anyway, with lifted spirits, and the notion of working towards somthing, that at the end of the day made me feel good… off I went to Manhattan for an art and craft supply forage. I had two places on my list to visit, Pearl Paint and Purl Soho, and by co-incidence located a few blocks from one another in lower Manhattan.
First stop was Pearl Paint, a famous art store that occupies all of the floors of two multi floor buildings. It is on Canal street, and is easy to spot for the uniquely painted white and red facade. I was looking to buy specific paper, and Maya wanted an orange pencil. We are collecting Caran d’ache Pablo coloured pencils and Maya wanted a dark orange. We buy a few now and then, and over time, have a gorgeous collection. What we like about them is that they are soft and sharpen well without the core snapping. Best of all though, is that they colour beautifully. We colour and sharpen, and colour and sharpen them down to a stubby pinch. These pencils are an investment to us, the children know that they are good quality, and look after them accordingly.
While at Pearl Paint I intended to buy some artist quality paper. I had it in mind to purchase some small sheets of cold pressed paper with a four sided deckle edge. I did not find what I was looking for, but in my pursuit of this I ended up having a highbrow ethical conversation with the arty dude behind the counter (not started by me, which was a first) about supply, quality and the mighty $. It was one of those art store moments, that makes shopping in an art store so much fun.
Next stop was Purl Soho, the most divine craft store in Manhattan. Totally a dream to visit and I know lots of you out there would agree! This was my first time going to Purl Soho, and I was surprised at just how busy it was. It is a colourful textural creative mecca. There must have been 20 people inside the store. With yarns, fabric, and notions across the colour spectrum I was in rainbow heaven, but more impressive was the quality of everything I touched. It was inspiration bonanza.
What makes Purl Soho so special is that they select the best and present it in such a pleasing way. All over the shop are exquisite hand made items, that make you want to make! Elle found a bunch of wool felt animals that she happily played with while I decided what to buy. Elle also found the yarn ball winding process very fascinating. This is a service Purl offers their customers – so handy to have skeins made into balls, and so cool to watch! This is reason enough for me to make the trip to the city to by yarn from Purl Soho (when I decide to start knitting that is!).
We left the store with a few items. I bought some neon embroidery floss, which sadly I do not recommend as It is a polyester viscose blend that frays and does not knot well. I was a bit disappointed to discover this. I purchased the packet of neon thread, sealed in a box and so actually did not handle it until I got home. Given that everything else I laid my hands on in the shop was natural fibers, I just assumed it would be cotton and did not stop to read the fiber content…my mistake. I also bought some pom pom trim and some cotton bias. I was very restrained with set intentions for what I bought, but more honestly, I think I was hungry.
After Pearl and Purl, Elle and I had enough shopping. My body burns through food at a crazy rate and I had worked up an appetite. While in Soho I like to go into Dean & Deluca. I love popping in to this gourmet market, even if I do not buy anything, it is a beautiful place. When we first moved to Manhattan and lived on the Lower East Side, Maya and I would walk there once a week for bread and the occasional specialty grocery. They sell some really yummy things. Sadly though, Dean & Deluca do not use, or offer organic milk in their hot beverages, so no hot chocolate or latte for me. I opted for some delicious mushroom empanade. One for me, one for Elle and one for Cam to to eat on the drive home.
Cam and I drive into the city now and then instead of taking the train, and each time we do, we marvel at the fact that from our front door to Manhattan takes as little as 25 minutes (if we leave after 10am). We breeze right in and it makes me wonder why we don’t do this every week? Cam had a date with The New Potato Girls, and it worked out perfectly for him to have a business meeting, and Elle and I to go craft shopping, and for us to drive home in time to collect Maya from school. All in all it was a great city outing. We don’t plan on living near New York City forever, but while we do, excuse my cheesy play on words, I am Soho grateful for these little opportunities, and for this life.
As we live very close to New York City there are some things we like to do annually in Manhattan at Christmas. One of our favorites is to go to The Plaza Hotel and see Santa. This seems to be a secret, because both this time and last time we went, we were the only family visiting Santa. I am guessing this is partly because we went at midday on a school wednesday, and so avoided weekend and holiday crowds. I am really grateful for this as my children are not at all the type to bound up to Santa and sit on his knee. We need time and space for something like this. They are shy and reserved and take some warming up. Maya’s interest lay mostly in figuring out if Santa is actually real, and if she was aloud to ask him if he is the real Santa, and how possibly could he be true? Elle on the other hand was caught up in the magic, in her sweet special way. Enjoying a coversation with Santa, she even went back on her own to give Santa a hug! Santa was really nice. When he saw the girls he said “Look how much you have grown!”…Clever Santa. Going to the Plaza Hotel is like stepping into another world. It is like a little holiday, even if only there for an hour. It is old world opulence that feels historical and totally over the top in this day and age. Despite questioning this kind of grandur when there are so many people in poverty in the world, I appreciate that the lobby and food court are free to enter and available for anyone to experience if in New York City. We like to walk around the foyer, look at the chandeliers and the exquisite floral arrangements…and people watch. There is a pianist playing on a grand piano and at Christmas time there are many elaborate holiday decorations. Santa is located on the lower lever food court – which has some great healthy and fresh food options – at reasonable prices. Visiting Santa is free, but if you want to have photos there is a cost. We paid $30 for 10 photos – which we put inside our Christmas cards to family. I actually think there is a cheaper option too with less photos. We also visit the Elosie room, based on the famous Children’s books. The girls like to lounge here and rest while enveloped in a pink sensation. The Elosie room is also free and located in the food court area on the lower concord of the Plaza Hotel. The Plaza Hotel is located on the West side of Grand Army Plaza on Central Park, and so with a stroll through the park and a wander through the hotel, this outing can easily take up a whole day. The Girls both said they really enjoyed the experience…it was a fun to do this week while we still have two little girls.
Spring flowers seemed to come and go in a week this year with yo-yo weather making the flowers bloom early, and over quickly. We were lucky that the week of Spring break was the peak of the cherry trees blooming and so we made a trip to Branch Brook Park to enjoy the blossoms. This was our first trip to Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ, which we specifically went to as it boasts the largest number of cherry blossom trees in the nation. We have come to look forward to cherry blossoms blooming, being that we love pink and we love flowers, cherry blossom time is divine (allergies and all!). The past few years we have enjoyed the cherry blossoms all over Brooklyn, and especially the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This year I was looking forward to seeing our new neighbourhood in bloom – it came a close second to the gorgeous streets of Ditmas Park in Spring.
Branch Brook Park has a Cherry Blossom Welcome Center with a beautiful cherry blossom mural and life size imitation cherry blossom tree inside it. The week we attended was during the Cherry Blossom Festival, but the welcome center did not offer us much, and I am not sure if this was due to us being there on a weekday or not, but while it was pretty I wish it had been more like a museum. I also wish it offered a detailed map of the cherry blossom trees throughout the park.
We did not travel very far into the park as it is huge and the tress appeared very spaced out. The Girls were on their scooters so we were able to cover some ground. I felt like the cherry blossom trees would have had more impact if they had been planted close together like at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. From what I gather there are numerous variety of cherry blossoms trees at Branch Brook and when we went the single blossoms had already flowered.
Rather than looking for more trees we planted ourselves beneath one lovely old tree that had tapered limbs bowing to the ground. It was covered in popping buds and so we were in a canopy of pink petal pom poms. We had a picnic packed, and so quite happily spent a couple of hours beneath the tree building dandelion and cherry blossom fairy houses. I think in fact it looked like we were the fairies, playing in a cherry blossom fairy house.
The petals were already starting to drop and so we were treated to pink snow when the breeze blew. I let the girls pick the flowers as they were to come to pass so quickly anyway. I am glad we were able to savor the moment and spend a day playing in the pink. Until next year…when we will surely do it again!